Driving in France


The great thing about driving in France, is that it gives you the freedom to really travel and explore in your own time. You don’t need to stick to a schedule and it gives you total independence.

It also opens up more options for you in terms of accommodation. And if you really want to venture off the beaten track, a hire car in France is the way to go!

Travelling around France by car can be a real pleasure, especially once you’re in the countryside and away from the traffic of the big cities. (But no matter where you are, having a good map of France is essential.)

We’ve put together some very general guidelines and tips here about driving in France.

There are also ways you can reduce the costs of driving in France, which we will cover here.

License and Documentation Requirements

Here are some very general guidelines on driving in France.

If you are in France for less than 90 days, you can drive with your national driver’s license (although double check on the AA website for the most accurate and up to date information.)

You also need to carry the vehicle’s registration document and insurance certificate (you should get all this from the car rental company. It is recommended but not essential to carry an International Driving Permit or have a french translation for your license.

Beginners Guide to Driving in France

  • Drive on the right, pass on the left.
  • “Toutes Directions” means all directions; “Autres Directions” means other directions. You’ll see this sign alot. So, for example, if you see a turn-off to town A, you either take the turnoff to Town A, or keep going (ie toutes directions).
  • You’ll see “Priorité à Droite” which means give way to the right.
  • Green signs are generally the ‘free’ roads; blue signs are where you need to pay tolls (“péage”).
  • On your map, motorway roads (autoroutes) start with A; older roads can start with an N or RN (routes nationales); smaller roads start with a D (routes départementales) and are marked in yellow.
  • Unleaded petrol is ‘sans plomb’; diesel is (gazole).
  • Gas stations may be shut over lunchtime and on Sunday; also be careful to have enough petrol when driving in rural areas as you may drive for quite some time without seeing a petrol station.
  • Parking in larger towns or cities is often ‘pay and display’ so check for parking meters.

Via Michelin


Having a few basic french phrases under your belt will help in case you need to ask for directions or in case of emergencies.

Speed Limits

Here are some very general guidelines for speed limits when driving in France:

  • Motorways: 110kph/70mph
  • Dual carriageways: 100kph/60mph
  • Open roads: 80kph/50mph
  • Town/villages 50kph/31mph

The conversion is 1 mile = 1.6km or 1km = 0.6 miles

Cost Saving Tips

  • If you can, rent a car that runs on diesel because it can be cheaper than unleaded, and the mileage is better.
  • Petrol is cheaper at the big supermarket/hypermarket chains (located on the outskirts of the main cities (look for ‘centre commercial’ signs) than on the motorways.
  • The tolls on motorways can add up. If you’d rather save the toll money and aren’t in any rush, you can take the back roads – it will take longer to reach your destination of course, but driving the back roads of France is all part of the experience! 

Driving Times from Paris to Main Cities

This is a very general guide and doesn’t account for traffic jams etc (mon dieu!)

  • Paris-Calais 2.5hrs
  • Paris-Rennes 4hrs
  • Paris-Strasbourg 5hrs
  • Paris-Bordeaux 6-7hrs
  • Paris-Toulouse 6hr30mins
  • Paris-Avignon 6hr40mins
  • Paris-Lyon 5-6hrs
  • Paris-Nice 9hrs
  • Paris-Dijon 3hrs
  • Paris-Marseille 9-10hrs
  • Paris-Quimper/Brest 6hrs

For the most accurate and up to date information, we’d strongly suggest visiting the AA website.

Car Rental In France

More About Travelling Around France

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