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Paris- London - to drive or take the train?

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Oct 3rd, 2014, 10:20 AM
  #1
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Paris- London - to drive or take the train?

Hello, we are a family who love road trips, we like to fly somewhere rent a car and drive everywhere. That way we can stop anywhere and discover new towns.
that being said...I know in Europe its a little different from the USA, I hear the trains are more efficient/economical, especially between the two countries ( France and England).

What would make sense? We would like to see the countrysides of both countries, also London and Paris. we only have 10 days. But we don't mind just driving thru a town, stop to eat and continue on.
I guess we would pick the car up in London e return in Paris.

Also does it make sense at all to rent a car to drive in England, from London to countryside and do the same in France.
Thank you in advance for your advice,
Lilian
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Oct 3rd, 2014, 10:34 AM
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There might the issue of a large drop charge for renting a car in one country and dropping it in another.
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Oct 3rd, 2014, 10:52 AM
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Train: 2hrs 15 mins, city centre to city centre.
Car: Most of the day, on mostly rather dull motorways through mostly (in France) rather uninteresting countryside (which you can also get some impression of from the train). And that's if you can get round the issues of taking a rental car internationally (or returning one car at Dover, and renting another after landing in France), on which I have no expertise. One thing I think you wouldn't enjoy is driving into Paris and trying to navigate your way to wherever a rental drop-off point might be, especially after a long day and arriving in the evening rush hour.
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Oct 3rd, 2014, 11:11 AM
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You say ten days. How many nights? I.e. Does that include travel to/ from Europe? Either way, you really only have time for London and Paris, perhaps with a day trip from each. In neither city do you need or want a car. Public transport is excellent, parking will be a pain, and London has a steep congestion charge for city center driving.

If you want to see the countryside instead, or mostly instead, a car would be more useful. However, before you take a car across the Channel (given the rental agency will allow it and you can afford the drop off fee), consider how you will feel driving a left-hand drive car in a right-hand drive country, or vice versa. (Flanner can go on about how Brits do it all the time, but we're not, it appears, talking about Brits here.)
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Oct 3rd, 2014, 11:14 AM
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Totally not a great idea for a London -Paris trip .. first off you WILL pay a hefty drop off fee for renting the car in England and returning to France,, second off.. renting a left hand drive in UK and then having to drive on the left hand side. then going to continent and having to drive your left hand drive car in a right handed driving country.. plus now read and follow all signs in French,,, its doable.. for instance the Brits do it all the time.. but they are used to their left hand drives..

There is no need for a car in either London or paris.. in fact its a waste as parking is very expensive and hard to find.

Now.. if you want to do a driving holiday a much better plan would be to stick to EITHER London or Paris.. fly into the one.. spend a day or two in city WITHOUT the car.. then rent the car and drive out into countryside .

Splitting one rental car between the two continents just seems like a huge waste of money and time..

Eurostar is a fast easy train between the cities. When tickets are purchased well in advance its cheap too.. and less then 2.5 hour city center to city center.

From both London and Paris there are some lovely daytrips by train.. cheap and less then an hour or two to visit Bath, Oxford, Versailles, Chartes, Chantilly, Brighton, etc etc etc.

If you want a road trip holiday I would plan on one continent. If not trains are cheap and fast.

PS gas is expensive there,, you will be floored,, and there are toll highways and parking to consider in costs. Not a huge issue really.. but something to thing about when you only have 10 days.
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Oct 3rd, 2014, 11:19 AM
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Rent a car in each country to avoid the drop-off fee and driving on 'the wrong side of the road and take the Eurostar 'Chunnel' train between Paris and London - if you want to spend most of your time in the countryside but if wanting to see anything at all in London or Paris and you only have ten days well I'd just split the time between then and perhaps do a day trip from each into some more rural area.

