Driving in France - A Tourists Guide

Driving in France - A Tourists Guide

The first piece of advice I can give before your visit to France is to have your car serviced, even an engine service will suffice. Check your tires and tire pressures, especially if you are carrying a load or full car. The law in France states that you must carry your travel documents with you for inspection by the police, that is your passport, driving license, proof of ownership of the car and your insurance documents.

This article is to offer a few tips and hopefully will dismiss a few myths and worries about driving your car in France. I have been driving in France now for the past thirty years and I can not wait to go again after every trip.

Driving in France - A Tourists Guide
I am always surprised when friends or relations tell me they would love to visit France but are scared of driving on the right-hand side of the road. Americans that visit France have no problem with this, apart from the fact that they usually use Paris as their base when touring and the Parisian drivers have a law unto themselves when it comes to driving and unless it is unavoidable I advise people to stay clear of the French capital.

French drivers in Paris are a very different type of motorist to the rest of France and driving in Paris is a no go area, almost every car without exception will have a dint somewhere on the car bodywork, I have seen a car parking up by pushing the cars at either end of the selected parking spot back and forth until they have enough room to park, they all drive like racing drivers, not indicating or stopping at red lights, definitely a place to avoid driving in if at all possible.

Fortunately, in my opinion, the rest of the French drivers are good drivers, I find no difference to the driving standards in France or in the United Kingdom (UK).

The problem people say to me is the very fact of driving at "the wrong side of the road" or "how do we get around a roundabout on the wrong side", "what if we go round the wrong way". In actual fact, once you have driven a few miles from the port, you begin to realize what you had to worry about.

I tell the tourist that really it is impossible to go the wrong way round a roundabout because of the road layout and they soon agree with me once they have crossed over a few on their journeys.

A few things that I like to point out to people is the different road signs that they are likely to come across. These days like the UK and the rest of Europe, speed is a major factor on the French roads. Police can often be seen hiding up side roads with their radar guns, but although you may be flashed it is very rare that a British car will be prosecuted for speeding in France. This may change soon with a new European directive to allow Police from other states to exchange information regarding the crime, this will include motoring crime including speeding offenses, however, Britain is not part of this treaty yet and speeding fines will probably be ignored by the French Police. Please remember to respect the fact that you are a traveler in another country and respect their laws as such.

Speed limits on the motorways (Autoroutes) are higher than those of the UK. The limit is 130km (80mph) in normal driving conditions and 110km (70mph) when it raining or snowing, although the latter seems to be ignored.

French autoroutes are mainly toll roads, in general, you pick up a ticket from a machine at the beginning of the autoroute in a toll booth and pay when you get to your destination, either by cash or credit/debit card. The system is very easy and foolproof, certainly nothing to worry about. The French autoroute system is very good and the roads are constantly updated, with new routes opening every year.

In general driving in France is a very pleasurable experience the road signs are easy to understand, most of them are the same as in the UK. Autoroutes are much quieter and apart from the main service areas where you can find shops, restaurants, and fuel much as in the UK, they have smaller rest areas with picnic areas and toilets. Remember to plan the journey well ahead as France is a large country and the journey can be very long, sometimes taking two days so plan well ahead.

Just one more thing going back to speeding, French autoroutes do have speed cameras on them. They look exactly like the ones in the UK but are not painted yellow. Cameras do have a camera warning sign before them, so it is wise just to keep a lookout for these usually near a town or city.


I hope you can find use in this article, please enjoy your visit to France and your driving experience will be easy and pleasurable.

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