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French rental car advice needed

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Apr 23rd, 2015, 10:00 AM
  #1
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French rental car advice needed

My husband and I need to rent a car in Paris to travel through Normandy and the Dordogne and then back to Paris again about 10 days later. Can anyone recommend a reputable and affordable car rental company? Also, is there any way we can rent a car with a GPS in English? Thank you in advance for your help. I have not been to France since the 1970s (as a teenager), so this is a bit of a challenge for me.
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Apr 23rd, 2015, 10:30 AM
  #2
 
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I have previously rented cars using Kemwel and Autoeurope. They are both consolidators located in the US. You prepay for your rental and it is through a local branch of the rental car company. I have had both my rentals through Europcar but Hertz, Avis, etc are represented as well.

Is there a way for you take the train to your first destination and then pick up the car? Driving in Paris is not for the faint of heart! The same for your return possibly dropping off somewhere along the way and completing the journey by train.

I do believe you can get a GPS with English but I have brought my own loaded with the France maps.
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Apr 23rd, 2015, 10:33 AM
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First of all I would recommend you take the train out of Paris and pick up the rental car in Rouen. No sense fighting traffic if you don't have to. There are a number of places you can drop the car off at before heading back to Paris on the train.

As far as a rental car company goes, check Auto Europe and Kemwel (sister companies, but often with slightly different rates and cars to choose from). You can order a GPS (in English) when renting the car, but I would purchase a good map (Michelin Map #513: Normandy), which you should find more useful. Michelin also makes a Zoom Map of the Normandy Coast, Map #117, which would be quite handy.

If you have a smart phone, you will find it very helpful in finding your location and planning your route.
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Apr 23rd, 2015, 10:34 AM
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www.autoeurope.com will find you the best deal through one of the major companies.
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Apr 23rd, 2015, 11:03 AM
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I hope you can drive a manual transmission. "Affordable car"=manual transmission. Automatic cars are available on larger cars (higher rental and more gas) along with less availability except at airport locations and larger train stations. I bring my own GPS, so I don't have to figure out how a new device works along with having to enter way points from scratch AFTER renting a car.
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Apr 23rd, 2015, 12:33 PM
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As others have stated, rent from Kemwel or Autoeurope. They are not only sister companies - they are twin sisters. If you phone them you can get Kemwel & AutoEurope rate quotes from the same operator. Kemwel is usually less expensive in France. They will put you in a Europcar, Hertz, Avis, Budget, etc car. Hertz has been charging drop-off fees - but Europcar does not. We have 2 Kemwel/Europcar rentals coming up this year.

Also, as others have said, pick up the car outside of Paris (Rouen, Caen) and if the Dordogne is your final destination, return it at the train station in Brive la Gaillarde and take one of the many trains back to Paris.

Stu Dudley
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Apr 23rd, 2015, 12:38 PM
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We rented in Nice with Auto Europe... the best part of the GPS was they ship it to you before you leave. I programmed in all of our spots. and yes you change the language. at first I thought oh no! it was in french,but you can select the language.When you get back you have two days to fed ex it back.

Our car was a manual and a hybrid. scared the heck out of us when it 'died' at the light. thats what its supposed to do. wish they had told us!

Be sure to have lots of change for the toll roads.

we did do our own gps in England. didn't work in the end.
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Apr 23rd, 2015, 12:48 PM
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>>hybrid. scared the heck out of us when it 'died' at the light<<

Yep - and if you have to accelerate fast when the light turns green - you won't.

Stu Dudley
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Apr 23rd, 2015, 01:11 PM
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I've found it's much cheaper to bring your own GPS (we have a trusty Tom Tom) loaded with a French map.

For France, we have always used AutoEurope. 2nd to the last time we did this, I picked up the car in Nice, and the experience with the smug clerk was not so nice. Contracted for a compact and were given a Dodge SUV, and had to collect it from the garage down the street from the train station. Well, I'm not an SUV kind of person (HATE big vehicles!), which isn't the best option on narrow French streets anyway, and I nearly had a heart attack getting out of the garage. So I went around the block (never an easy task in Nice!)to the station, parked the car and told them to bring me a compact and they could drive the SUV back to the garage. They took care of it right away. (My French gets really good when I get upset!).
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Apr 23rd, 2015, 01:56 PM
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Last April I rented a car in Paris and drove up to Normandy for a week. I did not rent a GPS. However, the car I rented had a built in GPS and we just reset the language to English. (The guy did it for us - took 2 minutes). The car was not an economy level but was listed as a compact (I needed to seat 4 comfortably). So for me, the GPS was free. I had gone through AutoEurope and got the car from EuropeCar (office near the Hotel Invalides).

As I recall had I paid in advance the GPS was something like $9 a day. Again, since the car came with it built in, it was simply included. I've used TomTom in the past, but was prepared to wing it and try a map this time - just didn't need to as it turned out. I wouldn't drive around Paris but it isn't that hard to drive OUT of Paris. Didn't really need the GPS for that either as there are signs - head towards the perifique (?) and I had a paper map after that. I have been to France 6 or 7 times in the past 13 years and frankly I kind of miss the adventure (and hassle) of getting lost. The GPS just shuffles you from here to there. If you just want to go from a to b, then a car might not be the best choice. But if you want to wander, go to a lot of small villages and yes, get lost a few times, then a car provides the best option for that. I'll never pay for GPS again. Nice to have, but I turned it off after we left Giverny.
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Apr 23rd, 2015, 08:53 PM
  #11
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Great advice, everyone. Thank you!

