Driving in France is straightforward. The road network is excellent. Most motorways are toll roads, although some are free, so its worth checking when planning a long journey. French drivers are generally of a good standard, although some are a little impatient.
- Drivers require a full driving license or International Driving Permit
- Adequate insurance – it is a good idea to get translations from your insurer
- Ownership papers
The French roads are good and make driving in France a pleasure.
Motorways (autoroute) – main roads (A roads or motorways) are 2 or 3 lanes and of excellent condition that cross the country. Many of these roads are toll roads, with the fee payable at the peage tollgate. Check www.autoroutes.fr for prices. Autoroutes are the quickest and easiest way to travel between major French towns and cities. Each autoroute has rest areas at various points along the route. The rest areas are normally leafy and green, often with play areas for children and always with toilets, although some are a little run down. The rest areas are great for taking a break. Some people stay overnight in the rest areas, although crime rates are high, so it is not recommended.. Speed limit 130 kph
Routes nationales – The older RN or N roads are also normally good. Mainly single carriageway, but often dual carriageway, these roads go through some towns and take a little longer, but normally allow you to take in more beautiful countryside. Speed limit 110 kph for dual carriageway, 90 kph single carriageway, 50 kph for urban areas.
Other roads – The D roads and the smallest, but often provided excellent ways of travelling between more remote destinations, and normally with the best views.
Before always committing yourself to travelling by autoroutes, try the other options and see how you find them. The type of vehicle you have will make a difference to your preference. Speed limit 90 kph, 50 kph for urban areas.
The French are generally good drivers. They can drive quickly though, and do not like getting stuck behind slow moving foreign vehicles, especially vans. You may find cars close up behind you quickly, and then flash and wait to overtake.
When not to drive in France
Major cities and seaside resorts are often a difficult place to drive and park. If you are staying at a campsite or hotel it is generally much wiser to leave your vehicle there and use public transport to travel into a city.
Most French people holiday in August, so traffic becomes its worst then. Weekends in July are also a problem.
If you are driving a long way in France you are likely to be stopped in a random police check. This is most likely to be by the Granademeire National Police. They will probably ask for your papers, to which your driving license and passport will normally do. They don’t normally make a fuss of checking vehicles.
Payeage tollgates on French motorway
Each payeage tollgate is clearly signposted before you approach, and you have the option to leave at a ramp road.
On some sections you are given a ticket as you enter the payeage, and pay the necessary fee when you leave, or when it ends. On other sections you pay the fee as you enter. Larger vehicles such as motorhomes pay more than cars.
Typical costs (camper van or motorhome, cars are cheaper):
Lille (Northern France)/Brussels (Belgium) to Paris – €18
Paris to Caen (Normandy) – €19