Your First Trip to Paris June 6 -13, 2016

For complete information, go to my website:

6 Days 7 Nights

$2999 Single - Land Only
$2499 Double - Land Only

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Renting a car and driving in France

Most travelers really like to see all they can see while they're there, and if you're thinking about driving, you should know that their freeway system is not like ours here in California. For one, the big fast highways aren't free, they are tollroads, but I'll get to that in a minute. During my recent spring tours I rented cars twice, both from Europcar. In reflection I believe I chose Europcar as they were the only one that offered unlimited miles and seemed to be the most reasonably priced. First and foremost, research this. If you can speak French, make sure you look at the French sites. Sometimes the prices are about half as much. Seriously! There is also a company called "" but they aren't always in every city and may not be near the train station, if that's how you arrived. I used them in Tours a few years ago to explore the Loire Valley, and they were quite reliant. To pre-pay or not pre-pay? I generally try to pre-pay when I can, and oddly enough, the first rental (Rennes) let me pre-pay and the second (Lyon) did not. Regardless of paying or not, there is a deposit to be made, that didn't seem to be on either contract that I printed out. As a rule, when you're paying with your credit card, the insurance is covered, and the deposit has something to do with whether or not you purchase their insurance. So the first car I rented was an SUV type called an Opel Zaphira. Barely enough room for four ladies and their suitcases, but comfortable. I even purchased an additional $75 worth of insurance from them, and still have to leave an 800 Euro deposit against my credit/debit card. This was upsetting to me as I was afraid they would freeze the money I was using to travel, which did not happen, but I did ask if I could change and have the deposit put on another card that I wasn't planning on using. No, too late, couldn't do it. No real reason, just not possible. Second car I rented was a beautiful Mercedes something something...gorgeous sleak and black, a big car by European standards. Unfortunately, not by American standards. Mind you, we each had a suitcase and a carry-on plus our purses. We managed by putting half the back seat down, stacking a suitcase and carry-on there, two ladies got in the back with a fourth piece of luggage on their laps. The third passenger had her carryon on her lap. Again, the deposit, this time I did not purchase any insurance, and it was 1800 Euro. Figuring I could beat them at their own game, I handed over my extra credit card for the deposit. When I returned the car, I wanted to pay cash with my debit card, which they would not let me do, and said it had to be put on the credit card I used. Unless they journeyed to check out the car with me, which was on another block. I passed on that as it was too close to our train arriving, letting them charge my credit card. Should have given myself more time? Probably. My biggest sin wasn't filling up the car with gas, and then having to find a gas station. Make a note about this! There generally aren't any gas stations in the town proper. Period. Any town. Every once in a while you'll see a curb you can pull over to and pump some gas, but gas stations like we know them, are on the outskirts of towns with all the big box stores. Also, the gas is about $10/gallon, but the cars are so economical you really don't even notice that. You will also have to learn how to navigate roundabouts. Basically, before you go, plan out your route, highway numbers, and very important, the names of the larger towns on the way. Most of the time you will be headed in the 'direction of' said city. Roundabouts are fantastic. I love them. They are super easy once you get the hang of them, and if you mess up, you just go around again. Again, remember the 'name of the city direction of' and as you approach the roundabout, make note where it is on the list. That will be your exit. Ie, if it's the second name, second exit. Each exit should have the name as well, and sometimes it will be graphic with arrows and names. Also, in Brittany there are no tollroads, and I believe that is the only area of France not to have tollroads. Also, in Brittany, you'll notice the names of the towns are in French and in Breton/Gaelic. If you cross the border to Belgium in the north, the names will be in French and Flemish, so make sure you know what you're doing before you set out. I prefer my Michelin roadbook, and a GPS adjunct is nice. I find the GPS pretty much steers you towards the tollroads, but there are other main roads you can use as well, you just have to find them on the map first!

No comments:

Post a Comment