Do You Need to Rent a Car in Bordeaux?

The short answer is “no” if you stay in the city of Bordeaux.

If you are staying outside of Bordeaux, in a beautiful French village or at a chateau near Saint-Emilion, Medoc, Entre-Deux-Mers, or another region, it may be a good idea, as regional transportation is scarce and not easy to figure out.

There are pros and cons of renting a car for wine tasting tours in Bordeaux.

If you stay in the city of Bordeaux

You probably do not need to rent a car if you stay in the city of Bordeaux.

Bordeaux isn’t a huge city. If you are visiting for a few days, you may want to stay in the Bordeaux city center and walk everywhere.

Areas around the Grand Theatre at Place de la Comedie, the Golden Triangle, and the Quartier Saint-Paul behind Place de la Bourse are at the heart of the city.  You can walk to most restaurants and attractions from here.

TBM, the local transport authority, operates a good and reliable tram network that serves main destinations such as train station Gare Saint-Jean (Tram C) and Cite du Vin, the wine museum (Tram B).  You can also get to Cite du Vin by Water Tram.

If you want to go on a wine tour in Bordeaux, buses are leaving from the Office of Tourism located in the city center at 12 Cours du 30 Juliet.

Private wine tour drivers will pick you up from your accommodation in Bordeaux.

Driving in Bordeaux is quite difficult if you are not used to driving in small European cities. Streets are narrow, sometimes cobbled. Traffic signs can be confusing if you are from out of the country. There are many cyclists and pedestrians on all streets.

Street parking is available, however it may be not easy to find a spot during the day.

To get from Bordeaux airport to the city center, use the public bus, express bus, Uber, taxi or a private driver.  See more details in my article How to Get from Bordeaux Airport to the City Center.

If you stay outside of the city

If you stay in Saint-Emilion, Medoc, or anywhere around the town, it may be convenient to rent a car.  This way you can easily reach your destination from the airport and move around, visit wineries, etc.

Also, you can use the TransGironde public buses and SNCF short-haul regional trains to move around.

If you want to drive to the city Bordeaux, be aware that it is quite busy in the city center. Some streets in historic center are pedestrian or reserved for local traffic only.

Parking can be a challenge on workdays. I find underground parking garages to be the easiest option in the city center. Pay at the machine before returning to your car.

If you plan to rent a car, you can arrange a pick up at Bordeaux Merignac airport as well as at Hall 3 of Gare Saint-Jean, the train station.

The one-stop shop for train travel

Speed limits in France

Speed limits in France are displayed in kilometers.

In the cities, speed limits are 50 km/h (31 mph).  Regional roads speed limits are 80 or 90 km/h (49 to 60 mph) depending on whether the road is divided and the number of lanes.

Highways can be 110 km/h (68 mph) or 130 km/h (80 mph).  The highway and road speed limits are 10 km/h lower when it is raining.

Be ready for multiple speed bumps and roundabouts on the way.

At unmarked intersections, you need to yield to a car on your right. This rule confuses many foreigners.  Make sure you understand the peculiarities of intersection crossing when driving in France.

Check out official rules here and drive safe.

Alcohol limits in France

France has strict rules on drinking and driving.

As of 26 of December 2019, the maximum alcohol level is 0.5 grams per litre of blood. The official information can be found here.