Tips for Driving in France

Navigation, fueling, parking, and signage information

car picture
••• Traffic jams are inevitable everywhere. James Martin

Driving in France is a joy. There's really not much of a difference than driving in the US, except it makes more sense. For example, if a sign says "lane closed, move left" French drivers will generally move to the left and stay there. You'll be amazed that traffic won't even slow because people drive for the common good. Few if any will try to pass as many cars as they can on the right and then move left at the last moment, hoping that someone will slam their brakes to avoid the sudden maneuver, like we do in America.

French Drivers

French drivers are generally less aggressive than drivers in Italy, but more aggressive than drivers in Belgium.

On the fast Autoroutes, France's toll roads, you are expected to drive on the right and pass on the left. If you are in the left lane, cars will approach within a couple of car lengths. There is nothing you can do about this, so try to avoid getting fixated on your rear view mirror and move to the right as quickly as you can. Those are the rules.

Fueling up - the Essence of Driving in France Where is gasoline cheaper?

Hypermarkets, those huge markets on the outskirts of large cities and towns. You can expect at least a 5% savings.

Signage

Green direction signs point to "free roads," as opposed to the blue signs that say "peage" which amounts to "pay up for the toll roads."

A sign on the right pointing left generally means that you go straight ahead. The same sign on the right pointing right means "turn right" at the first opportunity.

 Think about this for a minute. It requires a different mindset to understand.

Traffic Circles

A thousand times more efficient than stop signs, the traffic circle is easy to navigate and gives you a second chance to read the signs. You can go around as many times as it takes, as long as you do so on the inner lane.

Upon entering the circle, check for traffic from the left, enter the circle and go toward the center until it's time to exit, then signal, check the inner lane for traffic, and make your turn.

Speed Limits

Generally, speed limits are around 90-110 on the red roads on your map (the free roads between major cities) and 130 on the good parts of the toll roads. Town limits very between 30 and 50, but are never higher than 50 kilometers per hour.

Parking

Much of the parking in larger cities is parking you have to pay for. Look for machines in the middle of parking lots. They are quite sophisticated, often taking coins, bills, and sometimes credit cards. Parking is generally free during lunch--from 12-2 pm. Otherwise, you will often need to pay in a pay lot from 9-12 and 2-7 in the evening. Check the signs.

The French Buy Back Lease

If your vacation is to be taken entirely in France, or your flight arrives and departs from France and you will be needing a car for more than three weeks, you may wish to check on leasing rather than renting a car. See our take on French Buy-Back leases and how they might make your driving vacation more enjoyable.