Should you rent a car in Paris?> France > Paris ( CDG )
Paris Car hire summary
Overall drive ratingBased on a weighted score across all cost and quality factors. [Full notes - drive rating]
- Price alone isn't the only factor in determining whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Paris 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 weekBased on cheapest economy car hire deal with no added extras. [full notes - basic costs]
- This is the very lowest price we could find for a one week car rental period in Paris 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]
- 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 scoreBased on the number of hotels which offer free parking. Total 3327 - of which 196 have free parking. [full notes - parking]
- 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 Paris, 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.
Paris public transport quick facts
Train scoreHigher 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.
- [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 scoreThis is a general rating for all types of water travel, including scheduled ferries, sea / rivers cruises and excursions in Paris
- [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 scoreThis 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.
- [full notes - overall transit] buses | trams | metro | local & regional rail | national rail
- Is public transport in Paris 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 Paris 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 scoreThis overall rating considers walking and cycling in and around Paris. 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.
- [full notes - active score] walking (city) | hiking | cycling (city / country).
- A high active travel score means that you might not need a car in Paris, 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 - Paris Need v worth & should!Whether you have come here asking "do I need a car in Paris", "is it worth hiring a car in Paris", 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 Paris?
Do you need a car in Paris?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.
Is it worth hiring a car in Paris?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.
Should you rent a car in Paris?Weighing up the above questions, if you are here for the first time AND asking about hiring a car, is it a good idea?
- 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 Paris?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.
Visitors per year (million)
- [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 Paris 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 Paris 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 Paris 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.
- [full notes - group type, size & budget]
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 Paris 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 Paris 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 Paris 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.
- [full notes - group type, size & budget]
What is your attitude towards driving?We can give you suggestions based on whatever we consider to be a "typical" visitor to Paris, 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 Paris 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 Paris 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 Paris 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 Paris, or are there good reasons not to?
- [full notes - group type, size & budget]
Should I rent a car in Paris? Paris isn’t just one of Europe’s most popular tourist cities, it is also continental Europe’s most important transport hub for both air and high speed rail services. Within central Paris, car hire is largely pointless, but as you venture further out of the city, it might be something to consider, depending on where you plan to visit.
Welcome to Carornocar, where we provide answers to questions about whether or not it’s worth renting a car when on holiday / vacation in 300 destinations around the world.
These questions typically boil down to three key areas:
- Do I need a car in Paris? This is based on service comparison with public transport.
- Is it worth renting a car in Paris? We look at value for money – hire costs v ticket costs.
- Should we hire a car in Paris? A yes or no, based on which will give you the best experience.
Would you hire a car in Paris?
Based on conversations with people who have visited, or who are thinking about visiting Paris, these are typical “first impressions on the question of car hire:
- Do we need a car in Paris? – ?]C
- Is it worth hiring a car in Paris? – 娠
- Should we hire a car in Paris? – 慊ｭttﾂｷDﾂｭﾂｮ
This gives us a starting point to look at the car and non-car options in Paris. Are general expectations here about right, or can we offer some surprise suggestions on reasons why you might be better off with or without a car?
We’ve reviewed 300 cities around the world – exactly half of these are places where we do advise car hire, and the other half are places where we don’t – so you’ll get an honest answer each and every time!
For full details of how we review each city, please see our ratings guide.
Why should you rent a car in Paris?
Paris rental basics
There’s a lot more to renting a car than the cost of the hire alone, but it’s a good place to start when trying to decide whether or not it’s worth hiring a car in Paris.
How much will a week’s car hire in Paris?
The table below looks at the lowest price we’ve found and then compares it with the costs of a typical one week’s summer peak time car hire in Paris. The very cheapest economy cars are often only 2/3 door models, so we’ve also included a guide price for one week of peak time rental of a “reasonably” sized car – but nothing too large or too fancy, just a simple set of wheels to get a group of 4 or small family around in Paris.
|CITY||vN||vW||vS||BS||2FYP||30C||SF||LF||4F||HK||SC||CITY||EDGE||FLY+D||TO||RT||HATE D||PREFER P/T||EASY||PREF D||LOVE D||TOTAL||CNC %||BAND||HEX|
|Ho Chi Minh City||3||4||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||na||0||0||0||0||0||7||48||5||#FF4500|
|Salt Lake City||1||2||1||0||0||1||1||1||1||0||0||0||1||1||1||1||0||0||0||1||1||14||42||4||#FF4500|
|San Jose CA||5||2||1||1||1||1||1||1||1||1||1||1||1||1||1||1||1||1||1||1||1||26||82||8||#32CD32|
|San José CR||4||5||1||0||1||1||1||1||1||1||1||0||1||1||1||1||0||1||1||1||1||25||89||9||#008000|
|Santiago de Chile||2||4||1||0||0||0||1||1||1||1||0||0||1||1||1||1||0||0||1||1||1||18||63||6||#ADFF2F|
Notes – Cheapest price is usually spring or autumn. Prices researched in June 2017 for November 2017 (off-peak) or March 2018 (southern hemisphere). Peak is based on a last minute summer booking in August 2017.
These are basic sample rental prices, with full-full fuel deals, but with no extras of any kind. (user guide).
These prices are NOT an offer of car rental in Paris, but merely an indication of guide prices for comparison.
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General tips on car rental in Paris
Reasons why you should rent a car in Paris:
Possible day trips from Paris:
- Loire Valley — to appreciate at least some of the stunning chateaux in the Loire Valley, head south out of Paris to Orleans, and westwards from there. In total there are over 300 chateaux in the region. To try visiting this area by scheduled transport or guided tour is going to be seriously limiting (see below).
- Champagne region — head out towards Reims to hit the heart of French Champagne country, or more accurately, the only Champagne country, as this is very much the definition of “appelation-controlee”. The TGV Est caused more than a bit of a stir when it cut through this region, but now that it is here, it always due to Chalons-En-Champagne quicker than you can say “pass the bubbly.” from here, you could take a coach tour, or you could just as easily pick up a hire car at the TGV station if you wanted to spend a few days in central Paris without a car.
- Fontainebleau – just beyond the edge of Paris is the Forest of Fontainebleau, and the grandeur of this location is best appreciated in a hire car.
- Eurostar + car? — if you arrive in Paris by Eurostar, then you will find that Gare Du Nord station is already very centrally located, and it is naturally easy to continue your visit by using public transport. However, if you do want to hire a car at Gare Du Nord, several car rental agencies are available within and near to the station, and you can easily head out onto the orbital motorway network. Unlike London, there is no edge of city Eurostar station in Paris, although you could also hire a car in Lille, or at any of the other major TGV stations.
- Paris Plage — this term can mean two things, depending on your mobility. In summer, sand is imported to the banks of the River Seine to create temporary beaches in the centre of Paris, whilst the resort of Le Touquet is known as Paris Plage (beach) year round. Head out in this direction (West by Northwest from Paris), and you can enjoy a lovely forested drive on the way. Alternatively, you can also reach Le Touquet by (slowish) train.
