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Is driving in Paris really that bad?

Old Jun 7th, 2002, 11:08 AM
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Is driving in Paris really that bad?

After doing a search, it seems that almost everyone recommends that you pick up your car outside of Paris & avoid the city if possible. Is this because of aggressive driving or traffic? Would a person from a big city in the U.S. still have problems? It just seems inconvenient if you have several people to take public transportation to get the car. Also, since we're traveling in August, would traffic increase due to tourists or decrease due to people taking vacations from work? Thanks!
Old Jun 7th, 2002, 11:23 AM
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The amount of traffic is no worse than in NYC or Boston or Toronto...the driving habits are different; the streets are not laid out in any sort of pattern; parking is a figment of the imagination. If you are planning to drive from Paris to someplace else, I'd suggest one or two people go get the car, then drive back and pick up the rest of the party. You'll avoid the parking problem and you won't be looking for someplace you've not been; once everybody's in the car, you'll be heading right out of Paris, right?, so minimal city driving will be involved.
Old Jun 7th, 2002, 11:25 AM
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Ummm.. yes. Parisian drivers are pretty spectacular -- but more to the point there is no rhyme or reason to the street patterns [well for an automobile that is - Haussman knew what he was doing.] and the one-ways are horrific. If you need to bring your car into Paris proper PARK IT in a garage for your stay in Paris.
Old Jun 7th, 2002, 12:06 PM
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We've driven down to Paris several times, and believe me, driving around the Arc de Triomphe is no big deal if you're used to negotiating the Place Louise/Palais de Justice area in Brussels during rush hour. You don't have to deal only with cars or buses--you've also got trams (going both ways), several roads coming together at once in a haphazard pattern with lousy visibility, drivers trying to get in and out of the inner ring tunnels, AND pedestrians. Not to mention that the area is plagued with terrible drivers (remember, Belgium didn't require a driving test till the 1970s). The worst drivers have diplomatic immunity or are illegal immigrants in stolen cars (Brussels is a car-jacking mecca). In another part of town, the Montgomery Circle at rush hour is on a par with the Arc de Triomphe area. The Sablon area of Brussels is a warren of one way streets, many of which have no street signs, so you better know ahead of time which one you want.
Old Jun 7th, 2002, 12:57 PM
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We picked our car up in Paris - there are no lanes in Paris - it's a free for all and the more agressive you drive the further you get - almost every car I saw had dents - my boss got stuck in the etoile around the Arc because no one would let him over - horns are loud and clear. Outside of Paris driving is a dream. No problems.
Old Jun 7th, 2002, 01:02 PM
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We rented a car in Paris recently which we returned with a variety of scrapes and dents; we assumed we'd be responsible for the damage, and I warned the agent when I was returning it. He was completely nonplussed when he saw the damage and didn't even charge us. Just a way of life there, I guess.
Old Jun 7th, 2002, 01:20 PM
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I'll vote with the others, don't drive in Paris! We did once, it was not fun. Normally when we are in a car in Paris we are with relatives who drive .. it's amazing to observe (and scarey too). Out of the city it's fine, but I'd never attempt it in Paris no matter what large city you are from in the U.S. or anyplace else for that matter.
Old Jun 7th, 2002, 03:21 PM
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DON'T DO IT!!! Unless you're familiar with the streets, you'll go out of your mind. The streets don't run in directions like in the States, they're set up like a wagon wheel. There seem to be no "rules of the road" and it's every man for himself. Take a cab but be careful of crooked cabbies. We had one that cheated and then kicked us out when we called him on it.
Old Jun 7th, 2002, 03:46 PM
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Once tried to drive in Paris about 10 years ago. Took one hour to get two blocks. Dead stop and creep. One guy got so furious that he kept jumping up and down, head thru the sun roof, waving and gesturing obcenely, and finally threw the thing in gear, ran up on the sidewalk near missing a few pedestrians, and honking all the time, etc., Then found he could not get back in to the traffic and was in a dead end street. Thought he was going to stroke out!!! I would never drive in Paris.
Old Jun 7th, 2002, 04:06 PM
John H
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Rented a car two years ago in Paris in September on our way out to the Loire Valley. I arranged to pick the car up on the right bank, not too far from Trocadero, and only a couple of miles from the freeway entrance. Was Arranged to leave outside of rush hour (around 2pm), had a map and directions ... thought it would be relatively easy. WRONG! Lack of, or confusing signage, and just general road confusion and driving habits made it much more of an adventure than I would have liked. We got out of town in reasonable time, but it was still a rather harrowing experience (not as bad as returning a car in Florence or Barcelona though).

