Marseille

By | 16th January 2018

Do you need a car in Marseille?

Do you need a car in Marseille > Should you rent a car in Marseille France > Marseille ( MRS ) Do you need a car in Marseille? Is it worth hiring a car in Marseille? Should you rent a car in Marseille?

Marseille Car hire summary


Overall drive rating

Based on a weighted score across all cost and quality factors. [Full notes - drive rating]

80%

  • Price alone isn't the only factor in determining whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Marseille but clearly it's an important one. See our "why" section for more figures.
  • Cost factors include - price of car hire (peak and off peak season), car hire extras, fuel, tolls and parking costs.
  • Quality factors include - scenic drives, road quality and upkeep, general safety and congestion levels.
  • A complete index of all 10 factors will be uploaded shortly.

Cheapest rate for one week

Based on cheapest economy car hire deal with no added extras. [full notes - basic costs]

€100

 #100/300

  • This is the very lowest price we could find for a one week car rental period in Marseille during the quiet season.
  • You will almost always end up paying more than this figure, but any extra costs or supplementary charges are usually determined by the renter, so we cannot easily compare like with like.
  • In many cases, rental companies will offer a cheap rental and then expect you to take out expensive insurance waivers. There are always ways to avoid this!

How much should I expect to pay in the peak season?

Based on cheapest deal during the summer holiday season. (Unless otherwise noted) [full notes - seasonal variations]

 €115

55/300

  • During the peak holiday season, public transport is often better value, as many train and bus fares are fixed throughout the year. See our "why not" section for more suggestions.
  • For most featured destinations, the peak season will be during the summer, typically July and August for northern hemisphere destinations. However, peak demand might occur at different times, for example in some ski resorts or winter sun destinations etc.


Free parking score

Based on the number of hotels which offer free parking. Total 367 - of which 93 have free parking. [full notes - parking]

25%

#226/300

  • Free hotel parking is very useful to have when you are hiring a car, and it's always worth checking ahead beforehand.
  • If free hotel parking is not available, you might want to consider renting a car for a single day, rather than for your whole trip.
  • The availability (or lack of) free hotel parking can be a really important factor in determining whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Marseille, as it can be a significant extra daily cost which you won't usually be paying at home!
  • Parking costs play a very major part in our consideration of whether or not it's worth hiring a car in each destination.
  • By using public transport, walking or hiring a bicycle, you can avoid having to worry about parking charges altogether! See our "why not" section for more suggestions.

Marseille public transport quick facts

Train score

Higher scores go to the systems which don't just take you to the most amazing places, but also to the ones which are easy to use, fast, reliable and frequent. A good train system on its own is usually enough to determine that you don't need to hire a car in many destinations.

50%

  • [full notes trains]
  • Trains include all kinds of urban rail system from trams up to metro and suburban networks.
  • Trains also include mountain railways and cable cars.
  • Generally, places with a good rail network will automatically mean that you don't "need" to hire a car, but you can still might find that on balance you are better off by having one.

Water travel score

This is a general rating for all types of water travel, including scheduled ferries, sea / rivers cruises and excursions in Marseille

50%

  • [full notes - water score]
  • The water score looks at means of transport on water - it does not consider water based activities like surfing or kayaking.

Overall public transport score

This is a more practical rating based on bus and rail travel, and also including ferries and other boat services, where they are part of the public transport network.

50%

  • [full notes - overall transit] buses | trams | metro | local & regional rail | national rail
  • Is public transport in Marseille good value, or is it worth hiring a car just because it is cheaper overall?
  • Even if public transport is cheap and reliable, you might still feel that you should hire a car in Marseille because it will still give you more flexibility to reach out-of-the-way places, especially in rural areas.

Walking and Cycling Overview

Active travel score

This overall rating considers walking and cycling in and around Marseille. It includes factors such as the quality of the street environment, and whether you are likely to feel safe walking or cycling, together with the availability of bicycle hire and the ease of linking walking or cycling routes with public transport.

50%

  • [full notes - active score] walking (city) | hiking | cycling (city /  country).
  • A high active travel score means that you might not need a car in Marseille, because you can see everything you need to see using a combination of your own two feet and the public transport system.

Car rental in - Marseille Need v worth & should!