- Ardennes — just above the Champagne region is the Ardennes Forest, straddling the border between France and Belgium. This is where the “low” countries start to show a bit of serious topography, and this is great driving country.
- European base — Paris is the natural place to pick up a hire car for a general road trip around Western Europe, as it benefits from both a relatively central geographical location and an excellent network of inward flights.
- Driving from Paris versus London — this isn’t really just about the city of Paris itself. For many long-distance visitors, this is a choice about whether to fly into Paris, or whether to fly first into London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam or any other major European hub airport.
When it comes to fly and drive combinations, Paris has two significant advantages over London. Firstly, the return portion of long haul flights into London is taxed at a significantly higher rate than any other European country, and secondly if you hire a car in London rather than on the continent, it will be right hand drive, making it less suitable for driving on the “other” side of the road.
Why not? Visiting Paris without a carWhat is public transport like in Paris? 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 3?
Visiting Paris without a car:
City of Paris
- Are you in-Seine? That may be a weak pun, but surely Paris, just like the London or New York, is a city where getting around in anything other than a private car is not just a piece of fresh-from-the-boulangerie cake, but is also very much part of the Parisian experience.
- RER — France didn’t just lead the way with European high-speed rail, Paris has had the Cross-city RER network for decades, and this makes it easier to get between central Paris and Charles de Gaulle or Orly airports, in addition to making it easier to get to regional destinations, and a number of really impressive places to visit which are just beyond the city.
- River cruises — for the perfect and effort free introduction to Paris, why not jump on one of the many boats which ply up and down the river Seine, offering some of the best views of Paris’ most famous attractions, including getting close-up views of the Eiffel Tower reflecting on the water. These cruises are even better at night than they are during the day.
- Metro — the Art Nouveau Parisian Metro entrances are almost as famous as the London Underground roundel, and the system also has many beautifully tiled stations. Furthermore, choose the right line and just as in Chicago or Berlin, you will be given a fantastic aboveground view of the city as you cruise from one arrondissement to the next.
- Paris by bike — Paris might be home to the finale of the Tour de France, but the city has only recently started to really grasp more mundane utility cycling. However, Paris was several years ahead of London in developing a citywide automated bike hire scheme, Velib. Although the city lacks a comprehensive network of dedicated cycle routes, most streets are limited to just 20 km/h (approximately 12 miles an hour), and one way streets are almost universally equipped with contraflows for cyclists. More controversially, Paris is even experimenting with allowing cyclists to run through red lights in some sections of the city. Overall, I personally found the experience of cycling in Paris to be only slightly better than London, and I also opted to hire a bike from a shop, rather than to use the Velib scheme, as this meant that I have the freedom to go where I wanted without having to return the bike after 30 minutes, and the bike also came with a helmet.
- Paris on foot — let’s not forget that Paris really is one of Europe’s great walking cities. When you first emerge from the Metro tunnels, you might find some of the huge squares and circles a little bit intimidating, but the endless wide boulevards with street cafes and delightful surprises at every turn soon become a breeze to negotiate.
- Parks and gardens — Paris is also a city of numerous parks and gardens, with the vast woods of Vincennes to the south-east (Metro Porte Doree) and Boulogne to the west (Metro Av. Henri Martin).
- Promenade Plantee — even better than the more conventional parks, take a walk on the delightful Promenade Plantee, which starts at the back of the Opera Bastille, and you can literally have your head in the clouds, as your feet will be guiding you along a disused railway embankment which is now a linear urban park, which leads right the way out to the Interior Peripherique (Orbital) roadway.
- Shopping — Paris is one of Europe’s great shopping cities, with the Champs Elysees being one of the world’s greatest shopping streets. Although car parking is available nearby, it doesn’t come cheap. Might be easier to pile all those bags into a taxi.
- La Defense — Paris might have many historic buildings in the city centre, but if you want to change gear to a zone that is altogether more than, head out west to the architecturally stunning Defense district. This is where you will find most of the skyscrapers in Paris (apart, of course, from the rather famous one on Quai Branly). This isn’t just where the headquarters of most of France is largest companies are located, you can also take a lift to the top of the Grande Arche, from where you can get superb views back into the centre of Paris.
- List of greats — the Eiffel Tower, the Pompidou Centre, Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame, La Louvre, the Moulin Rouge and so on, the list of genuinely world-famous iconic places to visit within the centre of Paris is so long, are you really going to find any time to venture out to the banlieu and beyond?
Near to Paris – easy day trips by train or bus
- Versailles — take the RER to the west of Paris, for a day out in Louis the Sun King’s extravagant vanity project, and learn how this magnificent vulgarity sowed the seeds of the French Revolution.
- Chateaux — once you do finally decide to venture away from central Paris, the most obvious starting point is to visit at least one of the famous castles which are within reach of an easy day excursion. Yet even now, you are still better off without a hire car. Head south east to Melun and then take a short bus ride to Vaux-le-Vicomte with its famous gardens, or head north to visit Chantilly with its reflecting pond. Each of these chateaux is a fairly easy combination of train + walking – you will cover a fair distance by the time you have been around the grounds, but a car isn’t going to save you any leg work!
- Rouen & Chartres – either of these great cathedral cities can be visited in an easy day trip by train from Paris. Both are easy to walk round, and the historic centres are just a short walk from the station. In both cases, allow 1 – 1 1/2 hours for the train connection (RER or long distance service).
- Disneyland Paris — for another complete contrast to central Paris, you could spend a day at the Disneyland Paris resort. This huge circular complex can trace its layout back to the original Epcot city concept, except that visitors arrive by TGV or suburban train, rather than by monorail.
- Loire Valley — the most obvious way to visit the Loire Valley chateaux without a car would be to take a guided bus tour, but if this is not to your taste, there are still a couple of other options.
Either way, it is best to head in the direction of Tours first, noting that most TGV services only stop at the suburban station of St-Pierre-des-Corps, from where you can also change for local rail services to some of the Loire chateaux.
The easiest chateau by far to visit by train is Amboise, which is just a short 15 minute walk from the station serving the town, with Clos Luce being another 10 minute walk away.
One of the most iconic chateau in the region is Chenonceau, which actually bridges across the Cher river (not the Loire). The castle has a station directly adjacent to the entrance – for train times use Chenencaux.
To visit the best known Loire Valley chateau of Chambord, you will need to take a tour or use their summer shuttle bus services.
- Loire Valley cycling tours – Alternatively, the Loire Valley chateaux can also be visited on a cycling tour, but if you are taking your own bike from Paris, you will have to use the slower services, as the TGVs on this route do not carry bikes. Although there is no city bike hire in Tours, you can hire bikes at various locations along the Loire Valley, and you can also make one way rentals.
Travelling onwards from Paris by TGV and other trains
The high speed TGV system means that you can reach the French Mediterranean cost in just over 3 hours, with many other major French cities being within the range of an easy train trip. Book well ahead for the best fares, especially during summer.
