Trip Report: American Car Hire Problems in France
This is a trip report.
We hired a rental car in March for a two-day trip from Paris to Mont Saint Michel. We picked up our car at CDG with no problems or incidents. Although traffic was bad immediately around Paris, the trip to MSM was without incident. We ran into problems in our return to Paris. In our first attempt to purchase fuel in Pontorson was rejected by the machine. Moving on to the next nearest gas station, we were able to purchase fuel, but only because this one had an attendant. We arrived in Paris with a half empty fuel tank. Upon attempting to re-fuel in Paris, and having run late, we only had time to visit one gas station. It was completely unattended and, as before, our card was rejected by the machine despite the fact that our card has a chip and PIN. Resigned to the fact that we would be paying the Avis/Budget refueling fees and penalties, we returned to Gare de Lyon. Surprisingly, the Avis/Budget signs outside the station did not lead us to the car rental return. We had to exit, drive around several city blocks, and enter a nearly-unlabeled parking garage across the street.
We had previously set up a PIN number on our American credit card, per the advice of our bank. Clearly this process means little to nothing to the French credit card machines. I offer this trip report as advice to American travelers to arrive with a list of gas stations with addresses programmed into your GPS, and extra time to re-fuel, as many of the gas stations are unattended and absolutely will not accept your card as payment, even if you had set up a pin. (We have friends currently in France encountering the exact same problem that we had.) This cost us an extra $80 USD beyond the actual cost of fuel. Not a massive cost relative to the whole trip, but frustrating for a budget traveler.
I don't have a solution for the nearly impossible to find car rental return location beyond Avis/Budget actually installing a sign, and providing specific concise directions in their reservation. I'm sure that their operators on the phone and at the pickup location would have no idea where the specific return location (Parking Garage level -4, south of and across the street from Gare de Lyon) is actually located. They would just parrot what's on the reservation.
Learn from my mistakes, show up prepared. Happy travels!
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