France Driving Information

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France Rental Car Requirements & Driving Information

Driving Overview | Tips for Driving | Tips for Parking | Driving Laws | France Map


Driving Overview


Highway Information

France has nearly 25,000mi/40,000km of national highways, of which nearly 6,000mi/9,600km are four-lane superhighways, known as 'autoroutes'. Many of these superhighways are toll roads, called 'autoroutes a peage'. The French government also maintains a good network of secondary national highways, denoted on maps by an 'N' before the route number. (These highways are also referred to by the initials RN, for 'Route Nationale,' followed by a number.) Local governments maintain local roads, known as 'Routes Departementales,' which are often the most scenic and are denoted by a 'D' in front of the route number. Highways in France tend to be jammed in late July/early August and again in late August/early September, when it seems that all of France is heading to popular vacation spots.

Rules of the Road

Traffic travels on the right and drivers customarily yield to drivers approaching from the right. Fines for traffic violations are collected on the spot in either Euros or travelers' cheques. A flashing red light means do not enter.

France Driving InformationGas

In the larger cities of France, you will find many gas stations open 24 hours. Gasoline tends to cost more when you buy it at a station on the highway.

Tolls

There are toll highways in France that are labled as 'Autoroute peage.' These highways are marked by blue signs with the letter 'A.'

Speed Limits

Speed limits in France are as follows:

  • City - 31mph/50kph 
  • Open Roads - 55mph/90kph 
  • Highways - 80mph/130kph

Tips for Driving Your Rental Car in France


Touring France by car is the only way to ensure you are able to experience both the city and rural areas of this beautiful country. Driving in France, or in any new place for that matter, can seem intimidating at first, but Auto Europe will have you driving like a native Frenchman (or Frenchwoman) in no time! Just follow these tips and you'll enjoy stress-free time behind the wheel while touring France.

  • Pull Over to Use Your Phone

    While driving in France it is illegal to use your mobile device. Play it safe, pull over to use your phone and avoid an on-the-spot 130 Euro fine.
  • Be Aware of Speed Cameras

    Drivers in France should be aware that there are over 2,000 stationary speed cameras monitoring France's roadways and motorways. While many of these are marked with warnings, some cameras are unmarked.
  • France Driving InformationUse Signals but Don't Count on Others to Do the Same

    In certain parts of France the use of traffic signals can often feel like an afterthought. Brake lights may be the only signal you'll receive when the driver in front of you is planning to turn.
  • Don't Stress About Tailgating

    While tailgating isn't as common while driving in France as it is in other European locations, it's important to keep cool if you do feel that other drivers are riding too close. Don't panic, most impatient drivers will look for an opportunity to pass - give them plenty of room and keep your focus on enjoying your trip!
  • Use Caution on Roundabouts

    Signs which read: "Vous n'avez pas la priorite" or "Cedez le passage" indicate that traffic currently circling the roundabout has the right of way. If these signs aren't present, vehicles entering the roundabout have the right of way. Find more info on French Road Signs.
  • Be Sure to Have a Working GPS

    Many phone applications have trouble working properly, or at all, when traveling abroad. When these apps do work, many incur high data usage fees when used outside of your home country. Plan ahead and rent a GPS through Auto Europe for $1 USD a day.

Tips for Parking in France


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.

City Parking in France

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. You will also want to be on the lookout for illegal or tow-away zones as you search for convenient city parking. Below are a few important French phrases to keep in mind.

Common Parking Restrictions in French English Translation
"Cote du Stationnement - Jours Pairs" Park on the side of the street with even numbers
"Cote du Stationnement - Jours Impairs" Park on the side of the street with odd numbers
"Stationnement Interdit" Parking is forbidden
"Stationnement Genant" Marking a tow-away zone


Additional areas to avoid parking:

  • In front of private garages 
  • Taxi pick-up and drop-off areas 
  • Any roadway with a curb marked in yellow.

Parking in Blue Zones

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 and Parking Meters in France

France Driving InformationTicket machines have replaced traditional parking meters in most French cities. 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.

Parking Fines in France

In France, as in most parts of the world, if you park illegally you can expect to receive a fine. 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.

NOTE: While driving in Paris it is illegal to leave your car in the same spot on a public road for more than 24 hours. As long as you move your car once during each 24 hour period you can continue to park on the same street.


France Driving Laws


If you plan on driving in France, becoming familiar with the country's driving laws is a wise choice. Here, we will discuss the rules and regulations which you should be aware of before your trip.

  • Children under 10 years of age are not permitted in the front seat of a car in France. Exceptions include if there is no rear seat, the rear seats are already occupied by children under 10 or if there are no seat belts available in the rear seat.
  • Seat belts must be worn by the driver and all passengers while driving in France.
  • Headlights must be used during poor visibility - including during daylight hours. Auto Europe recommends that drivers use their headlights whether driving during the day or night.
  • In villages and cities when you see a "priorite a droite" sign you must yield to traffic coming from the right - they have the right of way.
  • The use of a horn in cities and villages is prohibited unless the driver feels he or she is in immediate danger.
  • All motorists in France must carry a breathalyser in good working order and you must be able to produce this for a sobriety test if stopped. France takes driving while intoxicated very seriously and the legal limit of 0.05% is lower than it is in the US.
  • France Driving InformationAt the rental desk when picking up your car you should verify that the vehicle comes with a warning triangle and reflective jacket. These items are required in France and if you get a flat tire you must put on the reflective vest before exiting the vehicle. All rental cars should have this equipment, but it's smart to verify this before setting out on your trip.
  • Traffic violations in France carry an on-the-spot fine due in either Euros or Travelers Cheques. You may be in the habit of using your credit card for most purchases but it's a good idea to keep some cash or travelers cheques on hand in case you are stopped by the police and fined.

France Map


Auto Europe's Map of France

Whether you've come to enjoy the fantastic vineyards of the Bordeaux region or prefer to bask in the famous big cities, our France map will ensure that you can get where you want to be while in the country. As European travel specialists with over 60 years in the industry, we have the need-to-know information for tourists who travel to France to have fun rather than wasting time trying to plan their itinerary, regardless of when you decide might be the best time to visit Europe. This handy France map is provided as a resource, offering travelers hands-on information about landmarks, hotels, attractions, restaurants, and so much more. You can easily view the map on your smartphone, and have access to it whenever the time may arise providing you have wireless service in France. We urge you to bookmark this page so you're not lost during your time in this beautiful country.