- Lille — the industrial city of Lille has been through something of a renaissance since the arrival of Eurostar and TGV in the early 90s. Ironically, it is easier to visit Lille as a trip out from Paris, rather than as what seems like an obvious stop on Eurostar, as only the Brussels-bound Eurostar trains stop here, so you won’t be able to simply break your journey on any of the best value Eurostar tickets from London.
- Lyon and other French cities by TGV — just in case you run out of things to see and do in and around Paris, you can easily pop over to many of the other great French cities by taking one of the superfast TGV trains.
This can take you well down the north-south spine of France to the second city or Lyon in just over two hours, or even to the Mediterranean port city of Marseille in a fraction over three hours. Numerous other permutations and combinations are available, and although Paris is by far and away France’s biggest aviation hub, you can easily fly into or out of from various other French cities from a wide range of airports throughout Europe at least.
- Ouigo – the low cost arm of the SNCF TGV (High Speed Train) service operates a scaled down budget service to a number of destinations in France, but departing from Marne-La-Vallee (Paris Disneyland). With tickets on sale to the south of France from just €10, this can be a useful way of continuing onwards from Paris for a fraction of the cost of flying or using toll motorways. However, if you have no plans to visit Disney, by the time you have taken the RER out to Marne, your actual savings might not be that great, especially as service frequencies on Ouigo are nothing like the regular TGV.
Absolutely! If this is your first visit to Paris, then there really should be no question about this – you are going to want to spend several days visiting the city, so any question about whether it’s worth hiring a car would only apply to the rest of the time you have available. We would never advise renting a car for all the time you are in the Paris area, unless you have already seen everything you want to see in the city centre.
Even if you have been to Paris before, we’d still recommend at the very least allowing enough time to go back and see one or two things you missed previously. If this is the case, then you might still want to rent a car for your whole trip, and simply find a hotel around the edge of the city where parking is either free or reasonably priced, and which is ideally situated near to a station that is on the RER network (this is a considerably faster way to access the city centre than the much lower Metro).
Note that any suggestion of renting a car for some of your stay is very much something that we would advise doing on the basis that we don’t really recommend hiring a car for all of your time here. There really is absolutely no need to rent a car in Paris, either for the time you spend in the city centre, or as a way of getting to places which are around the city, because you will still be able to see almost everything using public transport.
See also our notes below about suggestions for budget travellers to do a single day hire car excursion from Paris.
Is it worth renting a car in Paris even for backpackers, students and other travellers who are on an extremely tight budget?
If everything you want to see is either within the city of Paris or within range of a short local Metro or mainline train journey, then you are almost certainly not going to get better value by hiring a car. Younger drivers aged 21 to 25 in France can typically expect to pay a daily premium, whereas it’s very difficult to get a rental car at all if you are below this age. So given that public transport is generally good value, and given that most of the places within around a one hour travel time of Paris really are very easy to get to by train, why would any young budget traveller even want to consider renting a car?
There are two situations where this might still be a good idea, but they are only going to apply to a small number of situations:
Do it all in one day.
- If your car-rental cost is going to be loaded because you will have to pay young drivers premium, then simply pick a number of places that you can see within a one day driving tour, and then fit everything you can into that day.
- This is really only going to work if you have a very clear idea which places you want to see that you can fit into such a day. For example, a single day would be enough to visit some of the Loire Valley châteaux, but you would be unlikely to spend any serious amount of time inside more than 2 or 3 of them.
- to make the most of a day like this and get out of Paris quickly, consider taking the RER to a location such as Versailles in the south-west of the city or to Charles de Gaulle airport, and then hiring a car from there. Generally, it’s cheaper to hire a car from places which are outside the city centre, because it’s cheaper for car hire companies to base their vehicles there. This also applies at airports where even if the car hire companies have to pay an airport facility fee, there such a high turnover of vehicles that they can usually offer the best rates.
- Whatever you do, don’t cram so much into a single day that you end up rushing to return a car late in the evening. This would completely contradict the whole point of just having the car for the day.
- When you rent a car for the day, that usually means that you will be charged for a 24-hour period, rather than until the end of that calendar day (i.e. midnight). This means that if you pick up a car at 11 AM, you can in theory return it back at 11 AM the next day. Generally, if you are staying in a city like Paris, you probably won’t want to keep the car overnight, because you are going to have to find somewhere to park it. However, having the option of returning the car the next morning does mean you are at least not having to rush back to get to a car rental office which could close much earlier in the evening. If your hotel doesn’t offer parking facilities, then you can get the best of both worlds by taking your car back to the airport, where most rental offices will be open 24/7.
Longer hire / road trips
- Generally, hiring a car for a longer period isn’t going to be very good value if you have to pay for young drivers premium. However, if you have already budgeted that you might have to pay for this anyway, in certain situations, hiring a car is still going to better value than trying to use public transport.
- If you don’t have to worry about paying young drivers premium, then renting a car in Paris for a week and then driving around France can actually be extremely good value.
- During the off-peak season, car hire in France typically is nothing like as cheap as it is in a country like Spain, although during the summer, prices don’t tend to rise so sharply.
- The real big advantage you can have by hiring a car in Paris for a road trip is that if you are with 2 or 3 other budget travellers, then the cost of the whole trip can be divided between you.
- In almost all cases, the cost of driving is going to be the same whether there is one person in the car or 5, and even if the car will consume a little bit more fuel with more people in it, the cost of car hire and motorway tolls is going to stay the same.
- For a group of people who are considering whether or not it’s worth hiring a car in Paris or whether they can do the same journey by train or bus, then going by car is always going to win over having to pay 3 or 4 public transport fares.
Although we don’t think there’s any point at all in hiring a car in Paris just to drive it to places which you could very easily get to using local buses or trains, the moment you start comparing driving with longer distance train journeys, then in the peak season, the hire car is probably still going to better value, because even though car hire prices go up, train ticket prices can go up even further at this time.
Do I need a car in Paris if I am staying dowtown?
Absolutely not – even if you did manage to run out of things to see in the centre of Paris, if you are staying anywhere in or around the first arrondissement (basically this covers the central area), then you will have easy access not just to the RER but also to all of the different mainline railway stations. The easiest way to go on an excursion out of Paris is by train, but there are also one or 2 places which are easier to access by bus. Venturing out of Paris by train has a huge advantage that even if the trains are busy, they aren’t going to get stuck in traffic. Even if you did want to hire a car, then you are going to have to waste time getting to a car rental office before you can then go anywhere.
If you did still want to rent a car in Paris, then we would suggest either:
- Stay in central Paris for a few days, and then find somewhere on the edge of the city and rent a car for the rest of the time.
- Stay in central Paris for a few days, and then hire a car and go on a road trip visiting places outside Paris.
- Simply rent a car for one day, but instead of using a city centre location, take the RER to somewhere out on the edge of the city and hire a car there.
