Where and What to Hire
There are many car hire options in Paris both at the airport and in the city centre. At Charles de Gaulle Airport there are major international car rental companies including Hertz, Europecar and Budget to choose from. Sixt, Hertz, Thrifty, Avis, Europecar and Enterprise all have branches in Montmartre. Avis and Thrifty are also located close to Gare de l’est, and Gare de Lyon along with Europecar and Enterprise. Elite, Avis, Europecar and Enterprise also have branches in the 20th Arrondissement. Every kind of vehicle is available for hire from luxury cars and limousines to scooters, motorbikes, two-door and four-door vehicles and large family people carriers.
Driving in Paris is not for everyone and it certainly is not for the feint hearted. Navigating the Etoile on the Champs-Elysees has to be one of the most nerve-wracking experiences one can ever have! It has been known for drivers to abandon their vehicles in the middle of this car scrum. Paris rush hour is largely between 7.30am and 9am and 5.30pm to 7.30pm during the week. On Friday’s from 4pm, weekend visitors from the outskirts begin to arrive, clogging the roads further. Due to increasingly high levels of traffic pollution, France has implemented a law in order to combat this. On heavily polluted days, cars have to drive on alternate days depending on the ending of their number plate. Public transport is free on these days, while a number of French people use bicycles. Driving in Paris means not only dealing with irate and ‘devil-may-care’ drivers and hundreds of scooters, but navigating medieval lanes and roundabouts with no markings. Just be sure to give way to traffic on the right.
Parking in Paris is as much fun as driving. In the city centre it is strictly regulated, permitted only in spaces marked by white lines. Parking is limited to up to 2 hours and must be paid for using the machines located on the pavements. Parking is usually free at weekends and after 7pm for the month of August. Parking charges for on-street parking are between 1 to 3.60 Euros per hour. Note that parking meters do not accept coins but must be paid using a ‘Paris Carte’ which can be bought in tobacconists. There are also car parks in the city with rates from 2.50 to 4 Euro per hour.
Where to Go and What to See
While having a car in Paris is not necessary it is great for exploring the surrounding area. Grown up’s must make the 50 minutes drive to the Chateau de Versailles to see this symbol of the ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV and later home of Marie Antoinette. It has one of the most opulent interiors in the world! The hall of mirrors is simply breath-taking. Alternatively, art lovers can visit Monet’s Gardens at Giverny, just over an hour away from Paris by car. This beautiful floral paradise was immortalised on canvas by the great painter and is wonderful to see in the flesh. Walking hand in hand over the famous water lily bridge is one of the most romantic experiences you can have. For anyone visiting Paris with children, there is surely only one place that will satisfy their love of fun; Disneyland Paris. Just 40 minutes east of the city centre, the spectacular resort with its rides, golf courses, castles and Disney characters will provide all the magic required for a great family weekend. Perhaps after this, adults can enjoy a little wine tasting in the beautiful Loire Valley, which is a 4 hours drive south of Paris.