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Would like hire a car and drive to alpe d'huez, need advise please

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
We have two boys, 6 and 9. We are planning to have ski holiday during the Easter break at alpe d'huez for 10 days. Never drove before, would like to give it try this time. prefer hire a car , can anyone recommended a car hire company please, also do i need winter Tyres or a chains? Many thanks in advance
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@NSWSZ, welcome to snowheads. I am sure you will have lots of useful advice. But first, perhaps you could clarify from which airport/railway station you would like to hire your car.... or, another possibility, do you intend to hire a car to drive from the UK?
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I am based London and my intention is hire a car for family of 4 from UK and drive to France.
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@NSWSZ, all car hire companies are shysters. Forget the cheapo's they are too dodgy. You are looking for the least worst. Europcar are OK from what I can tell for example. They would charge something like £600 for 10 days for an Economy car including cover to drive in Europe. I wouldn't imagine they would have winters as an option. You can live without in April. And I doubt also they will hire you chains. So you will have to buy some - maybe look at snow socks. Going up without any chains or socks, on normal tyres is risky, even in April.
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Thanks Layne. Looks like hire a car from UK and drive to France not the best option then. I was going with TO for the last 4 years, thinking DIY this Easter break, just dont know where to start. Any suggestion are welcomed and much appreciated.
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Thanks Achilles.
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@NSWSZ, No reason you couldn't hire a car in the UK and drive to ADH. It could be kind of fun, as the French countryside is lovely in spring. If you need chains or socks, just buy them in a hypermarche like a Carrefour or tire store as you approach the Alps. Keep the receipt and if you don't need them just return for a refund on the way back.

It's probably a two-day trip, depending on when you want to leave. But you could break it up with a day in Paris or Lyon or even a small but scenic town like Cluny or Beaune or Dijon. Will it be cheaper than booking the whole thing with a TO? Probably not, it depends on your budget, but it could be a lot more pleasant. I don't think you'll hit the half-term Bison Fuite epic traffic jams either.

Are you comfortable on the "wrong" side of the road? If not, I'd get there another way. We always rent a car from Paris, or rent when we get to the nearest gateway airport. I like to drive and I really like the flexibility to go wherever, whenever.
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Pasigal wrote:
@NSWSZ, No reason you couldn't hire a car in the UK and drive to ADH. It could be kind of fun, as the French countryside is lovely in spring. If you need chains or socks, just buy them in a hypermarche like a Carrefour or tire store as you approach the Alps. Keep the receipt and if you don't need them just return for a refund on the way back.

It's probably a two-day trip, depending on when you want to leave. But you could break it up with a day in Paris or Lyon or even a small but scenic town like Cluny or Beaune or Dijon. Will it be cheaper than booking the whole thing with a TO? Probably not, it depends on your budget, but it could be a lot more pleasant. I don't think you'll hit the half-term Bison Fuite epic traffic jams either.

Are you comfortable on the "wrong" side of the road? If not, I'd get there another way. We always rent a car from Paris, or rent when we get to the nearest gateway airport. I like to drive and I really like the flexibility to go wherever, whenever.


Also, I second the suggestion to go with a "name" agency like Europcar. They're all the same just make sure you have your insurance sorted well in advance, as in, what happens if you damage the car and you're at fault? It's very easy to dent a fender on mountain roads, even if you're very careful.
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And whatever you do make sure you have an insurance excess policy. Usual cost is approx £40 for a whole year & covers everything from a puncture up. I always use insurance4carehire. Saves a fortune
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I think you can fly Gatwick to Lyon (ideally you'd fly to Grenoble but flights tend to be more limited) via Easyjet - depending on the dates I've seen prices around £130-£150 per person return if you avoid travelling at the weekend

Car hire from Lyon Airport about £40 per day for a mid size (peugeot 307 / ford focus) - have done this before no problem and they will include chains if you pre-book

There will be Airbnb properties at this time of year that you can book directly and pick your own dates rather Saturday-Saturday


As Layne says, hiring a car in UK to do the drive will be more expensive, but you also have to add on ferry/tunnel, fuel, tolls, and stopover costs.


Also consider flying to Turin - longer transfer though and you'll get an Italian hire car.
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@NSWSZ, It's doable for sure, whether it's worth the hassle is your call.

I've not hired a car to take into Europe, but have taken van on a few occasions. Insurance into Europe is not covered generally by the hire companies, you'll need to organise in advance and there will no doubt be a premium.

When I hired the van it was to go to Munich in Jan, so I had to have winter tyres, which I bought and had put onto and then taken off the van (worth it as I did it a few years on the trot). In your case a set of regular tyres is legal in France so long as you carry a set of chains into the mountains, which as others have said you can pick up in France near resort.
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Definitely second the suggestion of a standalone 'excess waiver' insurance. Should be about £2 per day.
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@NSWSZ, are you planning for this year? I only ask as that's quite late notice for a medium-season trip and so I would expect prices to be relatively high.