If you want to consider this the other way round, and you do still want to hire a car for all the time that you are in Paris, then don’t stay in the centre at all. Instead, simply find a hotel that is near a station that’s got a decent fast train link into central Paris, and that also includes free parking. Very few hotels in Paris will include free parking a standard, but the further out you go, the more likely you will either find a hotel that includes free parking, or you will at least be able to find a hotel that charges for parking, but at much more affordable rates.
I usually try to avoid driving if I can – so should I hire a car in Paris?
Absolutely not. You will never run out of options when it comes to seeing places which are either within the city of Paris or within range of an easy to organise day trip. Although we are including quite a lot of advice here about possible road trips that you could take from Paris, or also potential excursions which you could complete within a single day, there really is absolutely no need to hire a car in Paris if you don’t like driving or if you generally find driving inconvenient. Even if you don’t mind driving, there is still no need to rent a car here, but there are still quite a few cases where visitors might feel that it’s worth it hire car in Paris because doing so still provides a little bit more flexibility.
Calling all stations
The only situation where you might find that the public transport in Paris is actually a little bit cumbersome is if you are staying in one part of the city, but you want to make a load of trips to other places which are out of town, and you have to cross the city first to get to the station that you need to continue your journey. Although very few capital cities of the size of Paris have just a single central station, the more typical norm in larger European cities is to least have one station which handles the majority of long-distance trains, and then maybe to have 2 or 3 other smaller stations which are used for local connections.
Paris, together with cities like London and Moscow, is in the unfortunate situation of having multiple rail termini, with each one serving its own respective geographical area. This means that even if you love travelling by train and it’s usually your default option, there are certain journeys which you might want to make from Paris which can actually involve extra layers of connections that you wouldn’t have to make in an equivalent city like Barcelona or Milan, both of which have smaller branch stations, but one main station. If you are staying sufficiently central that you got easy access to all the terminally, then having multiple different stations is really a nonissue, but if you are already finding that the best way to get a decent hotel deal in Paris is to stay far out of town, and you want to spend some time visiting places that are out of town, and in particular if you want to visit various different castles and cathedrals in other places which are an hour or 2 of travel time from central Paris, then then you could actually be in a situation where you might want to rent a car. However, if this does appear to be the case, it’s still very unlikely that it would be worth renting a car in Paris for the whole duration of your stay.
Train enthusiasts really will be spoilt for choice in Paris, and there is absolutely no need to even think about getting a hire car, when the whole rail network is very well integrated. Whilst the Paris Metro is hugely iconic, and the RER is a very efficient way of getting to places which are across town, most significant the most significant feature of interest in the French rail network is of course the TGV high-speed train system.
The chances are that if you are a train enthusiast, then unless you are visiting Paris from much further afield, then you will be arriving here by high-speed train in the first place. The journey between Paris and London by Eurostar takes just over 2 hours, and there are up anything up to 20 trains per day on this route. Yet whether you arrive here by train in the first place or if you fly in from elsewhere, you will probably still want to experience a domestic journey on the TGV.
The natural inclination might be to take the TGV to somewhere that’s fairly close to Paris, and this might include Rouen cathedral or a visit to the Champagne region. However, the further you go by train from Paris, the more you will appreciate the engineering ingenuity that has gone into developing this network. It’s hard to beat the experience of taking the TGV right the way down to the Mediterranean coast in Marseille, or alighting just one or two stops before this to visit Aix en Provence or Avignon.
Train versus plane/driving down to the south of France
In many respects, taking the fast train out of Paris isn’t really an alternative to hiring a car, but instead it actually an alternative to flying somewhere. However, many people like to pick up a rental car in Paris and then typically head south on a road trip that can also take them towards the Mediterranean coast.
We think that many people who are asking whether or not they need to hire a car in Paris might actually be better off by taking the train to a location further south, and then hiring a car once they get there. Allowing the train to cover the lion’s share of the distance down to the south of France could have a number of advantages, mainly based around the time savings. However, venturing south by train could also work out a significantly better value when compared with flying or hiring a car in Paris and then paying for fuel and toll charges.
Train plus car
Another option which could well be worth considering is simply that by taking the train to the south of France, or to any other destination that is some distance from Paris, you can still very easily pick up a rental car when you arrive in your destination. Virtually all major French cities will have car rental offices right inside the station building. This is especially the case if you take the TGV to 1 of the out of town stations, which have often been built with car-rental facilities included in the building, so they function much more like airport. Good examples of this would be the TGV station in Avignon and then also in Aix en Provence.
What about if I love driving?
Yes, if you love driving or if you generally prefer driving over public transport, then you really should hire a car in Paris, but only for all of the time you expect to spend outside the city. Within the centre of Paris, then you really will find no advantage in driving at all, and it’s hardly surprising that we would strongly advise against this. This isn’t just about all of the problems with traffic congestion – Paris is one of Europe’s most heavily congested cities, but you are also going to find a huge problem with trying to find a parking space.
Once you are outside the centre of Paris, then even though there are a number of places which can easily be visited using public transport, if you are the sort of person who generally prefers the flexibility of driving, then this will almost certainly be your best option. Bear in mind that the congestion in Paris is certainly not just restricted to the city centre, and that you can find that many of the busiest trunk roads can move like treacle at various different times of the day.
However, you may well still find that having to drive through thick congestion is still preferable to having to travel on busy trains. There is another reason why you might prefer driving, and that is that if you are staying somewhere that is away from the centre of the city, then trying to reach a range of different castles or cathedral cities or other places of interest by train is going to mean heading right into the centre of Paris and then changing at least once before heading out on the other side. Compared to dealing with those shenanigans, if you’re the sort of person who prefers driving anyway, then driving a little bit random orbital road is going to feel like a lot less of the D tour than having to take train into the centre and then out.
I am mainly interested in architecture and urban/cultural attractions – should I still hire a car in Paris?
Almost certainly not. Even if it should be obvious enough that you really don’t need a car at all in central Paris, once you start looking at different cathedrals and castles and towns and cities of interest that are within range of an easy day trip, then in most cases, you can still get out and back within a day, and you can still see everything you need.
It might be worth renting a car in Paris if you really want to spend time looking at the different châteaux of the Loire Valley, but bearing in mind that each one has a different arrangement for parking, which can be a huge hassle during the busy summer season, in many ways, it’s is just as easy to visit this area by taking an organised bus tour. If you do still want to drive around this part of the world, then you really shouldn’t rent a car in Paris,
because you are going to waste a huge amount of time getting out of the city. Instead, take the fast TGV direct to tours, and then rent a car there.
There are also a number of smaller buildings of exceptional architectural interest which are within the Paris region. The most notable of these would be Le Corbusier villa at wrong strong. There’s still little point in hiring a car to get here – instead, for the sake of going to just one building of note, it would be better to either take an organised tour or to take a train to and then get a taxi.
If you are interested in visiting the works of Le Corbusier, then it’s very easy to get to Villa Savoye by simply taking the RER to Poissy, and then a short bus connection from there.
Although there are some parts of the city which are notably elevated, in particular Montmartre, Paris is generally flat, so the emphasis is always going to be on the buildings rather than the landscape.
