GPS or Michelin Map

Mar 20th, 2008, 08:07 AM
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GPS or Michelin Map

We are going to France in Oct. Will spend a couple of days in Paris and then head up to Bayeux by train for 3 days and then will pick up our car to do some touring. Not sure where we will end up but hoping for Dijon.

We would like to rent a car with GPS but wondering if a good map would be just as helpful. Have talked with AutoEurope and they don't have any cars in Bayeux to rent with GPS. It won't bother us if we get lost but don't want to be frustrated either.

We have GPS in our car at home and it has saved us many times when we had no idea where we were going.

What are your thoughts?
Carley is offline  
Mar 20th, 2008, 08:23 AM
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Our one experience last year driving in France (Loire Valley). I'm pretty good at reading maps and with directions. I had a Michelin map, and DH was driving. It was difficult. Wish we had a GPS. Next time, we'll either rent a car w/GPS or bring our own GPS unit.
yk is offline  
Mar 20th, 2008, 08:36 AM
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Why not both? If you can read a map then you can look at it and see if there are interesting routes to follow, which the GPS may not initially give you, then use the GPS to find your way as you approach your destination, or help you out if you do get lost.
hetismij is offline  
Mar 20th, 2008, 08:47 AM
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Since you said that there are no rental cars with GPS available, the only other option would be to buy a GPS unit. I wonder if that will be worth the extra x hundred dollars.

I don't think that driving with a good Michelin map is difficult. In contrast to other European countries, even the tiniest one-lane country road is numbered in France, so I never felt "lost" -- even if I took a wrong turn once in a while.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Mar 20th, 2008, 08:47 AM
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As I said, we can't find a car to rent in Bayeux with GPS and are wondering if we can get by with just a map.

The GPS we have at home is factory installed in my husbands car so can't take it.

I just want it to be a fun, easy experience, not stressful, as we have never rented a car when we have been in France before
Carley is offline  
Mar 20th, 2008, 08:49 AM
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I'll second the advice to use both. We just returned from a trip through Germany, Austria and northern Italy. We've always just used maps in the past, but the car we rented had a built-in GPS so we gave it a try, not expecting to really care for it. Well, we were wrong about that - it turned out to be a very useful gadget, particularly getting into and out of cities where the maps don't really have the street-by-street detail. That said, I felt it didn't really contribute much when we were out in the rural areas and we often took a different route than the one recommended by the GPS. But overall we were glad to have it.
FlyFish is offline  
Mar 20th, 2008, 09:28 AM
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Carley- Let me expand my answer a little more. I totally agree with FlyFish. We had most trouble when we were in a town as the Michelin map doesn't have detailed street maps of most towns. Once we got on the numbered routes, we had no trouble getting to where we wanted. When we first picked up the car in Tours (at the TGV station), it took us over half an hour driving around and around (lack of signs directing us to the motorway) before we got on the route we wanted to.

Anyway, it depends on how often you drive in Europe. If you go once a year, I still think it's worthwhile to buy a GPS unit to bring it with you.

If you're sticking with just small towns on this trip, I guess you'll do okay with just the map.
yk is offline  
Mar 20th, 2008, 09:53 AM
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I would suggest getting the Michelin Tourist and Motoring Atlas for France. It is very detailed showing even the smallest roads!

You need to know that the signage on the roads and motorways in France is very good. You may find yourself taking a wrong turn as we sometimes did! You never know what surprises you will encounter along the way!

Just take some time before you leave to learn some basic map reading skills & look at routes you will be driving. We have also printed out the routes suggested on It provides useful information such as estimated driving times, where the toll booths are located and how much the tolls will be! With a little preparation, you should be fine!

Good luck!


2010 is offline  
Mar 20th, 2008, 10:01 AM
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Hi C,

>will pick up our car to do some touring. Not sure where we will end up but hoping for Dijon.

How many days?

Where do you go from Dijon?

ira is online now  
Mar 20th, 2008, 10:54 AM
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Thanks everyone for suggestions. We still really like the idea of a GPS so maybe will have to buy one to take. As I said the one in my husbands car has saved many an arguement and stress. It found us a place in New Hampshire we were staying at last summer that was in the middle of nowhere with no street signs, lights at midnight after a 12 hour drive from Toronto.

We will be touring for about 10 days after Normandy. If we end up in Dijon will take the train into Paris for our flight home.
Carley is offline  
Mar 20th, 2008, 10:59 AM
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< As I said the one in my husbands car has saved many an arguement and stress. >

I couldn't agree w/you more. On our trip to France, I think the most stressful part of the trip was me giving DH instructions too late, or just couldn't give him any directions b/c we were in a town and there was no detailed map. We used the France Michelin "tourist motoring atlas" which has a scale of 1:200000. I thought we were well-prepared but I was wrong.
yk is offline  
Mar 20th, 2008, 11:12 AM
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Be advised that you can rent a GPS separately from AutoEurope
DickM is offline  
Mar 20th, 2008, 11:15 AM
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Old school: Michelin map. Much more fun.

