Please sign in to post.

CDG to Normandy--train or car rental?

We'll be arriving at CDG airport from Florence next summer and heading straight to Bayeux for a two night stay before returning to Paris. Originally we were planning on using public transportation, but I've been doing some research on car rentals and wondering if that would be a better option.

Our flight from Florence lands at 11:50am. I'm thinking that we could rent a car at the airport and head to Bayeux, spend our two nights and then drop it off in Caen and hop on a train back to Paris. Because we have limited time in Normandy, it would be nice to get there early enough in the day to be able to explore a bit and I'm afraid that because there isn't a train from the airport to Bayeux, it would take us exponentially longer to get there using public transportation, but I don't know that for sure.

Any thoughts? Am I missing anything or does this seem like a good plan? Also, how difficult is the drive from the airport to Bayeux, for someone who has never driven (or been to) Europe before?

Posted by
6670 posts

Via Michelin is a good tool for planning road trips. It shows about a three-hour drive from CDG to Bayeux, skirting the northern Paris suburbs. Realistically it will probably take somewhat longer. Since jet lag won't be a factor for you, driving would make sense and provide you with a car for your time in Normandy. Returning it in Caen and then taking the train to Paris also makes sense.

The alternative would be the RER to Gare du Nord, Metro to Gare St-Lazare, and train to Bayeux (with no car). Or perhaps, at higher cost, a taxi from CDG to St-Lazare and then the train. These might or might not save time, but for sure would be a lot more work.

I've driven from Bayeux to CDG and it isn't hard. I think it was all freeways (but with some tolls). The highways around Paris will be congested and a GPS, plus map, will help with navigation. We took most of a day but we stopped for several hours in Honfleur. Look for the discussion of driving in Europe under "Travel Tips" on this website.

Posted by
4132 posts

As someone who tends to favors trains over driving, I would rent a car for this. It will get you to Bayeux faster (though perhaps not exponentially so), and there could be other benefits depending on your itinerary.

One big argument for trains over cars at the airport, jet lag, does not apply to you.

Too bad you do not have another day in Normandy. You would not regret it.

Posted by
7569 posts

Maybe you weren't asking about it, but how do you plan to see the Normandy beaches? (I presume that is your interest. 99% of the posters here about Normandy mean "the American forces in Normandy.") I'm agnostic about whether you should go by train or car to Bayeux, the question is whether you want to stay in town and use public transportation to see the sights, or whether you want to have a car to see multiple museums and war sites in each day you are there.

Many posters here speak well about the local (frequently American ... ) guides who specialize in showing the landing sites to Americans. I found the guys I overheard a little too much "Sergeant Rock", but they do have a vast amount of enrichment material prepared and at the ready. They are expensive and hard to book, which is another reason I bring it up.

If this is your first trip to Europe, and you are seeing multiple cities in Italy and then Paris, then I suggest that you leave out Normandy, unless you have more than a two-week trip. I will say that too many posters here want to do a one-day runout from Paris for Normandy. You have a better plan than that!

I have no right to predict your future travels or future wealth, but between business and pleasure trips, we didn't see Normandy until at least our 7th trip to France.

Posted by
292 posts

Hi Tim,

We actually have booked a full day tour with Overlord to do (some of) the D-Day sites, so we won't need our own car for that. I'm thinking that having a vehicle might allow us to explore something other than WWII sites on the following day before we head back to Paris--perhaps the Cider Route which I just learned about today. :)

Our entire Europe trip is just over three weeks--22 nights. I do wish we had more time in Normandy but it's an important stop to my fiancé so we're fitting it in the best we can!

Posted by
8236 posts

Where are you flying from? If it is a long overnight flight from the US or Australia then absolutely don't drive. You can get 15 Euro train tickets to Bayeux if you get them 3 mos out and then do your overlord tour -- you don't need a car if you are only going to be there one day for the Overlord Tour and it is inconsiderate to put others at risk on the road. If you are flying from elsewhere in Europe then renting a car would allow you to make another stop or two coming and going which might be worth doing. E.g. visit Etratat https://janettravels.wordpress.com/2013/01/01/etretat-the-impressionists-had-an-eye-for-a-beautiful-place/
before heading back or stop by Rouen on the way to Paris or stop in Honfleur briefly.

