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Has anyone rented a car in France?
Old 03-08-2013, 07:07 AM   #1
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Has anyone rented a car in France?

My best friend from college and I will be visiting Paris for 9 days in Sept. (Our plans for the city are coming along fine: I've been there before, and she will get there a few days before I.)

But, we would also like to visit the Loire Valley for a couple days. We have found two day-trips: one by mini-bus, one by large bus. Plus, we have figured out the train to Prieure D'Orsan (east of Chateauroux). The problem with the bus tours is that, at each castle/chateau, we can tour only the garden or the chateau, not both. (My friend is still working in her second career as a landscape designer, so she wants to see both.)

I've looked into car rentals from Bourges and Chateauroux: most affordable ones are a stick shift. Both of us can drive a stick; but we're wondering if this is feasible, driving the back roads of a country where I only passably read the language (and she and I speak it poorly). We figure that, if we take the train from Paris to a smaller ciy, then at least we would be learning to drive on Fr. roads outside of Paris traffic.

If you have an success (or horror?) stories, I'd appreciate any info. you can give.

Many thanks!
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Old 03-08-2013, 07:21 AM   #2
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I rented a car in Paris and drove over 2000 miles during a 3 week trip across France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria and a few other countries. It's really no different that driving here in the US. Just take it slow and cautiously around intersections and give the other guy the right away if you aren't sure and you'll be fine.
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Old 03-08-2013, 07:29 AM   #3
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We rented a car in southern France last summer and drove up to Paris and then to Germany. We had no problem at all. I would only want to caution you about driving in downtown Paris. The roundabouts are pretty strange to an American driver. Also, parking downtown is next to impossible.
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Old 03-08-2013, 10:41 AM   #4
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I second the motion to avoid driving in Paris itself. We lived in Germany for several years and driving in Europe is not really difficult except in big cities and parts of Italy.

Here's a page I found with road signs so you can study up before you go:
International Road Signs

Enjoy!
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Old 03-08-2013, 10:52 AM   #5
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I actually rented a car in Luxembourg and drove into Germany and France...

I had very little trouble driving, but sometimes could not find out how to get to where I wanted... IOW, I could SEE the highway I wanted to get on, but all the signs took me in loops and never to an entry ramp... I was very close to where I came off the highway....


Also, I did hit a toll road (really highway) in France, but IIRC they did accept my CC...
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Thanks, Everyone, for the Info.
Old 03-08-2013, 01:55 PM   #6
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Thanks, Everyone, for the Info.

I really appreciate it. These were the kinds of details I hoped to not have to learn the "hard way."

So, it sounds like, if driving a stick is not an issue on this side of the pond, then it should not be over there, especially if one of us can read signs and navigate, with the help of a gps.
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Old 03-08-2013, 02:09 PM   #7
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I don't know if this is still true, but about 10 years ago I rented a Citroen in France and couldn't get in reverse. It turned out there's this lip on the stick you had to pull up before you could go backward.
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Old 03-08-2013, 03:03 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steelyman View Post
I don't know if this is still true, but about 10 years ago I rented a Citroen in France and couldn't get in reverse. It turned out there's this lip on the stick you had to pull up before you could go backward.
Good point - both of our cars (a Toyota and a VW) had this "feature" - I had a heck of a time getting used to it.

Make sure you ask them to show you the controls of the car before you go out (if you are at a major airport then someone at the rental car counter will speak English)
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Old 03-08-2013, 03:28 PM   #9
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Rented one from Avis at the TGV station in Avignon. No problems at all, save for learning how to put the manual shifting car into reverse (lift the center ring on the shifter to force it back into the "R" position in the gearbox). Driving around the countryside was fine, though I would try to stick to driving during the day until you know where you're going (or where the roads are very well lit).
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I Need to Know This, Too
Old 03-08-2013, 03:30 PM   #10
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I Need to Know This, Too

Thanks, MB and steelyman. I was also hoping to hear info. like this. I am NOT mechanically inclined, and DH and brother will not be going with us. So friend and I will be on our own.

At least she is a retired park ranger, used to driving a pick-up. Maybe she would be able to manage it. I'll ask.

I just appreciate the heads-up.

Anyone else? (Rick Steves and AAA don't write about this.)
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Old 03-08-2013, 04:07 PM   #11
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A resoure we have found helpful on our European rentals is Bob Bestor (owns) gemut.com.
We just rented from him for a 28 day France trip this May. Always very competitive, rated highly by Rick Steve's posters. He guarantees match to any price you can find. He has a number of tips on his web site, gemut.com for car rentals that are worth reviewing.
He got my loyalty when he helped me manuver a bogus damage claim by Avis on a rental out of Frankfurt. (be sure to photograph your vehicle including the underside the bumper and use a credit card that covers collison on auto rentals.
Nwsteve
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Old 03-08-2013, 04:19 PM   #12
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Thank you, nwsteve! Will add this to my info. list.
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Old 03-08-2013, 04:23 PM   #13
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I did it lots of times, including the very loire valley trip you mention. (my wife and I rented a Smart, years before they showed up in the US).

Its very doable, no worries about language - and that was before GPS. If you have a smartphone or can rent a GPS it would be a piece of cake. Its definitely worth doing so you can control your own schedule.
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You make this pretty appealing....
Old 03-08-2013, 07:11 PM   #14
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You make this pretty appealing....

Yes, Jon, I saw those Smart Cars for rent, and they were much more budget-friendly. However, my only concern is (besides having never driven one), did you feel safe in it on a major highway, with semi-trucks roaring past? (Or does the Loire tour mostly avoid roads with big trucks?)

You can see my lack of geography knowledge here....
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Old 03-08-2013, 07:22 PM   #15
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We rented a stick shift for 2 weeks a few years ago and no problems at all. We picked it up from Avis at the airport in Bordeaux and drove it for 2 weeks in the Basque region of France and Spain. We didn't have a GPS, but would definitely recommend one.
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Old 03-08-2013, 07:22 PM   #16
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When I am in France, I (and millions of others) drive this kind of car:



Barely bigger than the Smart. I drive it on the Highways and the National roads shared with lots of trucks. I feel perfectly safe in it.
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Old 03-08-2013, 07:25 PM   #17
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When I am in France, I drive this car:



Barely bigger than the Smart. I drive it on the Highways and the National roads shared with lots of trucks. I feel perfectly safe in it.
+1

First time we rented a Twingo was in Martinique, and managed okay but we had 2 teenagers so the first and last days of our 2 week stay were a bit tricky as we had luggage to cram in.
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So, Alan and FIRE'd,
Old 03-08-2013, 07:48 PM   #18
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So, Alan and FIRE'd,

what is this car called? I see "Ren 100" on the front plate? Is that its name? Or, Alan calls it a Twingo. Is that the same thing?
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Old 03-08-2013, 08:16 PM   #19
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what is this car called? I see "Ren 100" on the front plate? Is that its name? Or, Alan calls it a Twingo. Is that the same thing?


FIRE'd changed the link after I'd quoted his post. He initially posted a link to a Twingo, then changed it to a Renault 100.


I'm not sure if they are the same car but it was a Renault Twingo I've rented in the past.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renault_Twingo
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Oh, OK.
Old 03-08-2013, 08:21 PM   #20
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Oh, OK.

Thanks for that info., Alan. I'll add it to the notes to discuss with my friend.
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