Normandy D-Day Tour

My wife and I will be visiting friends in Paris next summer and then were thinking that we would take a day and do the Normandy D-Day tour. Now we will not have access to a car, so I we will need to either take some form of public transportation to get the Normandy or else a tour bus to pick us up. We want to get the most of out of our visit without breaking the bank. Most of the tours I have seen that will get us from Paris range around $175 per person. I am wondering if anyone has a recommendation of an affordable way for us to
A) Get from Paris to Normandy
B) Tour that will be affordable and enjoyable

Thanks for your help!

Posted by Donna
Cleveland, OH
290 posts

Hi Tyler, I'm working on a similar trip and found a company called Normandy Sightseeing that will do half or full day tours of the D-Day sites. The company is recommended in the RS France book and got some good reviews on Trip Advisor. We're planning to take the train from Paris to Bayeux in the morning (I think it's about 2 1/2 hours), do the afternoon tour and return to Paris that evening. I've been to Normandy but my friend has not. Long day but I thought this would provide a brief overview of the area. I'm interested to see the responses you receive to this question. Have a wonderful time in France!

Posted by Tim
Knoxville, TN, USA
3076 posts

If you're looking for the best possible way to do it then you really need to plan on an overnight in a town like Bayeux. From there pick up a private tour guide and a rental car and really see the area. I know some of the big tour companies do a good job, but the time to/from Paris in the same day as your tour really eats into the actual touring time you'll have.

www.toursbylocals.com is a good site to find a local tour guide who can really add to your experience. We trained from Paris to Bayeux, checked into our hotel and picked up a rental car close by. The next full day was devoted to traveling in our rental with our private guide to several very interesting places. We went down deserted narrow side roads and pulled off to the side and got out and explored with our guide. It was truly magnificent to walk the grounds of a vacant farmhouse where troops stayed during WWII with no one else around but us.

I'm sure you'll do whatever your schedule allows you to do, but I would suggest not rushing this part. It's truly an experience.

Posted by Tyler
Oregon, WI
54 posts

unfortunately, with our tight schedule we have to do it all in one day and can't afford to spend the night. So we will have to prepare ourselves for a LOOOOOOONG day between the travel and tour. So our initial plan is take the earliest train from Paris to (whichever stop is the most convenient stop); and since it's about 2.5 hours I am guessing that would get us there around 10am. Then do some form of tour until 5 or 6pm, then head back to Paris. But rather than paying for a tour bus to take us from Paris I am thinking taking a train from Paris ourselves is going to end up saving us alot of money (correct me if I'm wrong). Then I just have no idea where to start looking for the best tour that will fit that timeframe as there seems to be TONS of options.

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3207 posts

Tim, your advice is the best way I've ever heard to do it, speaking from someone who's done it 7+ times on our own and done a one full day tour with Battlebus. We'll hire a private guide next time. Thanks!

Posted by Tim
Wyckoff, NJ, USA
673 posts

Although the general quality of D-Day site guides is quite high, so are the corresponding costs. You should carefully work out the totals for your outing before discarding the conventional wisdom (often offered here ... ) that it is far from ideal to do this as a same-day runout from Paris.

Some people justify the overnight(s) by staying at a hotel like the Churchill that also offers Mont St. Michel from the hotel parking lot. I mention that more because you noted that you won't have a car at your disposal. There's no doubt that you can't do the sites themselves without local transportation, either your own or a guide with a vehicle.

I mainly posted to point out that books like Rick's make it possible to see a lot without paying for a guide, if you are used to touring on your own. The fact that many visitors loved their talented local guide to the Normandy beaches does not mean that you are wasting your time without a guide. (Obviously the equation is different when you need transportation.)

Posted by Tyler
Oregon, WI
54 posts

The more I am doing research, the more I am thinking that it might be better for us to explore Normandy WITHOUT a tour guide. I usually enjoy reading up a topic and then exploring around myself rather than being on a set schedule. My question is, given the fact that we will not have a car and will just be taking a train from Paris....how exactly do we go about getting to the actual beaches site from the train station? Does anyone know an estimate of the costs if we do decide to explore the beaches by ourselves? Finally, any opinions on what the the best sites are for us to see in our half day there? Thanks for the help!

Posted by Ray
Portland, Oregon, USA
1358 posts

Tyler,

Since you like to do your own research, go one step further and decide what you want to see. as i say alot, my likes may not be your likes or others.

I had an all day tour and didnt see everything i wanted to see so i will be back.

if you want some general recommendations.

Omaha beach. Thats where it all began.
US Cemetery
Point Du Hoc. About the only place you will see any bomb craters.

another possible way once you do your research is to plot them on a map of the area and try to group them so that your time diving is minimized.

Happy trails.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17783 posts

Tyler,

If you only have a short time for the Normany / D-Day visit, using an organized tour would really be the best method (IMO). The historic sights are quite spread out and while you can tour on your own, the tour will be more efficient since they know where everything is. Having commentary from a knowledgeable Guide will also provide a more interesting experience, as they know the history well, including many small details that aren't in the history books.

You could (for example) do something like this....

  • Take early train from Paris to Bayeux, tour the D-Day Museum there and also see the famous Bayeux Tapestry.
  • Take a half-day (afternoon) tour with Overlord Tour, such as their Normandy No. 1 half-day tour which is currently priced at €60 PP. Browse their other tours also, in case you'd like a slightly different mix of sights.

You could also have a look at tours by www.ddayhistorian.com or www.daleboothnormandytours.com (if you Google "D-Day tours Normandy", you'll get LOTS of choices - I mentioned these two as I've toured with them, and both are outstanding!).

Happy travels!

Posted by Southam
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
916 posts

A reminder that 2014 is the 70th anniversary of the landings and so ceremonies, and their crowds, can be expected around those dates. Plan well ahead. The poignant fact is that many of the remaining veterans are on their last legs and so special commemorations take on some urgency.
I vote very strongly for guided tours, not just for convenient transportation but because the information and context the guides provide is hard for the amateur with a guidebook to match.

Posted by Tim
Knoxville, TN, USA
3076 posts

If you don't want a tour guide, don't want a tour company, don't have a car, but DO want to see the beaches...you're really out of luck. Don't do it.

Posted by T.
Seattle, WA, US
154 posts

I firmly agree with Tim's post. I was there last spring. It is not possible to tour the D-Day beaches in one day on public transportation. If you only want to visit ONE site, such as the American Cemetery, it is possible to take a bus from Bayeux, but there are only four per day in the summer. If you must take public transportation, Rick suggests taking a bus to the site and then calling a taxi to take you back to Bayeux or Caen. But you'll be cheating yourself if you don't see more than just one place. Book a tour or rent a car instead.