But you can also print out itineraries on -- I use them often, and I also abandon them if I feel like it.
kerouac is online now  
Mar 20th, 2008, 12:05 PM
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I have a love-hate relationship with nav units. If you depend upon them completely, they can get you in trouble, but they can also make European travel far more relaxing. I just spent 2.5 years living in Germany and we had one car with a navi and one without. It was always a bit more stressful to take the car without a navi on trips, but we survived (by making sure we had really good maps - typically a detailed road atlas for the region in which we were traveling - and printed driving directions to each hotel).

In the future, I would never plan to travel in Europe without a navi. That being said, if you are going to stick to small towns, a navi is not as critical. We spent a week driving around the Swiss and Italian Alps last summer without a navi and only got mixed up twice!
hausfrau is offline  
Mar 20th, 2008, 01:03 PM
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I think a GPS unit's a nice option, but buying one in the US that also has European maps is at least $450, I would think. With that kind of investment, I would only do it if you'll be driving a lot, or heading to Europe regularly. $450 buys a lot of great bistro meals!

We liked the idea of buying a unit before a Spain trip, but ended up pre-printing out all our trips from the Michelin web site and we did very well. We only had one little headache in downtown Granada trying to find the rental car drop-off center.
alan64 is offline  
Mar 20th, 2008, 01:46 PM
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If cost is a concern, and you have a laptop, an option you should consider is taking your lapton and buying Microsoft's Autoroute Europe with the GPS attachment, and using your laptop as your GPS (total cost, about $100). Works quite well when you have a passenger to serve as navigator.

Two big plusses:

1. Your laptop screen is much larger than any dedicated GPS, and thus easier on the eyes.

2. You can pre-plan your route (while looking at a Michelin map or travel guide) and save the file, then you just open the appropriate file when you're ready to make that trip. Allows you to avoid one of the major pitfalls of dedicated units--sending you on routes that either aren't efficient because they overlook some roads for some reason, or don't take a scenic route that you would prefer over the direct route.

The drawbacks are that you have to lug your laptop, and that the voice instructions (at least on my laptop), aren't really loud enough to be heard by the driver (thus, it works best with a navigator watching the screen and giving the driver the prompts).

We used this on a trip to the Scotland and found it to be great. It allowed me to plan some scenic detours down small roads which either didn't appear on the big maps, or would have been difficult to locate without the pinpoint prescision of a GPS. It also allowed us to navigate through cities and towns much more easily than we would have been able to using only a road atlas (which, in most cases, is almost useless in larger towns).

I have the Michelin atlas for France (1:200,000) and although the detail is probably sufficient to let you get around rural areas just fine, it won't help you find precise points, or navigate through towns of any size the way that a GPS will.
twk is offline  
Mar 20th, 2008, 01:51 PM
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Having done Paris and Italy last Spring (on foot) I'd suggest GPS. If you're driving, you have the benefit of turn-by-turn directions as well as corections if you need (or decide) to get off the most direct route. Also, you have (at least with Garmin [although I assume the other major maunfacturers} of tracking exactly where you went and when. Maybe too much information but an option if you want.

knickerbocker is offline  
Mar 20th, 2008, 02:05 PM
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As a recent GPS user, I really prefer maps in the countryside. Roads are well signposted, and with a detailed Michelin map you shouldnt get lost, or at least not for long. And when you do often that's one of the best ways to see the countryside. I also like the sense of knowing where you are in context that you get from a map and I at least dont get from the GPS

In cities, however, we do find the GPS useful, as long as it's up to date. Took ours to Perigueux, hoping not to get lost and found they'd built a huge underground parking lot and open square just where we were supposed to drive across. Eventually we managed to find our way out but probably would have been better off folowing the signs to where we wanted to go.
Carlux is offline  
Mar 20th, 2008, 02:36 PM
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Last summer (2007), we rented a car to tour Provence. Boy did we wish we had a GPS-nearly missed the St. Remy market b/c we got so turned around getting out of the TGV station.

The crazy thing is that we had a map and EASILY found our way around the back roads, it was the A routes that gave us trouble especially which exits to take. We both are good map readers and know French but I'm not sure what our problem was. Never seemed to take the correct exit to get to the roads we needed on. It's not like US roads where you just loop around or take an overpass to go back in the other direction.

We didn't have a detailed street map so that might have made a difference.

You might check ebay and websites like that for a cheap GPS. OR, just plan a lot more time to travel.

off2CU is offline  
Apr 8th, 2008, 12:49 PM
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So for those of you who used the GPS - which brand did you have? We're thinking of getting one to have for both France and Italy on future trips. Headed for France next week and thinking Italy next year. Any comments on experiences with a particular brand would be great. Thanks
patandhank is offline  

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