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Looking to travel from Nice to Marseille. Car or train?

Looking to travel from Nice to Marseille. Car or train?

Old May 13, 13, 5:18 pm
  #1  
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Looking to travel from Nice to Marseille. Car or train?

Thinking car will give us most flexibility.
Will stay in MRS for 3 nites and was thinking to keep car for that period of time.
I have never rented a car internationally before so any tips would be helpful. Specific companies? GPS? Insurance? Etc
Also, any advise on nice points along the way would be great
Thanks!
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Old May 13, 13, 5:42 pm
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This would be ideal for the Destination->France forum, and I'll move it there. Ocn Vw 1K, Moderator, TravelBuzz.
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Old May 14, 13, 2:00 pm
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I am actually looking to do the reverse of this (begin in Marseilles or Provance) and ending in Nice but am running into a bit of an obstacle: I can't seem to find any reasonably priced oneway rentals with automatic transmission. I don't drive stick but so far the cheapest I can find is about $250 for the day (really only about six hours to do some sightseeing along the way)! Any thoughts on companies I should try? Should I try contacting a representative to see what might be available not online?
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Old May 14, 13, 2:29 pm
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Parking can be at a premium in these locations. As far as private spots in hotels, reserve well in advance and bring a small car - spots are tight! I would not keep the car if you're staying in a city.

GPS is very handy as even route atlas don't give enough for towns (we used Windows-based mapping programme on a laptop with GPS receiver for a different reason).

As far as autos go, still very rare unless one rents a big car which are expensive. Try Europcar (generally the best rates in France for small cars at least) or Sixt.

p.s. Marseille and Nice are both in the Provence region. Or do you mean Aix-en-Provence?
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Old May 14, 13, 3:25 pm
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I don't know about the driving vs. taking the train aspect, but as to tips, several months ago I drove Marseilles to Nice as part of a 3000+ km driving trip (Paris to Carcassonne to Avignon to Apt to Marseilles to Nice to Monaco to Genoa to Lyon to Paris) and here are some thoughts:

1. Pay attention to speed limits and the speed cameras (you can find their locations on-line); my husband didn't and received a ticket in the mail several weeks after he returned.

2. Have cash for tolls just in case. For some tolls, my sister's French credit card did not work, my Chase BA card with a chip did not work, and my non-chip US cards did not work. For some reason, there were tolls where the only card that worked was a BA card without a chip. After messing around with various cards, we just used cash... a lot of cash; tolls are expensive. There is a website (I believe it is a michelin based one) that is handy for calculating tolls and gas cost.

3. Rental Car companies: We have rented from Hertz, Sixt and Auto Europe for cars in France. I am always struck by how expensive they are unless you can get by with a small car. The prices can be hugely different from each other and a lot depends on whether you are returning the car to the same location (it sounds like you are not) and the size of the car. For this trip, I found a great price at Hertz (using either the Amex Plat or the AAA discount; I don't recall) for a 5-seater mini-wagon (manual trans.) that I rented in and returned to Paris. We also needed a very large car (8 seater plus luggage) that my husband could pick up in Paris and drop at the train station in Avignon. We used Auto Europe for my husband's car; it was the only place I could find a big enough car and it had no drop off fee (which, if I recall, was hundreds of dollars with Hertz). Be careful with Auto Europe though; there was an additional couple of hundred Euro charged to us at the end ("disclosed", but somewhat misleading). We also rented a defective car from them once. I spent a fair amount of time re-checking rental cars and saved a lot by re-booking when a lower price appeared.

4. Between Nice and Marseilles, you could look into Antibes. Don't know when you are going, but traffic can be bad on the route that takes you along the water. Marseilles is a PITA to drive around, but there were places that were easier to see by car.
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Old May 15, 13, 3:04 am
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I've actually done it both ways. I live in the Netherlands, so my plan, a few years ago, was to drive to Lyon, spend the night in a small town just south, then continue to the coast the next day. Little did I know that Saturday, the next day, was called "Black Saturday" by the French. We got onto the colourfully named "Autoroute du soleil" the next morning and waited. And waited. Finally, in desperation, my wife found a country route at the next exit that would get us to our destination on the far eastern side of the coast.

The drive was very nice, but since it was a country road, we could not go very fast. We did not make it to our destination until after dark.

We now go by train. Locally, we travel by bus or train. Very locally, we rent bikes or walk. While it is true that autos give its users a sense of freedom, they also have a high cost, not only in money. You can waste more time with an auto - sitting in traffic jams, looking for a place to park, finding and filling your fuel tank, waiting what seems like hours at toll stations, etc. - , while buses and trains usually are moving and you need not worry about parking, tolls, tanking, speed limits, etc.

