Guide to Renting a Car in the Loire Valley
The Loire Valley is one of my favorite regions in France: I loved exploring its many castles & stately chateaux. And the incredibly beautiful French gardens! The whole area represents the best of the French countryside ~ & to maximize your time, renting a car is essential. Hotels don’t have fees to park (as many Paris ones do), & the roads are mainly easy-going country lanes. By having your own wheels, you can spend as much time as you want at each chateau…& try out some of the fabulous restaurants that are on-site at many. Here’s my “Guide to Renting a Car in the Loire Valley!”
Get Ready for Your Trip…
Where to Rent a Car in the Loire Valley?
If you’re taking a train to the Loire Valley from Paris or the South of France, & want to rent a car once you’re in the Loire ~ there are three main cities to rent from: Orleans, Blois, or Tours.
Top 3 Cities To Rent Cars from in the Loire Valley:
- ORLEANS = 90 Minutes South of Paris: Orleans is the northern-most city to rent a car in the Loire Valley. It’s a great place to rent if you’d like to visit Chateau de Chamerolles, Chateau de Gien, or Chateau de Meung-sur-Loire. Several key figures in French history have visited these chateaux, such as King Francis I & Joan of Arc. Orleans is one of the oldest cities in the region, known for its authenticity & culture. And if you’re a Joan of Arc fan: visiting here is a must.
Top Car Rental Place in Orleans: Sixt
- BLOIS = 2 Hours South of Paris: This is where I stayed during my time in the Loire, at fabulous Chateau de la Rozelle. And I think there’s the richest diversity of castles to visit here. You’re within a 10-20 minute drive of the following chateaux: world-famous Chateau Chambord (the most famous castle in the region), Chateau Cheverny (known for its prized hounds), Chateau Blois, Chateau Chaumont (straight-out of a fairy tale), & my favorite, Chateau Chenonceau. Staying in Blois puts you right in the heart of the Loire, giving you access to some of the area’s most famous sights.
Top Car Rental Place in Blois: Hertz or Rent a Car
- TOURS = 2 Hours + 30 Minutes South of Paris: Tours is the furthest-south city where I’d recommend renting a car. And there are several chateaux nearby: Chateau de Nitray, Chateau de l’Isslette, Chateau d’Usse (gorgeous), Chateau de Champchevrier, & my favorite ~ Chateau Villandry, famed for its prized gardens. Tours is known for its historic Medieval District, as well as a bustling pub & restaurant scene: great for history-buffs & foodies.
Top Car Rental Place in Tours: Hertz or Sixt
Where I Stayed in the Loire….
FAQ on Renting a Car in the Loire Valley
Q: Do I NEED to Rent a Car in the Loire Valley?
A: If you’re planning to visit just 1-2 chateaux, or if you think you’ll be doing more wine-tasting than chateau-viewing: it might be smarter to hire a driver, or try to bus, taxi, or Uber around (though from my experience, Ubers were very hard to find in the Loire Valley). If, on the other hand, you’re on a mission to see as much of the area as possible, & visit as many chateaux as possible: then renting a car will be far easier & more economical.
Q: How Much Does it Cost to Rent a Car in France?
A: I paid $35/day for a standard-sized car (not one of those ultra-tiny cars you see sometimes)! If you get a compact car, it could be less ~ & an SUV could cost significantly more, around $70/day. Also, if you’re traveling during the summer, Christmas holidays, or spring break (peak seasons), rental prices will be higher in general, & it’s advisable that you rent way in advance.
Q: Did You Ever Get Pulled Over While Driving in France?
A: NO, I did not! Which was lovely! And I drove all the way from Paris (Orly Airport) west to Mont St. Michel, then south-east to the Loire Valley. After a week in the Loire, I eventually made my way back up to Orly Airport, completing the circle. Once I got out of Paris, I found the driving quite easy & uneventful ~ minus paying the tolls! There are fortunately no tolls in the Loire Valley that I know of; only on major highways. But the area around Mont St. Michel & all around the Loire are particularly easy to drive in, as you’re mainly on mellow country roads.
Q: What’s the Drive Like Between Paris & the Loire Valley?
A: EASY. You’re on major highways, similar to those in the States. You can choose to either take a toll road (the A-10, faster) or non-toll roads (the N-20, slower). It’s a pretty uneventful drive either way, as there aren’t many major cities; you’ll notice more traffic & congestion once you get closer to Paris.
Q: What are Your Top Tips for Renting a Car in the Loire Valley?
A: 1) Make sure to bring your Photo License ID + insurance card from the States (or wherever you’re from); 2) Pay for the rental with your best travel credit card (i.e. Chase Sapphire, Capital One Venture, etc.). These cards give you an extra layer of protection in case anything should go wrong with your rental, as they have built-in insurance for this; 3) Take photos or video while walking around the car with the rental agent; assess the car for prior damage & make sure the agent notes; & 4) My last & most important tip: ALWAYS rent your car in advance!!! This ensures that you’ll get the best rate (companies are far more competitive online vs. in person). And it also ensures that there will BE a car for you to rent!
Q: Do You Need Insurance to Rent a Car in France? How Does that Work?
A: When renting a car in France, it’s required by law that you have third-party liability insurance. With most companies, this is automatically included in the price of your car rental. A Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) or theft coverage is recommended, but not mandatory. Now, this is different than places like Mexico, for instance, where they require that you purchase their specific “in-country” insurance, which is additional to the price of the rental (I’ve written all about this in a post on renting cars in Cabo).
Q: Is the Loire Valley Worth Visiting?
A: If you’re a city person, than the relaxed nature of the Loire Valley may not be for you. But if you love the country, a slightly slower pace, architecture, castles, history, wine-tasting, & gardens: then it is a phenomenal place to visit. Personally, I think the Loire offers a nice counter-balance to Paris, which is more hectic. I’ve been all over France, & this is truly one of my favorite regions: & one I would return to.
Q: What Were Your Favorite Things to Do/Places to Visit in the Loire?
A: Chateau Chambord is a MUST, simply because it’s SO huge, & the region’s most iconic chateau….but it wasn’t my favorite. I loved seeing all the hound dogs barking & waiting patiently for their food at Cheverny, & the gardens of Villandry are stunning ~ great for a picnic lunch. I enjoyed wandering through the city of Blois & trying out various restaurants & pubs. But my two favorite chateaux are definitely Chateau Chaumont & Chenonceau: they’re both so idyllic & charming, & each has gardens you could spend hours wandering through.
I was so glad I had a car so that I could see all of this!
Renting a Car in the Loire Valley
BOTTOM LINE: I HIGHLY recommend renting a car in the Loire Valley ~ especially if you’re staying in a chateau, as they’re usually located slightly out of town. I drove all over the Loire as a solo traveler, & found the driving very mellow & laidback.
The alternative to renting a car is to take a bus tour ~ which usually start in major towns like Blois. This is a possibility, but one that gives you less flexibility. You can also try to taxi from place-to-place, but this may end up being more expensive than simply renting a car. I love using Discover Cars, as they look at ALL car rental agencies to get you the best prices.
Read Next: Best Castle Hotels by Chenonceau