The Dairy Free Traveler’s Guide to Getting to Mont Saint Michel

The most challenging part of our recent trip to France was the day Therese and I spent traveling from Rouen to Mont Saint Michel.  I’ll start out by telling you that, though the day started out pretty shaky, by the end, it had turned into a pretty special day.  A day when we got to see this:

A Pretty Special Sight

A Pretty Special Sight

We earned that.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s what we had to do to get there:

1. taxi ride from Mercure Central Rouen to Rouen Rive Droite Train Station/waiting for train to leave (45 minutes).
2. Intercities train (with unreserved seats) from Rouen to Paris Saint Lazare Train Station (1 hour, 37 minutes)
3. Make connection from Saint Lazare to Montparnasse Train Station (1 hour, 28 minutes)
4. TGV train (reserved seats, yay!) from Paris Montparnasse to Rennes train station (2 hours, 14 minutes)
5. Wait in Rennes Train Station for Bus to leave for Mont Saint Michel (2 hours, 23 minutes)
6. Bus ride, Rennes to Mont Saint Michel (1 hour, 12 minutes – yes, the bus arrived 3 minutes early)
7. Walk to Mercure Mont Saint Michel, check in (5 minutes)
Grand total time traveling: 8 hours and 44 minutes
Grand total, pooped people: 2

Don’t get me wrong – along the journey, many things went smoothly.  For example, there was this appetizing sandwich that I bought from Columbus Cafe in Paris’ Montparnasse Station with grilled chicken medallions, tomato and mayonnaise on a heavenly seeded baguette.

Lunch from Columbus Cafe

Lunch from Columbus Cafe

The stress related to traveling to Mont Saint Michel was mostly about the bus ride from Rennes (number 6 above).  I had previously read a very informative forum discussion on TripAdvisor, which says, in part, that you don’t need to have a ticket ahead of time to get on the bus from Rennes to Mont Saint Michel.  I wanted to trust that information, but I wanted certainty more. I wanted to have the bus tickets in my hand before we began our journey – I didn’t want to get to Rennes and find out that the bus was sold out.

Well, I should’ve trusted my TripAdvisor buddies, because they were right.  In short, everything went very easily and smoothly upon arriving in Rennes, just as they said it would.  I will go into details below as to how we made the connection in Rennes; but suffice it to say, that while things HAVE changed in Mont Saint Michel (and I will go into what those changes are as well), the combination of the bus from Rennes and the shuttle bus arrangement at Mont Saint Michel makes visiting the Mount a cakewalk (or, if you prefer, a causway-walk).

So, yes, the Rennes bus.  I consider myself to be a seasoned traveler, and the truth is that I have negotiated my way through similar situations – Chile comes to mind, where I had to find the right bus to get me to the airport, and I did so just in time to check in before my seat assignment was given away.  Nevertheless, I would have been thrilled if there was a step-by-step guide from the train to the bus in Rennes.  Therefore, I will provide such a guide here.

Okay, so first you arrive on the TGV train from Paris in Rennes.  You walk toward the front of the train and take an escalator up toward the “Sortie Nord” or North Exit.  When you get to the top of the escalator, in front of you will be a reassuring information booth.  If, like us, you are a little unsure of yourself, you can stop here and the nice person will direct you toward the bus station.

Rennes Train Station Information Booth

Rennes Train Station Information Booth

After you talk with a nice person, turn to your right and you will see a sign directing you to the aforementioned Sortie Nord.

Sortie Nord Sign

Sortie Nord Sign

If you look closely, the second symbol from the left on the sign is for a bus.  Promising, isn’t it?  Walk past the sign, and this will bring you to a down staircase/escalator.

Down Staircase and Escalator

Down Staircase and Escalator

As Yogi Berra says regarding a fork in the road, “take it,” and go through the doors at the bottom.  You are now on the plaza outside the train station.

This is where it got a little sketchy for me.  If you turn to your right, you will see a building across the plaza marked “Gare Routiere” – that is the bus ticket office/station.

Rennes Bus Station

Rennes Bus Station

Inside the bus station, you will see windows where you can buy a round-trip ticket for the bus to Mont Saint Michel.

Rennes Bus Station Ticket Window

Rennes Bus Station Ticket Window

If the bus station is closed for any reason, you can buy your ticket on the bus itself.  The ticket is the thinnest wisp of paper, but hold onto it, since it will serve as your return ticket as well.  When we presented ours to our bus driver, he wrote the letter “A” on them.

