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Paris to Le Mont Saint Michel- Newbie please help

I have looked on this forum for information, but much is old and I'm not sure what has changed in the years since the posts. My friend and I will be staying in Saint Germain and will be going on our own to Le Mont Saint Michel and staying overnight. Neither of us speaks French, but obviously know a few words. My question is what is the best way to get there? Driving is not something we are comfortable with, so we will rely on public transportation. My initial research shows taking the TGV from Paris-Montparnasse to Rennes (2h00), then connections via Bus KEOLIS from Rennes to Mont Saint-Michel (1h10). It sounds good on paper, I'm just super nervous having never done this and not speaking French. Am I on the right track? I assume the TGV is a train that easily accessed and easy to find. Am I correct? Same with the bus? The site I found for the train is (https://www.sncf-connect.com/en-en/) In addition, would it be prudent to purchase tickets ahead of time? We are going in January and are not sure if it's necessary to pre-book at that time of year. In addition, what do you estimate the total cost of this transport will be and is it worth it? Mont Saint Michel seems magical and is kind of a bucket list place for me. I know that I'm asking a lot of questions, I just don't know what I don't know and am quite nervous about embarking on this adventure. This group is so great with information. I would love to hear from someone who has done this journey. Thank you in advance.

Posted by
7922 posts

Don't worry about your inability to speak French. Everyone in the tourist industry speaks enough English.
As Mont St Michel is a major tourist attraction and English is kind of the neutral language, you are going to see crowds of other non French speaking tourists from all over world going in the same direction. You should purchase just the train tickets to Rennes well in advance as the prices on TGV go up as capacity reduces. Just search and you will get an idea of the prices. Train tickets are using 90 to 120 days in advance. If you don't see them for the day you want you might be searching too far in advance.

Posted by
1154 posts

I once took the TGV to Rennes and then rented a car from there to MSM. I'll be taking that train and renting a car again next June—but not to MSM this time. Driving from Rennes is not at all as challenging as driving in Paris, and gives you a lot more flexibility. Yes, the site you listed is the right one for finding these trains. SNCF is the company that actually operates the trains.

Posted by
9423 posts

Driving is very easy in Normandy if you want to re-consider. There’s a freeway and two-lane roads. The two-lane roads are a pleasure to drive and you can see and discover so many wonderful places along the way.

I’ve loved Mont St Michel since i was a little girl, it truly is magical - but only between 4/5 pm and 11 am the next day. 11 am to 4/5 is usually packed with tourists, although January will be the least crowded time of year to visit.

Here’s a link to another recent thread about staying overnight on MSM, which i recommend.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/france/mont-st-michele-d6ceb46b-4995-4217-969b-02b1a767b56b

Posted by
141 posts

Thank you. We definitely do not want to drive. I realize this might be easier, but not something we are comfortable with. We reserved a hotel room on the island and are excited about it. Just really nervous about getting there and back.

Posted by
29 posts

My husband and I did this same route in May and it was very easy without a car. I was a little nervous, too, about all the connections, but it all worked out. Make reservations in advance for the TGV from Paris to Rennes; take the Keolis bus, parked outside the Rennes train station (I also got tickets in advance for this bus), arrive at the tourist center for MSM, then take the free shuttle from there to the Mont and walk on up. We stayed one night, then caught the shuttle and bus back to Rennes the next morning. Timing is everything to make the connections from train to bus, but I would go back to MSM in a heartbeat! I loved that place. The evening that we were there it was a little rainy with some thunder! Very exciting experience! Nice to walk around those cobbled streets in the evening without too many people, too, plus we met a wonderful lady who actually lives there! Also, take very little luggage. Everything is uphill! Have a great trip!