Whether you have come here asking "do I need a car in Marseille", "is it worth hiring a car in Marseille", or whether or not you "should" hire a car here, these are all slight variations on a similar theme. Here we break each one down according to the criteria we use for each question. This is a weighted score based on the values above. These are explained further in the text which follows - [#why] [#whynot]. Do you need a car in Marseille?

Do you need a car in Marseille?

This is essentially based on whether or not public transport and other "non car" options are good enough to get around and beyond the city. For the lowest "need" score, the destination should have a combination of excellent all-round public transport, great opportunities for walking and cycling, together with poor value car hire or generally poor quality roads. 
  • In destinations where both public transport and car hire options are excellent, the verdict for "do I need a car in  Marseille " will swing towards a strong no, because you can do absolutely fine without one).
Is it worth hiring a car in Marseille?

Is it worth hiring a car in Marseille?

Is car hire good value, especially during the peak season? How does this compare with transit fares? This question mainly looks at issues of cost and practicality.
  • In destinations where both public transport and car hire options are excellent, the verdict for "is it worth hiring a car in  Marseille" will swing towards whichever option offers the lowest overall cost for a group of 2-4 people travelling together.
Should you rent a car in Marseille?

Should you rent a car in Marseille?

Weighing up the above questions, if you are here for the first time AND asking about hiring a car, is it a good idea?
  • The final "carometer" swing is much more opinion based, and it takes into account which options will give you the truly best travel experience (n our humble opinion of course). Where a destination offers an excellent score with or without a car, the swing will go towards whichever option we feel gives the most truly unforgettable experience.
  • Ultimately, it's your choice whether or not you rent a car here. We're trying to give you something that's sufficiently far enough away from a "maybe" to help you make that choice. Ultimately, people only come to us because they are uncertain, but we don't really know what each person's preferences are. Whether we say you should or you shouldn't rent a car in  Marseille, you might also want to look up some of our other cities to see how  Marseille compares with other destinations in  France or  Europe.
  • By using public transport, walking or hiring a bicycle, you can avoid having to worry about parking charges altogether! See our "why not" section for more suggestions.


What does everyone else do?

Do most people hire a car in Marseille?

This is based on our observations of (a) car rental facilities and (b) what we think most people will do here. It's not an exact figure, just an estimate of how likely people are to get hold of a rental car here.
  • his is based on the percentage of people "in the market" who we think are likely to hire a car. This includes anyone arriving on holiday here who would usually hire a car on their travels, so it doesn't include people who don't usually drive (or don't drive), people staying with friends etc.

10%

Visitors per year (million)

  • Cities with more visitors are more likely to have more complex airport car rental arrangements, and generally they will also have better public transport, but this is not always the case, especially in North America.

8

  • [full notes - do as everyone else does?]
  • You may wish to go with the flow, or you might prefer to avoid doing the most popular or obvious option. This will vary according to the range of choice available. This tends to be much higher in destinations which are closer to the middle of the car or no car scale.

Who is travelling?

Your group size and travel budget has a major impact on whether or not getting a rental car is good value compared to using public transport as your main means of getting around. Ultimately, these are all "worth" questions:

Is it worth renting a car in Marseille if I am a solo / budget traveller?

Generally, hiring a car is not good value for solo travellers for multiple reasons, especially as most of the costs of renting apply to the car, not the occupants. With public transport, the reverse is usually true! However, there are always some places where you will need a car, simply because they are almost impossible to reach using public transport.

Is it worth renting a car in Marseille for 2 people travelling together?

A rental car can be good value for couples or for friends travelling together, but since most cars come with at least four seats, it's often still better value to use public transport. However, if you prefer to keep yourselves to yourselves, then you might still want to rent.

Is it worth renting a car in Marseille for families?

Families of groups of 3-4 people travelling together will always get the best value from a rental car. However, you may also be burdened with extra costs for car seat hire, and you well also prefer to use local trains and buses, if they are quicker than getting stuck in heavy traffic.

Where are you staying?

The place you are staying, together with the sort of places you want to see, will have a large impact on whether or not you "need" to rent a car:

Do you need a car in Marseille if we are staying in the city centre / main resort area?

Most large towns or purpose built holiday resorts will have some kind of public transport, whereas parking provision will vary greatly from one place to the next. 