When we rent a car in Paris, we will already be on the northwest side of town in La Defense. Would that make a difference in needing to take a train? We were wanting to tour Giverny that first day en route to Bayeux. Also, on the back side of our trip, we were wanting to stop at a chateau in the Loire Valley on the way back to Paris. Obviously, taking a train from the Dordogne would prevent us from easily doing that. Any additional suggestions?
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Apr 23rd, 2015, 10:14 PM
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Tell us how many days you have allocated for this Paris to Normandy to Dordogne to the Loire trip. The Loire is certainly possible for this itinerary - but Normandy, Loire, Dordogne & train to Paris makes the trip more efficient/less driving. Driving from Bayeux to Sarlat will consume 8 "wasted" hrs.

There are chateaux in both Normandy & the Dordogne and thousands elsewhere in France - including around Paris. Versailles, Fountainbleu, and Vaux le Vicomte are just as interesting as any chateaux in the Loire, IMO.

Stu Dudley
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Apr 24th, 2015, 06:38 AM
  #13
 
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Hi
You'll have to travel from La Defense to a station, then take a train to Giverny or Bayeux.
Don't know which station though - I guess Paris Nord.
From La Defense, line A from l'Esplanade to chatelet les halles, line 4 for to GDN. Or RER B but I prefer line 4. In both cases, be prepared to walk 10-15 min and find the correct signs. (should be easy).
Or RER A from Arche de La Défense to Chatelet les halles, then RER B to GDN. much less to walk...
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Apr 24th, 2015, 06:44 AM
  #14
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4 days in Paris, 3 Days in Normandy, 4 days in Vaux Sur Mer (4-5 hours south on Atlantic Coast for family function), and 4 days in the Dordogne plus 1 full day to drive back to Paris (seeing 1 chateau en route). We will be flying home the afternoon after that. We already have all accommodations reserved and paid for. Now just trying to make car rental plans.
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Apr 24th, 2015, 07:10 AM
  #15
 
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Surely there is a car rental place at LaDefense rather than taking a train anywhere, and yes, to me that would be a better possibility.
I think driving to the Dordogne is a stretch
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Apr 24th, 2015, 07:42 AM
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If this was my trip, I would visit a chateaux in Normandy, Dordogne, or outside of Paris and then stay longer in the Dordogne your last full day. Then drive to Collonges la Rouge (a must see, IMO), visit, then a short drive to Brive la Gaillarde to return the car & take the 3PM or 4PM train to Paris that arrives 4 hrs later. I've made that drive from the Dordogne to the Loire twice - and it is not scenic or enjoyable. So is the drive to Paris. Eight hours of driving and just 1 chateau as a "reward" isn't an efficient use of time, IMO, considering your vacation is only 16 days. The drive will cost you a little over 100E in tolls & petrol.

I have a 20+ page itinerary for the Dordogne and another for Normandy that has several chateaux suggestions. I've sent my various itineraries to over 5,000 people on Fodors (really!). If you would like a copy, e-mail me at [email protected] & I'll attach one to the reply e-mail.

Stu Dudley
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Apr 24th, 2015, 09:36 AM
  #17
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Stu, thanks so much for your seasoned advice. We will definitely heed it! Actually, you already sent me your itineraries a few months ago. You were the one who convinced my husband and me to visit the Dordogne after staying in Vaux Sur Mer on the Atlantic Coast rather than trek all the way to Provence. Thank you!
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Apr 24th, 2015, 10:06 AM
  #18
 
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I agree with Stu on trying to avoid the drive back to Paris as well as the comments about seeing castles. If you are driving from Normandy to Vaux it will take you at least 5-6 hours with no stops. You can also make a detour to see a Loire castle on that stretch if you feel you have the time.

I have definitely rented a car in La Defense and it is pretty straightforward to get on the road from there-just try to avoid the rush hours. But if you leave in the morning most folks are coming into to Paris not out. The trip to Giverny is nice and only about an hour.

I personally think there is much more to see in the Dordogne than the Loire, but, of course, it depends on your preferences. Also the Dordogne is a fairly large area so the drive to Paris might be longer than your think depending where you are leaving from. Brive is a good idea for the train but you can also think about dropping a car in Bordeaux or even Tours if you want to stop at a castle at on the return trip and they will probably have more choice on train times. Did you say what time of year you will be going? That might also determine where I might go...

We have a family home in St Palais sur Mer,the little village right next to Vaux-my supermarche is in Vaux! We live there part time now and have traveled all the areas you are visiting extensively over the past 30 years-my husband is French and visited spent summers with his grandparents in St Palais every year since the early 1950's. Feel free to contact me if it is helpful-my email is on my profile.
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Apr 24th, 2015, 02:09 PM
  #19
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Jpie, many thanks for your comments. I am relieved to know that it won't be that big a problem to rent a car from La Defense and head west! Based on Stu's recommendation, we will probably skip the chateau in the Loire and give extra time to the Dordogne before heading back to Paris via train. We will be in France in June, by the way. How serendipitous that you live near Vaux! My husband and I are doing most of our trip just the 2 of us, but will be meeting about 40 other American cousins in Vaux for a church dedication ceremony that will rename a building in honor of our ancestor, who was a Huguenot minister in the 1600s. Definitely looking forward to the entire trip!
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Apr 24th, 2015, 02:18 PM
  #20
 
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Since I always rent from Europcar (no drop off charge), I nearly always rent just one way so that I don't have to backtrack. Otherwise, I drive in a loop. I absolutely hate backtracking.
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