If you're planning a road trip through the French countryside you can use common sense when parking your rental car, but for those spending time in France's major towns and cities there are a few general rules which you should follow.
In France's cities, often the numbers on a street will dictate which side of the street drivers are allowed to park on. This can change in different neighborhoods and on different days. If you see a sign stating "Cote du Stationnement - Jours Pairs" you should park on the side of the street with even numbers. If, on the other hand, you see a sign stating: "Cote du Stationnement - Jours Impairs" then you should park on the side of the street with odd numbers. In major cities and in particulr while driving in Paris, you should be on the lookout for French road signs which forbid parking during specific time periods (which is common as it allows street-cleaning crews to perform their duties).
In France, if parking is illegal there will often be clear signage - even if you do not speak or read French fluently. "Stationnement interdit" means that parking is forbidden. Typically this parking sign will be accompanied by another sign featuring the letter "P" with a line drawn through it. Tow-away zones are marked "Stationnement genant" with a picture of a tow-truck lifting a car. Avoid parking in these areas, in front of private garages, taxi pick-up and drop-off areas or on any roadway with a curb marked in yellow. Following these simple tips will help you avoid having your vehicle towed while parking in France.
While driving in Paris it is illegal to leave your car in the same spot on a public road for more than 24 hours. While parking in France you should also be on the lookout for fire hydrants - it's illegal to park in front of them.
Worth Noting: as long as you move your car once during each 24 hour period you can continue to park on the same street.
Blue Zones ("zone bleue") are located in most major French cities and drivers can park their cars for free for up to one hour Monday through Saturday between the hours of 09:00 and 12:00 and from 14:00 until 19:00. Parking in France is also free without limitations in these areas on Sundays and during public holidays.
If you need to park in a blue zone prior to 12:00 or after 14:00 then you must obtain a small parking disc ("disque de controle/stationnement") and display it in your car's windshield. These discs are available for free (or for a very small fee) from garages, travel agencies, tourist offices and police stations. When you use one of these discs to park for free in a blue zone you should record your arrival time in the left box and remember the time displayed in the right box - if you overstay your free time you could be fined.
Ticket machines have replaced traditional parking meters in most French cities, which can take some getting used to for drivers visiting France for the first time. Parking signs with the words "Horodateur" or "Stationnement payant" give an indication that drivers must obtain a ticket from a nearby machine when they park in this area.
In most cities in France parking must be paid for between 09:00 and 19:00 with the exception of 12:00 and 14:00 (when it is free). Travelers can expect to pay up to 1 Euro per hour and more if they park at transit hubs like rail stations. After you've purchased your ticket you should place it behind your windshield where it can be easily seen by a parking warden and lock your rental car before heading off to explore the city. If you are parking in a new neighborhood Auto Europe recommends that you make a note of the street you've parked on so you are sure to easily find your way back to your car.
In France, as in most parts of the world, if you park illegally you can expect to receive a fine. The amount of the fine will depend upon the severity of your parking offence. Drivers can expect to be fined approximately 11 Euro if they do not pay for parking or if they overstay the period which they have paid for. This amount will triple if the traveler does not pay the fine within three months.
Fines for illegal parking vary based on where and how you park illegally in France but typically these fines start at 35 Euro and can increase to as much as 135 Euro. As with other traffic and parking fines in France if you do not pay the fine within 3 months you can expect the amount you owe to increase three-fold.
Get Inspired: Auto Europe's France Travel Guide