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, it may be a good idea, as regional transportation is scarce and not easy to figure out. 

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 château near Saint-Émilion, in the Médoc, 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 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.  See more in Best Neighbourhoods to Stay in Bordeaux

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 la Cité du Vin, the wine museum (Tram B).  You can also get to Cité 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 Tram A, 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-Émilion, the Médoc, 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.  I have listed the best Bordeaux vineyards stays here.

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 and taxis 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.

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 safely.

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

How to go on a Bordeaux wine tour

You can do wine tastings in Bordeaux on a self-driven tour. I suggest to pick one of the wine regions for a day – Médoc, Saint-Émilion, Pessac-Leognan or Sauternes.  Although it is possible to cover two different regions, the distances between them are quite long.  

To help plan your Médoc wine tour, I have created an informational booklet for Self-guided wine tours.

Perhaps, my article on 10 Best Wineries to Visit in Bordeaux can be helpful in planning your tour.

Also, see the catalogue of Bordeaux wineries.

Pros and cons of driving for wine tastings in Bordeaux:

  • Flexibility
  • Need a designated driver
  • Need planning

Wine tastings can be done on an organized tour.  There is a number of private and group tours from Bordeaux, where you will follow an itinerary made by your local tour guide knowledgeable about wine.

  • No need to drive
  • No need to worry about winery appointments and planning
  • Can taste and drink wonderful Bordeaux wines
  • Higher cost

Whatever mode of transportation you choose, enjoy Bordeaux and its wines!  It is a great destination for wine lovers. 

Join our Bordeaux wine tours and find other things to do in Bordeaux.

By Polina

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Hi, my name is Polina. I am a sommelier and a wine tour guide in Bordeaux, France.

I organize private Bordeaux wine tours.

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