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Driving in France as a Tourist: Tips and Advice from the Experienced Traveler 2024


A Local’s Guide to Driving in France as a Tourist

Are you coming to France as a tourist and plan to drive? You do very well. I always recommend exploring France by car for a more complete experience and to immerse yourself in the culture and especially the Art de Vivre à la Française.

Would you like to receive more information to be more at ease?

You are in the right place.
Having had the opportunity to drive in France with my family for more than a decade, after having done so for another decade in Spain, I have accumulated a thorough knowledge of how to navigate these roads safely and enjoy them to the fullest.

Genuine Tips for Driving in France as a Tourist

The tips I will share with you are real advice from years of experience, designed specifically for those who wish to drive in France and transform this activity into an unparalleled experience.

From avoiding common mishaps to discovering hidden gems accessible only by road, what I offer you is a veritable treasure trove of insider information.

Keys to Safe and Pleasurable Driving

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To make driving in France as safe as it is pleasant, it is crucial to become familiar with the peculiarities of driving in this beautiful country.

From specific regulations to local practices on the road, knowing these details can transform a potentially stressful trip into one filled with enjoyment and peace of mind.

Read on to the end to take advantage of this knowledge. You’ll enjoy a quieter and safer drive as you explore France, turning your family trip into a collection of precious and unforgettable memories.


The Magic of Driving in France

Once in France, traveling by car has become the preferred option for many. Not only for the convenience it provides, but also for the freedom it gives to marvel at picturesque landscapes and make impromptu stops.

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Additionally, while traveling along the charming French roads, what better company than a good playlist? You can find the special playlist I’ve prepared for you at the end of this page.

Requirements for Driving in France: Which License Do I Need?

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The first question we ask ourselves when planning our trip to France is whether my license will be useful for driving in France or renting a car.

It is clear that if we want to avoid bad moments in case a Gendarme stops us on the road, it is convenient to be provided with the proper documentation.

To answer this question, it is best to refer to the official information available at www.service-public.fr

Drivers license in France

It is then stated that, for short stays :

  • If your driving license is issued in an EU country you can bring it with you and use it with complete peace of mind as long as it is within its period of validity.
  • If your driving license is issued by a country outside the EU and is valid, it must be written in French or be accompanied by an official translation or an international driving license (unless it is a British license).

It’s as simple as that!

If you need to translate your driving license, according to the specific page of www.service-public.fr , you can consult the list of certified translators at the French consulate of your country of origin and it must then be legalized by that consulate.

LEARN MORE ABOUT ME AND HOW WE TRAVEL THROUGH FRANCE

Maximum Speed: Key to Safe Driving in France

Once you have taken care of the driving license issue, the next fundamental aspect when planning your trip to France is to know and respect the maximum allowed speeds.

The maximum speed on French highways is 130 km/h, but be aware that this limit may vary depending on the type of road and weather conditions.

Maximum speed in France

On the highways you will find electronic panels that will inform you of any changes. This is especially true if there is an accident ahead or weather conditions dictate it.

Caution: unlike other countries where the presence of speed cameras is signaled a few kilometers in advance, this is not the case in France. So you must be careful not to exceed the limits in order not to be fined for speeding.

Understanding and adhering to speed limits is crucial not only to avoid fines, but also to ensure the safety of all vehicle occupants and other road users.


Drive on the Right: A Basic Driving Rule in France

An essential driving rule in France, and one that is paramount to maintaining safety on the roads, is the rule of always driving on the right and using the left lane only for overtaking.

This practice is not only regulated by law, but is a crucial part of road etiquette in France, where speeds on freeways and highways can be significantly high.

In France we drive fast, so it is vitally important to adhere to this basic rule: I recommend you stay in the right lane if your speed is slower and move to the left lane only when you need to overtake another vehicle. This measure is essential to avoid accidents and ensure a steady and safe flow of traffic.

In addition, it is crucial to remember that overtaking on the right is prohibited and is considered a dangerous practice that can lead to fines and risky situations. Maintaining this driving discipline will not only protect you and your loved ones, but will also contribute to the well-being of all road users.

Navigating the Roundabouts in France

The Magic of French Roundabouts

A distinctive and very particular feature of the roads in France is the abundance of traffic circles. You will be surprised when you come across one after another!

Not only do they facilitate the flow of traffic but, in many cases, they are embellished with decorations that reflect the unique character of the town or region where they are located.

I have seen traffic circles with bull statues, little trains coming out of tunnels and even a giant swan!

Roundabout at the entrance to Aigues-Mortes

Priority and Safety at Roundabouts

For drivers, especially those unfamiliar with this very common feature of French road infrastructure, understanding who has priority when entering and exiting traffic circles is critical to their safety and the flow of traffic.

The general rule for priority at traffic circles is very simple, but I strongly suggest that you respect it: vehicles already inside the traffic circle have the priority.

This means that, when approaching a traffic circle, you must yield to vehicles already moving through the traffic circle.

This standard is essential to prevent congestion and, above all, accidents, while facilitating continuous and safe movement.

Beauty in the Detail: Decorated Roundabouts

Decorated traffic circles offer additional visual appeal during your trip, but they also require your attention and respect for traffic rules.