Bus tickets to Mont Saint Michel

Bus tickets to Mont Saint Michel

But I am getting ahead of myself a bit.  After you purchase your tickets, there are seats just across from the windows where you can sit and wait for your bus.  A board at the right end of the room gives listings of buses, their departure times and their “Quais” (or gates).  The Mont Saint Michel bus is easy to spot, because it is the only bus that has letters (LMS) rather than a number listed for its “Ligne.”

Board of Bus Departures

Board of Bus Departures

To the right of this board is where you exit to access the bus gates.

Exit to the Bus Quais

Exit to the Bus Quais

The Mont Saint Michel bus always leaves from Quai 2.

Quai 2, i.e., Where the Mont Saint Michel Bus Leaves From

Quai 2, i.e., Where the Mont Saint Michel Bus Leaves From

Then you get on the bus, and about an hour into the 1 hour, 15 minute ride, you’ll have your first sighting.  And if you’re like me, your heart will be in your throat when you see the Mount for the first time.

Our First Sighting of Mont Saint Michel

Our First Sighting of Mont Saint Michel

So what’s changed with Mont Saint Michel?  Well, generally speaking, they are limiting access to the island itself.  Therefore, the new drop off point for most vehicles is in the middle of a little village that has sprung up on either side of the road, about a half mile from the island.  To get any further, you have to take the free shuttle bus – but the shuttle runs frequently, and stops a couple of places in the village, so it is totally convenient.  Incidentally, they are building a new bridge to the island that will take the place of the causeway, which is expected to be completed by July 2014; however, when that new bridge is open, it is not going to change the system in place at Mont Saint Michel.  Here is the map we were given in the Rennes bus station that explains where the Rennes bus stops and so forth.

Brochure Showing Access Points to Mont Saint Michel

Brochure Showing Access Points to Mont Saint Michel

I like to comfort myself with the thought that, at the conclusion of our day’s challenging journey, I felt a little bit of what the pilgrims to Mont Saint Michel over the centuries felt – awe and relief.  Yes, they walked hundreds of miles over the course of months, while I was taking buses and trains hundreds of miles over the course of one day.  But with all the stress and aggravation that we went through to get there, our experience was similar –  I’m sure it was!

About Karl Peterson

Karl Peterson is an avid traveler, passionate about food and food-related entertainment, completely allergic to dairy. He is founder, owner and principle contributor to “The Dairy Free Traveler” blog. The Dairy Free Traveler perfectly dovetails two of his greatest areas of interest: traveling near and far, and searching for great cuisine (especially dairy free!)

The Dairy Free Traveler publishes original material about the dairy free lifestyle, eating the best food in the most interesting destinations around the world. Karl’s tours take him from thriving New York City, to exotic Marrakesh, to elegant Paris bistros — (yes! even Parisians have gotten on the dairy free bandwagon.)

The Dairy Free Traveler himself also engages with independent dairy free food producers, highlighting new dairy free product launches and events that support dairy free entrepreneurs.

Peterson is among the top 7 most widely read TripAdvisor reviewers in New York City and is repeatedly cited as a Top Contributor at TripAdvisor.com. His reviews have garnered more than 542,000 readers — half in the U.S., and half among the many countries he has visited around the world.

Beyond writing this blog, Peterson is a published author, with contributions to “Savoring Gotham” edited by Andrew F. Smith (published 2015 by Oxford University) and the forthcoming Oxford Companion to Cheese (a bit ironic, yes, but a professional is often asked to stretch beyond their comfort zone!).

This entry was posted in Buses, France, Mont Saint Michel, Paris, Rouen, Train Stations, Train travel, Travel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The Dairy Free Traveler’s Guide to Getting to Mont Saint Michel

  1. Pingback: Five Cities in France: Dairy Free and Fabulous | The Dairy Free Traveler

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  3. Hi Karl! Thanks for this information! It is particularly useful. We are doing the same trip tomorrow except not from Rouen… straight from Paris. So when we googled Rennes to Mecure Mont St Michel, your post came up 🙂
    We have the same concerns as you did regarding the bus tickets so feel comforted that it is easy as everyone says!

    • Karl Peterson says:

      Good luck and enjoy your time in Mont Saint-Michel! It truly is one of the most incredible places in the world. I am glad that my step-by-step guide may alleviate some of your doubt.

      • Hi Karl! Thanks a million for your guide on how to get here! It was so unbelievably easy! We were so grateful to have found this post as we were walking off the platform, straight to the bus terminal like we knew the place so well! 🙂

      • WordPress.com Support says:

        That’s great! Thanks for your post about the clock in Prague. We will be there, can you believe it? in a few weeks! People will start to think that we coordinate our travel!

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