Renting a Car in Provence

Jul 11th, 2003, 01:39 PM
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Renting a Car in Provence

Four adults arriving and departing from Marsaille in September for a 10-day drive around Provence. We have booked bed & breakfasts in Cassis, Vaison-la-Romaine, Gordes, and Avignon. What advice do you have for car rentals? Who has the best deals? Who has the best cars? Who was the least/most hassle? What kind of car to rent? Any scams? Anything we need to know about driving in France? Do we need an International driver's license? Special insurance?

Any and all advise will be appreciated.
TC is offline  
Jul 11th, 2003, 02:14 PM
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Many Fodorites, including moi, are devotees of AutoEurope, at It's an American brokerage that has contracts with various companies in Europe (our last one was with Avis). You make the reservation here in the US before your trip. There's a toll free phone number from Europe to the US 24/7, so if you run into problems you can request help in English. Their price quotes are all-inclusive. Suggest you request a diesel with stick shift to save on fuel costs and rental costs. We've never needed an international license in many trips to Europe.

Bon voyage!
Betsy is offline  
Jul 11th, 2003, 02:36 PM
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I used Budget in Provence last May (picked up at Avignon TGV) and found their rates to be competitive. Be careful what kind of car you specify. If you can't drive a manual, be sure you are clear about specifying an automatic (which will cost a lot more, by the way). I don't think you'll find any scams with the major rental agencies. The other thing to be careful about is inspecting the car before you take it off the lot, which you don't have to do in the US anymore. You do not need an int'l license in France - your American license will be fine. Driving in France is no problem. Be sure you have good maps because all of the signs are based on what the next town or major city is rather than directions (N, S, E, W). Also, stay right except to pass on the motorway - you will be angrily flashed if you linger in the passing lane. Have fun!
JulieB is offline  
Jul 11th, 2003, 03:44 PM
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Julie made a very important point about signage, and if you get driving directions and routes from mappy, you'll see that they are expressed in that format.
RonZ is offline  
Jul 11th, 2003, 07:12 PM
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Try ITS:

based in Florida.
They have very competitive rates for France.
Make sure you check the deductible amount attached to the insurance purchased from the car rental company.
Sher is offline  
Jul 12th, 2003, 06:25 AM
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Many thanks to all. We have no problem driving a standard transmission auto. Good to know that this is the norm. I shall take a look at the web sites mentioned.

Are the cars quite small? We are planning to take a minumum of luggage, but there are four of us. Will we have a problem getting an auto large enough for four regulation size roll-aboard cases?

Again, my thanks.
TC is offline  
Jul 12th, 2003, 07:37 AM
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We rent a Renault Laguna and find it to be a very comfortable car. I think anything smaller would really be a squeeze.
RonZ is offline  
Jul 12th, 2003, 10:58 AM
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Thanks, Ron. That was exactly the car I was looking at on Auto Europe web site. Did you have any trouble getting it around on small village streets?
TC is offline  
Jul 12th, 2003, 11:03 AM
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We've had a Renault Laguna for four people on several occasions. It has a kind of heavy feel to it, IMO, but it's quite comfortable and manueverable. Except for the time when that nasty cathedral wall in St-Cyprien jumped out and thwopped us for no reason at all, we never had a problem in small towns.
StCirq is online now  
Jul 12th, 2003, 11:28 AM
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Ha, St. Cirq! A post in a very tight parking garage did that to us.
LVSue is offline  
Jul 12th, 2003, 11:57 AM
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A good reason to take the full insurance coverage! We will beware of cathedral walls - and parking garages. Many thanks.
TC is offline  
Jul 12th, 2003, 12:46 PM
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We had to pull the mirrors in only a couple of times...once on a dead end street where we very carefully backed out much to the amusement of the locals.
RonZ is offline  
Jul 12th, 2003, 01:54 PM
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Another vote for AutoEurope and we took their insurance coverage. When reading what my credit card offered and that of my partner (different card), both were different and surpised at what wasn't covered in each - so we went with the rental companies insurance. There are also fees you pay, in addition to the rental fee, at the airport. Airport/road tax, 2nd driver fees, and any additional insurance you might want.

Do make sure the car is big enough for 4 adults and all your luggage. I also greatly suggest you drive to your next destination (do not tour along the way) and get rid of your bags. Even if secure in a trunk, anyone who wants to get into the car will and you'll hate yourself.

