How to drive in France?

Did you know that, according to data from the World Tourism Organization, France is the most visited country in the world with 86.9 million tourists every year. A charming country spanning many wonderful landscapes, from the countryside to it's coast, and even it's cities, there is something to be enjoyed by everyone. 

Are you looking to explore castles and cathedrals, or maybe you just want to try some authentic French cosine. France has palaces that tell stories of humanity, spectacular locations that inspire. Dozens of historical monuments that reveal its greatness, and a gastronomy that sells itself, as it is considered one of the most outstanding in the world. 

The iconic Eiffel Tower, the famous works of art kept in the Louvre, a visit to the opulent Palace of Versailles, a café in Montmartre after a walk along the Seine or by its airy boulevards, Deciding where to go first will be your only worry in France. 

The gala nation stands out for its exquisite fragrances and for its fine cuisine of international prestige. Not surprisingly, it is listed as “Intangible Cultural Heritage” by UNESCO. All French regions have their own traditional cuisine rich in seafood, crepes, cheeses, sausages and wines. 

But as we always recommend to our readers, the best way to really get to know France is by driving throughout the country. So if you really want to meet France, you need to buckle up sit back and tour this wonderful country! But first let us go over some essentials to take into consideration when driving in France. 

Legal requirements to drive

Here are the basic requirements that the French government requires tourists to have when driving in France. 

Driver's license

First you should know that the minimum age requirement to drive in France is 18. In order to drive as a tourist you would need to have a copy of your national license as well as your international license. If your national license does not display a picture of your face then you would also be required to have a passport with you when driving. 

Vehicle Registration Document

Car rental companies should give you this document (V5C) when renting a car. If you drive a private vehicle not registered to your name, you must carry a letter from the registered owner granting you the driving license. 

In addition to being in good condition, the car must be equipped with a warning triangle, flash light, spare bulbs and first aid box. If possible, replacement fuses along with a fan belt to avoid being stranded on the road. 

Other instruments and necessary equipment are: NF-certified breathalyzers and wear reflective jackets for each of the passengers. 

Automobile Insurance Certificate

Liability insurance against third parties is mandatory and often comes with the rental of the car. 

Seat belt

The driver and all passengers must always wear the seat belt. Even more so if you travel with children, if they are very small they should go in their own child seat in the back. 

General Management Information

Unlike Italy and the United States, driving in France is more relaxed and safer since drivers generally drive very well and conform to traffic regulations to the letter. On French highways, it is expected that you commute on the right lanes and only use the left lane for overtaking. 

  • Toll payments are made when exiting highways. You are expected to have your change ready when arriving at the tollbooth. Some tolls accept credit cards such as Visa and Eurocard / MasterCard. 
  • To obtain a Liber-t toll tag, you must first register. This allows you to go through the same lane that French drivers do (it is marked with an orange T) without having to stop at the tollbooth. 
  • To stop on a road, you must do it in an air. These “airs” are stops located every 20 kilometers on average. Some of these sites have picnic areas and bathrooms, while in the “airs of service” other additional services are offered quite similar to those of a service station. 
  • While driving you must be very attentive to the 'étapes villages', that is, the small villages and towns that are located right next to the highway. In them you will find all the services you need. For example, bathrooms, restaurant, cafes, night accommodation and some places to explore typical of the place. 
  • In case of an emergency on the highway due to a fault or breakdown of the car, it is best to call an emergency number to ask for help from your own mobile phone or the nearest emergency phone booth. These phones are located approximately every 2 kilometers along the road. 
    The vehicle will be towed by the authorities to an area designated for this purpose where the service provider will receive them. The service provider cannot be called to pick up the driver on the highway. 
  • In the event of a breakdown, the warning triangle must be placed at a safe distance behind the car so that it can be seen with sufficient distance by the other drivers. Not forgetting to wear reflective jackets and use light beam deflectors. 
  • While driving during the day on a road with fog or poor visibility, remember to keep the lights on. 
  • The green direction signs indicate "free roads", other than the blue signs with the word "peage", which means "pay the toll roads". Instead, the signs to the right that point to the left mean that you must go straight. This same sign to the right pointing to the right, means "turn right" as soon as you can. 
  • All types of gasoline and diesel are sold at gas stations, while LPG is only available at some service stations. You can pay the fuel by credit card or cash. 