It's also not the most (to my mind at least, YMMV) easy way to travel. I would suggest you're better flying or training somewhere more local and hiring from there.

What's the particular motivation about driving versus DIYing any other mode of transport?
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Quote:

I was going with TO for the last 4 years, thinking DIY this Easter break, just dont know where to start.

Have you booked accommodation yet?

Hiring a car and driving to the Alps could be an expensive option - you'll have a lot of fuel to pay for, your channel crossing and the French autoroute tolls (probably around £130 return). Unless you are comfortable driving in one hit - hard work with kids - you also have a night's accommodation.
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@NSWSZ, nothing wrong with DIY but you seem to be equating it with driving. They are two different decisions. If you are based in London and don't have a suitable car then you can travel by train and get a transfer at the other end, or fly and get transfer or hire a car at the end. The transport is just a means to an end. We drive but we have a suitable car that has winters and a roofbox. So we are all set up for that mode of transport. The driving is a ballache, the same as flying is. Sure, there are advantages (door to door, no carting stuff around, flexibility, extended skiing time) but there are downsides (you are the driver, can take a little longer). It isn't necessarily cheaper - that all depends.

DIY tends to be cheaper at certain times of the season or if booking earlier. And you get what you want as opposed to what the TO offers. But for cheap and cheerful off peak TO's may be tough to beat.

If you want a bit of an adventure and DIY I would go the train route.
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 Poster: A snowHead
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I agree with @Layne about taking a train.

In my ideal ski trip, unlimited funds, we take a train to Zermatt for two weeks and stay in a 5-star hotel.

We always DIY, for me planning the trip is almost as much fun as the trip itself. The questions are: transport and accommodations, of course, then particulars once you're in-station. My strategy is to rough out the transit and accomodations, then book accommodations followed by transit.
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Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Wow Guys , thank you so much for all the inputs. The main reason for me want to do DIY this year is exactly like Pasigal said the flexibility to go wherever, whenever. Guess i hadn't thought about all the factors specially with two young Children. Hire a car from UK and drive to France definitively rule out. Will go back to TO and see if there are any good last min deals or maybe try flying or training somewhere more local and hiring from there. Many thanks again.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
If you like driving, then it's a great way of getting to the Alps.

I usually go to Austria, and have driven from South London at least 15 times over the years. Although my own car has winter tyres (and is an 4wd estate), you can manage without winter tyres as long as you have some chains as a backup. It's useful to practice fitting the chains at home when it is warm, dry and light, so if you need to do it when you are tired, it's snowing and dark you don't have any problems.

You can drive it in one go but normally I stay overnight an hour or two from the resort so can arrive first thing in the morning and get a full days skiing in.

My son always enjoyed the trip even when he was younger than yours.

I've used other travel options for short trips including air travel, trains, and rental cars from european airports but you can't beat loading up your car at home and not having to carry it around airports etc. The other advantage is you can load up the car with wine and beer on the journey home Happy
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I hired a van from Europcar to drive to the Alps. Good price and good service.

Many big hire companies and all small local hire companies don't have an infrastructure in Europe and either won't hire to you or won't be able to help if you break down or have an accident.

It is very unlikely you will hire snow chains from a UK branch, but it would be cheaper to buy them en route, than to hire them for a week. Most French motorway service stations will sell them.

If you are going anywhere other than France, the local laws will insist that you have winter tyres fitted and this won't be possible if hiring from the UK.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Driving down to The Alps is fantastic - I did the last trip to Flaine comfortably in 11 hours including stops from Calais - one was a decent lunch break, so no crappy Formula 1s or Etaps - although I have done these many times and they are functional - so each to their own choice - at 6 and 9 the boys are old enough to handle the journey time. My diesel Megane did the journey with 3 blokes on just over one tank of diesel each way - £60 per journey plus tolls and more fun than flying as you can have music galore and no fighting on to flights.
Snow Chains are the only put off but not too bad.
You may be able to find out the tyre size of the hire car in advance and get cheap ones off ebay and rehearse fitting them on another car.

However:

I have driven many times - but never in a hire car. This is the down side for me. Car hire companies are like Dick Turpin, looking to rob you at every stage of the way for sundries and I'm not sure it's a cost effective thing. They should say "Stand and Deliver" as you approach the hire desk.

This is the nub: Whilst Ive driven all over the alps - I chose to fly to Alpe D'Huez as it is easiest for that resort when all costs and aggro is totted up.
Easy Jet to Grenoble then a shared MV Transport (Mme Vacances) transfer - just over an hour - check out the MV Transport website - they were first class on both my visits. Polite, efficient drivers and whilst we booked a shared transfer - both ours turned out to be just our party of 3.

