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lianaks

Le Harve Car Rental

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Has anyone rent car at Le Harve port recently?   What was your experience driving around, is it easy to navigate place to place and sign, we don't speak or read French, would this be a problem driving around?  Would like to drive to Honfleur and around is it easy to do?   Your feed back would be greatly appreciated.

Liana.

 

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Posted (edited)

Reading/speaking French is not a problem; being unfamiliar with European road sign symbols can be, but it's easy to learn those before you go. AAA can probably give you a guide; if you don't belong, just Google for the symbols. Also, there are a number of posts on this board about renting cars in Le Havre.

 

Edited by Langoustine

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Posted (edited)

Pretty-well everyone in business in Normandy speaks English - rental agencies, gas stations, cops, shop / cafe / bar / restaurant staff, tollbridge staff, etc. And probably 4 out of 5 folk that you might approach in the street - make that 5 out of 5 in Honfleur.. 

Honfleur is easy to find, you could probably get by with a simple map. Follow green "Toutes directions" signs out of the town centre, then "A29 Caen, Pont De Normandie" which takes you high over the mouth of the Seine. It's a toll bridge, about 4  or 5 Euros, cash or card. Once over the bridge Le Mans and Honfleur is the first exit signed off to your right, then very shortly take the first exit at the roundabout (traffic island) signed Honfleur  and you're  there.

Parking is over-subscribed, probably best to drive into the centre as far as the little roundabout by the tourist office, then circle outwards til you find a spot.

As I said, you could do it with just a paper map but don't cheapskate on the one-day rental of a GPS or the use of a tablet -  you might struggle to find your way back to the agency, or your planned route is thwarted by roadworks. And if Honfleur bores you after a couple of hours, you can strike further west along the coast road to the conjoined little towns of Trouville (fishing) and Deauville (resort).

 

Do check on the rules of the road in France, there are some differences.

For instance no turnout on red - red means stop unless there's a green filter for your lane.

No four-way stops. At junctions on most roads and city streets priority is signed, only on unsigned tiny country lanes & some quiet villages do you have to give priority to traffic coming from the right.

 

Bear in mind that unless you specify "automatic", cars usually come with a shift-stick.

Rent one that's as small as you'll fit in. The distances are short and a smaller car is so much easier to park.

Check the opening times of the agencies, and which ones have an after-hours drop-off.

 

JB :classic_smile:

Edited by John Bull

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We rented a car this summer from the Enterprise in Le Havre. Make sure to book in advance because if you don't, there may not be any cars available! The lady at the counter did not speak very much English. Google Translate and hand gestures helped greatly when trying to ask questions about the car, but she knew enough to try and answer our questions as best she could. 

 

Many people in Honfleur (and in France in general) will speak at least some English, particularly in restaurants or shops. Many others will not, will have very poor English, or simply prefer to converse in French. Downloading Google Translate ahead of time just in case is always a good idea. Le Havre to Honfleur is mostly big roads/highway until you get into Honfleur.

 

Driving to Honfleur is pretty straightforward. Keep some cash for the various toll roads and bridges you will pass (including the Pont de Normandie). What we found most difficult was trying to count which exit to leave on from the roundabout. French roundabouts can sometimes have 4+ exits, and when the GPS is telling you to turn right from the 3rd exit, that can be quite confusing. We actually ended up crossing the Pont de Normandie twice before heading to Honfleur, that's how lost we got. If you have a passenger to help or are familiar with navigating many exits in a roundabout, that will be very helpful!

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Posted (edited)
18 hours ago, simplyrubies said:

. What we found most difficult was trying to count which exit to leave on from the roundabout. French roundabouts can sometimes have 4+ exits, and when the GPS is telling you to turn right from the 3rd exit, that can be quite confusing. We actually ended up crossing the Pont de Normandie twice before heading to Honfleur, that's how lost we got. If you have a passenger to help or are familiar with navigating many exits in a roundabout, that will be very helpful!

 

Slow GPS & complicated roundabouts (traffic islands) or gyratories can be a problematic mix. But twice over the Pont De Normandie is nowhere near as frustrating as 3 times round Houston or accidentally crossing Sydney Harbour Bridge with no ticket :classic_ohmy::classic_biggrin:

 

1. Road signs can be easier to follow than GPS, so pre-plan with googlemaps or a paper map including noting down the road numbers and the names of towns on your route, including major towns beyond your destination (road signs don't use the points of the compass as they do in the USA,) So for instance initially you'll be following signs for "A29 / E44 Caen", not "A29 West".

