Driving in a foreign country can be a daunting prospect, but with a little INSIDR know-how, you can take a great deal of stress out of taking a road trip in France, and enjoy travelling around with ease! Read on to discover some useful tips and information for driving and renting cars in France…
FACTS ABOUT DRIVING IN FRANCE
DRIVING AGE IN FRANCE
The minimum age for driving in France is 18
WHICH DRIVING LICENSE DO I NEED IN FRANCE?
It is strongly recommended that you carry an International Driving Permit. You may drive with a valid U.S. driver’s license if it is accompanied by a certified translation in French.
You must always carry your driving license with you, and present it to an official on demand.
“A” roads, such as A71, are motorways, or Autoroutes
“N” roads are the National roads
“D” roads are departmental roads
You may also come across “municipal” and “forestry roads (green signs)
SPEED LIMITS IN FRANCE
The speed limits in France are somewhat similar to speed limits in other european countries. They are indicated in kilometres per hour.
Highway : 130 km/h, if raining 110 km/h (80 mph, 70 mph)
Dual carriageway : 110 km/h, if raining 100 km/h (70 mph, 60 mph)
Open road : 90 km/h, if raining 80 km/h (55 mph, 50 mph)
Town : 50 km/h (30 mph)
For young drivers or should you tow a trailer, speed limits are different. Read here for more information
MOTORWAY SERVICE AREAS IN FRANCE (LES AIRES D’AUTOROUTE)
Distances to upcoming service areas, known as aires d’autoroute, together with pictograms indicating the services provided, are indicated at regular intervals on the motorways. So too are fuel costs at service areas to come.
You will also come across smaller aires de repos which are off-road parking areas where drivers can pause for a break, these also are indicated on road signs.
RULES FOR DRIVING IN FRANCE
This is a non- exhaustive list of some of the main French laws for driving in France that you may not be aware of…
- Drivers of a vehicle in which any occupant is not wearing a seatbelt face three points on their license, plus a fine of €135.
- France has a lower legal limit for drink drive blood alcohol levels than many other countries, so we advise not drinking if you are planning to drive! It is a legal requirement to carry breathalyses in France. Read ‘driving in France checklist’ below for more information.
- Children under ten should be seated in a special booster seat and may not ride in the front seat.
- Motorcycle drivers and passengers must wear crash helmets.
- It will be compulsory for all motorcyclists to carry reflective jackets and wear them in the event of an emergency/ breakdown.
- Drivers are prohibited from using headphones and headsets (any device attached to the ear) when driving. This regulation applies to all drivers and riders and covers devices used for phone calls as well as for listening to music/radio etc. Bluetooth or integrated systems in a motorcycle helmet are still permitted.
FRENCH TOLLS AND CONGESTION CHARGES
To use the motorway in France you have to pay a road charge (péage) which you can pay by cash or with credit card. Make sure to get into the right lane for either paying by cash or with card!
If you’re a regular visitor or planning a longer journey through France, the simplest, most convenient payment method available is to get a Liber-t tag which is a small electronic tag that you attach to your windscreen just behind the rear-view mirror. As you approach the barriers, a device by the barrier will read your tag, and then automatically open the barrier without you having to stop and manually pay the toll. You will receive an invoice the following month later a payment will be collected from your bank account via Direct Debit.
For UK motorists, Sanef France has extended the Liber-t automated French tolls payment service to UK motorists through Sanef Tolling.
If you want to calculate the cost of the toll charges for a particular journey, click here.
AVOIDING THE TOLLS IN FRANCE
It is possible to avoid tolls using toll-free routes, however it may not be the best option avoiding them completely, since the few euros saved by not paying any tolls will be offset by a longer, more stressful route.
There are, however, some routes where it is worth taking an alternative route to save some euros. Check out this website for more information.
Best Apps to use whilst driving in France
Waze– The world’s largest community-based traffic and navigation app. Join drivers in your area who share real-time traffic & road info to save time, gas money, and improve daily commuting for all.
Essence Free – This helps you locate the petrol stations with the cheapest petrol near you
Parkopedia– An app which helps you find parking in France, as well as provide practical information, such as the opening times for parking lots and cost of parking.
ChargeMap– If you are travelling around France with an electric car, this app is designed to help you find a recharge point.
INSIDR ‘TRAVELLING IN FRANCE’ FEATURE
Our smartphones are all equipped with an easy to use ‘driving in France’ feature. With just a simple swipe, you will have access to a number of useful apps for you to use if travelling around France, including Waze, Parkopedia and much more!
PETROL PRICES IN FRANCE
In early August 2016 typical supermarket fuel prices in France were:
Unleaded 98 octane
1.31 Euros per litre
Unleaded 95 octane
1.29 Euro per litre
1.05 Euros per litre.
See below for a comprehensive driving in France checklist (2016) for what you need to take with you when driving in France from a legal viewpoint. Not relevant to travellers renting cars as this will all be included in the car rental.
Breathalyses- whilst they are a legal requirement, there is no fine for non-compliance. So we’ll leave that whether you bring one up to your own discretion!
RENTING A CAR IN FRANCE
DOCUMENTS NEEDED IF YOU’RE RENTING A CAR IN FRANCE
- Proof of identity (a passport is required for non-EU citizens)
- A valid driver’s license, keeping in mind- Declarations of loss or theft as well as suspended/restricted licenses will not be accepted. For non-EU citizens, an international permit or an official French translation of a national permit normally needs to be accompanied by a national permit in order to be accepted. In Canada, international driving permits are provided by the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA).
- Proof of residence dated at least 2 months in advance (or proof of income), such as an electricity bill for example.
- A method of payment made under your name: the person renting the car should be the one making the payment.
- A deposit is also required in case of damage incurred during the rental or to cover potential additional charges
- Check the rental company that you plan on using requirements’ in case it differs from this list.
POPULAR CAR RENTAL COMPANIES IN FRANCE
You could also book through Auto Europe or Europe by Car. These companies compare rates of different car rental companies, find the best deal, and because they’re wholesalers pass the savings on to you. You pay the consolidator, and they issue you a voucher to pick up your car in Europe.
INSIDR TOP TIPS FOR RENTING A CAR IN FRANCE
- Do not forget to refuel your car before returning it, otherwise you risk additional fees applied by the renter.
- Check carefully for damage on the car and take photos when picking it up, turn on the date function of your camera.
- Reserve your vehicle as far in advance as possible to ensure availability. However, if you are looking for a specific model the rental company may not be able to guarantee it at all times.
- Return your car to the rental agency at the pre-determined time: if it is returned late, you may be charged for another half (or even whole) day.
- Most cars in France have a manual gearbox (stick shifts), you may find difficult or even impossible to operate if you have only ever driven vehicles with automatic transmissions. If you rent a car, and you want an automatic, then be sure to explicitly request this requirement in advance .
- Many personal cars run on diesel fuel; make sure you know whether your car runs on diesel or gasoline (petrol) (l’essence). Diesel cars are more economical to operate than gasoline fuelled cars.
Don’t have a car?…
If you are looking to take a road trip somewhere in France, but don’t want to go through the hassle of renting a car or driving to France, you could try out Bla Bla car, an app that allows you to share city-to-city car journeys with great drivers! You can often find a place in a car for a very reasonable price, and get to meet locals at the same time!