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Preferred rail service in France . . .

robav8r

D-FENS
None
Contributor
Heading to France in early April and will be finally realizing a huge bucket list item and visiting the beaches of Normandy. Plan on flying to into Charles de Gaul and taking the train to Caen, Bordeaux and Champagne. There seems to be LOTS of train options available, anyone have any gouge or recommendations on which service to use? Thanks in advance . . . . . .
 

Scimitarze

Automated Member
I'd use GoEuro or its app. It was invaluable when I was working in Berlin to get around to other cities. If you land in CDG, I'll imagine you'll be be on the TGV or Intercités (all SNCF) to Caen. Usually the latter is cheaper but not always.

Also, if you have time to go south, I'd HIGHLY recommend Lyon, the local food is amazing and it's like a smaller, cleaner Paris with less filth and nicer locals.
 
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HokiePilot

Well-Known Member
pilot
Contributor
Trains in France are all run by SNCF. You can buy tickets through them. You can also get a one country (or more) rail pass valid for a few days. It is cheaper to buy it at home is the States.

How many people are you traveling with, there is a good chance it will be cheaper to rent a car assuming you can drive stick. That's what I did. I had driven stick a few times in the past, but was not great. My goal was to get out of the rental car lot without stalling. I failed. When you get to Normandy you may prefer the flexibility of your own car as opposed to hiring a guide or joining a tour.
 

Pags

Pope of Chili Town
pilot
Normandy beaches are pretty out there in the country. I'll second the car rental. I went to Normandy and some WWI sites last summer and we rented a car. Was automatic and was well worth it when trying to get to some of the more isolated sites. Id also recommend a tour; we did one in Ypres and it was worth it. I wish I had set one up for at least one day of Normandy.
 

robav8r

D-FENS
None
Contributor
Normandy beaches are pretty out there in the country. I'll second the car rental. I went to Normandy and some WWI sites last summer and we rented a car. Was automatic and was well worth it when trying to get to some of the more isolated sites. Id also recommend a tour; we did one in Ypres and it was worth it. I wish I had set one up for at least one day of Normandy.
Is renting a car in Caen a good option, or should I consider renting in Paris at the airport?
 

Pags

Pope of Chili Town
pilot
Is renting a car in Caen a good option, or should I consider renting in Paris at the airport?
I couldn't say. We flew in to AMS and rented from there. Comms may be easier at CDG; in general the Normandy locals didn't speak fluent English. My father in law had to make use of rusty french-canadian while I tried my best and gestured a lot. My brother in law just let the rest of us try and do the talking.
 

Brett327

Well-Known Member
None
Super Moderator
Contributor
Normandy beaches are pretty out there in the country. I'll second the car rental. I went to Normandy and some WWI sites last summer and we rented a car. Was automatic and was well worth it when trying to get to some of the more isolated sites. Id also recommend a tour; we did one in Ypres and it was worth it. I wish I had set one up for at least one day of Normandy.
Concur. Trains are great for getting to a destination, but not for sightseeing. I always rent a car. Signage is really good in France, making navigating relatively easy. Consider your options for data service if you have a GSM capable phone.
 

Pags

Pope of Chili Town
pilot
Concur. Trains are great for getting to a destination, but not for sightseeing. I always rent a car. Signage is really good in France, making navigating relatively easy. Consider your options for data service if you have a GSM capable phone.
Signage may be good but the payage is a pain. Concur on having a data option for Google maps. The french road system has a lot roundabouts and road/route# changes. We took one road from AMS to the french border and then about 10 different roads to get to Cabourg.
 

Scimitarze

Automated Member
Is renting a car in Caen a good option, or should I consider renting in Paris at the airport?
I don't have any personal experience with rental cars, but the euros I talked to liked to take a train to a larger town and then rent there for a day or two for the small spots.
 

Sonog

Well-Known Member
pilot
I rented from CDG. The drive from there to Caen was very pleasant and Caen was a relatively car friendly town. I remember the train options not being that great.
 

SynixMan

Staff Life
pilot
Contributor
Are you taking a guided Normandy tour? I’ve heard great things about Pegasus Tours from a friend, they’re on my list if and when I get to Europe.
 

Maxillarious

Registered User
pilot
Signage may be good but the payage is a pain. Concur on having a data option for Google maps. The french road system has a lot roundabouts and road/route# changes. We took one road from AMS to the french border and then about 10 different roads to get to Cabourg.
One option you might want to look into is dowloading a map of the area you need ahead of time so it's available offline and then disabling roaming data useage on your phone...GPS will still work
 

PEPfromage

Nursing the gout.
pilot
I agree with @Brett327 and a few others above. If your current phone is compatible with a GSM sim card, I would pick up a "carte sim prepayee" for $20ish at a wireless provider like SFR (https://www.sfr.fr/telephonie-mobile/sfr-la-carte.html#) or Free (http://mobile.free.fr/) after you arrive and can visit a store in town someplace. Then you can have waze which works fine in France, albeit with overly ambitious ETAs.

I think renting a car once you get there is a a good call, so long as you aren't staying overnight in a big city like Paris with it. Trains are generally excellent in France, and SNCF has a decent English user interface via the sncf app, or the oui sncf app. I would recommend the SNCF high speed train (TGV) for a trip to Lyon or anywhere further away. I think the SW of the country, the mountains, and the Normande/Bretagne area are all a little more fun with a car though. Hertz was always good to me there, and if you use that amex platinum many folks have, you can safely decline most if not all supplemental insurances. Most big city train stations have car rentals right there in the station.

I found Pointe de hoc, the airborne museum at sainte-mere-eglise, and the American cemetery to all be especially moving. I ate a piece of sole meuniere in Bayeux for dinner at a place called La Rapiere (stop it), washed it down with a local cider, and experienced something called the normand hole (stop it), all of which were splendid. If you have time and want to see le mont saint michel, that is another couple of hours SW, but very impressive. I would stay in Saint Malo for that, eat copious crepes, and read "All the light we cannot see," beforehand to set the scene for the whole trip. Have an excellent trip!
 
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