You need different actions for different resorts - as it's a short transfer, I'd fly to ADH every time - the Tarentaise or Geneva resorts, or 3 Valleys - drive
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Conrad Bool wrote:
Driving down to The Alps is fantastic

I do think you are overcooking it a notch. At it's best it's convenient, cost effective and efficient. Not sure I'd describe it as "fantastic" wink

Conrad Bool wrote:
Whilst Ive driven all over the alps - I chose to fly to Alpe D'Huez as it is easiest for that resort when all costs and aggro is totted up.

Not sure that makes sense. It's an extra 50km or 30 minutes to ADH rather than Flaine. And anyway I thought driving was "fantastic" Happy
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@NSWSZ, I think you have abandoned the hire and drive option. I would have thought the issue of insuring a car from a UK hire co for driving on mainland europe would be a sticking point as they would probably not expect the car to be taken out of the country.

We do drive down as well as flying. Living an hour and 15 mins from the tunnel at this end, means we can leave home at an ungodly hour (around 5.15am) and get to the 3V by late afternoon-around 6pm as I recall this season on 28th Dec. That was with no traffic hold ups. We also only stop for minutes en route to pee, refuel and buy a sandwich and coffee to eat and drink in the car - we are "on a mission" and thankfully not troubled by having to deal with car sick kids and teenage boys' 4000 calorie a day food intake requirements. We now have a toll tag so don't have to fiddle around at the motorway peages. The first 4 hours driving down through northern France is a right old chore and the landscape very boring (and it feels much worse when you are heading home!). The next bit is slightly better. French drivers can be a bit freaky.
Basically it's not really possible to pootle across France and also think you can do the trip in just one day. You'd be knackered and arrive at around midnight! Splitting the journey would make it more pleasurable if that's what you want.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Layne - have you ever driven in the UK?
That's why, I guess, the French experience could be described as "fantastic".
Little freight, no shitty potholes, no Uber drivers and their damned Prius's, decent road surfaces, proper speed limits.
The ADH transfer from Grenoble is also a breeze compared with others.
Perty - agree the northern part of the journey is a shift - but you can easily do it in a day
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Once again, thank you guys so much. Will take all the suggestion into considerations.
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skicrashroll wrote:
Layne - have you ever driven in the UK?
That's why, I guess, the French experience could be described as "fantastic".
Little freight, no shitty potholes, no Uber drivers and their damned Prius's, decent road surfaces, proper speed limits.

Driving anywhere through necessity and with time constraints is inevitably a ball ache. There is nothing special about driving in France. On the toll roads the road surfaces are of course very good but then you are paying for it. Elsewhere they have potholes. They certainly have freight. And the speed limits don't differ a great deal. I am not trying to put anyone off driving to France. On the contrary. I just don't agree that it is "fantastic" and don't want the OP to get the wrong impression!
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Fair point - it depends how much you like driving I guess
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
I like driving which certainly helps.

Personally the worst part of the journey for me is the 150 miles from home to Dover - Calais to Albertville I enjoy as roads are clearer and in better nick and the services are largely better as well.

Appreciate a lot of this can also be attributed to state of mind (compared to commuting) and surroundings (compared to the familiar).
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Layne wrote:
@NSWSZ, all car hire companies are shysters. Forget the cheapo's they are too dodgy. You are looking for the least worst. Europcar are OK from what I can tell for example. They would charge something like £600 for 10 days for an Economy car including cover to drive in Europe. I wouldn't imagine they would have winters as an option. You can live without in April. And I doubt also they will hire you chains. So you will have to buy some - maybe look at snow socks. Going up without any chains or socks, on normal tyres is risky, even in April.


I am going next week, I have changed my car so both sets of chains don't look like they will fit. I am going to Les Menuires and the roads look clear all the time.Do I really need chains?
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Layne wrote:
skicrashroll wrote:
Layne - have you ever driven in the UK?
That's why, I guess, the French experience could be described as "fantastic".
Little freight, no shitty potholes, no Uber drivers and their damned Prius's, decent road surfaces, proper speed limits.

Driving anywhere through necessity and with time constraints is inevitably a ball ache. There is nothing special about driving in France. On the toll roads the road surfaces are of course very good but then you are paying for it. Elsewhere they have potholes. They certainly have freight. And the speed limits don't differ a great deal. I am not trying to put anyone off driving to France. On the contrary. I just don't agree that it is "fantastic" and don't want the OP to get the wrong impression!


