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Normandy, France

Hi,
We have planned a trip to Paris, Normandy and Loire valley in October 2020.
1. How convenient is public transport in Normandy for sightseeing? We want to visit the beaches and the pretty villages. Can those places be approached by public buses?
2. If we want to take a rented car( with driver, as we are not confident to drive there) in Normandy, what is the cost per day?

Posted by
1094 posts

There is little public transportation in the area of Normandy around the beaches and you'd be better off renting a car. Driving in Normandy is very easy and you could easily drive yourself. For perhaps more details or finding a car and driver, go to the Bayeux forum or Caen forum on tripadvisor.com. Tours of the beaches leave from both towns but Bayeux is much closer and tours leave from behind the Churchill Hotel in Bayeux. Many take a professional tour of the D Day beaches and also rent a car to visit the small towns. We are seniors from a small town and found driving there was a breeze with our own GPS. We easily drove to Mont St. Michel, about 90 miles from Bayeux, and drifted along on the back roads on the way back stopping in small villages to purchase cheeses, meats, Calvados, and other items.

Posted by
18 posts

There is the regional Normandy bus line called Bus Verts, and they do have routes that will cover most areas of interest (but not Utah Beach). It's inexpensive but service is very sporadic, even moreso in the October off-season.
I wouldn't pay for a rental car + driver from Paris to Normandy to Loire, that would be excessive. But you can choose to do it that way for Normandy only, essentially a private tour guide for a day or two. Driving yourself around Normandy isn't that daunting, though.

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks a ton for the informations. We are planning this trip in last week of October (20 - 30th oct 2020). Do you think that’s a good time to visit these places( Paris, Normandy and Loire valley) weather wise?

Posted by
5017 posts

The weather then is uncertain. It could be cool and mild, it might be rainy and cold. It's probably impossible to predict what the weather will be like in October where you live, too - no?

The virus may or may not have settled down by then. The worldwide economy may have started to recover then or not. Personally, I would make no plans to travel for the rest of this year, possibly longer.

Posted by
112 posts

Rent a car, or take organized tours that transport you between sites. Not aware of any local busses other than what you might find within larger towns like Bayeux.

When you say "we,", how many people? The cost of a car rental for 2 or more is far more economical than a tour. Figure on $100 a day, +/-, for a car rental and fuel, etc.

Posted by
1119 posts

I'm still waiting for that bus to take me from Caen to Pegasus Bridge and on to Sword Beach . . ., which the nice woman at the tourist office so diligently researched the schedule for. Not the first time that's happened to me in France.

Posted by
4668 posts

Normandy: (You might make clear whether you mean more than just the D-Day Beaches)
Because (assuming the virus recedes) you will not be dealing with summer crowds, I urge you to consider renting a car. I agree with the first reply, and suggest that you will wast vast amounts of time waiting for busses (if there are any), and will be unable to visit some locations. If you post again, you might mention if there are physical or stamina limits on how much walking you can do, and whether you strongly prefer a paved walking surface. I would certainly carry taxi phone numbers, and budget for expensive taxi rides.

There is tremendous demand for guided tours, from people who are not staying long, those who want transportation, and those who want to have a professional guide experience. The demand keeps the price for D-Day tours WAY up, and makes them fill-up well in advance, with advance payment required. We didn't miss having a guide, because we had two or three travel books with specific chapters on that area (one of them Rick's.)

Having seen many professional guides around us, I can confirm that they provide a great deal of supplemental detail, like photographs showing long-ago views of the now almost pastoral sites of horrible battles. Like any tourist destination, if you don't do your own research and have a list of sites and routes, you may not get the maximum experience.

The Loire:
This area is also tough to do without your own car. Guides aren't quite as expensive as in Normandy, but the long distances involved make a guide experience take up a lot of time, which adds up to Euros! I would research in advance whether any Chateau hours are shorter in October, and have more days off.

We happen to like gardens, so I wouldn't say that October is an ideal time. But you will have might lighter crowds than we did in July. Parking at D-Day sights and at Chateaux required driving around lots more than once, and usually parking in an overflow lawn-parking spot, with puddles and ruts to negotiate.

Posted by
16545 posts

The small-group (van) tours of the D-Day beaches I'm familiar with cost around 100 euros per person, which doesn't seem excessive to me at all. Personally, I think a tour is a far better way to go than driving around by yourself, unless one member of you travel party happens to be an expert on the invasion.

I split my time in Normandy between hotels in Bayeux (for the tour and to see the several local sights) and in Caen. Caen was obliterated during the war and is a mostly modern city not all that physically attractive to most US visitors. It does have the major Peace Museum and a few other sights, but it's main advantage is its role as a transportation hub. There are buses or trains to several attractive towns east of Caen, including Cabourg, Deauville/Trouville and Honfleur. I didn't visit any place small enough that I would term it a "village".

If you have specific destinations in mind, let us know and we can advise as to whether there is generally public transportation available. Things may be different this year, obviously, but if they are all that different, you probably won't want to make your trip so soon.

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you so much friends! Please stay at home and take all possible safety measures .

Posted by
112 posts

The small-group (van) tours of the D-Day beaches I'm familiar with cost around 100 euros per person, which doesn't seem excessive to me

I agree that 100 euros pp is not excessive, but I have to challenge this. When I was last in Normandy, planning a trip and considering all options in 2011, small group guided tours ran upwards 300+ euros per person.

Now maybe those prices dropped a lot in the intervening years, or maybe you got a special price, but that was not my experience with pricing at all when I researched it.

Posted by
1913 posts

When I was last in Normandy, planning a trip and considering all options in 2011, small group guided tours ran upwards 300+ euros per person.

