It would be easy to assume that anyone arriving into this very rural part of France without their own car would automatically want to pick up a hire car from the airport, so is it even worth considering the option of getting around Brittany without a car?
- Flexibility — for all the obvious reasons, Brittany is a very rural region, sitting right on the western edge of mainland France. Getting a hire car means you explore in your own time at your own pace, and don’t have to worry about public transport schedules.
- Natural beauty — Brittany is full of really high quality beaches which are usually far less crowded than those of Mediterranean resorts. The reason why they are so attractive is because they are out of the way and undeveloped, so you will usually need a car to visit them. However, the beauty of Brittany goes much deeper than her shores, and there is a great deal to see on the interior as well.
- Bayeux – famous for its tapestry, the Normandy town of Bayeux can be visited by train, with the odd change or three! You’d have to allow over five hours each way – more than enough time to knit your own mini tapestry! The drive in one move will take around two hours, or you could head in that direction via Mont St Michel.
- Cumbersome connections – in theory, if you want to travel around Brittany by train, you should just be able to take a short hop from St Malo down to Dol-de-Bretagne, which is only 15 minutes way, and then connect onto the main spinal route that runs between Rennes and Brest from there. In reality, train connections to other locations are relatively infrequent, so you have to plan carefully. The line heading east from Dol towards Caen only has one daily train first thing in the morning, with no feeder connections from St Malo. For most people, it will be much easier just to hire a car.
- Drive to the train – There is also a wonderful rural branch line running up from Guingamp to Paimpol, and from here you can continue onto the Isles De Brehat by ferry. However, to do this journey completely by public transport, you will have to take the train down to Rennes first, and then double back.
- Offshore islands — there are numerous other small islands off the coast of Brittany which can be explored by boat. Connecting train or bus services are going to take up most of your day – much better to drive and have more time on enjoying the sea air!
- Poor airport connections — There has previously been a bus meeting Ryanair flights,but this ran to St Malo rather than Dinard. This does not appear to be running at present [June 2015]. Local buses between St Malo and Dinard are infrequent – so if you do not pick up a rental car, you will probably need to rely on taxis.
- Arriving by car ferry? – a popular way to reach Dinard is by car ferry into neighbouring St Malo, and most passengers bring their own car. However, this Dinard car hire advice page is aimed at people flying into Dinard (Bretagne / Pleurtuit / St Malo) Airport.
- Mont St Michel. This is one of the most popular tourist attractions anywhere in France, and is the one real must-see location. Getting there by public transport bus is a little bit more hassle than driving, but it is still doable. If you aren’t worrying about parking charges mounting up, why not stay in one of the 8 hotels which are inside the site (although their rates might set you back a bit more than the St Malo Ibis).
- Car parking at Mont St Michel will set you back €12.50 per day (June 2015) – Mont St Michel car parking charges.
To reach Mont St Michel by public transport, first take the train to Dol (~15 mins), then take the coach (~30 mins), which is designed to connect with the handful of TGV services which stop there. Mont St Michel bus / coach timetable
- Trains — Brittany may be relatively rural, but regular TGV train services run between St Malo and Paris via Rennes, although they do so using conventional, not dedicated high-speed lines. The slower TER services offer a great way to enjoy the view from the window, although connections via Dol-de-Bretagne are limited.
- St Malo — you may well fly in to Dinard, but the real gem is just across the estuary in St Malo, a delightful and compact walled city, which is easy to walk around. Unsurprisingly, given its historic setting, St Malo has heavy restrictions on driving in the historic core, although there are plenty of places to park nearby.
- Walking — there are numerous great opportunities for walking around Dinard, and you won’t always need a car to take you there, as you can use local rural buses. Dinard Airport is also close enough to town that you could walk it if you have just under an hour to spare.
- Jersey and Guernsey — the Channel Islands are close enough to Dinard that they can make an easy excursion, with or without a car, but a car on the ferry is going to cost a great deal more. Alternatively, given the limited number of flight routes into Dinard, if you are starting from the UK, you will find a far wider range of flights to Jersey (continue by ferry) or Guernsey (continue by air or ferry).
- Ferries for feet — travellers from the UK can reach Dinard by taking the ferry to St Malo as a foot passenger, and then continuing onwards using a combination of either public transport and/or cycling. Brittany Ferries offer a “cruise ferry” type experience on their routes to St Malo from Portsmouth and Plymouth, and for many people this is as much part of the holiday as anything else.
- Cycling holidays — because Brittany is so close to southern England, a very easy alternative to the fly drive combination is to bring your own bike by ferry from Portsmouth or Plymouth.
- Canals and greenways — Brittany has an impressive network of canals and greenways, which includes the “Channel to Ocean” canal, which connects Dinard with Arzal on the Atlantic coast. It’s possible to explore this network using a hired boat, or by bicycle, and it’s easy enough to get to this network from St Malo port.
Do you need a car in Dinard? Although a hire car in Dinard will give you the usual extra flexibility, it is far from being as essential as you might think. Given that quite a few other options are available, including amazing journeys by train, by boat or on a bicycle, the option of visiting Dinard without a car is certainly available. Dinard is rare in that it is a destination that can be reached, at least from the UK, by air, rail and ferry. This means that, despite its rural location, a visit to Dinard without a car is well worth considering.
Verdict – no
Dinard car hire locations
The following locations should be available for hiring a car in and around Dinard, although opening times may vary. The best option for Dinard car hire is directly from the airport, as this is where there is the widest choice of rental agencies.
- Dinard Airport (Dinard Pleurtuit St Malo Airport).
- St Malo Gare Maritime (Port).
- St Malo Railway Station (Gare).
- St Malo town – although either of the above two options might be better value.
Note that there is no Dinard car hire office in the town centre, although there are offices in St Malo, as per above.Although Dinard and St Malo are situated on different sides of the Rance barrage, which is only 400m long, the actual distance between their centres is 12km by road.
- St Malo car parking information
St Malo and Dinard Buses
- St Malo urban and suburban buses [French only]
- St Malo bus map [pdf]
- Dinard bus map and times [French]
- Dinard to St Malo buses
- Dinard Airport [English, but no bus transfers]