There are numerous great parks and landscaped gardens within and around Paris, and this includes not just some of the most famous châteaux like Versailles, Fountainbleau, Vaux-le-Vicomte and Chantilly.
However, the most impressive landscapes that France has to offer really can’t in all honesty anywhere near Paris. In fact, if the singular most iconic image of France is that of the Eiffel Tower, then and a close 2nd is that of any of the climbs in the Tour de France, then it’s worth bearing in mind that France is most spectacular alpine locations are really much closer to Leon, or between Lismore and Geneva, whereas mountain locations in the Pyrenees are generally to be found to the west of Toulouse.
If your main interest in visiting Paris for landscapes is that of manicured gardens, then of course you don’t need to hire a car just to visit these locations. Even if you want to visit some of the châteaux which are in the Paris basin area, or even if you want to visit the castles of the Loire Valley, then this is easy enough to do by train – see above.
We really don’t think it’s worth hiring a car in Paris to go and see alpine landscapes, simply because there are much better places from which to start such a trip. Even if you want to visit the rolling hills of Provence or if you want to
visit some of the alpine locations which are further south, you would just be much better off starting this kind of road trip from Marseille or from Avignon or perhaps from Nice. In all of these cases, your best bet will probably be to take the train down there first, but in some situations you might find it more convenient to fly and then pick up a rental car at the arrival airport.
Three or Four. Generally, we recommend that you should hire a car in Paris based on convenience rather than price, but if you do happen to have an itinerary that is roughly as easy to do by car as it is by public transport, then trains and buses will almost certainly be better value if there are just 2 of you travelling together. If you are able to fill a car, or at least to get 34 of you in a 5 seat car, then at that point, driving is probably going to be better value, but as ever it’s always going to depend on what deals you have at the time, and in particular which season you are travelling in.
If you are trying to decide whether or not it’s worth hiring a car in Paris, and you are comparing price alone, then always remember to include the cost of any motorway tolls, and also to check whether or not the places you are staying will include free parking. For anywhere within the centre of Paris, that they almost certainly won’t, but once you start touring around and staying in smaller towns, then free hotel parking becomes more common – but never assume that it will be included.
Generally, travelling around France is a reasonably civilised affair by international standards, and there is no particular reason to advise against wanting to hire a car in Paris based solely on drivers being above a certain age, as long as you below the maximum stipulated by your hire company.
There is no particular reason to say that you shouldn’t hire a car in Paris because you are an older driver or because any of your group have mobility problems. Needless to say, the same advice still goes in terms of the city centre – you really don’t need a car in Paris, and trying to drive here is almost certainly going to be more trouble than it’s worth.
Generally, France has strong protection for people with mobility difficulties, and even though Paris is a hugely historic city, the buildings and street layouts are generally considerably more accessible than they are in a city like London, which has a more mediaeval form in many places.
Anybody who has a European blue badge parking permit should be able to use it in Paris, although you should still expect to pay for blue badge parking within the city centre, as is the case in other large European cities.
The key question here – can I use a blue badge with a hire car, why not, the registration is required to get the permit, but it’s not particular to the vehicle.
Driving conditions in France generally are quite respectable compared with other European countries, although safety standards aren’t as good as they are in a country like Sweden, and even compared with the United Kingdom, your about 70% more likely to be involved in a fatal crash.
The Paris Metro is generally accessible for people with mobility problems, as is the rest of the French railway network, but you will still have trouble finding decent usable public conveniences in any French city, regardless of whether or not you have a mobility problem.
Needless to say, if you are visiting more historic tourist destinations, and in particular if you are visiting some of the older castles (the real ones, not the fairytale ones), then you can expect to find steep stairs and narrow passageways.
Do I need a rental car if I am flying into Paris airport but staying in another destination outside Paris?
Quite possibly not, especially if you are flying into Charles de Gaulle airport. If you are staying in practically any other French city outside Paris, then there’s a very good chance that you can take advantage of a very fast train link direct from the airport’s high-speed station, which is right in the middle of the terminal too complex.
Just imagine flying into Los Angeles to actually stay in San Francisco – the idea would seem completely daft, when the 2 cities are about 4 to 5 hour drive from each other, even in good traffic. Yet if you flying to Paris with air France are one of the partners, you could transfer directly from the arrivals hall to a city as far away as Lyon or Bordeaux, or even Brussels in Belgium in around 2 hours.
The possibilities for arriving in Paris and then continuing onwards by train really are endless, such that if you are interested in any kind of city break, then you really just don’t need to even consider hiring a car, or at the very least, you can arrive at Charles de Gaulle airport, continue onwards by train, and then consider whether or not you actually need to hire a car for a few days when you get to your destination city. For a few hints here, see our car hire guides 2 cities like Lyon, Avignon, Marseille, Montpellier, Bordeaux or even Geneva, Brussels and Rotterdam.
If you are staying more locally, but still within the Paris region, then you might find that in this situation it is actually still worth hiring a car. Although Charles de Gaulle airport has a very rapid fast train link, this station was really built to allow high-speed rail connections to act as an alternative to short hop domestic flights. The RER link from Charles de Gaulle airport into central Paris is actually much slower, and it’s then slower still if you need to transfer onto another connection to get where you need to go. If you are staying anywhere around the outskirts of Paris, then there’s a good chance that you will get there quicker by car. In terms of whether or not you need to hire a car in Paris to get around for the rest of your stay, then that again is going to depend on which places you want to see. See some of our suggestions above about comparisons between hiring a car and using local public transport for getting around in places outside the centre of Paris, is this really does vary quite a bit from one place to the next – is not quite as simple as saying you need a car in Paris city centre and you don’t outside it.
I’m used to driving automatic cars in the USA/Canada, will I have problems renting a car in Paris?
You certainly won’t have any problem finding a rental car which has automatic transmission, but it might end up costing you more than a car with manual gear control. Sometimes visitors from North America feel that they are being “ripped off” by European car hire companies because they are being made to pay for something that is absolutely standard in the USA and Canada.
This often isn’t the case – it’s simply that the cheapest economy cars will nearly always have manual transmission, whereas in the European market, automatic cars tend to be slightly better equipped models, which aren’t always available at the lowest prices.
However, it still goes without saying that your choice of rental cars is going to be restricted if you can only drive an automatic, but this is going to be much less of a problem if you are hiring from a very large car rental facility like you’ll find at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris or at any of the major rental facilities which are near the major stations in the city centre.
As far as driving conditions are concerned, France has a road safety record which is very similar to that of Canada, and which is generally slightly safer than the USA. Some North American drivers comment that they don’t feel safe driving on European roads because they don’t feel that European drivers are as courteous. Even local French drivers will comment that everyone in Paris tends to be a little bit ruder than they are elsewhere in France, and given that Paris is a huge city of some 10 million people with more than its fair share of congestion, then you really can’t make a fair comparison between suburban mid-west America and hectic downtown Paris.