Posted by
292 posts

Hi Janet, hope this doesn't come off as rude but I stated that our flight was from Florence twice in my OP. :)

Posted by
1446 posts

It's been at least 5 years since we did it so I can't give specifics. We took the train from Paris to Bayeux. At the train stop we took a taxi to our hotel. We also did a one-day tour of the beaches. After a couple days, we did get a car so we could explore further. I realize you won't be there that long, but just to say that it worked well for us taking the train to Bayeux. Not sure how early the trains leave? We got there early enough to have a half a day there.

Posted by
16894 posts

You're going to need the car anyway, so I would definitely pick it up at CDG to avoid the extra connections and expense of RER-Metro-Train, with luggage, for multiple people. It shouldn't cost any more - a three-day car rental often costs the same as one day; highway toll should be minimal.

Posted by
8236 posts

Sorry missed the bit about Florence -- so yeah, definitely pick up the car at the airport rather than doing both train and car if you are going to have a car. Frankly though, if you are only going for two nights and have a guided tour anyway, the car may be more hassle for parking expense, tolls etc than it is worth when the train is so cheap.

Posted by
509 posts

Transportation: Can speak only to the rental car and our success as novice (and senior) road warriors between CDG and Bayeux. Picked it up at CDG and navigated pretty easily (with GPS) away from Paris (detouring to Giverny). Altho our D-Day tour included transport, we enjoyed having the car for seeing other parts of Normandy. One very pleasant day included a morning visit and breakfast in Honfleur, followed by a pleasant drive thru the cider/cheese villages in the Pays d'Auge en route back to Bayeux. We also returned the car to CDG (and wished we'd paid more attention to the instructions for finding the Hertz return lot.) I suspect -- but can't guarantee -- that renting/returning to CDG saves some money on the rental rate and, obviously, avoiding rail costs. PS - if you opt for the rental, ask the attendant at pick-up to assure that the GPS is "speaking" in your language of choice. Making that request was just dumb luck on our part, because it turned out to be set to German. Had we discovered this on the road, fixing it ourselves would have been a nightmare.

Posted by
292 posts

rca, thank you--that's really helpful. Sounds like we have a similar trip to Normandy planned.

Posted by
9876 posts

Yes I think in this situation you're well advised to rent a car. Especially as you'll be coming from Florence (i.e. not coming from overnight flight, exhausted, with jet lag an issue).

Sounds like a great trip!

p.s. good idea booking with Overlord. Those tours are a bit pricey, but I find they are EXCELLENT value for money. Going on one really enhanced my experience of the battlefields. And I'm a history nut who speaks French, so I presumably could do all the research on my own -- but it's hard to express how much the guide with his knowledge enriched my experience there. Smart decision, in my book.

Posted by
1170 posts

I will add to the chorus of recommendations for driving from CDG to Bayeux. I've visited Normandy every other year for my past five trips, and have both driven and taken the train to/from either Caen or Bayeux. I just think it is too much of a hassle and time-suck to get directly from CDG to Gare-Saint-Lazare via public transport. I typically drive from CDG to Normandy, then take the train back and enjoy a day or two in Paris before leaving. I will say though, that with a 11:50am arrival, luggage, car rental, etc., you won't have too much time in Bayeux on your first day. I have never taken the highly recommended tours, but have driven the area extensively. And I will say that some of my most memorable moments have been places and things I have found off the beaten path just wandering around by car. Normandy is a lovely, rural area. So aside from your tour, much of her charm can best be found in the small places that trains and buses just don't go to. Enjoy!

Posted by
14580 posts

Except for major towns the train does not reach the villages and smaller towns in Normandy, which is left up to bus. Across the street from the Bayeux train station is a bus depot. I've gone to Bayeux and Caen by train a few times, fine if you're focusing on just those two places. The rental car is needed to see other pertinent sites in Normandy, much more convenient.