www.eurostar.com is the booking site for Eurostar trains - early bird gets the worm.
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Oct 3rd, 2014, 11:21 AM
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A couple of things to consider:
1. If you rent a car in England, the steering wheel will likely be on the right hand side. This will make driving 'awkward' in France and visa versa if you rent a car in France and take it to England.
2. The cost of car rentals,parking in large cities and fuel is very, very expensive in Europe.We just came back from Europe and noted that the cost of parking averaged 25 Euros a day.
3. Driving (and parking) in London and Paris is an absolute nightmare - even for locals
4. Take the Chunnel from London to Paris (or visa versa)
5. From London (and/or Paris), take a train to a small town, eg Beaune, France. Rent a car from Beaune and tour the countryside. Drop off the car somewhere in France (NOT Paris) and take the train back to Paris.
6. Arrange to rent the car from home. It's cheaper than making arrangements in Europe.And, as noted previously, the drop off fees can be huge if dropping off a car in a different country than the country you rented from.
7. The car will likely be a 5 speed and require diesel. Even if you can drive a 5 speed, it is still challenging getting around traffic circles - especially in England where you drive on the left hand side of the road.

In our travels, we have met many people who have rented cars in large cities and have they have questioned their wisdom. Not only is it very expensive, it is very stressful. If you do chose to rent a car, check to see if you need an international driver's license. YOu may not need one to rent the car, but you may need one to drive. Also, make sure you have adequate insurance.
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Oct 3rd, 2014, 12:20 PM
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I've spent a significant amount of the past 30 years driving from central London (or latterly the Cotswolds) to places that involve passing round, or through Paris.

There's an amazing amount of wimpish nonsense on this thread. Traffic in both Paris and London is exceptionally well-disciplined (I'd drive in either city rather than deal with the emotionally incontinent louts in New York, for example.) Parking in London and Paris just takes determination - and if you can't afford to pay the costs of anti-social behaviour in cities with proper public transport, that's why we make petrol, parking and driving in central London so expensive.

The "right hand steering wheel" issue is trivial: you've only got to see the number of Eastern European lorries ("trucks" in colonial dialects) driving safely on British roads to see that, and I've never had an accident driving a British car on the continent.

It WAS a problem before motorways ("freeways" where they don't understand English) became omnipresent. These days overtaking with a wrong-handed car on motorways is painless: non-motorways are now empty enough for overtaking rarely to be necessary, and they're mostly dual carriageways ("divided highway" if...) when overtaking does become essential.

All of which said: the road journey between London and Paris remains one of the world's great drives.

Patrick's plain wrong (something rare indeed) about the countryside: the English bit is stunning, though the French bit's mostly tedious. Canterbury and Dover contain some of England's greatest architecture (though much of Dover rivals Pyongyang for horror). Kent's posh gardens can be out of this world: even though Sissinghurst's been below par all this unusually warm and dry summer, Sarah Raven's replanting of its veg section is a joy to behold. And there are dozens of equally amazing gardens: set your SatNav from Tunbridge Wells to her other gardens at Perch Hill, and see back-road England at its almost finest. Obviously, nowhere's up to the Cotswolds, but the wilds of Kent do give us a run.

Though the Calais-Paris drive does have some of France's most boring countryside, it also passes through more great architecture than you'll find in the whole of most major countries. From the Flemish squares along the A26, through Amiens, Chantilly and Compiegne, this is where early medieval towns rivalled Tuscany for affluence and beauty.

You pass places like Crecy and Agincourt, where English yeomen put posturing French aristos in their place. The Field of the Cloth of Gold. Douai (where the best known English translation of the Bible came from) or survivors of WW1 songs like Armentieres.

None of this (or the stuff down the A16 route to Paris) is remotely accessible from the boring (but short) London-Paris train.

If you're the sort of person who finds a real train a novelty, take the Eurostar to see what America's cut itself off from.

If you want to see Europe, ignore the wimps and drive.
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Oct 3rd, 2014, 12:49 PM
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Unlike many other people here we LOVE to do road trips in eurpe and have done many of them.

BUT, if this makes sense or not depends very much on your specific itinerary. Cars NEVER make sense in cities. And if you are going to be spending most of your time in London and Paris and with only 10 days (and is that 10 full days on the ground as in 11 nights or less?) unless you have seen these cities before I don;t see how you have time for more than 1 day trip from each city. Train would seem to make more sense unless you want the day trip to be places not easily reachable except by car.

