Île de Ré Travel - Getting There
Getting to the Île de Ré, either with or without your own bike, is going to involve one or more of:
If you are flying from outside Europe then the most obvious airport to aim for is Paris, Charles de Gaulle, which is also known as Roissy. This is certainly the right choice if a visit to Paris is part of your holiday plan, and a week's cycling by the sea followed by a week in the capital (or vice versa) would make a good trip. However, getting from Charles de Gaulle to the Île de Ré by train is not straightforward, particularly if you have brought your own bike. That is because bicycles cannot be taken on the metro (underground train) so you will have to cycle through Paris (not recommended for the faint-hearted) unless you can find a large taxi to take you, or you can get your bike onto the Air France shuttle bus (see below).
You will first need to transfer from the airport to Montparnasse station in the southern part of the city centre, either via local train (RER line B ) and then the metro, via the Cars Air France line 4 shuttle bus, or by taxi. Information on all the options for getting from Charles de Gaulle to the city centre can be found, in English, on the access section of the airport's website, but these are the only three that make sense for getting to Gare Montparnasse.
Although bikes can be taken on RER trains outside of the peak periods on weekdays, it appears they can only be taken to certain stations, and Montparnasse is not one of those. But if you are bike-free and choose the RER option, stay on it until Denfert-Rochereau which is only 3 stops on Line 4 or 6 of the metro to Montparnasse Bienvenue, a few minutes' walk from Gare Montparnasse.
If you use the Air France shuttle bus, you may be able to take your bike with you as these buses have big luggage compartments under them. Your chances will probably be higher if your bike is still packed for its flight, ie preferably in a bag and looking as unbikelike as possible, or at least still flat with handlebars turned sideways and pedals off. Tickets can be bought from Air France ticket offices in the terminal or from the driver. Our advice would be to put your packaged bike on a luggage trolley together with your panniers and wheel it out to the bus stop, then don't part with any money until the driver has confirmed he is happy to take it all.
Study the timetables and other information on the websites in 1 above to get an idea of how long the transfer will take, but we would suggest you allow at least a couple of hours after your flight lands before your train is due and 3 hours would be safer. Aim to be at Montparnasse an hour before you need to be, you can always go and have a meal or a coffee while you wait for your train. If you have brought your bike on the Air France bus and it is still wrapped up, you will need time to reassemble it and fit your panniers so that you can get around the station and onto the train easily - unless you are taking the TGV, in which case it will have to stay in its bag.
The TGV (fast train) from Montparnasse will take roughly 3 hours to La Rochelle. Reservations are mandatory and bikes will only be carried if they are in a bike bag. From La Rochelle there are frequent buses to various places on the island - see this page for more information.
In view of the difficulties outlined above in getting to the island by public transport, you may think that hiring a car at Charles de Gaulle is the best bet. If you are bringing your bike, you will need an estate car because a hire car will not have a bike rack fitted to it. Also, bear in mind that you are unlikely to need or want a car on the island so you might want to look into a one-way hire to La Rochelle (the hire agency is likely to be based at the airport, which is only a short distance from the bridge) and another one-way hire back to Paris at the end of your holiday.
Another possibility is to fly into London Gatwick which (in the summer) has a number of Easyjet flights going to La Rochelle during the week. Brussels offers the occasional flight. London Stansted also offers regular Ryanair flights to La Rochelle but you will have to get across London from Gatwick or Heathrow - there are direct coaches and a frequent train service from central London.
There are many sources of cheap international flights but we have found that cheapflights.co.uk offers consistently low prices.
If you are flying to France within Europe then the best target airport is La Rochelle which is located just on the outskirts of the town and close to the Île de Ré bridge. The summer feeder airports are:
- Brussels Charleloi
- Lyon (and winter)
- Southampton (and winter)
- Stansted (and winter)
There are no bus services direct to the island from the airport, but the bus service into town is good, and there is an equally good service to the island from outside the railway station. There are taxis at the airport and the journey is short, provided you don't do it during peak season when the queues for the bridge's toll booths can be long. Or you can simply cycle from the airport if you have your own bike with you - there is no toll for cyclists.
If you are flying with your bike, check the airline's terms of carriage (many budget airlines disclaim liability for bicycles) and your travel insurance. We don't recommend transporting an expensive bike by plane. Also, choose a direct flight wherever possible, as the more your bike is handled, the greater the chance it will be damaged.