Has anyone picked up and dropped off a rental car at gare du nord station in Paris? After reading other posts/advice I'm concerned about the traffic. How bad is it? I will not be using the car in Paris but traveling to Normdandy. After I return the rental car, I'm getting on the eurostar for London. The Eurostar leaves from gare du nord. Thought this would easiest, but now I'm not sure. Thanks!
I've neve rented a car in Paris, so I don't know what your other options are. I will say that driving in Paris is CRAZY (I don't mean to add to your concerns).
Of course, traffic in the Seattle-Tacoma area is nuts as well, but Paris is missing things we find common - like lanes designating travel in the same direction on multi-lane roads.
I personally wouldn't be comfortable with it. Is there a way you could take the regional metro/trains to the outskirts of Paris and pick up a car there? I'd be ok driving in the French countryside and on freeways, just not in the city.
I have rented a car at Gare du nord and it ended up being a total nightmare. Roxanne's advice on this one is good. Rent a car outside of the city. If you should ignore this advice be warned that the car rental at gare du nord is a few blocks from the station - not where you would expect it to be. It's really difficult to find so ask about it when you pick up the car.
Take the train and then spend your car-rental money to hire a private guide to transport you to the sites in Normandy. Rick has some good Normandy guide suggestions in his France book.
Yes, I have rented a Hertz car at Gare du Nord and even attempted to return it there. Renting from GdN is bad but not nearly as bad as attempting to return it there. We drove around and around and around and by some lucky chance we came upon a Hertz office. We asked the attendant if this was Gare du Nord location and showed him our paperwork. He said yes and flagged us in to return it. After we had unloaded and the car had been taken down into the bowels of the underground return facility we were told at checkout that we hadn't returned it to the "correct" Gare du Nord return spot!!!! Yes, there seems to be many rental car facilities around that area with each rental company owning several...just don't do it.
Now, just last year we did the Normandy beaches ourselves and this is how you do it. Take the train from Paris to Caen and pick up your rental car from there. From there you can easily drive to the Caen War Museum which is "HUGELY" interesting. beaches are close drive 2
Amy, I've rented and returned a car three times in Paris in the last five years, twice from Gare de Lyon train station. (And went to Normandy). The answer to your question varies according to the individual asking it. Are you a confident driver? If so, driving in Paris is not terribly different than driving in Tacoma. Does Tacoma rush hour traffic make you terribly nervous? When you drive in an unfamiliar big city in the US, do you hate it? Let me put it this way..a tourist in a rented car is not something that Parisians never see. Driving is all about knowing where you intend to go. You need a detailed map of Paris, and you need to pull over to check your location if you are unsure about a turn. You will make wrong turns, and be forced to meander around a bit to get to where you want. No biggie. Lack of lane markers means you're always in your lane :]. My hesitance about rental agencies in outlying towns is they never seem to be open when it's necessary to return the car.
We picked our rental up at gare du nord. If we
pick a car up in a city like Paris, we always
pick it up early in the morning, before the
traffic gets heavy. It is a hassle at that station
to pick up the car. There wasn't any attendant
to check us out and it is a hugh garage. We
didn't know how to get out and if another customer
hadn't come in, we would probably still be there.
If you do decide to drive from Paris, write down
detailed info, including what lane to be in when
making a turn. Don't just rely on the maps.
I think it is very misleading to compare driving in Paris to driving in Tacoma. I've driven in many major cities - I learned to drive in Denver. Not even LA traffic comes close to the insanity in Paris in my opinion.
exactly, there is NO comparision to Parisian traffic...except maybe Rome.
Here's one more thing about comparing traffic. Yes, the Seattle/Tacoma Metro area has some of the worst traffic in the country, (behind LA and NYC, of course), but for the most part we are not crazy and aggressive drivers. Rude - yes, angry - yes, but not so much "I've got to turn right NOW so I'm going to push my way in."
It's not only volume - it's the style. It's hard to explain, but it is a lot like having everyone drive down a major street, making up their own lanes as they go, instead of neatly driving down your own lane, turning on your train signal and merging into the next lane as you can.
Peter Mayle summed it up in his book, "A Year in Provence." He said that the French don't grasp the "Anglo-Saxon notion of a queue." He's dead-on.
Amy, It is so easy to go to St. Lazare station and take the train directly to Bayeux or Caen which is the jumping off points for the Normandy tours.
I have taken that train.
I don't recommend that anyone should rent a car in Paris and drive it around town. Amy, The question I offered my opinion about was whether or not to rent a car in Paris, head out of town for some lower stress touring, and returning the car in Paris. I stick with my position that if you are a confident driver, it's no big deal. If you have a good map, you pick the shortest route to the ring road and get there. After that, you're in normal freeway and highway traffic. Even better, get on the minor highways. Perhaps people have great success with a series of transfers between trains and whatnot to rent a car outside of Paris. I'm usually returning a car in the p.m. and if you know France, you know that outside of Paris agencies have limited hours. It's totally up to you, the key is convenience. But I take issue with those who dismiss even a little driving in Paris as "insanity". I'm renting a car in Rome on Saturday..I'll report back with a comparison in a few weeks!
Thanks to all for the suggestions! I've shared your thoughts with my husband and we decided to stick with our plan by renting the car at GdN. I've have been to Rome so I have a fairly good idea about what I'm getting myself into. At the very least, a car accident will make for a memorable story when I return, but as they say "luck favors the brave"!
A couple of reminders: prepare yourself for aggressive drivers, both in cars and especially on motorcycles; know in advance where you are going, and how the key road signs will read (in French); be aware that the main highways to Normandie are toll roads, requiring cash or credit cards at certain points; and, gasoline stations are much less prevalent than in the U.S, so keep a close eye on your fuel gauge.