Posted by
141 posts

Linda C. thank you so much for your response. I'm a nervous wreck about doing this and your response gives me a little bit of ease. Did you purchase your tickets on the sncf site that I posted? May I ask how far in advance did you purchase the tickets? Are the bus tickets at the same site? Also, is the MSM bus clearly marked? I'd imagine it is, but again, I don't know what I don't know. And lastly, (sorry for all of the questions) you mentioned that timing is everything. To that end, is there a timing issue that I need to be aware of when it comes to the tides? Thank you so much for taking the time to respond!

Posted by
29 posts

Hi Kath,
I bought the TGV train (from the SNCF web site) and Keoilis bus tickets round trip (from www.keolis-armor.com) about a month in advance. The earlier, the cheaper for the TGV. We took the early train from Paris to Rennes with about one hour layover then caught the Keolis bus at 12:45. Check the schedule to confirm for winter hours. The Keolis bus stop is just outside the Rennes train station. Exit the main front doors, turn right, walk a bit, and you'll find several buses lined up from different bus companies on the street. Only one says Keolis, so look for that. If you're not sure, just ask someone. Most people speak English and are very helpful we've found. Then, the next day, we caught the 10:00 a.m. Keolis bus for our return to Rennes. This worked out perfectly for us! Check the tourist information center for the tides schedule. I think you can go out in the "mud" with groups. We didn't do this, however. It was enough for us just to see the abbey, the gift shop, walk around the cobbled side streets in every nook and cranny, and enjoy the views even in the thunder and rain! Hope this helps. As long as you've done your research and are prepared: "You must do the thing you think you cannot do." -- Eleanor Roosevelt

Posted by
29 posts

Oops! Wrong directions to catch the Keolis bus from Rennes train station. On the lower floor of the train station in the same area where you buy your tickets, look for the glass double doors that go out to the bus parking lot. The buses are all parked in rows so just find the Keolis bus parking space. I think the spaces are numbered. Have fun!

Posted by
141 posts

Linda C, I am so grateful for this detailed information. I can do this!! Thank you!!!

Posted by
877 posts

Love this place! It was a bucket list item for us and we are so thankful that we spent the night on the island…..yes it was crowded when we got there after parking our car in their lots but after the crowd leaves it is magical……we even left our room the night we were there with our coats on and ran in the dark back to the gate up to the island and took some incredible pictures of the island all lit up……any way you can get there is fine…just get there! We had a car and drove from Normandy…..no problem at all and do not speak french……just be kind to the French and they will respond beautifully!

Posted by
142 posts

We did this journey, too. The train station in Rennes has two stories. The train arrives at the upper level, which is at the top of the hill. The Keolis office is on the lower level. The bus bays are out the door from the lower level at the bottom of the hill. The Keolis bus times are matched to the train times.

For catching the train in Paris, know your train number - the train might be going farther than Rennes and that city name rather than Rennes might be posted on the board.

You can likely find a YouTube video of catching a train in Paris and if there isn't a video for Rennes, you can use Google Street view to virtually look at the bus stop.

Posted by
141 posts

So since it's October I thought it I was close enough (3 months out) to buy train tickets on https://www.sncf-connect.com but when I put in my information, no train information comes up. It says "not bookable". I am looking for January 20 out of Paris Montaparnasse to Rennes and returning the following day. What am I doing wrong?

Posted by
27261 posts

You're not doing anything wrong. Tickets for your dates aren't on sale yet. Tickets are only available through December 9 at this time. But the SNCF Connect website says tickets for the Christmas period will be available on October 4, so you may be able to see your schedule and fares in a few hours.

Posted by
141 posts

Just to be clear, when I am able to book the train, should the destination I put in the sncf website be Rennes or Mont Saint Michel?

Posted by
35 posts

Rennes destination should do it. I do not believe that the bus service is affiliated in any way, although someone who has used the bus may be better suited to answer that.

Note your departure location from Paris.

We did the Paris to Rennes TGV route in July, and it was quite straightforward. We rented a car from there to get to MSM.