Parking lot

Parking in France is often one of the main reasons for fines, especially in the major cities. The French authorities are strict with parking regulations by drivers and will not hesitate to impose a fine on offenders and the vehicle being towed. 

If you see a sign that says “Stationnement alternated semi-mensuel”, it means that you can park on one side of the street the first 15 days of the month and on the other side of the street for the rest of the month. Road signs 1-15 or 16-31 mean that you cannot park on that side of the road where the signal is during those dates. 

On the other hand, parking on the left side of a street is only allowed on streets that have one-way traffic. Usually the streets of the main cities have parking meters, however in the interior of the country parking lots are usually free from 12 noon until 2:00 p.m. 

Free parking is from 7:00 pm to 9:00 am Monday through Friday, also on weekends, during holidays and in August. Where you see the "End d'interdiction de stationner" sign, it indicates the end of the parking area. 


Fines for drunk driving in France with a breathalyzer degree between ≥0.5 g / l and <0.8 g / l in blood can be If the breathalyzer rate is greater than 0.8 g / l in the blood or if the driver refuses to undergo the test, the fine can be € 4500, plus the driving ban in France in the next 3 years. 

Fines for drunk driving in France can be up to 135 euros, plus a driving ban across the country for 3 years. You should know that the legal blood alcohol level in France is between ≥0.5 g / l and <0.8 g / l . If the rate is greater than 0.8 g / l in the blood or if the driver refuses to undergo the test, the fine can be € 4500, plus the driving ban in France in the next 3 years. 

The fine for not wearing a seat belt 135 euros. Speed excesses of less than 20 k / h are sanctioned with a € 68 fine; if it is between 20 and 50 k / h the fine is € 135; on the other hand, if the speeding is higher, the fine imposed can reach € 1500 with confiscation of the vehicle. 

As we have said, drivers must carry an NF approved breathalyzer kit in their car. Although the € 11 fines are not being charged for not carrying it, you should still have it. 

Roads and highways

A peculiarity of France is that toll payment is not required on all highways in the country. Such is the case of the A84 from Caen to Rennes, the N10 from Poitiers to Bordeaux, the A20 from Vierzon to Limoges, the A75 from Clermont-Ferrand to Béziers, one of the most beautiful to travel, among others. 

French roads are always maintained in good condition and with proper signaling. So with the help of a GPS or map you can never get lost. The highway system assigns a certain lot of numbers to these roads according to the region. For example from: A1 to A9 - They comprise the main roads starting from Paris with ramifications to other cities. 

A10 to A19 - 1x motorways leaving Île-de-France and Normandy. A20 to A29 - 2x motorways and run north of France (except the A20 between Vierzon and Montauban). A30 to A39 - 3x motorways, span the entire northeast of France. A40 to A49 - 4x motorways, are located in the Rhone-Alpes region A50 to A59 - 5x motorways, cover the southeast of France (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur). A60 to A69 - 6x motorways run through the southwest of the country. A70 to A79 - 7x motorways are located in central France. 

A80 to A89 - 8x motorways cross the west side, with the exception of the A86 (Île-de- France) and the A89 motorway between Bordeaux and Lyon. 

Previously 9x lines were used, but at present they are not operational and were replaced by 1xx. The highways marked with 3 figures are the autoroutes that are linked to other autoroutes. 

Speed limits

Speed limits are measured in KPH (kilometers per hour). - Toll roads (130 Kph); - Highways and main roads of two channels (110 Kph); - Paris motorway (80 Kph); - Urban highways (90 Kph); - Urban areas (50 Kph). If you drive on some of these roads in wet weather the speed limits vary: - Toll roads (110 Kph); - Highways and main roads of two channels (100 Kph); - Other roads (80 Kph). 

Emergency numbers

In case of emergency you should call the following telephone numbers: Emergencies 112 Police 17 Ambulance Service 17 Firefighters 18 

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