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Car rental logistics in Provence

Okinawa, Japan
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Car rental logistics in Provence

Hello -

My husband and I are spending 4 days and 3 nights in Provence this March, after taking the TGV down from Paris. We will spend one of those nights in Gordes, then the rest based in Aix. We would like to visit Marseille, Arles, and perhaps one other village while we are there, time permitting. The consensus seems to be we will need to rent a car, rather than rely on trains.

a) Would you agree that is the case? We have always heard how well-connected things are in Europe by rail, but I understand Provence is less urban.

b) Is it possible to rent a car in one town (i.e., Avignon) and return it in another (Aix?) Or does that cost beaucoup more bucks?

c) Is there a recommended medium through which to rent a car?? Kayak? Or should we do it through a French site?

d) Is it best to rent ahead of time (online) or in-person once we arrive?

Thank you so much for your help! We are traveling London and Paris in the week prior, but I feel like I am totally screwing up Provence :)

Nikki

provence
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for Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur
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1. Re: Car rental logistics in Provence

To see the area you really do need a car. Yes major towns and cities are well connected by public transport but the smaller towns and villages do not always have convenient services.

I would always hire in advance as turning up on spec is time consuming, you will not get the best rates and probably not the type of car you want.

Yes you can hire in one town and return to another but it is going to cost you.

We now always hire through Hertz. On the only occassion we used a consolidator we turned up to find there was no car ready for us and after much time a car that looked as if it had been driven by wild animals in a demolition derby was provided.

Los Angeles...
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2. Re: Car rental logistics in Provence

Not to knock it, but is there a particular reason that you have Marseille on your list?

Brea, Ca.
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3. Re: Car rental logistics in Provence

Renting in Avignon and returning in Aix should not incur any drop-off charges--not in our many experiences. We use Autoeurope for rentals, its a broker and will connect you to local agencies in Avignon. Autoeurope has a very good reputation with travelers.

I would think you could tailor some of your explorations for your transit days--Avignon to Pont du Gard for example and then on to Gordes. Also a stop in Arles on your way from Gordes to Aix. Keep your luggage hidden and out of sight. Its a pity you only have one night in Gordes as that is a very rich area for exploring--the bories, Roussillon, Bonnieux, Abbeye Senanque etc. I like Marseille but also question its priority in your plan.

Enjoy!

Okinawa, Japan
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4. Re: Car rental logistics in Provence

PWMW - only considering Marseille for the Calanques! I thought a cruise from Marseille to Cassis may be a fun way to see those. What do you think? I have heard the city of Marseille itself is not worth it.

Paris, France
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5. Re: Car rental logistics in Provence

I don´t know of any reliable way to reach Gordes unless you have a car. I would contact Autoeurope for a quote:

www.autoeurope.com

If you need a car with automatic transmission, there is a premium on the rental fee and they are difficult to find unless you pick one up at an airport or larger city. You will most likely incur a one way drop off fee if you rent from Hertz or Avis. There are taxes and fees that you may incur which are not part of the Auto Europe quotes but the base rates are about as cheap as you can find, you deal with someone in the USA, and there is never a mileage charge.

Los Angeles...
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6. Re: Car rental logistics in Provence

Cassis/Calanques would be good IF time and weather in March allow--and you may need to pose that as a separate question so the local Destination Experts can advise you about schedules in March.

Okinawa, Japan
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7. Re: Car rental logistics in Provence

Greatsantini - Thank you for your advice! My main issue is I have no concept of how much time it takes to explore the smaller villages, like Gordes and Bonnieux. I am only considering Marseille because I hear the Calanques are worth a visit. Another poster advised looking into that further, however, since schedules may be different in March - not to mention weather may keep it from being truly enjoyable.

Can you tell me if this sounds crazy?

Monday AM: arrive in Avignon from Paris via TGV. Rent a car and drive to Gordes. Explore rest of Monday, spend the night, explore most of the next day as well (and/or hit up Bonnieux?) I do not plan on spending time in Avignon (would rather see the small villages.)

Tuesday PM: Drive to Aix and check-in. Get acclimated.

Wednesday AM: Consider drive (or train) to Marseille for Calanques tour (weather/schedule permitting.)

Wednesday PM: Explore Aix (or another nearby town?)

Thursday AM: Drive (or train) to Arles (I hear the best Roman ruins are there)

Thursday PM: Return rental car in Aix, then TGV back to Paris to fly home the next morning.

OR drive back to Avignon to return car there (if that is cheaper - sounds like it won't be an issue though with AutoEurope!) and TGV to Paris from there. Aix and Avignon are about an hour apart, correct?

I am looking at the Eurail site/passes now. We would definitely rent the car to get to Gordes. For bigger spots like Arles and Marseille, is driving still the way to go? How is parking?

Sorry for all the questions! I am trying to make the most of my brief trip by balancing the authentic Luberon villages, the pristine bigger towns like Aix, the ancient Roman ruins, and perhaps see the Coast. I don't want to squeeze too much in though, especially after fast-paced, museum-heavy days in London and Paris. I'd like Provence to be about wine, food, beauty and wanderlust :) Not too much time in cars or trains.

Okinawa, Japan
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8. Re: Car rental logistics in Provence

Thank you to everyone for your insights!! This is so incredibly helpful to a novice European traveler like myself :)

Paris, France
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9. Re: Car rental logistics in Provence

It makes no sense to backtrack to Arles from Aix. I'd pick one base and stay there for the short time that you have. My favorite Roman ruins were at Glanum, outside of St. Remy.

Los Angeles...
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10. Re: Car rental logistics in Provence

Nikki, call www.autoeurope.com Do not just surf the website. Speak with an agent. If Drew is there, speak with Drew. He is very helpful. Also ask re Kemwel rate. This is the sister company but rates do vary. If AutoEurope will place you with Hertz, there will be a one-way drop off fee, but it is not significant. We paid 40 Euro last summer for picking up in Nice and dropping off in Strasbourgh [pardon my murderous spelling].

Pick up you rental at Avignon train station and off to Gordes. Why are you spending only one night in the west and three in Aix? If you have no reason other then you think it will work, i.e., no family event, business commitment, then here is what I would do. Again, bear in mind this would be my plan and it does not need to be yours.

* Spend two nights in Gordes and explore Western Provence

* On your way East, stop in Cassis and take the boat trip of the Calanques, which is lovely, but I am not sure how lovely in March

* If weather does not look promising, then drive from your base East to Aix, park the car, walk around, have lunch. Get back into the car and drive to Nice. Return the car and spend the remaining two nights in Nice.

Fly back home form Nice. I should probably ask whether you already reserved your air and can you fly home from Nice?

* You can also base in Gordes for the entire four nights and do day trips in different direction every day. This is a good option, IMO.

* If you must fly out of Paris, then you have other concerns. What time is your flight back home? Unless it is later in the afternoon, you would almost have to spend the last night in Paris to make your flight. Bummer, sort of.

* You may also arrive in Paris and take the TGV South immediately. Stay in Paris at the tail end and then home, which is what we normally do, since we can shop for all kinds of goodies in Paris just prior to departure. At least you will not be "wasting" the last night of your trip at an airport hotel.

I hope I have not confused you further. Just some options and thoughts for you.

Edited: 23 January 2014, 20:56