Driving in France

If you are planning on driving in France then we have all the information you need. Avoid the pitfalls and discover the delights of motoring through France.
Driving in France
Image by Mike McBey

Driving in France rules, tips & places to stay

For anyone planning a European road trip this website, will prove very valuable to you. We tell you what you need to know to avoid the pitfalls, we point out the legal requirements for driving in France and beyond, as well as providing lots of free information, hints & tips.

You can also see what makes up the contents of the ultimate driving in France kit.

Whether you are planning short trips in and around Paris or driving huge distances across the length and breadth of France - through the beautiful countryside - then this website is what you need It should prove useful to both first timers and experienced travellers alike.

Driving on the continent especially through the stunning French countryside is an experience to be enjoyed. So, for all you ever needed to know about Driving in France, please read on.

Before you head off on your trip, please read about European Breakdown cover. Breaking down hundreds of miles from home in a country where you don't speak the language is no fun.

Relax and enjoy

Driving in France really is nothing to worry about. At first you will feel a little strange driving on the 'wrong' side of the road, but the process is quite straightforward. Most of the junctions will steer you towards the correct positioning - but do make yourself familiar with the quirky rules that France has, that we don't in the UK.

Our in-depth FREE information on everything from speed limits to driver etiquette will prove a useful resource to you the motorist.

Motorways and dual carriageways are the easiest to drive on and as long as you take it steady through the towns, you shouldn't have any issues. Paris is one place that people avoid driving in if at all possible though it's usually issues with parking that creates the biggest headache.

Parking up somewhere and using public transport for sightseeing is actually a smart move in Paris - if you can find somewhere to park!

You do of course need to carry some compulsory items in the car, which you might not normally carry in the UK. See our Checklist page and have a look at our "All in one Travel Kit".
Road Types in France

Road types

In France as in the UK the different types of roads range from the narrow single track country lanes right through to 8 lane motorways. Driving through historical towns and villages has its own difficulties and charm as they were obviously built many years before the motor car was invented and some of them are simply unsuitable for traffic.

Roads come in the following main types, Autoroute (Motorway) which has red number signs. “N” which are the National roads, “D” which are the departmental roads these have yellow number signs. You might also encounter “municipal” (white number sign) and “forestry” roads (green signs).

We have a French Road Signs page that will give you the basics you need to safely drive in France.

The motorway network throughout France is far superior to the UK network in my opinion and you will not generally encounter mile after mile of road works like we have to suffer in the UK.

In the countryside and mountainous regions you may well come across less well maintained roads and worse driving conditions.

I personally prefer to avoid the motorways not just to save on tolls but because I don't particularly enjoy that type of driving and I’m never in a hurry. I enjoy the journey as much as the destination and have had some fantastic meals in small villages along my route.

Mountain regions of France

A lot of people visit France for a skiing holiday and the areas in the Alps, Vosges, Jura, and the Pyrenees offer up some additional things to consider.

They get an awful lot of snow and roads often get closed through the mountains and snow chains are compulsory in these snowy conditions.
Mountain Regions of France

You and the law

Law enforcement via the French police can be a little heavy handed so having everything you legally need to hand will definitely make things go a lot smoother if you get stopped and a smile is advisable.

They will almost certainly want to see your driving licence, insurance and MOT and if they are being bloody minded the items in our driving checklist like warning triangles, Hi Viz vests etc. (see all products here)

The driving age for France means you MUST be 18 to drive in France not 17 as it is in the UK.

France has a lower legal limit for drink drive blood alcohol levels than the UK so simply do not drink and drive as even one drink can put you over the limit. See the rules about the legal drink driving limits here. (It is an old article but still up-to-date)

You may have heard about breathalysers being a legal requirement, but read our page on that before deciding whether to take some with you.

Breathalysers in France do you need them?

Read all about this daft breathalyser rule here.