Do you need a car in Marseille if we are staying on the edge of the urban area?

Typically you may be staying in an apartment or hmall house on the edge of a resort or urban area. These places usually have some level of public transport, but not as much as city / resort centres.

Do you need a car in Marseille if we are staying in a rural area?

Rural proprties might include larger villas or apartments, but they can still be within a short walk of a bus stop or local railway station, and the opportunities for hiking and cycling might also be substantial, depending on the destination.

What is your attitude towards driving?

We can give you suggestions based on whatever we consider to be a "typical" visitor to Marseille, but ultimately your decision is also going to be influenced by whether or not you ususally prefer to hire a car in the first place.

Should I hire a car in Marseille if I prefer not to drive?

This is especially the case when there is only one main driver in the group, and it's based on the attitude of the driver rather than their passengers! The main driver may also simply prefer to use public transport, or they may prefer to take scenic train journeys where available.

Should we rent a car in Marseille if we are easy either way?

This is more aimed at the typical visitor who isn't that bothered about how they get around, as long as it is the most convenient / best value option.

Should I rent a car in Marseille if I prefer to drive?

For people who usually prefer the freedom and flexibility of having a hire car. Is it still best to rent a car in Marseille, or are there good reasons not to?

“Fifth gear in Provence?”

Marseille is one of those places that is a perfectly interesting destination in its own right, whilst also being a gateway to a number of popular rural areas, the most prominent being of course the region of Provence.

To advise on whether or not to get a hire car in Marseille we would naturally ask whether or not potential car hirers were visiting just the city and surrounding areas, or heading into deeper Provence. Unsurprisingly, the city areas and nearby coastal stretches lean more towards not needing a hire car, whereas one would naturally associate getting around the rolling hills of Provence with having the flexibility of a hire car.

Why should you rent a car in Marseille?

What are the main reasons for hiring a car here? Do you just want to drive locally? Do you want to go further afield, or should you even look at taking a road trip? In terms of factors like the cost of the hire itself, fuel costs, road tolls and parking charges, is it worth hiring a car in Marseille?
  • Provence — fairly obviously, this beautiful but rural region needs a hire car to do it justice.
  • Coastal regions — you do not have to travel far from Marseille, whether east or west, to find superb coastlines and great beaches. Again, these areas are always easier to explore with a hire car.
  • Public transport limitations — as you will read below, you certainly can travel between the major cities in this region by train, but the system is not very well integrated. For example, there is no railway station at Marseille airport, despite it being one of the busiest in France outside Paris. Instead, you will have to take a shuttle bus and then a slow local train.
    Marseille might be the southern end of France’s trunk TGV route, but this is only really useful if you want to head back towards Paris.
    Even for relatively local journeys such as to Avignon or Aix, the TGV only stops infrequently and it will not take you into the city centres. There are even fewer options for heading inwards to Provence, as the main railway line that serves this region (the Digne line) leaves from Nice, not Marseille.
  • Pont Du Gard — I will admit that I visited the world-famous Roman aqueduct at Pont Du Gard in the summer of 2008, and I did so without a car. I had flown in to Marseille that morning, and was continuing through to Perpignan where I was meeting family. The first stretch of my journey involved a short coach ride and then a brief hop on the TGV between Aix-en-Provence and Avignon. From there, I had to catch a bus into town and then another bus out to Pont Du Gard — so far so good — a little bit of a complicated journey, but it all ran to plan. Having spent a couple of hours at Pont Du Gard, there was no sign of the bus to take me onwards to Nimes. After waiting around half an hour, I called the helpline, and was told it would be along shortly. Eventually, the bus turned up, but it would have been difficult to have known where you stood if you don’t speak workable French. The onward train from Nimes was also heavily delayed. This is all a great deal of hassle to go through, even if the bridge itself is well worth the effort!

