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Car for Normandy, France necessary?

Hi, I am wondering if people think we need a car for the Normandy area of France? Apparently there are lots of small towns to see there and driving between them is the only efficient way to do so. Also - do we do Normandy or Lyon or southern France - we have limited time between seeing relatives in Bethune in northern France and hitting one other city before Paris. We have been to Paris before so only need a couple days there - then we would fly out of there. Thanks!!!

Posted by
370 posts

We did Normandy with a car and took advantage of the flexibility to stop and explore places. We did notice some van tours going to many of the same sites so it can be done without a car. However, it was easy to find and driving was fairly stress free in that area.

Posted by
58 posts

What about parking? We would try to find a place to stay where we could keep our car? And what about that area vs. another instead? We are trying to keep this cheap - my daughter and I. :-)

Posted by
28800 posts

I am wondering if people think we need a car for the Normandy area of France? Apparently there are lots of small towns to see there and driving between them is the only efficient way to do so. It seems that you have answered your own question, and I agree with your answer. The alternative, if you are confining your visit to D-Day sites, is to use a guide who provides transportation.

Posted by
28800 posts

I'm scratching my head and can't remember ever having a parking problem in Normandy. But I've never been there in the first week of June.

Posted by
3696 posts

I have driven twice to Normandy from CDG and while the toll roads will kill you (it's expensive) it was just a part of the cost of having the freedom of my car to see the area on my own schedule. I stayed in Bayeaux and it was right off the main road and had parking. It used to be an Ibis and is now and Etap or vice versa.. anyway, it was clean, cheap and just a few miles to town for dinner and sightseeing. Not too far from the beaches and the drive was quite nice. From there I also went to Mont St. Michel as well as spent an afternoon in St. Malo. I loved my time in that area, however I was there in Nov. so it was relatively void of tourists. We did have some surprisingly beautiful weather while we were there... two years in a row.

Posted by
58 posts

Thanks for all the replies - we will be there about the third week in August. We found great flights and just trying to get over the hump and push click. It's hard because we have always traveled as a family of four - but I want to do a mother-daughter trip and it is tough to move forward without the other two family members - but husband does not have enough vacation and daughter is paying for her own flight. : - )

Posted by
366 posts

Terry What do the tolls cost (approximately)?
If train tickets are purchased early enough so they're cheap, would it make sense to take the train to the region and then drive? I have 5 (total) going in September.

Posted by
3696 posts

Evan...think Ed answered questions about tolls. I think it's just cheaper to get the car and not do both train and car. Just a lot more trouble to do both.

Posted by
9110 posts

Tolls are what you make of them. It cost me a hundred bucks for a Dunkerque to Bordeaux run a couple of years ago. I'd just gotten off the ferry. If I'd gone the back roads there would have been a hotel, a couple more meals, and almost another day blown to hell.

Posted by
3031 posts

You'll want a car once you're there, but there's no reason you can't take a high speed train TO Normandy and then pick up a car. You get to relax and save on gas and tolls, if you buy your train tickets early enough to get a good price.

Posted by
8841 posts

I think they are coming directly from the relatives' in northern France. It might not be as easy and direct as by train from Paris.

Posted by
9110 posts

For the lurkers, the train vs car question from Paris to Caen comes up frequently: Time There's no high-speed trains, just intercities. Both the train and a car take right at two hours from Paris Lazare. From anywhere else in Paris, a car will win due to the time it takes to metro to Lazare. Cost Train tickets are about twenty bucks per head. Road tolls are right at thirty bucks. Gas on a modest car is about twenty-five. If you take the train and rent a car, you're paying for two modes of transportation on the same day. For Kathy: Working from Bethune Viamichelin says the tolls are twenty-two bucks and it's two hundred miles, making the gas about forty dollars. That's about three hours. I'm guessing that to go by train, you'd have to go through Lille and Paris. I've no idea of the cost or time, but I know in my heart a car will win. I'm also guessing that the best place to rent a car would be Lille, so that'd add both gas and time, plus a good chunk of tolls (maybe double) but that's not one of my routes. (Full disclosure: I had to look at a map because I thought Bethune was a lot closer to Amiens.)