The hardest part about giving up the auto was finding alternatives. Getting from home to the southern coast is easy - TGV. Locally, I find it not too difficult to ask at a tourist office or at the local city hall about buses and schedules. I've found sites on the Internet which take me to local transport sites. And my French is not very good. But, I've found that just using "autobus" and the name of the town or village very often works. For the larger towns, btw, they even often offer the information in English and other languages.

And finally, buses, even in the south of France at the height of the tourist season are very cheap. For example, I just downloaded the price table for Nice. One bus trip costs €1.50. One day (unlimited use) costs €5. A package of 10 trips costs €10. A one-week pass (unlimited daily rides) is €15.

I could be wrong, but I'd imagine that you'd pay more than €15 in tolls from Paris. But, the more important point is that while you're waiting to pay the toll outside Lyon, I'll already be on the beach at my destination relaxing.
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Old May 15, 13, 8:38 am
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Originally Posted by DRDebr61 View Post
Thinking car will give us most flexibility.
Will stay in MRS for 3 nites and was thinking to keep car for that period of time.
I have never rented a car internationally before so any tips would be helpful. Specific companies? GPS? Insurance? Etc
Also, any advise on nice points along the way would be great
Thanks!
I have done this trip dozens of time. If you do not need a car in Marseille nor in Nice, why would you bother with a car, hefty tolls, one-way rent (overpriced in Europe), manual transmission, speed cameras, traffic, the possible parking?

There are several regional trains a day between the two cities, even high-speed (tough riding at the same speed than regional, but with less stops) and the line offers different but scenic views to the see.

The only concerns about the trains are :
- possible strikes issues : the regional line is one the most hit by strikes in France, but seeing no trains is very rare ; solution : book in TGV (high-speed train), the get hit very very less often.
- possible safety issues : the line is at the same time the business, the family, the friend and the beach one, so you will be able to meet every sort of people, including "unfriendly" if you ride on saturday or in the evening ; solution if so : pay a small premium for a 1st class ticket (if available) or book in TGV.
- possible delay issues ; solution : Cf. to traffic jam

Last edited by bodory; May 15, 13 at 9:32 am
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Old May 15, 13, 10:00 am
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One part of this consideration that for some strange reason never seems to come into the discussion is the cost of fuel. When I have rented autos (in the Netherlands), fuel, on average is twice what the rental price is.

Currently, in France, fuel is €1.66 per liter, or about €6.64 per gallon (http://www.mytravelcost.com/France/gas-prices/). Driving in the summer heat and frequent stop and go will use more fuel than driving on a high-speed motorway.

IOW, even if you can find a way to save money on the rental, you won't be able to escape from the fuel pump and it will be quite expensive!
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Old May 15, 13, 12:45 pm
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Originally Posted by YVR Cockroach View Post
Or do you mean Aix-en-Provence?
Yup
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Old May 15, 13, 12:48 pm
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Originally Posted by bodory View Post
I have done this trip dozens of time. If you do not need a car in Marseille nor in Nice, why would you bother with a car, hefty tolls, one-way rent (overpriced in Europe), manual transmission, speed cameras, traffic, the possible parking?

There are several regional trains a day between the two cities, even high-speed (tough riding at the same speed than regional, but with less stops) and the line offers different but scenic views to the see.

The only concerns about the trains are :
- possible strikes issues : the regional line is one the most hit by strikes in France, but seeing no trains is very rare ; solution : book in TGV (high-speed train), the get hit very very less often.
- possible safety issues : the line is at the same time the business, the family, the friend and the beach one, so you will be able to meet every sort of people, including "unfriendly" if you ride on saturday or in the evening ; solution if so : pay a small premium for a 1st class ticket (if available) or book in TGV.
- possible delay issues ; solution : Cf. to traffic jam
For me it's the ability to spend an entire day doing it and stopping in the various towns along the way. We'll have a bunch of luggage so hopping on and off of trains is more trouble than it's worth.
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Old May 15, 13, 1:35 pm
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Originally Posted by Upgraded! View Post
For me it's the ability to spend an entire day doing it and stopping in the various towns along the way. We'll have a bunch of luggage so hopping on and off of trains is more trouble than it's worth.
Why are you travelling with luggage? Don't you first check into your hotel? Sorry, but I just find that very strange.