Why not? Visiting Marseille without a car

What is public transport like in Marseille? What about local conditions for walking or cycling? Can you rely on public transport and maybe a few taxis for most or all of your trip? Are there some times of year when it's easier to get by without a car than others? When should you rent a car in 1?
  • City of Marseille — Marseille is often overlooked by tourists who are heading towards Provence and other areas inland, which conform to the more traditional picture postcard definition of scenic. Instead, Marseille offers a truly lively city with a huge range of different cuisines, as well as some spectacular modern architecture. All of this can easily be done using the excellent public transport that the city has to offer, including a small metro system. By far and away the most important modern building in the city is Le Corbusier’s “Unite D’habitation” — love it or hate it, this is what skyscraping accommodation blocks and streets in the sky were supposed to be like. Another modern classic is the “Big Blue” county hall building, designed by the British architect Will Alsop.
  • Calanques – this superb area of cliff trails is one of the few national parks in the world you can quite literally walk to from within the city limits. Note that this area is closed during the hottest summer months (July and August) due to the fire risk.
  • Multiple city tour — basing yourself in Marseille, you can easily visit the former papal headquarters of Avignon and the Roman city of Nimes by train.
  • Coastline — the railway line between Marseille and Ventimiglia in Italy has some absolutely superb coastal stretches, whilst also taking in world-famous resorts like St Tropez and Cannes before passing through Nice and then Monaco. See our Nice page for more about this.
  • Bike it — there is no doubt that, as mentioned above, the area around Marseille offers some superb opportunities for touring by car, but this is also top-notch cycling territory, and many world-famous cyclists and triathletes train in this area. As many of the roads around here are steep and unforgiving, you will need to either hire a decent road bike or bring your own.
  • Train from London — if you want to head somewhere on the Mediterranean but also would rather get there by train, then Marseille is naturally your first port of call. You can do this journey with a simple change in Lille, or you can travel via Paris and take in a few city sights on the way. Allow around six hours to reach Marseille from London, or just over three hours for the fastest TGV trains from Paris to Marseille. If you are already arriving by train, then you will be near the city centre and you may well want to continue onwards by train.
    However, if you do want to get a hire car, be prepared to pay significantly more in Marseille city centre. In fact, based on price alone, you may well find it cheaper to alight at Avignon or Aix-en-Provence station instead. Note that Eurostar do also offer weekly trains to Avignon during the summer — these arrive in the city centre, not the cathedral like TGV station.
  • Boat trips and ferries – several options are available for taking boat trips from Marseille, including for excellent views of the Calanques. Marseille is also a gateway port for destinations further afield, including Corsica.
  • Cost — car hire in France is relatively expensive when compared with other European countries, especially if you’re used to hiring cars in Spain, and hiring a car in Marseille is no cheaper than anywhere else – in fact, expect to pay around 30% more than for comparable car hire at Nice airport.

Ratings

Our slider ratings range from 0 (it isn't even possible to hire a car, e.g. Hong Kong) through to 10 (you really must rent a car here, e.g. Phoenix, Tampa). However, most places are somewhere inbetween these extremes, and this is where it gets more interesting! Further ratings breakdowns, including a much more detailed public transport rating, are currently being added. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

Verdict

What is our final score for Marseille on the Carornocar scale?

Remember, this isn't so much a rating of the road network, or a score for what we think of the buses or trains, but it's simply a scale showing the swing between whether or not we think a rental car is a good idea here.

2


Do you need a car in Marseille? Conclusion: We started with the expectation that if you are flying into Marseille and then carrying on in to Provence, then there isn’t really much argument to say you could get by in this region without a hire car.

However, that should be reasonably obvious anyway, so it isn’t really worth basing our verdict on that kind of trip.

If on the other hand you want to fly into Marseille and actually base yourself in the city, then there should be more than enough places that you can easily get to without needing a hire car, including some great scenery which is close to the city itself.

For these reasons, our verdict for Marseille itself is a firm no.

Overall verdict – no

Note — despite launching with a big fanfare, the budget “mp2” terminal at Marseille airport has only managed to sustain a limited number of low-cost routes from outside France, so you might also want to consider flights to Avignon or even to nearby Nimes or Montpellier. Alternatively, a much wider choice of flights to Nice is available from most UK regional airports. Nice also offers relatively easy access to the interior, as well as the Cote D’Azur region. See our Nice car hire advice page for more details.

Would you hire a car in Marseille?

Have you driven in Marseille? Do you agree with our advice on whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Marseille}? Do you need a car in Marseille? For some or all of the time? Tell us what you think using the comments section below:

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