I will be in Paris in early March and I plan on renting a car to drive, over two days, to Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, and Honfleur and back to Paris. I am looking for advise on renting a car in Paris. I would only be driving out of Paris one morning and returning at night the following day. I have driven in Europe before but not in Paris. Would it be easier to rent the car at an airport or someplace outside the city? Is driving at night in Paris more difficult than during the day? I'm staying in the Marais and there are rental car places convenient to my hotel and it would be preferable to rent close and drop off close to where I am staying for convenience sake. But I also don't want to underestimate the difficulty of driving in and out of the Paris.
There are some rental locations by Porte Maillot right off the Periphique. No 1 Metro line connects that with the Marais.
Take the train from Paris to Caen and rent your car there. Much easier from there than from Paris
I am doing the same thing in June. Look at renting a car at Gare du Nord train station in Paris. Its easy from there to get on main highways and on to Normandy. I am driving to Mont St Michel one day, staying night in Normandy, and then hitting the D Day beaches next day. Evening on 2nd day (after D Day beaches visit) I am dropping car off at CDG. If you need an "automatic" vehicle, I have heard it better to rent from larger locations to guarantee you get that type of vehicle.
As I check the maps from Paris to Normandy, it appears that A13 departs from the southwest corner of Paris. Wouldn´t leaving from somewhere near Gare Montparnasse make more sense than from Gare du Nord? Also, the A13 tolls, departing Paris from Porte d´Auteuil appear to be less than the A14 tolls departing from Porte Maillot, plus navigating through la Défense looks much more intimidating than simply taking A13 which looks like a straight shot.
Driving out of Paris looks rather simple.
Personally, I'd catch a direct train to Caen. I think it takes a little under 1 1/2 hours from St. Lazare. After that I'd rent a car and drive, also a little under 1 1/2 hours. Driving from Paris will be more than 4 hours and much more wear and tear on your nerves.
I have driven in Paris on several occasions, beginning in 1973. On my last drive through the city in 1995, I vowed never again to attempt such an unnatural act. If it is not illegal, it should be. My children, who were riding with me, learned new words on that trip, or at least new combinations of words that were uttered in a state of madness and confusion. In my defense, I was driving a 19 foot long motorhome, but the principle is the same. Get away from the city by low stress train trip and rent in smaller towns or at CDG, with the understanding that you will NOT be driving within the city proper. BTW, the Periferique is NOT actually a peripheral ring road. It just looks that way on a map. It took me two hours to go less than 3 miles, and changing lanes was virtually impossible. Word to the wise.
There are 3 or 4 auto rental agencies right across the street from the Caen railroad station. We booked with AutoEurope, collected our Peugeot and drove to our B&B just south of Bayeux. The drive to MSM from around Bayeux is around 90 miles. Another plus is returning your car to Caen and taking the train back to Paris. If you return the car to Paris on a weekend, you will likely experience heavy traffic as motorists are returning to the city and often clog the highways. We used our own GPS and had saved to favorites hotels, museums, points of interest, and restaurants along the drive both to and from MSM.
We rented from the Europcar location on Ave Foch, just beyond the Arc de Triomphe. Easily reached by the metro then a few minutes walk and an almost straight shot to the ring road (and no, we didn't have to circle the Arc). We rented on a Sunday morning, so traffic was very light. We went to day before to find it, which was a good thing as it is in an underground parking area.
Great information In this thread. I’m looking into a car rental for May and this gives me more options to consider.
Plan carefully as to the day and time you will return the car. Many posters have mentioned issues with weekend car-rental hours.
Has anyone picked up a car from Orly Airport? I’m renting midweek and the price is the same as picking up Gare Montparnasse. I was thinking it would be easier to get out of town and the traffic rather than driving in Paris.
I would take the train to Rennes, rent the car there, and return it in Rouen when done (train back to Paris).
Not out of fear of driving near Paris, just to have a more pleasant trip. (And Rouen is worth a few hours, too.)
I agree with others, take the train. If you want to start by visiting Mont St-Michel, take the TGV from Gare Montparnasse to Rennes--it's a new line and only takes 1.5 hours. There are several agencies at the Rennes train station and it's pretty easy to get out of the city from the station. I hope you are planning to spend the night on Mont St-Michel--it's magical and you'll avoid the tourist hordes who come in the daytime. You might want to consider staying an night in Bayeux, rather than driving back to Paris at night. There's so much to see in Normandy, you don't want to be rushed. On your return to Paris, I would drop off the car on the outskirts, such as La Défense or Porte Maillot, and take the Métro back to Le Marais. I have dropped off a car at Gare de Lyon, and it was extremely stressful--even though I have driven in Paris before. Because of all the one-way streets, if you make one wrong turn, it can be a nightmare to get back on track.
Do you need an automatic? Your choices may be more limited in smaller places...I think in Caen you’d prob be ok, but not sure about some of the smaller places. For me, I figure why pay for a train ticket and a car rental, but that’s just me...
I would take the train to Rennes, rent the car there, and return it in Rouen when done (train back to Paris).
I did exactly this pair. My advice is not to return the car in Rouen. The rental agencies are located in the train station and the return area is not a standalone building across from the station (like it is in Rennes) but underneath the train station. The underground parking for the station has several entrances and only one leads to the correct area. The sign for which one is right (eg. names of rentail car agencies) can only be seen once you're on the ramp. The area around the station is all one-way streets so if you miss the right entrance its about a 1/2 mile or more loop to try again.
Rouen is a nice city, but I'd return the car somewhere else and take the train from there to Rouen if you want to visit that city.