On our first trip to Bayeux in 2010, we enjoyed three full days of small group guided tours with the now-defunct Battlebus, and the total cost for all three days was less than 300 Euros per person. In September 2019, our similar tours with Overlord cost us around 110 Euros per person per day.

Can't help you on what a private car would cost.

Posted by
16545 posts

My full-day Overlord tour in 2018 cost roughly 100 euros--maybe 95, maybe 105, something like that. 300 euros per person is sort of what I would expect a pre-organized party (family, etc.) to pay for a private tour.

Posted by
328 posts

Hello Dranu84

We just cancelled a thoroughly planned out trip to Normandy and then Paris. I have been speaking with a military historian who lives in Normandy and also in our area for several months. He strongly suggested to rent a car from CDG and drive throughout Normandy as the bus routes are sporadic. Now there are many people on this site who will say don’t drive after the international flight, as you loose 6 hours on the flight coming over and you will feel hungover. We have been to Italy numerous times and start switching our times 6 weeks before the flight waking up 1/2 hour earlier each week prior to the flight to help with the time change. I have been reading several books, watching movies and going to WWII museums here to learn as much as I can prior to our trip. Research is a vital part of the trip, not to mention it helps with the anticipation of the trip. We were going to rent the car at CDG and drop off at Caen and take the train (RER) into Gare de Lazare. We were renting through Hertz- as we have never had an issue with them and did with other vendors in Italy.

Good luck with your trip- Marie

Posted by
5522 posts

It is not difficult to drive in Normandy! Pick up car at CDG or in Paris as we did. En route to DDay beaches, there are several wonderful sites and towns to visit. We stayed in Honfleur and Bayeux.

Posted by
36 posts

I cannot recommend Dale Booth high enough for touring the American D Day beaches in Normandy. He might be pricey but was an unbelievable tour guide. We rented a car in Paris, drove up to Normandy and then through the Loire Valley back to Paris. It was a wonderful trip.

Posted by
77 posts

We were there last September and took full day tours with Bayeux Shuttle. Their current price per person for the American sector tour is 115 Euros. This is in a van with approximately 12 people and a very well informed tour guide/driver.

Posted by
59 posts

Hello, He have a trip planned (tix purchased) for October 2020. I was starting to give up hope that we would be able to go due to the situation. But it gives me hope that other travelers are starting to plan for these dates!

Posted by
568 posts

Regarding traveling to France in October, just make sure all your reservations are refundable. I would love to be able to go to France this October since we had to cancel our April trip, but based on what I've been reading, I think there is a good possibility we won't be able to go. France might not want us there. Or, if they allow us in, it's possible we would have to quarantine for 14 days. So, I don't mean to be depressing and a killjoy, because I would love to visit France in October just as much as you, but you do need to be flexible and make refundable reservations.

Posted by
11683 posts

I'm fully intending to visit France in mid-September. I seriously don't believe we'll have any COVID restrictions by then. The flu season ends and people, both here and in Europe, REALLY need to get back to work.

I think Normandie is best covered by rental car. I usually rent cars cheaper in Europe than in the states. I rent the smallest, cheapest car I can get - meaning manual transmission. Most Americans want standard transmission which bumps up the price. If you have luggage, you need trunk space too - that requires a bigger, more expensive car (don't forget to consider that when reserving a car).

For D-Day beaches, you can drive yourself to all the sights. It's probably better, however, to take a tour. I think that would bring it to life. I enjoyed the trail above Etretat and Fecamp because there are WWII defensive structures all over. They were abandoned, rather than destroyed, when the attack came down the coast. Other than that, my interest is more in pre-1500 history so my biggest must-see was the Bayeux Tapestry. I focused more on Norman history than 20th century.

Posted by
328 posts

Hello again Dranu 84,

I realize that everyone is suggesting the tours while you are there. From speaking with our friend (the military historian who lives in Normandy for several months each year), you can gain an entirely different prospective of the war by reading a few books. Not that you would become an expert, but given that everyone is in lock down mode, try buying a few inexpensive books to help you decide what you want to visit while in Normandy. The beaches involved in Overlord cover an extensive area, although most of the Americans go to Omaha and Utah, the resistance (French) Brits and Canadians played an extensive and powerful part in the operation. So you might want to visit Juno, Gold and Sword. I really can’t see spending 300-500 E/pp to have someone take me around and tell me their interpretation of the story. We are definitely going to see many of the museums there on our own time also, not be rushed out because of the bus schedule. I know everyone is different and has different ideas of their trip, good luck figuring out yours.

Posted by
438 posts

What Marie said again. I have visited Normandy eight times, have never used a guide, and don't feel I missed anything. A couple of books, and/or a few movies are a small investment towards your vacation experience in the grand scheme of things. Learn as much about what you will see ahead of time. Even if you do get a guide this is good advice. Why wait until you're there before getting the foggiest notion of what you are going to see?

Posted by
328 posts

@ PharmerPhil

Thanks for the words of encouragement! We will make our first trip to Normandy next may instead of in 2 weeks, so I’m doing as much background on Overlord and its development as I can. We have been to Italy numerous times and I always find the research fascinating and this leads to great trips. When people ask me about my research, I ask if they would land in Orlando completely obviously to the different parks/times/costs? I don’t want to waste any of the time traveling to places I wouldn’t enjoy or didn’t know what I was going to see, and that is my philosophy on travel. We are also frugal and thoroughly enjoy museums (we’ve been to the Uffizzi and Vatican museums at least four times each spending at least 3-4 hours each time) so i don’t like being a part of a crowd being herded around with time restrictions. I hope to encourage others to know their history and try and find out the back stories, which makes it real and most of the time very emotional.