However, since it’s fairly obvious to state that you really don’t need a car in Paris if you are just spending most of your time in and around the city centre, the chances are that if you do want to rent a car here, you’ll be driving on roads which are much more rural in their nature, and you’ll probably find that conditions really aren’t that different to what you might expect in North America. Most of the terrain around this region is relatively unchallenging, so if you do feel that it’s worth hiring a car in Paris, then you aren’t going to encounter the kind of very narrow winding mountainous roads that you would find if you headed into the Alps or the Pyrenees.
Probably, but this is really going to depend on not so much what you want to see, but how you want to move around between one place and the next. If your idea of touring is to have a central base, but then to go out and back each day to different places, then you will properly find that it’s absolutely fine to do this using public transport, and then to get a hotel somewhere that’s close to the major terminus stations, and in this case you really won’t need a car in Paris at all.
If you have a set of places in mind that are easier accessed by car, but you still want to stay in the same place, then you’d be better off finding a hotel that is on the edge of the city, and then renting a car for some, but not necessarily all of your stay – see our comments on partial rental above.
Touring by train – the French alternative to a “Road trip”
French rail road trip
Even if your aim is to travel around and stay in different places each night, and to cover a much greater area, then there are still a number of touring circuits which you can do by train, and then by using local buses to get to places which are out of town. However, it is worth pointing out that the French rail network really is very centralised around Paris. This is hardly surprising, given that the geography of France has created a situation where a single city is far more important than all of the others, a phenomenon known as primacy. In this respect, France is very similar to the United Kingdom, and you will usually find that railway journeys which are on routes which don’t travel through Paris tend to be a great deal slower than those which do. However, the big exception to this is that because the TGV network includes the interconnection line that bypasses Paris to the east, and because there is also a bypass route that avoids Lyon, you can actually still travel between a number of major French cities at a very fast pace, without actually having to be slowed down by going through Paris.
Another advantage of using the TGV network is that all of the trains are designed so that they can use the conventional tracks as well as the dedicated high-speed ones. This means that you can reach pretty much every corner of France by a high-speed express train, and even if it runs at a slower pace for some of the journey, you still get to use the really fast lines without having to worry about changing. The way the network has been developed, you can also travel around in certain loops by TGV, for example:
- Paris to Lyon to Marseille, potentially continuing onwards to Nice. Then back through Marseille, Montpelier and Carcassonne to Toulouse. From here you can return back to Paris via Bordeaux and Tours.
- Paris to Milan via Nice using the fast TGV, then Milan to Geneva using the Cisalpino Alpine high-speed train, and then back to Paris by TGV.
- Paris to Frankfurt by fast TGV, then German ICE to Amsterdam, and then Thalys TGV from Amsterdam back to Paris. This route would also allow you to call to in cities such as Cologne, Düsseldorf, Rotterdam, Antwerp and Brussels.
- Paris to Dinard via Rennes by TGV, to visit Mont St Michel and Brittany. Use local trains to get to Nantes, and then return to Paris via tours and the Loire Valley.
Touring France by road
If you’ve already got a road trip in mind, then you absolutely should still hire a car in Paris in order to take that trip. You’ll probably already know that car hire in France is generally reasonably good value, and that most of the time, the car hire prices in Paris aren’t that different to what you’d expect to pay elsewhere (see above in terms of hiring at the airport versus other locations).
However, although petrol prices in France are notably lower than they are in countries like the United Kingdom or the Netherlands, you can expect to pay a considerable amount in toll charges if you do most of your driving on the motorway. You can avoid toll charges if you just use national standard roads, and this will be absolutely fine if you are planning on visiting a lot of sites as you travel, but it’s really very tedious if you want to cover long distances.
Just bear in mind that given the size of France, there’s quite a natural tendency here to want to travel around and cover a substantial distance during your holiday. If you want to keep your costs down, it might be better to stick within a certain area, and see a few places in great detail, rather than to try and do a scattergun tour of everything.
The most impressive landscapes in France are all much further south anyway, so rather than suggesting on whether or not you should or shouldn’t hire a car in Paris, there are always going to be quite a few situations where you’d be better off visiting the things you need to see in the city of Paris without a car, and then jumping on a train and then hiring a car somewhere else.
There are endless possibilities for taking a road trip from Paris, and we have included just one sample itinerary of a kind of “greatest hits” highlight for doing a whistle top circuit around France within one week.
If you are thinking of driving within the centre of Paris, then you don’t need to think about the environment to work out that it’s really just a bad idea anyway. Paris is already one of Europe’s most congested cities, and we shouldn’t really need to give any kind of warning that if you choose to drive here you are going to make the congestion worse, because your own self interest in wanting to avoid this should be enough of an incentive to realise that you really don’t need a car in Paris if you are wanting to visit anywhere that is either central or easily reached by train.
Yet all of the advice here is really very much geared up towards places that you might want to visit outside the city, and there are many cases where in terms of your own costs or convenience, hiring a car might be comparable with using public transport. If you then want to make a decision for environmental reasons, then it’s going to be better to use the trains here as much as possible. Public transport isn’t just more efficient at moving people, it’s also much less likely to cause a pollution problem directly in the location you are moving through. When you hire a car, the chances are that it’s still going to be a petrol or diesel model, so that’s can cause localised air pollution wherever it goes. All of the trains which operate in and around Paris will be electrically powered, and even though this is almost certainly going to mean that its nuclear power which is the ultimate source, by using public transport you will be leaving a significantly lighter environmental footprint.
That’s another question – if the trains are nuclear powered or hydro or whatever – but that’s outside the core remit here.
Yes, absolutely! We have looked at a few one-way rental quotes for picking up hire cars in various cities around the world and then returning them elsewhere within the same country. Generally, one-way rental in France works out as a really good value option, with the per mile/kilometre one-way fees here being extremely competitive when compared with any other European country at least. Just bear in mind that if you are planning on a one-way car hire trip from Paris, even though some rental companies will allow you to drop your car off in another country, the cost will shoot up dramatically if you want to do this.
A typical one-way rental trip to consider starting in Paris might be any itinerary which ultimately involves ending up on the Mediterranean coast, perhaps dropping your car off in a city like Marseille or Nice. Alternatively, you might want to work your way through the châteaux of the Loire Valley and then to travel around Brittany before dropping your car off in a city like Nantes or Dinard. If you want to travel around the Champagne region, then you might want to consider dropping your car off in a city like Metz or Strasbourg.
The only thing we would suggest is that before searching for any one-way option, you might also want to consider seeing everything you want to see in Paris, and then taking a trip on the TGV to another friend city and hiring a car there. I know that a lot of visitors who are coming to Paris from further afield, and who are trying to see as much of France as they can in one trip, might well prefer to consider the option of taking the fast train down to the Mediterranean coast, and then getting a rental car at that point.