(We typically do road trips of 17 to 23 days or so - picking up the car upon leaving the first anchor city and dropping it on arriving at the final anchor city. In between we do countryside, small towns and sometimes smaller cities - but unless you will be driving for at least 5 or 6 days renting a car doesn;t make a lot of sense.)
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Oct 3rd, 2014, 12:49 PM
  #10
 
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What about the steep drop-off fees for dropping a wrong side of the car in the other country? I agree with Flanner about the Kentish countryside being so so neat - I've biked thru it a zillion times - maybe return your car in Calais, take the old ferries to Dover, pick up your rental car there and head for London, hitting some of the sights flanner is on about. Leave 2-3 days for paris and London and a couple of days driving thru Normandy and Kent - but short-term rentals can be steep so it may cost a lot to drive - but if you want to see lovely countryside go for it. Just do your research on rental fees for a few days.
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Oct 3rd, 2014, 01:24 PM
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If you want to see the pretty kent countryside (though you barely have time if your whole trip is just 10 days) - then go to Paris, take the train to London, see some of London (though not much), take a train to LGW and collect a car there to tootle around Kent/East Sussex, drop the car at either LGW or LHR whichever you are flying home from.

The drive across the bit of France between Paris and Calais is a bit boring and butt ugly compared w/ Kent.

BUT if your entire trip is 10 days, then you'll only have approx 7.5 days free to see/do/drive. Paris + London + a bit of road trip would really require 12-15 days at minimum.

So clarify how much time you REALLY have.
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Oct 3rd, 2014, 01:51 PM
  #12
 
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Yeh janis has a great idea about just driving in Kent and not yes rather ho-hum grim IME northern France - take the Eurostar to say Ashford International Eurostar station - collect (British for pick up) your rental car there - putz around Kent and return car to a main rail station to then go into London.

End up in London car-free - prevents backtracking if you go to London first then back out and back in - especially if its Heathrow.
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Oct 3rd, 2014, 03:29 PM
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I would ignore FlannerUK and his usual whining about how bad everything is in NEW YORK!
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Oct 3rd, 2014, 04:07 PM
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Take the train. We have done both. We have taken a bus from London to Paris via the Dover/Calais ferry. We left early in the morning and arrived late in the afternoon. The scenery was pleasant enough but it was nothing spectacular. There are much better ways to spend the day. The Chunnel Train gets you from downtown London to downtown Paris in 2 hours and 20 minutes. That is the way to go.
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Oct 4th, 2014, 12:35 AM
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"The Chunnel Train"
That'll be the Eurostar train then.
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Oct 4th, 2014, 01:53 AM
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Yes, it's not particularly difficult to drive in and out of Paris or London but no tourist in his/her right mind drives around either city from the Louvre to Luxembourg Gardens, for example. So for 99% of tourists a car IN either city is a major liability and needless cost.

With your limited time, you need to decide how many days you want to be in both London and Paris and then decide whether or not you have any time to drive between the two and to do any justice to the Kent or northern France countryside.

It's all in how that stacks up for you and your interests.

p.s. Eurostar is fun, an incredible engineering feat and so easy to travel from city center to city center if you want to optimize time in both cities.
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Oct 5th, 2014, 07:35 AM
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First trip to Europe? Fly into London, train to Paris and fly home from there. You'll only have 4 days for each city so no time to rent a car and see the countryside... decide which to return to and rent a car next trip.
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Oct 5th, 2014, 06:20 PM
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If your desire is to drive in the countryside and visit small towns or villages then I would stick with one country. You could visit London or Paris for a few days and then rent a car and see more of whichever country you choose.

Ten days does not give you much time. Does this include arrival and departure days? You all likely be quite tired when you arrive the first day and will need a bit of time to recover from jet lag. If you only have ten days for the entire trip and are departing from the US your first day will be spent on travel, the second day you will likely also be quite tired which gives you 3 good days in your first location. Travel between cities will eat up at least half a day, if you take the train, which gives you 3 1/2 days to visit your second city and then depart on the last day. This really gives you very little time to see London and Paris let alone any countryside.

Driving in England is quite different being on the other side of the road. It is, of course, doable but does require quite a bit of concentration. I found the first time we did it quite nerve wracking, especially when we came to roundabouts and turns (the highways were much easier) but we have enjoyed driving on subsequent trips. If this is your first trip to Europe, you might keep it simple and rely more on public transportation.
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