Using GPS in Europcar rental, Provence

Hi, in a couple of weeks we leave, with first stop Avignon, and will pick up a Europcar rental (via Autoeurope) with GPS at Avignon TGV, a VW Polo or equiv. I do not use GPS myself, never have, and am wondering if someone can clue me in so I have some idea when I go to use it. I called both Europcar and Autoeurope and neither were able to say which brand or model GPS unit would be in the car, which I can understand. Part of one day we are going from Avignon to the Pont du Gard, easy enough. Other days we'll be out to Gordes, Roussillon, LaCoste, Bonnieux, etc. and I imagine that's where it may get a little more challenging. We will have Michelen map along.
My questions are:
1. Do I need an address or GPS coordinates, or can I simply enter intersecting roads as in Google maps? Does it like to know postal code?
2. What are the chances this unit will be an English speaker?
3. Is it better to skip the learning curve, toss it in the back, and use a map?

Thanks for any help!

Posted by Eef
246 posts

I can't help you with GPS, but I can say that we had a car for 3-1/2 weeks in France this summer and did just fine with Michelin maps. Never got lost although we did turn around a few times when we were in the wrong lane to make a turn. As long as you have a good navigator, old fashioned maps still work fine.

Posted by Carolyn
Seattle, WA, USA
356 posts

My advice is to plan your routes out in advance using your maps. GPS is a nice tool, but unless you have a street address, maps work as well or better. Even with GPS you need some idea of where you are going; otherwise it could lead you astray (they call that death by GPS when people follow their GPS into the desert or off a bridge). I have done four driving trips around France and had GPS only the last time. Mostly "Francine" stayed in the glove box and I used maps while driving in the country. "She" was most useful in towns where we had addresses. I do like using the map feature on the GPS as it gives the speed limit and indicates where the speed cameras are on the autoroute. If you don't have regional maps with the highest amount of details, do get some at your easiest opportunity.

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
2885 posts

I drove around Provence for 6 days a couple of years ago using just good Michelin maps and had no problems and I was solo, without a navigator and map reader. I don't use a GPS at home so I never used the one that was in the rental car to find directions. I did however get used to looking at it (on the dash) just to confirm that I was on the road that I wanted, that was kind of handy.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
5722 posts

Learning to use a GPS for the first time is definitely not a fast or intuitive process. (I know because my mother just got one last year and the two of us had to figure it out for a trip). So, have friends with one show you how to use it. If possible, try to be shown different models, so you can see the similarities and differences between them. A good analogy: if you've never used a computer and know you will have to do something with one, but don't know which model, you'd want to be shown a PC and a Mac. Then, even if you get a machine that's slightly different from the ones you were shown on (Windows Vista instead of Windows 7, for example), you'll still have some idea of what to do.

If you can't have someone show you the basics of using a GPS before your trip, I think it will be more frustrating then helpful. For instance, on that trip with my mother than I referenced above, we had accidentally turned on the "avoid toll roads" setting. The problem is that we were going from Philadelphia to New Jersey, and all the bridges between them have tolls! So the GPS was trying to take us on crazy small roads to God knows where! Once we figured out that that was the likely issue and changed that setting (and it's buried several screens down), we did much better.

Once you do know how to use it, there are many ways to enter your destination. You can choose addresses, intersections, GPS coordinates, and probably other choices too. A postal code is very helpful to distinguish similar sounding places. If you are going to use it, a great time saver is to learn how to enter destinations and save them for later. This way, you can enter them all at once, then just pull them up from the list of saved places, and tell the unit to direct you.

GPS units come with multiple voice and language options; just make sure yours is switched to English before you leave the car rental lot.

Posted by Dave
Ventura, CA, USA
1449 posts

Thank you to everyone for the help. Carolyn, I'm glad that you were able to find a good balance with Francine; after my initial experience I will be able to give ours an appropriate name (and home), perhaps Clair Voyant.
And Harold, it's a good idea you have there to spend time right off the bat entering several addresses, I will bring a list along. For our purposes we will probably want the "avoid toll roads" function, nice to have some quality time with Mom though, huh?

Posted by Brian
Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA
219 posts

I just drove throughout that area for 3 weeks in June. I used an inexpensive Garmin GPS that works both in the U.S. and Western Europe. It worked fine and was invaluable. I also got to practice with it at home before the trip which really helped as it does take some getting used to. You can probably buy it for the cost of the rental GPS and have it for the next time. It took the name of the town if you did not have a specific address. I also preprogrammed at home an address in each town I was visiting of a location in the town center that I looked up before I left. Got me right there. I also put in the places where we were staying so it would get us back there at the end of the day after sightseeing. Worked great. AND.....I have it for next years trip.

Posted by JHK
Fremont, California, United States
597 posts

Instead of getting a rental car with GPS in it, why don't you rent the GPS from AutoEurope? It will arrive about a week before you leave and you can get accustomed to the system before getting to France. I have rented cars with GPS systems in them in Europe and also rented the GPS system from AutoEurope and either way worked fine. The only thing is that if you are unfamiliar with using a GPS, renting one from the US gives you the benefit of time to learn how to use the system and the knowledge that the language will be English. As to the language used by the GPS in the rental car, they are programmable to English but there is a good chance that the system will be set to the language of the last user of the car. Last year, when we picked up a car at CDG, the GPS spoke in German but we reset it to English before leaving the airport; another time in Bordeaux, the language used was French.