Taking a trip by train, and then hiring a car in your destination and returning to the same place could have a number of advantages compared to a one-way rental, and these might include:
One-way rental from Paris (Charles de Gaulle airport) to Marseilles versus train from Paris to Marseilles and renting a car on arrival – in both cases, returning the car to Marseilles airport
Based on 4 nights/3 days in Paris and 3 nights/2 days in the south of France
Also considering other places for train and car hire combinations between Paris and Nice, including Lyon.
- Renting a car in central Paris and then driving it elsewhere is going to incur expensive initial car-rental costs, with the potential for a hefty one-way fee on top.
- You might find better value renting a car at the airport, but then you would have to go out to the airport just to pick up the car. If you do need to do this, rent from Orly airport, not Charles de Gaulle if you are heading south.
- If you simply rent a car for a full week, so you have it during your stay in Paris, then this might be useful for visiting some of the châteaux which are outside the city, but for the days you aren’t using it, you’re paying for a car you don’t need and potentially paying for expensive parking on top.
- If you fly down to the south of France, then you can simply pick up a rental car in your arrival airport.
- Although the train really is just as convenient for arriving in Marseille, if you want to go anywhere to the east, then flying probably will be quicker overall. You can fly to Toulon as well as to Nice.
- If you want to take a fast train down to the south of France, then avoid picking up a rental car in Marseille city centre if you can. You’ll probably expect to pay more for the privilege, and it can then be a huge pain driving out of Marseille, a city which is actually even more congested than Paris.
- The easiest train plus drive options are out-of-town stations like Valence, Avignon TGV and Aix en Provence.
- The prices for station car hire can vary quite dramatically, so don’t you shop around between providers, shop around between locations as well.
- Check carefully which combination of train ticket and car hire is going to work best. You might find a cheaper car hire location a little bit further up the track, but just remember that a 20 minute journey on a train that cruises at 300 km/h could take an hour on regular 100 km/h roads.
- Always double-check which car-rental companies are actually represented directly in any station locations – having to transfer between an out-of-town TGV station and the city centre can actually be almost as much hassle as transferring between an airport and the city centre.
- However, it’s always worth comparing city centre/station, TGV station and airport prices – if it’s a lot cheaper to rent from an airport like in Marseille, then budget to take a transfer to do this.
- One particularly useful option is that if you find that there is a huge saving in picking up a rental car in Marseille airport as opposed to a city centre location in Marseille, then don’t worry about having to travel from Paris into the centre of Marseille and then back out again. Instead, you can make a very easy transfer between Aix en Provence TGV station and Marseille airport. Regular shuttle buses are available, but even if you can’t make an easy connection by bus, it’s still only around 10 km by taxi.
- If you do choose to cover some of the longer distances by train, instead of in a hire car, then you properly find you will arrive a lot more refreshed and you will after having spent many hours on the French motorways!
- Travelling between major French cities by TGV really should be part of the experience for any visitor to France. There’s nothing particularly special about driving long distances on the French motorways, but if you wait until you get to the south of France to hire a car, then you really will fully appreciate some of the most amazing driving roads that you’ll find anywhere in Europe, if not the world!
Note that if you are more interested in French Alpine driving roads then you are in places which are further south, then your best option might well be to take the train to Lyon, rather than summer such as Marseille. You could also look at taking the train to a city like Grenoble or Chambery, which are even closer to the French Alps, whereas some people also prefer to take a train to Geneva instead and then hire a car there. However, hiring a car and then driving it in Switzerland adds another layer of complication – see our driving diver Switzerland before doing this. If you prefer, you can still hire a car in Geneva and stay entirely within France, to avoid any international driving complications.
If you do choose to take the train to Lyon and then hire a car there, then make sure that you hire a car at the airport, and not the city centre. If you want to see some of the city, then you can always get a hotel at the airport if you prefer for a couple of nights, or simply stay in the city centre and then take the airport express train. However, if you simply want to head straight into the Alps, then taking the TGV direct to Lyon airport is going to be by far your fastest way of doing this, because you’ll be using high-speed trains all the way.
Taking the TGV train to Lyon airport comes with a nice little bonus for anybody with an interest in architecture and engineering. You’ll be arriving into one of the most imaginatively designed stations in Europe, and on top of this, it’s made all the more interesting by the fact that you wouldn’t normally expect to find something as utilitarian as an airport station to be so worthy of note. Yet this is France, and this isn’t just any old airport tram stop – this station, designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, that was built to bring the TGV network right through the heart of the airport. Of course, it’s massive overkill – very few people transfer from flights onto high-speed trains at Lyon airport, simply because it’s much easier to do this through Paris, but it’s really not a bad place at all to transfer from a high-speed train into a rental car, so if you do go this way, I hope you enjoy it!
Probably not, although this could be an option if you want to drive along the Loire Valley, visit some of the château, and then perhaps continue westward into Brittany. However, if you do hire a motorhome in Paris, then be prepared to pay for some hefty motorway tolls.
You may well find that you be much better off doing a trip like this further south in France, where there is a greater wealth of scenic landscapes to see, and where there are a lot more camping facilities which are really geared up towards a road trip in a motorhome or similar vehicle.
Where should I hire a car in Paris?
If you do feel that it’s worth renting a car in Paris, then it’s worth bearing in mind that there is just as much variation in prices between different places within the city as there is between different rental companies operating in the same location.
The possibility of jumping on a train so that you can get out of Paris quickly, and so that you can also potentially access a cheaper car hire location, adds further to the complexity of making the best choice.
Why it’s really worth literally shopping around the car-rental locations in Paris
Although car hire companies are always keen to compete with each other, they can only do so within the limitations of the amount of space they have to store and prepare cars for rental to potential customers. As a general rule, you can usually expect to pay more for car hire in European city centres than you will at airport locations. This is because it’s much more expensive to run a car rental facility in a central location than it is out at an airport, whether a lot more land is available.
However, in Paris things get a little bit more interesting when you start finding that if city centre locations are more expensive, but the airport is too far out of the way, then you might also want to try:
- Renting from a suburban location in Paris, especially one which has good connections on the RER network. Popular choices include renting from La Defense for fast motorway access towards the west, Versailles in the south-west or the RER and TGV interchange at Massy.
- Renting from another city which is closer to the places that you actually want to visit, and which can easily be reached by fast TGV link. This might include picking up a rental car in Tours for the châteaux of the Loire Valley, or using the Champagne Ardennes TGV station just to the south of Reims.
Do i need a car to get out of Paris?
We are assuming that by this stage you’ve definitely decided that you are up for renting a car, but that you are wanting to visit places which are well outside the Paris urban area, so why endure the hassle of driving through Paris congestion if you don’t need to anyway?
Is it worth taking the train first?
A key consideration for any kind a comparison between using whichever car-rental facility is nearest to where you are staying, and heading out of Paris by train first, is whether or not the train fare is going to justify any saving you might get from the car hire cost.
This is largely going to depend on how many of you are travelling together as a group. If there’s just 2 of you, then travelling a lot further by train will make a lot of sense, whereas if you are a family of 4 who are going to fill an economy car, then it’s unlikely that you’ll save any money by taking the train somewhere first, unless you already have a travel pass which will at least take you to the edge of the RER network.