By navigating these intersections in a safe and considerate manner, you contribute to a more enjoyable and safer driving experience, both for you and your family, as well as for other drivers and pedestrians on France’s lovely roads.

a Roundabout in France
What is the driving side in France?

For those who are planning to come to France and drive on its roads, it is essential to remember that the steering wheel is on the left side in vehicles.

This arrangement, common in most European countries, may require a period of adaptation for drivers from countries where the steering wheel is on the right side.

Familiarizing yourself with this setup before embarking on long road trips will significantly improve your comfort and safety behind the wheel.

Make sure to take a moment to adjust to this arrangement and practice if necessary, especially if it’s your first experience driving a vehicle with the steering wheel on the left side.

Achieve maximum immersion

in French culture

The heart of France by secondary roads

The road network in France will take you to any destination you wish to reach. It is very well developed and in excellent condition.

I recommend, whenever you can, to do stretches on the secondary road network, which will allow you to cross small and charming villages that often you do not expect, bridges, tunnels, rivers and many other unexpected moments.

You will be able to make spontaneous stops, for example in a bulangerie to buy bread or something typical to eat while traveling, or in a cafeteria to have a drink and breathe the authenticity of life in small French villages, among many other surprises that the journey will bring you.

Highway Speed and Efficiency

Highway in France

The French freeway network offers you a superior travel experience. It is perfectly developed and offers you well-equipped rest areas with an impeccable infrastructure.

Thanks to it you can get closer to any destination. It is an excellent option to choose for journeys where you want to get there faster.

Know the traffic forecast

When planning your road trip in France, a crucial stop in your planning should be the traffic forecasting website

Accessing the official site of Highways in France is key to anticipate possible traffic jams, especially if your route includes stretches of freeway.

This useful tool that I always consult gives you a preview of traffic flow, allowing you to adjust your travel schedule or route to avoid frustrating delays.

Plan your trip
Are there times when it is not advisable to take the car in France?

A very wise decision is not to take the car on weekends, during the summer vacation periods, because they tend to block and lengthen for hours the journeys.

Planning your trip to avoid these dates can be the difference between a smooth trip and hours of stop-and-go in the sun.


Keep an eye on highway traffic updates

The Ideal Companion on your Travels in France

Tuning the Highway Radio is a real trick of the experienced traveler on French roads.

Listen to reports with real-time traffic updates in the region you are driving through, accompanied by music and some news on the official freeway station, VINCI Autoroutes, on FM 107.7.
It is also an excellent opportunity to get your ear accustomed to French 😉

In addition to keeping you informed, listening to FM 107.7 can help you anticipate any complications on your route, allowing you to react in time and modify your path if necessary.

Whether to avoid a traffic jam or simply to enjoy French music, tuning in to this radio will enrich your driving experience in France.

The Importance of Being Informed on the Road

I still remember that trip on the way to Spain, some years ago, thanks to the real time traffic reports, we learned that the border was totally blocked by a big fire. That information was key to get off the highway in time and modify our itinerary.

Although we took a longer route, it was much better than spending the night stuck in the car, waiting for the situation to be resolved. It was a stark reminder that, on the road, being informed is not only convenient, but essential.

Radio VINCI Autoroutes

Basic road signs in France

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Viaduc de Millau – Photo de Luca Onniboni sur Unsplash

Highways and Efficiency: The Blue Panels

A distinctive feature to take into account when driving in France is the color of the signs: the blue ones are indicating that you are heading towards a freeway. These signs are your ally in finding the fastest routes between cities and regions, offering you the efficiency of high-speed roads.

National and Departmental Highways: The White Panels

On the other hand, white signs point the way to national or departmental roads. These routes invite you to immerse yourself in a more leisurely and contemplative journey, ideal for those looking to explore the landscapes, towns and cities in more detail.

Each type of signage prepares you for the driving experience ahead, whether it’s an efficient highway trip or a scenic adventure on less traveled, slower roads.

Tolls when driving in France

Maintaining France’s extensive network of highways in optimal condition is a considerable task that involves significant costs. This is why you will encounter numerous tolls along your journey. Familiarizing yourself with the toll system will not only make your trip easier but will also help you better manage your time and budget.

Toll Payment Options: Find Your Best Option

In France, tolls can be paid in several ways: in cash, using machines that accept physical cash, by credit or debit card, or through the Electronic Toll Collection system.

Driving in France
How is the electronic toll system on French highways?

The latter is a method that works through a device placed on the windshield of the car, allowing you to pass through the tolls without stopping, ideal for those seeking to optimize their travel times.

Exclusive ETC lanes are generally located at the ends of toll booths and are identified by orange signs that read “Réservé t” or with a “t“.

If you do not have this device, it is important that you avoid these lanes, as doing so will not only result in delays for you but also in possible traffic jams, affecting other travelers.

Planning in advance which toll payment method best suits your needs will allow you to enjoy a smoother and stress-free driving experience on French highways.

Rest and Recharge: Driving Rest Areas in France

Driving in France

Driving in France offers a unique experience, not only for its picturesque landscapes and rich culture, but also for the excellent infrastructure of its highways.