We looked at other public options, but my vague recollection is that the connection times were not ideal, meaning that we'd lose a big chunk of our day waiting around for transportation.

Posted by
141 posts

Thank you. I thought I read somewhere that the bus connection was affiliated with the train. I'm not sure where though. I am looking at leaving out of Paris Montparnasse to Rennes, morning tgv train. Hope I'm on the right track and I hope that the tickets for the trains open up soon. I'm a planner and feel ill at ease about the whole thing until I can see the plan to get there.

Posted by
29 posts

If I remember correctly when we did this trip in May, our schedule went something like this -- all times are approximate and schedules may be different for when you are going in January:

Left from Paris-Montparnasse train station -- 9:58 a.m.
Arrived Rennes -- about 11:25 a.m.

Took our baggage to our hotel, just down the street from the train station, in Rennes that we were going to be staying at (the next day) so they could hold it for us. That way, we only took an overnight bag to MSM. We had over an hour layover between the train arrival and the Keolis bus connection which gave us time to find the location of the buses. Ate lunch at the train station (I think).

Left Rennes on the Keolis bus at 12:45 p.m.
Arrived at the MSM visitor center around 2:00 (?) -- nice place and very informative.

Waited there until the free MSM shuttle arrived to take us to the Mont. I'll never forget my first site of it! So amazing! I couldn't stop looking at it from the shuttle bus. All we kept saying was, "Wow!"

Walked through the entry gates and up the path to our hotel (Hotel de la Croix Blanche, got a room with a view!) by that afternoon. Had plenty of time to settle into our room, walk the cobbled street, and visit a few shops before seeing the Abbey at 5:00 (got advanced tickets), plus their book store and gift shop afterwards. Dinner later that evening. It was such a wonderful experience being there, even in the rain and thunder! Just couldn't see the stars! lol

Left the next morning on the 10:00 a.m. Keolis bus back to Rennes. Plan ahead to catch this bus so you don't miss it -- I think the next bus is at 5:00 p.m. We bought round-trip tickets ahead of time through their web site.

Hope this helps and have fun! Wish we were going with you!

Posted by
35 posts

That was it (thanks Linda). The arrival time from Montparnasse to Rennes was fine, it was the 10:00 bus departure from MSM that was the issue for us. We wanted a morning TGV back to Paris to preserve more of the day.

If that is not a concern for you OP, I think you have it sorted out. If there is some sort of combination ticket for the TGV and this bus, I am not aware of it. For what it is worth, I am currently able to see Montparnasse to Rennes TGV tickets through January 9th. If you try to enter MSM as you destination though, it's going to attempt to route you to the Pontorson regional station.

To help set you mind at ease:
English is common. All else fails, politely asking for assistance goes a long way.
This main route does not require changes. Get on at Montparnasse, off at Rennes.
Your departure platform will usually appear on the board about 20 minutes before your train is scheduled to leave. Before that, you may see only the hall (1/2 for Montparnasse) or nothing at all.
Pay attention to your seat class and numbers. This will help you locate your car number and general location on the platform for boarding.
You will likely pass through a gated ticket checkpoint before you reach your platform. Each person having their scannable codes on sperate printouts is not required but does make passing through the gates just a bit easier.

Posted by
141 posts

You are all so helpful, thank you. So here I am, mid October trying to book train tickets for January, and today for the first time tickets appeared. Yay! However, I only see 2 train times available for January 20th leaving from Montparnasse. The first is 6:48 am arriving at 8:15 am in Rennes, the second being 12:47pm with arrival in Rennes at 2:31 pm.

I looked at the Keolis bus schedule ( we are staying overnight 20th -21st) and it looks like the bus times leaving Rennes to MSM and the times are 8:45 and 12:45pm. So, as it stands right now, with only these 2 train times available, the only one that could work is taking the 6:48 am train that arrives at 8:15 and catching the 8:45 am bus to MSM. This is a tad early for us, so I'm wondering if I wait a few weeks do more train times become available? Or do you think that these are the only two trains that will be going from Montparnasse to Rennes on Jan 20th?