At the very least, arrange for your pick-up point to be on the edge of Paris near the freeway heading out of town at a non-rush-hour time period and have a map and directions; but, still be prepared to have at least a minor adventure.

And, if your party is staying in central Paris, I still think it easier/better to take a cab or public transport to the rental car pick-up office. We took our group and luggage in 2 cabs from the hotel to the rental agency. Being as close as you can be to a highway heading out of central Paris is hugely beneficial -- don't go back into the bowels of Paris to pick people up. Just my two cents.

John H.
Old Jun 7th, 2002, 04:44 PM
Mary Anne Cook
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It is not only Paris that is difficult to drive, but my daughter had a bad time getting in and out of Avignon. Once you are out okay in small towns. The problem is as you say the way the French are accustomed to driving-the speed, honking of horns if one does not imediately move. The street signs are not often there. My daughter who has driven in the largest cities here in the US said never any driving for her again in France except out in the country. We learned the TGV is the way to travel out of Paris. Better than any system we have here in the US.
Old Jun 7th, 2002, 06:46 PM
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Thanks, everyone for the replies. We're staying on Ave. de la Republique in the 11th district. You've convinced me to use public transportation for sightseeing in the city, but we'll try to pick up a car on the edge of town for the day trip we're planning. Thanks again!
Old Jun 7th, 2002, 07:55 PM
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If it's just a day trip, you may not even want a car then. For example, some place like Chartres, you can take the train there, take a couple of cabs, and see the area without a car, and for less. We have done "side trips" from many major cities in Europe this way, without a car, and have never had a problem. One caveat, check train schedules in advance.
Old Jun 8th, 2002, 05:48 AM
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There are some very nice day trips one can take by train. I have a file.
Old Jun 8th, 2002, 05:53 AM
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We took the train to Fountainbleu and rented our car there. It gave us a chance to see the Chateau there as well.
Old Jun 8th, 2002, 06:06 AM
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I drove from Paris to Normandy by rental car 2 year ago. I highly recommend renting a car outside of the city center to avoid the traffic (I deal with big city traffic everyday - Paris is different, believe me!). Outside of Paris driving was a breeze and a lot of fun. Their highway signs such signs tend to be somewhat different. Instead the US convention of relying on the Highway number (such as I-10) their signs indicate city destinations, so study your map.

One more tip - know what type of fuel your car uses. Gasoline is "sans plumb" and diesel is "gazoil" or something like that. The 2 don't mix and are not interchangable!

You will enjoy the extra freedom a car gives you - have fun!
Old Jun 8th, 2002, 08:12 AM
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I'm an English lon-distance lorry driver, who regularly drives in the rest of Europe, on what is for me the "wrong" side of the road. I'm fairly hardened to most conditions, but wouldn't take my own car into Paris from choice, even though I often go to the rest of France on holiday. The metro system in Paris is excellent - use it. You should also remember if you are coming from North America that most european hire-cars do not have automatic transmission.
Old Jun 8th, 2002, 08:55 AM
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I don't know where you will be in Paris at the time you need to pick up your rental car, but Elvira's advice is on target. I'd add to it that you won't have too big a problem driving in Paris if you have at least one driving companion who can continually refer to a detailed city map (not the typical kind from a rental agency, but a map with EVERY street on it, and hopefully even those little arrows that show one-way streets) to help you know where to go. If you are just arriving in Paris by air, then you are already outside the city and you can pick up your car at the airport with no problem. Apparently that is not your situation, so I will assume you have been somewhere in the city and you need to rent a car to leave the city. In that case, you can use your city map to plot a route ahead of time, noting distances as well as directions. Then just go to the most convenient rental location, pick up the car (with a navigator companion, at least), get the remainder of your party, and get out of town via your planned route. Remember that planning is what makes any task successful.
Old Jun 8th, 2002, 10:25 AM
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If you're just renting the car to get around Paris-DON'T. The metro, buses, etc. are excellent. Parking is a major problem and underground parking can get expensive. I agree with picking up a car out of town for a day trip, like to Normandy, but Chartres, Malmaison, Fontainbleu, and Versailles are all easy by train. Paris Disneyland too. For trains, before leaving find out the departure times. When you arrive at your testination, check the return times then you can relax and enjoy your visit.
Old Jun 8th, 2002, 03:48 PM
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I was in Paris last month and my husband and I rented a car to drive to Normandy. We picked up and returned at Invalides in the 7th. I made sure to leave late morning and come back mid afternoon to avoid rush hour traffic. I wouldn't recommend doing it alone. It worked for us because my husband drove and I was the "navigator". Driving in Paris was an adventure and somewhat challenging, but if you time it right to avoid rush hour and have a good map you should be OK. I'd do it again!
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