One of the features I appreciate and love the most are the rest areas and rest stops, strategically located every few kilometers along the highways.

These areas are designed to give you the perfect opportunity to take a break, stretch your legs, let the kids run around a bit, making your trip as enjoyable as the destination you are heading to.

The Importance of Regular Breaks

The importance of taking regular breaks during a long road trip cannot be underestimated, especially when you are behind the wheel.

Experts recommend stopping at least every two hours of driving to avoid fatigue and stay alert on the road.

These breaks are crucial for the safety and well-being of both the driver and passengers.

Driving in France

Rest Area Services

Rest areas on French highways are well equipped to meet the needs of travelers. Not only will you find essential services such as clean toilets, but also picnic tables, large green areas and even playgrounds for children. These spaces are designed for you to relax and enjoy a well-deserved break.

Sometimes we take advantage of them to have a picnic or a snack, also to play with our daughter or just to breathe fresh air and admire the scenery for a while.

Making the Most of Rest Areas

These facilities make driving in France a less tiring and more enjoyable experience. Whether you are crossing the country or exploring the local region, rest areas allow you to recharge your batteries, enjoy quiet moments and prepare for the next leg of your journey. Taking advantage of these areas not only enhances your safety and comfort, but also gives you the opportunity to appreciate even more of France’s beauty and diversity from its roads.

Driving Service Areas in France

Resting areas in France

When driving in France, one of the great advantages that complement the travel experience, and are truly spectacular, are the service areas available along the highways. I love them!

In these true oases, besides, of course, being able to charge fuel or car batteries, you can also charge your own!

More than just Fuel: A Complete Stopping Point

Service areas in France are designed to offer much more than just a simple refueling. Here, you will have the opportunity to enjoy spacious green areas, perfect for stretching your legs after several hours behind the wheel. Picnic tables invite you to enjoy a meal in the open air, while children’s play areas are ideal for the little ones to burn off energy and have fun.

Areas de Servicio en Francia
Areas de Servicio en Francia

Perfect Stops: Modern and Practical Conveniences

Service areas in France are noted for their wide range of modern and practical amenities, ensuring that travelers have a comfortable and carefree stopover. With modern toilets in excellent condition, souvenir stores, and convenience stores, travelers can stock up on everything they need for their trip.

In addition, the gastronomic offer is varied, with restaurants, cafeterias, and fast food chains that satisfy all tastes. For those on longer trips, there are also hotels of well-known chains, making these areas an ideal resting point.

Areas de Servicio en Francia

Driving in France: Comfort and Convenience at every kilometer

Service areas are an essential component of the driving experience in France, transforming each stop into an opportunity to rest, enjoy and prepare for the next stage of the journey.

Whether you need to refuel, have a coffee, enjoy a comforting meal or simply take a break in pleasant surroundings, the service areas on French highways are equipped to meet your needs and enrich your trip.

Basic Vocabulary : Key Terms for Driving in France

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As you embark on the adventure of driving along the scenic roads of France, knowing a few key French words and phrases can be very helpful.

This knowledge will not only allow you to follow road signs more easily, but will also give you more confidence. Here are some useful words and phrases that will help you get around France more easily, making your trip even more enjoyable and safe.

Droite >>
Right
Rond Point >>
Traffic Circle
Gauche >>
Left
Aire de répos >>
Rest Area
Rappel >>
Remember
Aire de service >>
Service Area
Vitesse >>
Speed
Payant >>
Paying
Ralentir >>
Slow Down

Conclusion: Enriching Your Road Trip in France

Infographic Driving in France as a tourist

Driving in France is more than just an act of moving from one point to another; it is an adventure in itself, full of discovery, comfort and memorable experiences.

From scenic back roads to efficient highways, every kilometer traveled invites you to immerse yourself in the rich culture and beautiful French landscape.

The rest and service areas, with their ample facilities, not only guarantee your safety and well-being, but also enhance the pleasure of your trip, allowing you to fully enjoy what France has to offer.

Whether you stop to admire an artistically decorated traffic circle, take a well-deserved break in a green area, or enjoy a local meal at a service area, every stop is an opportunity to enrich your travel experience.

The tips and recommendations shared here are designed to help you navigate the French roads with ease and confidence, transforming your trip into a collection of precious and unforgettable memories.

So, when you find yourself driving in France, remember that the journey is as significant as the destination. With the right preparation and an open mind, you’ll be ready to make the most of what this beautiful country has to offer, making every moment on the road an integral part of your French adventure.


Diego en France

Dear reader,
I hope you have enjoyed reading this post and, above all, that it has been useful for planning your getaway or family holiday in France.
I would love to hear your thoughts, questions, and experiences related to the content you’ve just read. Comments are an opportunity for us all to share ideas and learn from each other.
So I encourage you to share your thoughts and comments below. Whether it’s your first time commenting on the blog or you’re a regular reader, your contribution is valuable and appreciated. I can’t wait to read what you have to say.
Let’s start a conversation here below and make the post richer!
Thank you for being part of this community and I look forward to seeing your comments soon!
Warm regards


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