Mobile Phone Use

It is illegal to use a mobile phone whilst driving even if you have a headphone set or headphones. Mobile or cell phones can only be used via a fully fitted wireless Bluetooth car kit. When it comes to using your phone as a "Sat Nav" see our "Speed Cameras in France" section.  

UK Stickers replace GB stickers

There have been some changes post Brexit that have had an effect on the rules regarding GB number plate stickers. It is now the law that GB plates have to be replaced/covered over with new UK stickers.

You can read the details here: UK Sticker and UK Number Plate Stickers.

Accidents or breakdown

What to do if you are involved in an accident or breakdown. French emergency numbers for Police, Fire and Ambulance provided with useful information you hopefully may never need but should have just in case.
French Road Signs

French road signs

Understand what the main road signs mean in France, or you could make some pretty bad mistakes. See our guide to French road signs here.

Also remember that in France a single continuous white line is the same as a double white line in our country. You must not overtake when there is one in the centre of the road.
European Breakdown Cover

European breakdown cover

It would be unwise to drive your car hundreds of miles from home in a foreign country without adequate breakdown cover. Why not visit our sister website EuropeanBreakdownCover 4u.co.uk

Latest posts

See our latest news updates and blog post here.
November 19, 2022
Hidden gems in Northern France

Northern France itinerary I thought I’d share some hidden gems in northern France. So I’ve written some of my memories of a trip I took some time ago and hopefully it may inspire some of you to take on a similar itinerary. I set off with some friends for a week away in the car […]

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November 17, 2022
Can you use a mobile phone while driving in France

No, you can’t use a phone while driving, and the fine is €135. Not even hands free. Only passengers can speak on a mobile phone while driving in France. The number of French motorists using their mobile phones while driving, speeding and tailgating is on the rise so it just plays into the stereotype that […]

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September 26, 2022
Petrol Prices France

OK so you are about to spend some time driving in France and you've suddenly had the thought “What are the fuel prices in France?” Well, there is no need to worry as compared to the UK, prices are currently very good. They are a little bit cheaper than the UK currently and the bonus […]

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June 8, 2018
New Speed Limits in France

New Speed Limits in France This is an old post, see our Speed Cameras page for more up to date information. Old Post starts here: The summer holiday season is fast approaching, so if you are planning a driving trip to France then this article could save you money by making aware of the changes […]

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July 14, 2015
Flip Flop Fines

Has the French Police Gone Mad? French police always have an eye on any chance to issue on the spot fines, and this time they have surpassed themselves. A female driver was stopped near Toulouse and has been issued an on-the-spot fine of €90 for driving whilst wearing flip flops! Yes, we know France has […]

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April 22, 2015
Speeding Fines in France

Please Note: This is an old post (2015) and since Brexit, the cross border enforcement of motoring offences is no longer in force. Though France and the UK are speaking about a deal just between the 2 countries. See our page about "Speed Cameras in France" for the latest details. OLD ARTICLE STARTS HERE: With […]

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January 27, 2015
Drink Driving Laws Changed in France

This article talks about the NEW driving laws (from July 2015) don't forget all the existing ones mentioned here. If you want to buy breathalysers for your trip to France, get them here. New Laws The Drink Driving Law and Mobile Phone Legislation and the use of Headphones has changed in France. The legal blood alcohol level has been lowered again for new […]

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September 19, 2014
Toll Roads Rip Off France

The French equivalent of the monopolies and mergers commission the “Competition Authority” (Autorité de la Concurrence) published a report that was leaked to the French newspaper Les Echoes. The report stated that the prices being charged on toll roads in France are extortionate. Extortionate wasn't the actual word they used but they went as far […]

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August 19, 2014
Two More Deaths in the French Alps

Sadly, another two base jumpers were killed in unrelated accidents in the French Alps on Sunday (17th Aug). That brings the number of deaths base jumping in France to 4 since the end of July. Base jumping is exceptionally dangerous even to experienced practitioners as it involves parachuting off (in this case) mountains in a […]

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