I am with Tim, Brad and George. My wife and I did this a couple years ago. Take the train to Caen and p/u - return your car there. It was very easy and relaxing. We have been to Paris 4 times and driving into or out of the city has never seemed like a wise idea, when you have such a great public transportation system.
My wife and I took the train from Paris Montparnasse to Rennes, then rented a car. Took the stress out of driving out of Paris..... couple hours on the train...BOOM, rent the car and off touring the sites! Believe us folks when we say..... take the train and rent the car!
I have done the drive out of CDG to Normandy with the help of a previous poster telling me exactly how to do it. It was a little stressful, but not too crazy. Actually there were no issues other than my anticipation of it. My only comment would be that is really a short amount of time to enjoy those places. The drive actually took longer than I anticipated.... I am ok with whirlwind trips, but unless you plan to return to the area another time I feel you will be sorry you did not give it an extra day. Mont St. Michel is breathtaking in the evening and spending the night there is magical. I also loved Bayeux and you don't have a lot of time for the beaches and the areas of Normandy.
Yes, we rented in Orly our first trip to Normandy -- easy pickup, but very loong drive, and going through a tunnel we got our only ticket in France. Took the train to Caen the second trip, much more relaxing.
Driving is stressful. Big city driving is more stressful. Big city driving in a foreign country is still more stressful. Driving anywhere at night is more stressful than during the day because of limited visibility,
Having said that, I don't agree that it's something to be avoided at (almost) all costs. We've driven into and out of Paris on 6 past trips and will do so again next time. You stay in your lane. You neither speed nor dawdle in the middle of an intersection. If you miss your turn, go around the block. If there are one-way streets, you may have to go around a bigger "block" to get back to where you were, but it's very, very do-able.
Different things stress different people out. I have gone around the block to find a parking place near where I'm staying. It doesn't bother me and I have always found a parking place close to where I want to be. Across the street, around the corner, sometimes right in front, sometimes as much as a block or two away. I don't consider this a disaster.
We've missed turns a bunch of times. Rarely will that happen as you're getting on a 4 mile bridge or going into a 5 mile tunnel. But if it does (as it has for me right here in the USA) just go across and find a way to turn around and come back. Not the end of the world.
The hassles (I won't list them) of taking a train to another town in order to rent a car far outweigh the hassles of driving in Paris for me. Not even close. But listen to those who see it the other way. It could be a major challenge for you as it clearly is for them - and there are many who feel that way. Judge for yourself. I'm just saying that driving in Paris is not always and in every case something to be avoided.
The only thing I'd be wary of in your stated itinerary is what time of day you're returning to Paris. Obviously, you want to make sure that the rental car agency is open. Under similar circumstances I have sometimes opted to park the car near where I'm staying and return it in the morning.
I hope you enjoy the trip.
Quickly scanning the responses so far, I disagree with a train to Caen. I have done this train several times, and it's a great train. But Caen is halfway between Mont-Saint-Michelle and Honfleur. You would be doing too much backtracking to catch all of these areas. If your first stop is MSM, I'd either drive there, or better yet, take the train to Rennes. It's a 1-1/2 hour TGV train and there are rental car agencies right next to the train station (currently lots of construction you have to walk around there, but still very doable). From there, you could drive to MSM, up North to Normandy/Lower-Manche (maybe Bayeux?), and then East over to Honfleur.
While I haven't yet been to Honfluer, others have mentioned catching a train back from Rouen, which make a lot of sense to me.
Thank you for all your advise and suggestions. My plans have changed a bit. I am flying into CDG on Saturday at 12:30pm and have 3 nights open before I check in to the hotel in Paris. I have booked a hotel for Monday night on MSM and would like to plan on taking the train from Rennes back to Paris on Tuesday. I am now trying to determine the best route from Paris CDG through Normandy to MSM. I was thinking a train into Rouen and then renting a car on Sunday and returning it on Tuesday in Rennes. This would give me approximately 1.5 days to explore Normandy. My concern now is finding a convenient train to Rouen. I'm wondering if I should just stay the first night in Paris and take a train to Rouen on Sunday morning. Or if I should rent a car at CDG and drive to Rouen. Thanks again!
You can take a look at the schedules on the SNCF website. On Saturday, March 3, there are TGVs from CDG at 1:17 PM (but I don't think you'd make that one unless your flight was amazingly early), 4:17 PM, 6:14 PM, and 7:38 PM. At the moment, the fares on the two middle departures are pretty reasonable, at 38.20 and 44.20 euros, respectively. Unfortunately, there are some fairly lengthy layovers involved that basically negate the value of the TGVs' speed, but you are still paying for the speed even though the trip takes 3 to (unbelievably) 6 hours.
I think it would make sense to head into Paris yourself to pick up a direct Intercites train to Rouen from St. Lazare Station. They're practically giving St Lazare-Rouen tickets away at the moment, and the train will take around 1-1/2 hours.
The same 10-euro fares are also available as of now for Sunday, March 4, but I'd want to get to Rouen on Saturday rather than checking into a Paris hotel for just one night.
We need for someone with experience flying into Paris (which I have not done) and with the intricacies of SNCF to recommend a ticket strategy. It appears that if you wait to buy your ticket until you've arrived in Paris, it will only cost 27.10 euros at most. If you buy a 10- or 11-euro non-exchangeable ticket and miss that particular train, you'll have lost that money. I'm not sure what I'd do; probably download the SNCF app to my smartphone so I could check ticket availability while waiting for Immigration at CDG.