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France, Spain, Portugal self drive

Sydney, Australia
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France, Spain, Portugal self drive


Looks like many here know France and surrounds and we would love some advice.

Our family of two young children (3&4) and four adults ( including grandparent) from Australia are planning a road trip to Portugal from Paris mid June 2014.

We will hire a car/van 7-9 seatter ( any suggestion on deals for this would also be appreciated) and purchase child seats in Paris and then will make our way to Portugal. At this stage we plan to drop off car in Lisbon and fly back to Paris for our return flights home. We have a 7 week holiday, however plan to spend a vast majority of this time in Portugal where we have much family and friends. We may also spend a couple of days in Paris acclimatising upon arrival and enjoying what it has to offer.

What do we like?

- Great food

- Wine

- Accomodation that is clean, comfy, and enjoyable

- Quaint little places off beaten track

- Art

- Historic Buildings / Museums - would like to see some key places

-pilgrimage or place of religious significance

We don't speak French.

We do speak Portuguese and some Spanish

Would love to hear your thoughts!


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1. Re: France, Spain, Portugal self drive

I think you need to look very carefully at your plans to hire a car. There's a very hefty fee applied for hiring a car in one country and dropping it off in another; usually in the hundreds of Euros. If you're used to driving an automatic, you won't find one in Europe. Just about everything is manual. You're driving on the opposite side of the road compared to Australia: this requires constant diligence as well as all the controls, gearstick, indicators etc. being opposite to what you're used to. And luggage for a family of 6?

You need to look at these and any other issues you can think of and get some indicative costings. Train within France and Spain may be a viable alternative for you, although this does present problems getting into Portugal. Perhaps hire a car for local trips as needed and rely on the excellent public transport services for the rest. Or look at low cost flights from Paris to Lisbon.

Paris, France
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2. Re: France, Spain, Portugal self drive

Why wouldn't you just fly home from Portugal? It makes no sense to haul everyone back to Paris for a flight back when you can just fly open-jaws into Paris and home from Lisbon. When you search for tickets online you can use the multi-city option. The price should be about the same as a RT to Paris.

I agree with comments above too about the issues you may encounter renting a vehicle. Add to this the high price of fuel and tolls.

Le Bugue, France
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3. Re: France, Spain, Portugal self drive

Yup. Renting a car in France and dropping off in Portugal will cost you loads. A 7- to 9-seater van will also be a hindrance in those "quaint little places off the beaten track." And yes, it makes no sense to drag back to Paris when you could fly out of Portugal for about the same price.

You'll need an IDP for driving in France. Make sure you know the driving rules of Spain as well, regarding road safety kits, extra glasses if you wear prescription lenses, and such).

For art, historic places, museums, and religious sites - guidebooks.

For accommodation, you need to state a budget, in euros.

Sydney, Australia
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4. Re: France, Spain, Portugal self drive

I agree that you could/should consider the train in Spain. The distances are quite long and often consist of olive trees as far as the eye can see with an occasional village. The trains are very fast and efficient.

We have happily driven France a number of times and trained and driven in Spain. Much depends on where you are going. Last trip in Spain we drove Madrid through Toledo, Segovia, Salamanca and Santiago de Compostela, then flew back to Madrid, then trained down to Cadiz, Seville, Malaga. On the first trip we flew into Barcelona, then train to Valencia, car to Granada, bus to Seville, train to Cordoba and then train to Madrid. Choice of transport depended on circumstances such as no direct train Valencia to Granada.

Portugal so far for us has only been Lisbon.

Have a look at our website for maps and pictures of the trips to get an idea. Hotels are also listed.


As to drop off fees for cars, do a dummy booking and see what the drop off costs would be compared to re-hiring in Spain or Portugal. France is one of the cheaper countries in which to hire a car and certainly one previous poster found it cheaper to hire in France and drop off in Italy than to rehire in Italy.

Emirates flies direct to and from Lisbon. You could fly Sydney>Dubai>Paris then Lisbon>Dubai>Sydney a "multi city booking" at no additional charge compared with in and out of Paris. I suspect the Emirates/Qantas liaison would be the only way to do this out of Australia.

Sydney, Australia
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5. Re: France, Spain, Portugal self drive

Thanks for input. I'll try answer some of the questions.

Flights to Paris are a great price at moment. I would also like to see Southern France, Spain and Portugal. Multi city flights are much more expensive so this is by far the best option - Paris return particularly this time of year. We would have hired a car regardless of destination, so makes sense to do this in France.pick up /drop off alternate country fee adds 300aud which is reasonable from my research. This is also comparable total price to cars hired in Portugal for same duration from what I can see. Would welcome research which identifies the contrary as I may consider alternate plans.

The costs regarding fuel and tolls are unavoidable, however I assume there are costs that are likely to be similar doing it any other way I.e. Train or flights and occasional car hire. Etc.

We will have to forfeit towns that are difficult for this type of vehicle (I.e 9 seatter van), however I assume we gain opportunities where we might have otherwise missed without a car. I understand that driving may be challenging,however I'm sure I won't be the first to have done this. I have been to Europe before just not this part

Would love to hear from people who have done something similar or can offer key destination inexpensive or at least worthwhile for its money places to stay that are family friendly and any recommended must do's etc

I welcome hearing why this might be completely crazy so that I can trouble shoot things in advance or desist if we come across anything insurmountable etc.

Thanks again guys for all of your help and feedback

Sydney, Australia
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6. Re: France, Spain, Portugal self drive

Trains can be very cheap if booked far enough in advance, but with 6 people that advantage may disappear. I don't know where you want in Spain and it is a big place and the train can get you there faster, that is for sure. They go about 230kph.

This could be possible, though it leaves out Madrid and the three grand museums of art there, but includes Barcelona with the Gaudi architecture, Valencia with the most amazing Alcatrava architecture and of course Granada which is extraordinary, majestic, beautiful. Great shoe shopping in Seville.


I would take the train Paris to Avignon via the TGV and plan to pick up your hire car at the Avignon TGV train station. Then you can drive across the bottom of France. See our trips for ideas. We had some relatively inexpensive hotels though you will need two or three rooms each night, which adds up.

As a rough guide, our touring holidays usually cost us $500aud/day for a couple, all inclusive of airfares, car hire, accommodation, food, drink. Be prepared to spend up big.

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7. Re: France, Spain, Portugal self drive

I have not done your trip but we have taken our own car from the UK by ferry to northern Spain, travelled through Spain into Portugal, back into Spain for a 3 week stop,, then north through France and back to the UK by ferry. All done in 7+ weeks in our right hand drive car on the right side of the road - except of course in the UK where we drive on the left.

Our American relatives joined us for our "Fixed" stay in southern Spain and had no trouble pre-booking an automatic hire car at Madrid. Most firms offer these and a range of larger vehicles to accommodate larger families and groups. Advance booking is essential though, (We did the trip in a our own 6 seater Renault Saffrane with 4 adult) passengers and did encounter a few narrow shaves in very narrow village streets)

Other overseas relatives and friends making long European trips have used autoeurope.com and taken advantage of the Peugeot "buy-back" lease cars they offer, usually collecting at the airport in Paris.

It can be done! -

I would recommend viamichelin.com for route planning, driving times, places of interest en route, hotels etc.

8. Re: France, Spain, Portugal self drive

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