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Car vs. Train in France

We're going to be in France for 17 days in May and are having a hard time deciding whether to rent a car for most of it or to use the trains. As of now, we are in Paris for 6 days, then train to Loire Valley, where we are picking up a car. We are going to the south of France via Lyon and then up to Annecy and Colmar area. Train back from Strasbourg to Paris. Does anyone have thoughts on the drive from Nice to Annecy and from Amboise to Lyon? Do you have to go thru the mountains between Nice and Annecy? Also the drive from Annecy to Colmar? A car seems more efficient to us timewise, but would the train be a lot more relaxing? Would appreciate any input. Thanks

Posted by
4125 posts

There's nothing wrong with your plan, though it is a lot of driving. Ask yourself if that is a scenic adventure or a chore.

An alternative plan is would be to use the rail system to get from region to region and rent a (different) car at each stop to explore the area. The French rail + drive pass works very well for this--you can get a decent rate even if you only rent for a day or two, and you can drop the car off at a different city than you pick it up.

As for efficiency, the drive to Lyon from Amboise would probably take longer than the train, even with a transfer in Paris. You could take a night train from Nice to Annecy.

I think either approach, or a combination of the two, works. It's up to you.

Posted by
320 posts

Driving in France is so easy - and you get to go when and wehre you like - you get to go where the rails don't go.

Also, for 17 days - try Renault Eurodrive - lease and buyback. I've done it twice - it is the best deal on a rental car in Europe. Have fun!

Posted by
711 posts

The roads in France are great- well-paved , lots of rest stops, etc. My husband and I drove from Charles DeGaulle to Burgundy in 2004- no problem. The periferique road around Paris is quite busy, but once we got on the A6 south of Paris it was easy. In October we are staying in Paris, then taking a shuttle to the car place ar Orley, getting a car, and driving to Burgundy, the Dordongne, and Provence. We are dropping the car off at the Nice airport, staying the night , and then flying home. Car is really the way to see all the little out of the way places and you can stop when you want and spend more time in places. I think France has some of the best roads I have seen. Of course, do not even think of driving in Paris. We have also driven around Colmar, Strasbourg, Lyon. Easy and fun.

Posted by
80 posts

We were recently in France for 3 weeks. We leased a car and found it to be the cheapest option, insurance was included. We picked up at CDG and drove to the Charente, Loire, Dordogne, Languedoc, Provence, Burgundy, Giverny and back to Paris. We dropped off at Orly. This was the 4th time we have rented a car in France and it was great. YOu can hop on the autoroute to make up time, or cruise the small roads for the villages, castles, churches, etc. My advice, make sure you have a Michelen driving atlas of France, not the big folding maps. Its much easier to use and points of interest are marked. Have fun!