Show Notes for Episode 16: The Rules of Driving in France

Category: Driving in France

Common Misconceptions About Driving in France

-Driving in France is chaotic like in Italy
-They drive on the left like in the UK
-They’re aggressive/rude drivers (a bit “undisciplined” but know what they can get away with)
-Small, windy roads (semi misconception)
-There is a lot of drunk driving in France

Things to Consider Before Renting a Car in France

-Manual transmissions
-Parallel parking
-Gas and tolls are a lot more than in the US (
-Arrange a rental before arriving
-Good idea to get an int’l driving permit from the National Automobile Club or the American Automobile Association (not always required, check with rental agency, but fast and only $15)
-Even if you have a US license, if you’re not 18 you can’t drive in France and unless you’re 21 you probably can’t rent (and will pay more than if you’re 25+).
-Don’t drive in the big cities, especially Paris. Not worth the cost and grief considering good public transport.

Danger signs drivers may encounter in france


French Terminology You Will Need to Understand

-Gasole or Gasoil
-Sans plomb 95 or 98 (Unleaded)
-Péage (Toll)
-Déviation (Detour)
-Payant (Pay Parking)

Tips for Navigation in France

-Get a good GPS (not a phone!)
-Destination vs location
-Blue (tolls?) vs green vs white backgrounds
-“Lieu-dit” (place name)

direction signs in france

Speed limits in France

-Not always marked, often implied
-Freeways: 130 km/hr (80 mph). – or 110 (68) km/hr in rain.
-Divided highways: is 110 km/hr (68 mph)
-Main roads outside of town: 80 km/hr (50 mph)
-In town: 50 km/hr (31 mph)
-Exceptions are marked
-Very little wiggle-room. Don’t speed to pass.
-Speed limits go down in the rain, and RADARs might check
-Lots of speed bumps and chicanes to keep the speed down

Gotchas You Need to Know About

-Right-hand priority
-Signs and lights to the right on the sidewalk
-Blinkers mean intention, not desire
-Cell phones
-No right turn on red (unless arrow)
-Small yield or other signs on light poles
-Passing cyclists
-Pedestrians and cyclists are crazier than drivers and know they can get away with it.
-Stay in right lane on freeways unless passing (unless it’s a traffic jam) and don’t pass on the right
-Yellow lines don’t mean different directions
-No warning of lane merges on non-freeways, and it’s easy to get stuck in turn-only lanes
-Everyone in seat belts, boosters or baby seats
-Fuzz busters/RADAR detectors: 2000 € fine
-Drinking and driving (750 € for 0.05% BAC, 4500 € for 0.08% or refusing to take the test)

indication signs drivers may encounter in france


Police and Tickets

-Carry other ID besides DL
-Speed and light “photo cops”, fixed and mobile, not always marked
-Mobile speed traps
-Cops stand in the middle of the street and hide between parked cars
-Unpaid tickets will likely be sent to the rental agency and charged to you
-Tickets given by a policeman can be paid on the spot, but if you intend to appeal it, DON’T pay it.
-Don’t worry, there aren’t THAT many cops on the streets

Roundabouts in France

-Usually left-hand priority unless yield sign at entrance
-Blinker and placement for right, “straight” and left
-Great for U-turns!
-Lights on outside and/or inside (red + on back of others’ light)

graphic that shows how roundabouts are supposed to work in france

Parking in France

-Meters (“payant”, La Paris Carte, CC, coins, depending)
-Free discs
-No parking sign
-Don’t leave anything in sight. Burglaries are common.

In Case of Emergency

-Constat amiable (amicable accident report)
-If there is no injury, otherwise police MUST come
-Call rental agency even if the other person insists you don’t need to
-Emergency triangle and vest
-112 and emergency phones

Final Thoughts

-Just take a lot of deep breaths, keep an eye out and don’t go too fast.
-Know that the other drivers are watching out for surprises better than in the US, so even if you make a mistake it’ll probably just lead to an illegal honk.
-The system is fairly complicated so the French make mistakes themselves.
-If you miss a turn, don’t worry, there will be a roundabout soon.

obligation signs drivers may encounter in france

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Category: Driving in France