If you want to stop and go, use a bus - same as an auto but with a driver.
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Old May 15, 13, 2:50 pm
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Originally Posted by MichaelBrighton View Post
Why are you travelling with luggage? Don't you first check into your hotel? Sorry, but I just find that very strange.

If you want to stop and go, use a bus - same as an auto but with a driver.
The idea was to fly into MRS, spend the night and spend the next day getting from there to NCE, where we'll spend the remainder of our time in the region. So we'd be checking out of the MRS hotel and transiting to NCE but taking the scenic route.

Bus isn't really of interest because luggage is hardly secure, we stop when the bus wants to stop as opposed to when we want to and neither of us are particularly big fans of bus travel.
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Old May 15, 13, 3:55 pm
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If yhou are going to stay in smaller towns, car is much better. Make the reservation before you go, it's cheaper. I recommend Beaulieu sur Mer as an ideal place to stay. Small town, right on the sea, lots of shops and restaurants, though. Even a supermarket. Easy to park on the street.

You can even take the train to Nice, 7 minutes, and Nice has a great new Tram system. Also you will be near to Eze, Cap d'Ail, Cap Ferrat (Don't miss David Niven's House!) and Menton. Monaco as well, (take the train) although we personally do not like Monaco at all.

We've gottten some great rates the past 2 trips on Hertz or Avis through the Delta of AF FF programs. If not already a member, join online instantly.

Also, check these sites out for cheap rentals:

www.novacarhire.com
www.carrentals.com

We never get extra insurance, we are covered through Chase Visa. (most Visa cards have coverage). Liability is through our Homeowner's Umbrella. I had a small accident once (backed into a tree in a parking lot) and never paid a dime.
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Old May 16, 13, 1:46 am
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Originally Posted by Upgraded! View Post
The idea was to fly into MRS, spend the night and spend the next day getting from there to NCE, where we'll spend the remainder of our time in the region. So we'd be checking out of the MRS hotel and transiting to NCE but taking the scenic route.

Bus isn't really of interest because luggage is hardly secure, we stop when the bus wants to stop as opposed to when we want to and neither of us are particularly big fans of bus travel.
IOW, the plan was first to rent an auto, then plan a route based on having the auto. You say you not "big fans of bus travel." How many French buses have you ridden?

Personally, I find it much better to first plan my route, then look at the transport. Why? Because in my experience transport (of any kind) tends to be the least reliable part of the trip. Yes, it is possible that a hotel with your reservation will suddenly go bankrupt or the owner will get sick, etc. but that is very unlikely.

In Europe, most road work is done in the summer. The chances that a small road will be closed for a few days (while you are in the area) are actually fairly high. That there will be traffic jams during the height of the tourist season is almost a guarantee.

Personally, I would never pay $250 (plus fuel, parking, tolls, etc.) per day for local transport. As I posted above, a daily (unlimited) bus ticket costs €5. Even if I didn't like French buses (which is not the case), €5 vs. $250+ just seems a "no-brainer" to me.
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Old May 16, 13, 2:21 am
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Originally Posted by menton1 View Post
If yhou are going to stay in smaller towns, car is much better. Make the reservation before you go, it's cheaper. I recommend Beaulieu sur Mer as an ideal place to stay. Small town, right on the sea, lots of shops and restaurants, though. Even a supermarket. Easy to park on the street.
You are of course quite correct that an auto gives you a freedom that a bus or train cannot compete with. However, that freedom comes at a cost. If you are willing to pay those costs (in money and convenience), then, yes, an auto is better for you. However, an auto is not "much better" as a universal truth.

For those who put a higher priority on convenience and cost, public transport can be a perfectly acceptable alternative. Looking at your recommendations, for example, I see that Beaulieu sur Mer has a train station. Secondly, I see there is direct bus service from that town to Éze and indirect to the other towns you mentioned and lots more. If you're curious, you can find a very detailed map of transport services in the area here: http://www.lignesdazur.com/ftp/plans...re%202012).pdf

However, there are places that may well have no public transport connections. Fair enough. In those circumstances, I usually take a bus or train to the nearest town and then use a taxi for the final bit. Fortunately, towns with no public transport are quite rare.

There is, however, a great sense of freedom in knowing that after you have travelled to village X there are no worries about where or how long you've parked or how the traffic will be on the trip back or whether you've got enough fuel or any of the other inconveniences of using your own transport. Instead, you just appear at a designated spot at the designated time and for a very small cost, you will be driven (in comfort) back to village Y. Frankly, I don't see how it could be much more convenient than that.
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