Tourism For Members

Is it a good idea to rent a car in Paris?

Genevieve Mansfield
Genevieve Mansfield - [email protected]
Is it a good idea to rent a car in Paris?
Motorists drive vehicles next to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris (Photo by GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)

If you are looking to visit Paris and wondering how to best get around the city, a car might not be the best option.


When it comes to major cities, Paris is not that big, particularly when compared to sprawling metropolises like New York and London. Paris is about 9.5 km in length from north to south and 11 km east to west and many of the most famous attractions are clustered together in the city centre. 

The city boasts efficient public transport services, with Metro trains arriving between two to 12 minutes apart. On weekdays, according to Fodor's, the average wait time is two to four minutes trains during the day, and up to eight to 10 minutes in the later evenings. 

Paris has 303 stations Metro stations - or about one station every 550 metres on average (about 6-7 minutes walking time).

There are also bus stations, taxis, rideshares like Uber and Bolt, and many kilometres of newly constructed bicycle lanes. 

READ MORE: LATEST: How close is Paris to its goal of being a 100% cycle-friendly city?

All of that to say - Paris is very accessible without a car, and even preferable to many people. A 2022 study found that motorists in Paris lost on average 109 hours to traffic jams. An increasing number of areas are pedestrian-only.

Nevertheless, there are many reasons you might want to rent a car when coming to Paris. Before deciding to do so, there are a few questions you should ask yourself.

Will you be staying in the city the whole time?

If you are hoping to drive short distances - maybe from the Louvre museum to the Eiffel Tower, you might be better off without a car. Before booking, take a moment to look over your itinerary. You can try searching on Google Maps or the app CityMapper to compare estimated time of travel when walking, taking the Metro or driving.

Next, think about parking - underground car parks can be quite expensive, especially if you want to leave the vehicle there for a full day, and street parking can be hard to come by.


You will also have to pay for street parking from Monday to Saturday, 9am to 8pm, according to the city website. If you park in central Paris (1st to 11th arrondissements), you will pay an hourly rate of €6. If you park in the outer arrondissements (12th to 20th), the rate is €4. Street parking is usually limited to two hours, so you face having to frequently move the vehicle. 

Your Airbnb or hotel might offer parking, but this should not be assumed and it might cost extra.

Will you be taking trips outside of the city?

Again, this depends on where you want to go. If you want to visit popular locations that are not too far outside of the city, like Versailles Palace, Disneyland Paris and the Giverny gardens, then you do not need a car. There are several tour bus services that you might consider. Similarly, the French public transport and rail system can get you there. 


The Versailles Château Rive Gauche station is just a 10-minute walk from the palace and is along the Line C of the RER train system, which is accessible from several different stations inside of the city and about a 40-minute ride.

Disneyland Paris is on the RER A line, and it takes about 40 minutes to get there directly from the central Châtelet station in Paris.

Giverny is a little bit further, but you can take a TER regional train from Saint Lazare station to 'Vernon-Giverny' in under an hour. Tickets were €16.80 as of 2023 and you can buy them in advance here.

READ MORE: Ten of the best day trips out of Paris

But if you want to go further - perhaps to visit Mont-Saint-Michel on the coast or the D-Day beaches in Normandy - having a car might be helpful. There are also plenty of guided tour buses that plan day trips to popular locations outside of the capital. These usually leave early in the morning from a single meet-up point in the city and return late at night.

If you want to do a wine tasting in nearby Champagne or Burgundy, it might be advantageous to take a bus or train instead of driving - even though the journey is just a couple of hours by car - because then you won't need to worry about France's strict drink-drive limits

Generally, if you want to do day trips to tourist locations outside of Paris, you may not need a vehicle.

But if you want to explore the surrounding area or spend the night, then having a car will give you greater flexibility. Outside of large cities, public transport in France can be less consistent.

You could consider renting a car once you get to your location outside of Paris, in order to avoid traffic in and around the city - for example if you're going to Brittany you could take the train to Rennes and then pick up the car in Rennes, a city which is considerably less difficult to drive in than Paris. 

Similarly, you could do a short one or two day rental to avoid being stuck with a car during your whole trip in Paris.

Uber and other rideshare companies tend to operate mostly in urban areas, so you might need to call a taxi in small towns and villages to get to the local train station. While you can try booking a taxi with apps like G7, oftentimes you will need to call (usually at least an hour or two in advance) and this requires speaking a little French.

Do you or someone you are travelling with have impaired mobility?

If this is the case, you will have to consider whether Paris public transportation will be accessible for you.

On the Paris Metro, only one line is fully accessible to people with mobility issues - the automated line 14 - and it represents just three percent of the capital's Metro stations. Many stations also have long flights of steps and are not equipped with elevators.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: How accessible is Paris for people with disabilities?

The city's tram system is classed as accessible, but most trams only serve the city outskirts and suburbs, so are not very useful for tourists or people needing to get into the city centre. As for the bus network, it is meant to be accessible, but although the buses themselves are all fully wheelchair accessible, many of the bus stops are not. 


The city of Paris has an English-language advice page for travellers with disabilities and there are dedicated agencies that offer specialised tours for people with disabilities. You can also find helpful blog pages with advice for visitors.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
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Mary Sankey 2023/12/07 11:40
A mention of the "unique" challenges of driving in Paris might also have been helpful. The average (especially American) tourist has never experienced a similarly intense driving environment. Thus, a. little warning that actually driving in Paris is not recommended for the novice.

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