What about Suburban hotels?
Another option to consider before lining up any car hire options would be to apply the same logic to finding a suburban hotel which is near both the motorway network and a decent value car hire location.
It’s almost a given that you’ll have reasonably fast access to central Paris, but if you can find a hotel that is near an RER station, rather than just a metro station, then you will be able to have easy access to the city centre for as long as you need it, and then you can enjoy the benefits of having a rental car for the rest of your stay.
Where should you rent a car in Paris – locations table
The following table compared the prices for hiring a car for one day and for one week at each location. This research was done in mid October 2017 for Paris car-rentals starting on 15 November, so this comparison is a relatively late booking at a quieter time of the year. These prices should be fairly typical. See our notes above about how Paris car-rental prices fluctuate during the year.
- Paris Gare du Nord
- Paris La Defense
- Tours (City)
- Paris Gare Du Lyon
- Tours (St Pierre des Corps)
- Massy RER/TGV
- Melun (town)
- Disneyland Paris Marne La Vallée
Note that a search was also done for hire cars at Champagne Ardennes station, but there was no availability for the selected dates.
Why should you hire a car from Paris city centre?
The main advantage in hiring a car from any of the large stations in Paris is that they are generally extremely convenient locations to start from, especially if you have a lot of luggage. However, you will often pay a lot more to rent from these places, especially if you only want a car for the day.
Note that some of these locations are directly within the station complex. For example at Gare du Nord, there is a facility directly opposite the platforms. In other cases, the rental office will be nearby and within an easy short walk. Note that there are many locations around Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est, as these stations are within walking distance from each other.
Why rent a car from suburban locations?
It might be worth hiring a car from one of the following suburban locations in Paris:
- La Defense is a good hybrid between being a location is very central, but also one that has very easy access to the motorway network, even if it’s still very congested around here at peak times. Just make sure that if you do venture out here to rent a car, you allow bit of time to appreciate some of the dramatic architecture that is in this very modern skyscraper district.
- Melun is the closest town to the château at Vaux-le-Vicomte, which is one of the more awkward places to get to without a car.
- Disneyland Paris – whether you want to visit Disneyland Paris or not, this is an area with a huge number of hotels and quite a wide choice of car hire providers.
However, we’ve tended to find that is not always the best value. If you are already in this area, you might be better off continuing up to Charles de Gaulle airport to get a better deal – but this needs planning, as the fastest way to get between these locations is by TGV, and this needs booking.
- Massy – there is no particular reason to head out here, other than that it can sometimes be a good value place to hire a car, especially if you just want to do a one day driving circuit and then drop it back off without having to worry about parking.
- Versailles should be on anyone’s Paris itinerary regardless, but since it’s also well situated for the motorway network and it’s right at the end of the RER line C, it’s also a good place to rent a car. It’s even better if you can combine your car rental pick up with visiting the Palace of Versailles. See our notes on Versailles car hire and station locations below.
Is it worth renting a car from Versailles?
One way to order your visit to Paris would be to visit the city centre first, then La Defense, then head over by train to Versailles, before picking up a rental car here and continuing onwards, perhaps towards the chateaux of the Loire.
Note that there are three key stations in Versailles:
- Versailles Rive Gauche (Left Bank) is the main station serving the palace itself, and it is the end of one branch of RER line C. The entrance to Versailles Palace is about 500m to the north west of this station.
- Versailles Chantiers (literally just “Building”) is around 600m to the south east of Rive Gauche.
- Versailles Rive Droite (Right Bank) is served by local suburban trains (Translinien), which operate from St Lazare station via La Defense.
Most of the Versailles car rental locations are between Rive Gauche and Chantiers stations. Ideally, Rive Gauche is your best bet for the palace, and Chantiers is best for car rental.
Don’t try to use public transport to go between any of these points – it’s close enough to walk, but it’s also just far enough to be a nuisance if you don’t end up where you expect!
Should you rent a car from Paris airports – even if you aren’t flying in there?
Charles de Gaulle is by far the largest airport in France, and since it’s also the one which handles the vast majority of international flights, it’s also the place where there is the biggest demand for car hire.
Expect car-rental prices here to be very competitive with any other location, although it still might not be best value overall, since you’ll have to pay a supplement to get here by train in the first place if you are coming back out here from the city centre.
Orly airport mainly handles domestic flights from within France, but there is still substantial demand for car hire here. Even if you might have arrived in France via Charles de Gaulle airport it will probably be much easier to go out to Orly to find a hire car than it will to trundle back to Charles de Gaulle.
Since Orly isn’t at the end of the RER line, it’s also usually a bit cheaper to get here from within Paris, but check the validity of your local pass, as some include the transfers to Orly and some don’t.
Regardless of which airport is more convenient, there’s no point in renting from one place and returning to the other to catch your flight, just to save a few euros and a few minutes on the train ride, since you’ll probably get hit much harder for a one way rental fee!
Beauvais – there’s really little point in venturing all the way out here just to rent a car, since you’ll often pay more than you will in Charles de Gaulle or Orly. Since Beauvais only handles a few low-cost flights, they just isn’t the same amount of choice. However, if you are flying in here in the first place, then you may well feel that you really need to rent a car in Paris Beauvais anyway, because it’s so much further away from everything else!
Is it worth hiring a car in another city altogether?
Many people who visit Paris then continue on somewhere entirely different for the rest of the holiday/vacation, and a popular combination is to have a week in Paris and then a week somewhere on the Mediterranean coast.
That’s something we have covered in our car hire guides for cities such as Perpignan, Montpelier, Marseille and Nice.
However, there are a number of locations which are quite close to Paris, and which make very good alternatives to renting a car either in central Paris or in one of the main Paris airports:
For example –
- Reims/Champagne Ardennes TGV – this option is ideal for the Champagne region, and you can get to the champagne Ardennes TGV station in as little as 40 minutes. This is also a better option if you simply want to head out onto the open roads, but you can also take the TGV to the main station in Reims, and then hire a car there.
- Tours – this is an ideal place for visiting the châteaux of the Loire Valley by car, since you can get here in just under one hour from Paris, saving you are potentially hellish 2 to 3 hour road journey. You should also hire a car in Tours if you want to consider heading west towards Brittany or Normandy, although you could also take the TGV to Le Mans or Rennes.
Just bear in mind that most of the TGV services won’t actually go directly into the centre of Tours, but instead they use a suburban station at St Pierre des Corps. This is also where you will find the majority of car rental locations anyway. Always make sure you are actually renting from the city, and that you are not having to go out to the airport, which adds unnecessary hassle.
Paris car hire – why get one?
Should you rent a car in Paris? Conclusion — When should I rent a car in Paris? nA Paris hire car is certainly useful if you are planning a longer stay, or venturing out well beyond the reaches of Paris and her environs. However, needless to say, Paris also has so much to offer within the city itself, and also within range of easy day trips by train, that it is difficult to recommend getting a hire car for most visits.
Verdict — no.
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