Car Rental in Paris, France
The cosmopolitan city of Paris is host to diverse culture, great food, and romantic atmosphere. In fact, with 14.8 million international visitors in 2009, the city makes for one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, especially with so many things to do in Paris. With that sort of volume, the roads of Paris are always busy. If you're considering a car rental in Paris, France, it's important to know the facts.
It's true that for many people visiting foreign cities, the best way to do it is with a car rental. Paris, though, is a little different. The city isn't particularly car friendly, and the local drivers can be quite aggressive on the roads. Factor in limited parking space throughout much of the city, and it's easy to see how frustrating it could be for a foreigner driving in France. This becomes even more complicated for U.S. travelers who aren't adept with a stick shift: the majority of rental cars in Europe indeed utilize manual transmissions.
You should be leery of renting a car in Paris unless your situation demands it. The Paris metro and public transportation are well worth using for getting around most of the city. There may be times, however, when a Paris car hire makes sense. If you're planning on going to areas outside the city not served by rail or are considering numerous day trips outside the city, it may be worth looking into car rentals in Paris. Yet know that there is an extensive rail system that branches out to many day trip locations outside of Paris, making a rental unneccesary.
If despite this you're still thinking about a Paris car rental, you need to have a few things ready. Before you leave your country, get your International Driving Permit. For U.S. citizens, this is a relatively simple process. While some rental locations in Paris may not require it, it's becoming increasingly commonplace to need one to rent a car. You'll also want to bring along your passport. Also, know that you must be 25 and older for a car hire.
Paris is a big city, and the next thing to definitely consider is renting your car from a company at the airport. This has several advantages. If you don't know French, the staff at airport rental agencies is more likely to speak your language than folks at small rental offices away from the airport. If you plan on taking the car through other countries (with different languages), renting from the airport is advisable.
A car rental in Paris, France is made easier by looking online at carriers that are common in your country. For U.S. travelers, this means checking out providers like Alamo, Avis, and Hertz. This gives you the advantage of booking a Paris car rental in advance, before you begin your journey.
Finally, you want to familiarize yourself with the driving rules in France before you hit the road. There are likely a number of small differences between your country's driving rules and France's. For example, traffic lights in France are only red and green. There is no yellow "yield" color between the two. Familiarizing yourself with France's traffic rules and booking a car rental in Paris, France in advance will save you from many future headaches.
Photo by ITDP-Europe, from Flickr