Posted by
5904 posts

Listen, if you read some old threads here, you can find travelers who consider it absolutely essential to hire a guide (who comes with a van) for a proper D-Day tour. I happen to disagree, but lots of people have been happy visiting Normandy both ways. It depends on what satisfies your family's travel style. Wouldn't it make more sense to visit Lille, France and Belgium before taking a train to Paris? (For that matter, how about flying home from Brussels instead of Paris?) If you enjoy driving, Antwerp, Gent, and Bruges are swell destinations that people here talk about all the time. Presumably you'll visit Louvre Lens with your relatives? Even though Champagne country is not a must for me, I'd do that, rather than driving four hours or more to get to Bayeux. Have you already seen Giverny and Chantilly?

Posted by
3346 posts

Just a comment about tolls - we did not think to budget tolls into our first long trip to France a number of years ago. Big rookie mistake! We were there for about 10 weeks and racked up about $150 in tolls before we got smart and started taking side roads. If you need to drive a long distance then just pay. If you have the time, though, it's worth it to take side roads for shorter distances. Not only will you save some $$ but you will see so much more. I do recommend a car in Normandy. It is a beautiful part of France that is worth getting off the beaten path for. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
5904 posts

James, there are exceptions. I was happy to take the TGV from CDG to Tours on my day of arrival, pick up a car, and drive (via a few sights) to our nearby first hotel of the stay, Chateau de Marcay. So maybe, "fools and fat cats." Perhaps the difference is that I grew up in Manhattan, and neither of my parents ever owned a car in their entire lives. I didn't care to jump into my own chariot right after poor sleep on an overnight flight. But for those with larger, er, dual exhausts ... , more power to you.

Posted by
3031 posts

Public transportation is SOOOOO wonderful...if they were coming from Paris. I didn't realize they weren't, so Ed provided them with better advice. But if you're going from Paris to another hub that's substantially further away, I'd say the time saved on the TGV, plus how cost-effective it can be if you buy your tickets in advance, makes sense. Especially since rental cars are often paid for not on a calendar day basis but in 24 hour stretches, so it's not like you're paying for a whole "extra day" for the car necessarily.

Posted by
5904 posts

Adding to Sarah's point, the difference in weekly and daily rates sometimes argues in favor of extra rental days (e.g. being a fool ... ) just to pass a (typical, but check) five-day minimum for a week's rental. But in order to get the best rental car deal, you have to either use a robot-query web site, or re-query your preferred vendors by hand until you find the pricing that's satisfactory. It's tedious.

Posted by
87 posts

WARNING, WARNING!!!! I noticed in one of your responses that you will be there the third week of August. That is the month when all of Europe goes on vacation resulting in tremendous traffic jams and general congestion. Please do allow extra time and be prepared for massive crowds. I suspect you may get similar remarks from other seasoned France travelers.

Posted by
58 posts

So...that was the best time for us to go. My daughter has clinically all summer. Are we going to be able to see things? sounds like we should get train tickets ahead of time.

Posted by
58 posts

Oops....my daughter has clinicals until August and that is when we can go. Will things be open...doable?

Posted by
8841 posts

Kathy, You'll be fine. Yes, get train tickets ahead of time. Some popular sights will be crowded and parking at these places more congested, but don't be alarmed. Vacation is winding down by the third week of August for many people. Driving into Paris will be jammed on any Sunday night of the year. All of Europe will not be where you are, all of Europe cannot afford vacations, of those who can many go outside of August, many go to the south, many go to one camp ground for the whole vacation. I've traveled extensively in many regions in August and wouldn't be alarmed. Just reserve ahead of time. I think I'm a seasoned traveler in France. Mike, please tell us your experience that created such a dire warning in bold letters. It must have been pretty bad and we have to hope whatever it was that it doesn't happen again.