Please sign in to post.

West of France travel informations

We are driving for the 1st time in France from CDG airport to the West coast in September for 16 days.

Our concern is do we need a GPS or can we manage with a tablet and Michelin road Atlas?

We are also interested in visiting a Winery with the option of Dining in the south west region?

Any other informations would be greatly appreciated.

Linda & Gilles


Posted by
2 posts

I've driven in France many times and have managed without a GPS in the days before we had them.

However, in my experience, unless you know the area and/or only plan to stick to the Autoroutes it's easy to get lost or get in the wrong lane and find yourself off on a 10km detour, or going around the ring-road for the 5th time looking for your turnoff!

Also you loose the ability to be able to use the D roads and alternative routes which may be more interesting and it makes driving more stressful - especially if you have jet lag to consider.

While you can use a phone/tablet to navigate with Google Maps (or Apps from Navman/TomTom) there is also the issue of the mobile phone signal to consider which often drops out in rural/remote/mountainous areas.

And unlike the dedicated GPS, you are going to be paying for all the mobile data you use when navigating - using your own SIM card from home will rack up huge charges, using a French SIM card is better (you can get them in advance online or at CDG) but if its a PAYG SIM you'll need to keep it topped up and navigating the French mobile network phone systems is fine if you speak French - otherwise go into a mobile phone store, get a voucher and get them to top up for you.

If you have a basic tablet without a SIM card (ie WiFi only) you'll have to "pair" it with the phone to use the mobile network which I know some US phones don't allow - or only use it where WiFi is available (e.g. Hotels).

My suggestion is
- Buy a TomTom or NavMan GPS which includes maps of France.
- Buy the Michelin "Atlas Routier et Touristique" of France to plan your route and look for the green edged Scenic Routes and viewpoints for interesting drives.
- If you are going to be finding accommodations while on the road, then also get the Red Guide Michelin which lists and rates hotels and restaurants and gives you basic information about towns including a local map (I replace the printed maps/books every 3-4 years).
- Get a French SIM card and use your phone/tablet to research your route/next destination when you have a signal.

Hope this helps


Posted by
1898 posts

How to navigate will depend mostly to my opinion if you only drive along freeways and national roads / route nationale, numbered beginning with an N, like N12 or N175. For that a map with a scale of 1:500,000 like in your case for the westcoast Michelin ¼ France (no 706) will do. But as soon as you want exploring the country side, so making more use of backroads, numbered beginning with a D, like D43 and D275 maps with a scale of 1:200,000 (Michelin Regional / orange cover) or 1:150,000 (Michelin Départemental / yellow cover) are better to use. If you spend 16 days in one area you very likely will make use of these backroads.

As I like to explore each year the countryside in France I prefer to use the départemental maps, but a few weeks ago there in some cases I start missing the help of a GPS or a tool like Google Maps, especially driving alone. Sometimes it happens you see a lot of names signposted, pointing to all kinds of directions and it takes time to figure out at the spot where to go, so in several cases had to slow down, but with local (impatient) traffic just behind me I didn’t always feel so comfortable if you know what I mean.

Using an atlas or maps (also for scenic roads and points of interest as Paul already says) is more a matter of preference if you ask me and this in combination with a GPS and maybe Google Maps will give you all the tools to find your way. As preparation I use additionally Google Streetview to get an idea before driving how a place looks, like in Rouen it was for me very helpfull finding a parking. I think at home now a bit practising with Google Streetview finding your way around Paris from CDG to the westcoast can give you already an impression how the roads and the signposts look like (CDG – A1 – A86 – A13 Rouen).

You can buy Michelin maps everywhere at gas stations and supermarkets. Last but not least be carefull with driving with a jetlag, especially around Paris! So this is a bit my point of view.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you very much both, Paul and Wil.

Just one more question, if we decide to tke our TomTom with additional France Maps loaded, are we sure that we will be able to connect our TomTom in the connection inside the rental car Budget when it is a European Car?

Thanks again both.

Linda & Gilles

Posted by
1441 posts

The navigation system in my car rental was excellent. Traveling by myself - and thus, with no one to act as navigator - it was very helpful. I would definitely have your rental company add one to your contract.

Posted by
1898 posts

Sorry, have no experience with TomTom, but as it is a Dutch company likely yours will work in Europe too, but to be sure get in contact with them or your rental car company.

Posted by
796 posts

I don't use GPS at home and have not used it in Europe either. Michelin maps are excellent with many details that I don't have on my US maps. We never got lost in France. We may have gotten temporarily confused deciphering the signs, but this never became a 10km problem. We did have a driver and a good navigator. :)

Posted by
2916 posts

We've never used a GPS in France in our 30 years of traveling there (of course, there was no GPS for many of those years). Instead, we bring individual, detailed Michelin maps. And we mostly travel on back roads, except for very long drives As long as there is at least 1 passenger to navigate, it works.
As to wineries in the Southwest, here's a link to my travel blog. Our most recent trip was almost all Southwest, and part of our 2003 trip was in that part of France.

Posted by
9855 posts

Yes, there are plugs in all the cars for plugging in your TomTom. We use ours every year but also have maps in case we don't agree with TomTom's choice for our route.

Posted by
703 posts

we use a gps and michellin maps and off line maps on our tablet. depending upon the situation.
if you decide to take your tom tom ( with europe maps loaded) think about using the TOM TOM 'map codes'
it is a system that tom tom has for easily putting in your destination. you can look up the 'map code' address ( before you travel) for you hotels etc. then you place the 'map code' in, rather than trying to type in a long name. worked great for us.

if you do take a tablet then investigate off-line map apps , like POCKET EARTH, or GOOGLE MAPS etc and download the maps , for off-line use.

hope this helps.

Posted by
2 posts

My partner has been known to fall asleep while "navigating" so I prefer to have the GPS guidance and also it shows pictures of the junctions as you approach superimposed with your direction, as well as the audio instructions so you know which lane to be in - something you'd struggle to get from a map - particularly if your partner is navigating with it upside down!.

Most modern cars have one or more USB ports (for phones/TomTom etc) either in the central console beneath the audio controls or sometimes beneath the armrest.

We recently purchased a new TomTom for use in the UK and France (and back home in Australia) and it came with world maps, free updates and also a USB power adapter for the cigarette lighter/auxiliary power socket of the car. Our previous model TomTom didn't have the capacity for storing many maps and it was a pain to remember to download them in advance, update them and remember to bring the right memory card.

I also have a cheap dual socket USB power adapter which I picked up from a garage, but while it will trickle-charge the TomTom when its switched off, it doesn't have enough power output to keep it fully charged when in use.

Some rental cars do come with GPS navigation built-in so its worth checking when you book. And car rental companies will rent you a GPS navigator for around $10/day but if you're touring for 14 days it may be cheaper to buy one.

Posted by
25 posts

I'm spending a week in Normandie/Brittany in late August. I rented a car from Auto Europe that had a GPS included in the price. I'm picking the car up in Caen, dropping off in Tours. You can also look up routes and download the app: via Michelin. You can log in and make an account for free, then print and or save you driving directions. Please let me know if you have more questions!
Good Luck!

Posted by
605 posts

My experience is that you can get a used TomTom with french maps for around $35. This is such a low cost that I see no reason not to do it. That's what I did for my latest trip and it worked perfectly.