Important Tips for Renting a Car at Paris CDG Airport:
1. Don’t rent at one of the companies that are right in the airport. Why not? Because they tack on a huge surcharge – 40 euro or more – for picking up a car from an airport rental car concessionaire. Returning it to an airport concessionaire is, however, an entirely different matter (see #3 below)
2. So, where to rent? Off-site. There are several car companies that are not located on the airport grounds. It may require a shuttle ride. But it should be cheaper – not only in terms of the surcharge, but also in the daily rate. If you are going into Paris anyway, you probably don’t want to worry about Paris traffic, Paris’ tricky parking regulations, or finding a spot to leave the car. (Is there any worst waste of money than a parked rental car?) In town offices for all the major car rental agencies – Hertz, Avis, Budget, etc. – are in almost every arondissement. When you are ready to leave Paris, and go out exploring the countryside, rent the car then. (Tip: Do not try to leave town during morning or evening rush hours!)
3. At no extra charge, you can return your rental car to almost any office of that company in Paris – not just the one you rented it from. Just tell them up front where you want to return it. They will help you with directions, and note that on your contract. This includes the CDG airport location (I assume this is true of Orly, although I have not tried it); this is an especially handy option for visitors who have rented from one of the major airport rental car concessionaires (like those listed above) at the end of their trip. Drop it on-site at no extra charge, walk inside the terminal and check in.
4. Gas up your rental car before you turn it in! (Unless you took the fuel option, which I don’t recommend.) Best bet is to find a station before you get any closer than 25 kilometers from the airport. Why? Finding stations closer than that is hard – very hard. Traffic is usually unpleasant to negotiate whilst looking for a petrol station. And, many stations take only credit cards with a special computer chip embedded in them – so, for instance, American tourists are screwed.
5. Okay, you screwed up. You didn’t gas up, or couldn’t gas up, or couldn’t find a station before got to the airport. You have one last chance. There is a full service Total station, with a cashier (I believe it is open 24/7), near Terminal 1. The catch is the station is located on the road exiting the airport from Terminal 1. Yes, it does seem like they don’t want to make it easy for people to fill up their rental cars. (You’re in France; did you expect “easy”?) To find the station, follow the signs for Terminal 1, go into the road around Terminal 1 (do not enter the parking lots!); stay in the right lane on the departures level; exit Terminal 1 toward Paris. The Total station is one-quarter mile on your right. Don’t miss it; you’ll have a long way back around. After filling up, and exiting the Total station, cross over the exit road’s four lanes are quickly as you can, and follow the signs for returning to Terminal 1. (This is where the rental car return is, although the first signs don’t tell you that.) Eventually you will see signs for “Location de Voitures”. That’s the rental car return. Follow them.
October 4, 2012