Driving in France: A Visitor’s Guide

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Taking a self-drive tour is the best way to enjoy the scenery of the countryside, small towns and old castles in France, as well as the freedom, romance of France. Every year France attracts numerous travelers to experience the most local French style of life. Now follow EasyRentCars to enjoy the unforgettable self-drive trip!

driving in france

1. Driving Rules and Tips

  • Speed Limit

French roads have a variable speed limit that depends on weather conditions. While urban speed limit of 50 km/h is unaffected by weather.

In dry weather:

i. Rural 2- or 3-lane roads – 80km/h: in rural areas

ii. 4-lane expressways – 110 km/h

iii. Highways – 130 km/h: in rural areas, when classified as motorway

On rainy days, the limits are respectively lowered to 80, 100, and 110 km/h.

  • Traffic and Road Signs

driving in france

For more information about France road signs, here is an infographic from EasyRentCars.

2. Road Condition and Toll Roads

  • Road Condition

The highway is in good condition in France. The roads in the urban areas of France, especially in the old cities, are generally narrow, and there are many one-way lines. Driving in the old cities requires special attention. GPS doesn’t work sometimes because of the block of the building, and attention should be paid to traffic signs at any time.

Roads are divided into highways (starting with the letter A), national roads (starting with the letter N) and provincial roads (starting with the letter D) in France. Highways are generally a two-way four lanes, some of which are toll roads; therefore, there is no isolation zone in the middle of the national highway. So be careful of the vehicles and pedestrians that may appear on the national highway, and pay attention to the speed. Most of the provincial roads are the main roads in the city and the ordinary roads connecting small towns, with more natural scenery.

  • Toll Roads

France is known as the country with the largest number of European toll roads, and most highways are charged. The French highway that starts with the letter A needs to be charged. At present, the French highway reference price is about 5 euros per 100 kilometers.

It is suggested that when planning your journey, you can check in advance whether you will drive on the toll road. If so, GPS can be programmed to avoid toll roads. If you don’t plan on time and cannot avoid it, please pay in different ways.

How to pay?

Cars get the tickets at the entrance of the highways and pay the fee when leaving. According to various payment methods, there are different charging windows, pay on the machine, pay by card, and manual payment.

i. Pay on the machine: Generally for the regular drivers on highways, visitors should avoid this kind of method, because cars need to be equipped with certain equipment.

ii. Pay by card:Visa, Master card are accepted. It will charge right away when inserting the card.

Manual payment: there is staff who help to pay the fee, by card or in cash.

Expert tips: If there is a manual toll channel for payment on highways, it is faster to go directly to it.

3. Gas

There are many gas stations in France, such as Total, Shell, Esso. Oil price varies from brands and regions. And diesel is 10%-15% cheaper than petrol.

Generally speaking, it is expensive to refuel in rush hours and on weekends. And it is more expensive in downtown, highways, and popular spots as well as a remote area. Don’t refuel when the tank is almost empty. It is recommended to refuel when there is a gas station at a reasonable price.

80% of cars are using petrol instead of diesel in France. Green pumps marked with ‘ESSENCE or SP95/SP98’ are petrol and yellow and black pumps marked with ‘DIESEL or GAZOLE’ is diesel.

driving in france

When refueling in France, you can follow the instructions on the car or the fuel tank cap and fill the tank with the designated fuel. If you are not sure which fuel to choose, consult the branch staff when picking up the car.

Expert tips: Be careful not to fill the tank with the wrong fuel. If you refuel with the wrong fuel, please contact the branch as soon as possible to clean up the fuel tank and the fuel system and conduct an overall inspection of the engine. Don’t start the car in haste to avoid car damage.

How to pay?

France’s gas stations are mostly self-service. You can pay by credit card and cash.

  • Refueling with credit card

Step1: Insert the credit card

Step2: Enter the information as required

Step3: Remove the credit card

Step4: Select the petrol type

Step5: Pick up the fuel pump nozzle and start filling up

  • Refueling with cash

Step1: Remember the nozzle number

Step2: Pay in cash at the counter

Step3: Choose the petrol type at the pump

Step4: Pick up the fuel pump nozzle and start filling up

Step5: Get your change back at the counter

Expert tips:

1. It is suggested to refuel before the journey for the gas station is not so many along the roads and resorts.

2. Most of gas stations can only accept the credit cards with chips, instead of a magnetic-strip credit card.

4. Parking

  • Public parking

There are free public parking lots around the shopping center and large supermarkets. Generally, in the scenic spots and prosperous areas, paid parking lots are available.

  • On-street, chargingparking

‘PAYANT’ outside the white lines indicates it is an open charging parking plot. There are always machines for self-payment. Follow the instructions and pay the fee. The limited-time for parking is on the printed receipt. And then put it on the windshield.

  • Free parking within specific time period

It can be free only within a specific time limit, from Monday to Saturday 8:00-19:00 for 10 mins free. And charge will be expensive when parking over the time limit. There is a need for a stopped machine that can show up to time to be placed at the front windshield for inspection (typically provided when renting the cars).

How to pay?

Most of the charging parking spaces in France can only stay for 2 hours, about 2 euros an hour. The indoor parking lot can be parked all night, but the charge is higher. The suburbs are relatively cheap, about 1 euro an hour. Generally speaking, parking is free on weekends, holidays and August.

It is always self-payment in France, by card or in cash.

Step1: Select the time

Step2: Confirm ok

Step3: Paying by card/cash

Step4: Print the receipt

Step5: Place the receipt on the windshield

There are two ways to pay:

Take the ticket: Click the button on the machine to get a stop ticket. Pay attention to pay the fee on an automatic toll machine inserting the tickets before leaving;

No need to take the ticket: similar to the roadside parking, find the self-service payment machine and pay the bill and put the bill on the windshield.

Expert tips: Be careful to drive in center Paris for the heavy traffic, complicated road conditions many one-way roads and difficult and expensive to park.

4. Parking

The penalty is strict and the fine is high. Doesn’t stop at the STOP sign, speeding and illegal parking is common, always fined with 135-750 euro (nearly 1065-5918 RMB).

How to pay?

The rental company may pay the fine for you if there is an unknown fine when coming back. But usually, it is more expensive than the fee for breaking rules, which is included administration fee from the rental company.

If you receive a parking ticket in France on the spot, you can go to the nearby Tabac (cigarette store) to buy one Timbre Fiscal (stamp ticket and one ordinary stamp each). The upper right corner of the ticket has one large, one small and two squares, the large case is used to affix the stamp tax ticket, and the small case is used to affix the ordinary stamp. After affixing it, send it to the address on the ticket. Also, remember to keep the stamp duty ticket and ticket to prove that the ticket has been paid.

There are two ways to pay: pay online or on APP if the fine tickets are received when coming back:

i. Log in here, then pay the fee according to the instructions.

ii. Users only need to download the APP, pay the fee by entering the number or scanning the code.

If there isn’t any violation record, the deposit will be returned to the debit card of the main driver within a month.

Expert tips: The penalty in France is quite strict and expensive. Please observe the traffic rules.

It’s better to know whether there is toll road or toll bridge and any possible illegal behaviors in advance. It would be better to pay the fine as soon as possible in case of high overdue fine.

Visit easyrentcars.com now.

EasyRentCars guarantees the most competitive car rental deals for your travel and the secret is our Price Drop Protector program! We can automatically track your rental rates and RE-BOOK you if prices drop! See how our customers love this feature here.

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