Get the Michelin #245 Yellow map of Provence - very good, in fact, excellent. Realize that when driving the Autoroute (Peage) while the speed is 80mph, drivers are passing you at 100+ mph (usually 120mph), even the trucks in the right lane.

On National roads which are much more scenic also have speed limits, but don't be surprised that even if at speed limit or above, when you check your rearview mirror you'll find cars lined up to pass - just move over to right (there really aren't any shoulders, so watch for the ditch) and they'll all pass you at 80+mph. And once they've passed, they'll be more cars again in 5-minutes.

While you follow route signs in direction of a destination, there are few, if any, traffic lights on National roads, rather traffic circles (rotary, round-abouts) so watch for the arrows for direction to follow.

Hey, if I could do it (2-wks, 1,000 miles - with not a ding or dent) not owning a car and not having driven in 5-yrs. you'll be just fine. But do watch those mirrors on narrow roads in some towns.

Enjoy your holiday
Jul 12th, 2003, 02:10 PM
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our last trip -- I got a deal on Hertz through e-vacations, which was great until we arrived at the Avignon TGV to pick our car...They "upgraded" us to a 6 passenger van with no covered luggage space. (not a good choice for 2 people who planned to drive many kilometers...sometimes with luggage)After much discussion, they upgraded us again (as no "lesser" cars were available) to an Opel Spectra and charged us an extra 7 euro per day. When we got back I complained to evacations and was credited the difference to my American Express. HOWEVER, this was not a pleasant start to a vacation that really did go wonderfully in every other regard. That was my one diversion from AutoEurope (whom I usually use). I will go back to them next time (they were terrific when we rented in Italy). I don't take the extra insurance, as between AmEX or Diners Club and our home auto insurance, we are covered for any nastiness. We've been luck to have none.
uhoh_busted is offline  
Jul 12th, 2003, 03:18 PM
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Really critical when driving in Europe is GOOD maps.

Go to Via Michelin and download your daily route, preferably in kilometers.

We drove for three weeks and found that we depended a great deal on these downloads.

Each segment will be detailed for you with total number of kilometers, the roads/highways to take, what the distance you have to travel on each road is, the number of the next exit and so forth.

You can get the same sort of information on Mappy. I personally prefer the Via Michelin site.

The downloads are free and you should also have a detailed commercial map of the area/country you will be travelling in. Michelin maps are great.

Happy travels!
jason888 is offline  
Jul 13th, 2003, 04:04 AM
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Just returned from Provence area - we rented a car from Budget - by far cheaper than AutoEurope - we did have to return it to the same location (Nice). We rented a level B - a smaller car for sure but we had four travelling with three medium luggage, four carry on backpacks and everything fit into the trunk. It worked for us. Good luck and enjoy your trip! (PS-It's been my experience to leave an hour to pick up your car from any rental agency in Europe - they aren't speedy like here in the states.)
4totravel is offline  
Jul 14th, 2003, 08:53 AM
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Thank you all so very much. Looks like AutoEurope is the choice of Fodorites in the know and I shall not break the tradition. Although, we have all the credit cards, we are taking the offered insurance. It really isn't much more expensive overall and I don't want any hassles on this vacation.

If you have any further advice for driving in Provence, I will be happy to recieve it. We are really looking forward to this trip.

Thanks to all.
TC is offline  
Jul 14th, 2003, 11:46 AM
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Just one last word of advice. When you rent the car in France and take the insurance, ask the folks at Auto Europe how much the deductible is for the car you are renting.
Sher is offline  
Jul 14th, 2003, 12:29 PM
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We had no problems renting from Avis last October at the Nimes TVG station. We had a Ford Focus 4 door hatchback. Big enough for 2 people - probably a little small for 4 with luggage. The only issue we had was regarding the collision insurance. My Diner's Club card would have covered it, however I signed the rental agreement agreeing to pay for it - I thought I was signing to decline it. It probably isn't a bad idea to take the insurance just for peace of mind. Also the Michelin#245 map as mentioned, is priceless, as is the Michelin Green Guide to Provence. It has street maps of most of the smaller towns and villages plus a lot of other good info.
We found driving in Provence fairly easy once you get the hang of it. The roundabouts are great. You look for the turn with your destination.
Bon Voyage!
JoeG is offline  
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