To complicate matters further, on the return there seems to be only 2 trains available from Rennes to Montparnasse, one at 1:30 pm and the other at 7:48pm. As I look at the bus schedules on the 21st of January, there are only 2 buses that leave MSM on that day, one at 10am and the other at 5pm. The only option there would be to take the 10 am bus and wait 2.5 hours for a train. Am I looking at this correctly? Will they add more busses or trains? This all seems so complicated. Someone please tell me that they will add more trains for these dates.

Posted by
6103 posts

If you put Mont St Michel into SNCF connect it gives you trains to Pontorson for as little as 21 Euro if booked a month in advance then there is the shuttle bus from there to MSM (a further 3.1 Euro)- timetable current to 9 December- https://www.ot-montsaintmichel.com/en/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2023/09/Horaires-Pontorson-MSM-du-26-septembre-au-09-d%C3%A9cembre.pdf

There is also a daily connection direct to MSM on SNCF connect at 0732 from Paris- connecting into a bus at Villedieu Les Poeles- that connection is showing for well into January, for 29 Euro through fare.

Posted by
6932 posts

I think that the tickets have only been fully loaded into the system until Jan 9. You can wait a bit for Jan 20; there should be many more trains to/from Rennes.
The route via Villedieu outlined above is a solid alternative (untested by me) that saves a lot of money while not taking that much longer, but it is still slower than via Rennes.

Posted by
141 posts

Thank you all again. One last question, is it recommended to get the bus tickets ahead of time as well, or just get them once we arrive in Rennes?

Posted by
29 posts

I bought round-trip tickets for the Keolis bus from their web site about one month in advance, just to be on the safe side. Probably didn't need to though, since the bus was not very crowded. I just wanted to be prepared since I didn't know what to expect, so I'm glad I did. Again, if you need help, just ask someone there. We found most people very friendly and helpful, and we don't speak French. Have a great trip! (I'm still envious! - lol)

Posted by
2 posts

Hi,

We are trying to get to Mont Saint Michele from Paris in mid September 2024. We arrive in Paris around 11:30 AM. What is the best train option to get to Mont Saint Michele in the afternoon? Are there options later in the day (past Noon)? I feel like the shuttle options from Rennes to Mont Saint Michele are only in the morning, but that is unclear.

Also, is there a possibility of traveling from Paris to Ponterson, however, I am not sure how to get from Ponterson to Mont Saint Michele.

Any advice would be great

Posted by
3741 posts

You say that you feel like the shuttles are only in the morning -- your feelings are correct and you definitely will not be able to catch the shuttle because the last one to MSM leaves at 12:45 PM. To take public transportation with an easy connection to MSM, you may have to leave the next day. I know there is a train from Paris to Mont Saint Michel that leaves at around 7 AM -- I do not know if there are multiple trains per day on that route. The ticket for the train that I am referring to is one for a train ride to Pontorson with a connection at Pontorson to a bus to MSM. If you decide to take a train to Pontorson later in the day on your arrival day, there are taxis in Pontorson. Have you asked your hotel in MSM if they can arrange for a taxi from Pontorson for you?

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you for validating my thoughts on the trip. I will plan on taking a later train from Paris to Ponterson and then get a Taxi/Uber. I can't seem to be able to contact the hotel via a telephone call.

Getting back to Paris from Mont Saint Michel. Is it recommended I book MSM via Rennes, or MSM-Pontorson?

Thank you

Posted by
555 posts

Driving in France is like driving in the USA,,,none of that right side steering wheel left lane stuff in the UK. Road signs are easy to read and navigate. I took the train to Caen where we stayed, rented a car there and drove. The roads are great, and the scenery is spectacular (better than the trains). Best of all, you are on YOUR schedule and not the train company's. Enjoy.