The speed limits in France are actually a real hassle, the roads are perfectly flat and it's all to easy to get well over the speed limit only to get stopped and fined by the gendarmarie. They work in groups, one hidden a few miles back who will capture your speed, another who pulls out in front of you from another hidden road with his lights flashing, then you are escorted a few km to the next services where they take 90 euros off you in cash (assuming you are doing less than 170km/h - potentially a lot more if you are going faster). I know this from bitter experience more than once.

For people skiing in France, there's no choice but to go this way, but for Austria or Switzerland it's a better journey via Belgium & Germany as once you get to the Willkommen in Deutschland signs you are (mostly) free of speed limits and can get a real move on. You do use a lot of fuel though !
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blahblahblah wrote:
I am going next week, I have changed my car so both sets of chains don't look like they will fit. I am going to Les Menuires and the roads look clear all the time.Do I really need chains?

Are you feeling lucky? Because essentially that is what it comes down to.

If it's snowing on the way in you can always stop at a supermarket and buy some. More of an issue if there is a dump the day you drive out as you may not be able to get any. Having winters on helps a little.

In December 2014 we went to Tignes without checking our chains fitted our new car. A storm blew in the day we were leaving and the chains wouldn't take/stay. Fortunately the resort supermarket had some in the correct size. Otherwise we would have been stuck. As it happens the road was blocked and we had to stay in the emergency shelter but they were still needed for the morning drive out. In hindsight we should have left on Friday evening and we wouldn't have needed them. But you can't always get away with either of these options.
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 Poster: A snowHead
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Quote:

I know this from bitter experience more than once.

Laughing Laughing Laughing I know this from bitter experience once - driving through a small deserted village with wide streets. There were no speed limit signs and I was doing less than 40 mph but where the place has a name (and this did) the limit is 50 km/hour. As the policeman told me (and I should have known - no excuses!!!) To be caught once is careless. To be caught more than once is arguably stupidity....
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jw83113 wrote:
The speed limits in France are actually a real hassle, the roads are perfectly flat and it's all to easy to get well over the speed limit only to get stopped and fined by the gendarmarie. They work in groups, one hidden a few miles back who will capture your speed, another who pulls out in front of you from another hidden road with his lights flashing, then you are escorted a few km to the next services where they take 90 euros off you in cash (assuming you are doing less than 170km/h - potentially a lot more if you are going faster). I know this from bitter experience more than once.

I've driven in France ~30 times on skiing/summer holidays. Never been pulled. But then I don't believe I have exceeded the speed limit by much. 130kmh is the equivalent of 80 which is as fast as I like to go in the UK (and of course breaking the limit). 170kmh is 105mph which is frankly nuts.
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pam w wrote:
Quote:

I know this from bitter experience more than once.

Laughing Laughing Laughing I know this from bitter experience once - driving through a small deserted village with wide streets. There were no speed limit signs and I was doing less than 40 mph but where the place has a name (and this did) the limit is 50 km/hour. As the policeman told me (and I should have known - no excuses!!!) To be caught once is careless. To be caught more than once is arguably stupidity....

Going back 20 years I got a ticket for doing 33mph in a 30 zone in a small Lancashire town on a quiet bank holiday. No excuses in a way but come on....
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Layne wrote:
jw83113 wrote:
The speed limits in France are actually a real hassle, the roads are perfectly flat and it's all to easy to get well over the speed limit only to get stopped and fined by the gendarmarie. They work in groups, one hidden a few miles back who will capture your speed, another who pulls out in front of you from another hidden road with his lights flashing, then you are escorted a few km to the next services where they take 90 euros off you in cash (assuming you are doing less than 170km/h - potentially a lot more if you are going faster). I know this from bitter experience more than once.

I've driven in France ~30 times on skiing/summer holidays. Never been pulled. But then I don't believe I have exceeded the speed limit by much. 130kmh is the equivalent of 80 which is as fast as I like to go in the UK (and of course breaking the limit). 170kmh is 105mph which is frankly nuts.


170km/h is barely moving in Germany. Last year I was cruising at about 200km/h on a nice quiet stretch, only to have a convoy of 3 cars (Corvette, Porsche and Mercedes) fly past at around 240Km/h. Interestingly the accident/death rates in Germany show it as one of the safest countries (http://etsc.eu/euroadsafetydata/) to drive.
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@jw83113, the UK is much safer https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_traffic-related_death_rate
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The UK does well in road safety stats and France did a lot better (though not better than us) once Sarkozy got serious about speed limits. Was it one of his few successes?

Driving to the Alps is certainly a lot easier (even if you hit some bad weather) than doing the equivalent mileage round the UK's hideously congested roads. And just pottering round minor roads in France, between pleasant small towns and villages reminds one why people used to talk of "motoring holidays" (but don't forget that those villages, however insignificant, however derelict the café, will have a 50 kph speed limit if they have a name wink )
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