If you don’t know the fundamentals of road signs whilst driving in France then you are a danger to yourself and other road users. Therefore here at Drive-France we’d like to give you some of the basics of this crucially important topic and point you towards other useful resources where you can find out even more detailed information if you so choose.
There are many thousands of UK drivers that load up the car and head for France during the summer months and an alarming number of them have no real knowledge of French road signs. You could argue that quite a few of them don’t know much about UK road signs either but that’s another issue!
On the positive side the fact that you are taking the trouble to read this puts you a few steps ahead of most people.
French Road Signs and Meanings
Think about how potentially dangerous it is driving through a country when you don’t speak the language and therefore can’t read the written road signs or even understand some of the important ones without words.
Fortunately France (and most other European Countries) has a lot of signs which you will immediately recognise as some are fairly universal but there are plenty that you just won’t know and would struggle to guess.
If you have your safety and that of your passengers to think about, I’d suggest you don’t want to be guessing.
French Road Signs Rappel
Even if you've driven in France before you may still find this section of the website a useful reminder. Which is a corny link into explaining what it means if you see the word Rappel under, for example, a speed indicator sign. It means that you are still in that speed zone both before and after the sign so it’s just reminding you of the limit not informing you that it is changing to a new limit.
Ok so let’s give you a flavour of what to expect.
Yield & Stop Signs
At a yield sign in France, you must yield to traffic from the left and right, but don't have to stop if there is no one coming.
Yield signs are triangular with the point facing down and have thick red edges, they have no words on them.
Fortunately “Stop” means the same in English as French so you should have no trouble spotting these.
Right of Way
Types of Priority can get a little trickier as there are “One-Time Priority” (priorité ponctuelle) and also “Priority road”.
One Time Priority
Priority on a Turn
Approach junctions with these signs on with caution as it isn’t always the road going straight on that has priority. See the example below it’s the road turning right that has priority.
These are warning signs and many are self-explanatory and some you will be familiar with.
Traffic Signs - Directional
Most directional signs in France are rectangular in shape with pointed ends. The pointed end indicates the direction to the destination in question.
Directional road signs in France are colour coded:
Blue indicates Autoroute.
Green indicates 'important' or major roads.
Yellow indicates temporary roads - often with déviations – detours.
White indicates local roads.
It might not always be obvious, but all roads in France are numbered. There will be a small sign with a letter number colour combination at the top of the direction sign or signs. You can also find road markers bornes - on the side of the road. The letter tells you the type of road as does the colouring.
C & R = Communal/rural, black letters on a white background.
D = Departmental, black letters on a yellow background.
N = National road, white letters on a red background.
A = Autoroute, white letters on a blue background.
E = European roads, white letters on a green background.
The French sign for “No Entry” is the same as the UK so that should be easily recognisable and the one with the Red edge and white centre means “Road closed to all vehicles”
Closed to vehicles.
Traffic Signs - Obligation
These show what you have to do. They are circular with a white edge and a blue background and regulate what you have to do.
Entering/Leaving an Environmental Zone
In a bid to reduce air pollution in Paris they have introduced a scheme whereby all vehicles must display a sticker determining its carbon emissions. Failure to do so will result in a fine see here for more details.
French Road Signs – eBook
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Jeff Steiner for his help with the writing of this article, for sharing his expertise on the subject with us and for kindly allowing the use of some of his images.
Jeff is an expert on the topic of French road signs.
Jeff is an American who has lived in France for over 20 years and because of a quirk in the driving rules between the US and France he had to take his driving test when he moved to France to be able to drive there! (One good thing about the EU is we can drive there legally) Jeff still takes many a road trip as he hasn't lost the car culture of his native Los Angeles!
France is the largest country in Western Europe. Its Autoroute system has some 4200 miles of roads. That's not including national and departmental roads of which there are over 230,000 miles! That means there's lots of road signs you'll see and need to understand.
We are pleased at Drive-France to have had Jeff’s help with this excellent article on French road signs and we are happy to recommend his in-depth eBook which at just £2 is an absolute no-brainer.
The book is available via Amazon and "As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases".
In our opinion all UK drivers who are new to driving in France should buy this eBook to have an understanding of the road signs. It’s far too dangerous to drive abroad without doing some research first.