 

2. Major thru roads in Europe have two designations, the national road number (in this case A29 in red) and the European number (in this case E44 and always in green). Keep life simple, ignore the green numbers.

 

3. Pont De Normandie is exceptionally well-signed. Until you've crossed it, look for that sign rather than Honfleur.

 

4. If your starting point is the cruise terminal, your GPS might send you on an industrial road out of Le Havre rather than the main road, because it's a little shorter. It's also quicker and quieter, though not so well-signed. Either route will do the job, if you take that industrial route put your trust in the GPS

 

5. On a simple roundabout rather than an off-ramp, if in doubt do a complete circuit (or two) of the roundabout to allow you to figure the correct exit (but do be careful to keep in the correct lane and not baulk other vehicles). Twice round a roundabout is better than twice over the Pont de Normandie. :classic_wink:

 

All that said, it's a journey time of no more than 30 minutes and none-too-difficult.

 

Unless things have changed in the last couple of years there are no road tolls anywhere west of Le Havre.

The only toll is for the Pont de Normandie and it has tollbooths which accept euros or plastic

 

JB :classic_smile: 

 

Edited by John Bull

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I concur getting around is easy enough.  However, be advised that the rental cars have a sticker indicating that they are in fact rentals.  Do not, I repeat do not leave anything in your car or in the trunk (boot).  Thieves prey on rental cars and will break in.  I learned the hard way at a museum in Normandy. When I went to the police station to report it, I was told that  ”eet happens all zee time. Zee gypsies watch zee cars and tarjet zee rental cars”.  

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The OP needs to be aware that many rental cars will have manual/stick transmission.  If you cannot drive a stick make sure to reserve an automatic (which will cost you more money) and pray that they honor your request.  As to rentals in Le Havre, there is only one agency with an office (and cars) at the port and its rentacar.fr.  They are not my favorite agency because of their insurance provisions (this may have changed).  Other agencies are located outside the port and getting to them can be problematic because the taxis at the port might not be willing to take the short haul.   We sometimes walk out of the port to a nearby agency but that is still over a 1 mile hike.

 

As to getting lost, it is wise to have a road map as backup and use GPS as your primary means.  A working cell phone (with data) should be OK, but having a dedicated GPS such as a Garmin Nuvi is even better.  Getting to Honfleur is relatively simple unless you somehow miss a very large bridge :).  Speaking of bridges I do believe that the Normandy Bridge has a toll so make sure to have some Euros in your pocket.  Trying to use a US issued credit card on French toll roads may or may not work so having some cash is very wise.

 

Had to smile about the gypsy warning.  Bottom line is that it is not safe to leave valuables in a car anywhere in Europe!  But since you are just doing a day trip off a ship there is no reason to leave anything in the car.  When DW and I do long driving trips around Europe, and have our luggage in the car, we even take shifts at gas stations (one of us always stays with the car).

 

Hank

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I rented a car from Sixt on Quai de Southampton all sorted online before the cruise - you could see the ship docked at the Cruise terminal from their office, but to walk it you had to 'do 3 sides of a square to leave the port. Was allocated a super car - BMW and no problems whatsoever. 

Drove up to Dieppe to revisit places I visited as a French exchange student and then back south to go over the bridge to visit Honfleur. As I have a disabled parking badge I was able to to park right in the middle of Honfleur which was great. We had a lovely afternoon there. Returning the car just meant dropping the keys through the door. Getting a taxi to get back to the ship wasn't easy though til we hot on the idea of asking the restaurant next door if they would ring for a taxi for us 🙂 Perfect. I do speak French and the French always appreciate it if you make the effort to try to speak the language - and a thank you in polite French always goes down well so Include "Merci (Monsieur, Madame or Mademoiselle)"

Do a little bit of research before you go re road signs and trace your route(s) on Google maps and all should be fine. 

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20 hours ago, NCbmwmom said:

Is Uber available to get back to the ship from the Sixt office?

Using Uber in Le Havre (or anywhere in France) has its ups and downs so you always need to have a Plan B (usually calling a taxi).    The last time we were in Le Havre there was some Uber service but there is a lot of resistance to Uber in the country (especially from the taxi drivers) so it is impossible to predict the future.  We once tried to summon an Uber car to the train station (there was a long taxi queue and no taxis) but got a "no availability" response (we ended up walking back to the port).

 

Hank

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