Full guide on driving in France as a foreigner

Our comprehensive guide on driving in France covers traffic rules, speed limits, safety measures, and essential tips for a safe journey
Driving in France

France is renowned for its picturesque landscapes, charming cities, and rich cultural heritage. Exploring this beautiful country by car is a fantastic way to experience its wonders at your own pace. However, as a foreigner renting a car in France, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the local driving rules and regulations. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to navigate the French roads safely and confidently.

Driving in France

Full guide on driving in France as a foreigner

  1. Traffic Side

    A person driving on the right side of the road

    In France, like most European countries, driving is done on the right-hand side of the road. This means that the driver’s seat is on the left side of the vehicle, and you should drive on the right side of the road.

  2. Speed Limits

    Road sign indicating speed limit

    The speed limits in France vary depending on the type of road and weather conditions. As a general guideline, the maximum speed limit on highways (autoroutes) is 130 km/h (80 mph), but it can be reduced to 110 km/h (68 mph) in case of rain. On national roads, the speed limit is typically 80 km/h (50 mph), while in urban areas, it is usually 50 km/h (31 mph). It’s important to pay attention to speed limit signs as they may vary in certain areas.

  3. Traffic Lights

    Traffic lights on the pole

    Traffic lights in France follow the standard color scheme of red, yellow, and green. When approaching a red light, you must come to a complete stop. Yellow signals indicate that the light is about to turn red, so you should prepare to stop. Green lights allow you to proceed, but always check for pedestrians or vehicles that may still be crossing the intersection.

  4. Roundabouts

    Top view of a roundabout with cars entering and exiting

    Roundabouts are commonly found in France, and they serve as an efficient way to manage traffic flow. When entering a roundabout, yield to vehicles already in the roundabout. Once inside, stay in your lane and use your turn signal to indicate your exit. Remember to give way to vehicles on your right.

  5. Priority of Movement

    Top view of complicated road intersection

    In France, vehicles coming from the right generally have priority, except in situations where priority is indicated by signs or road markings. When approaching an intersection or entering a road, be cautious and yield to vehicles already on the road to your right.

  6. Seatbelt Use

    Close shot of unbuckled seat belt

    Seatbelt usage is mandatory for all occupants in the vehicle, both in the front and back seats. Ensure that everyone in the car is properly buckled up before you start driving.

  7. Child Safety

    Child seat installed at a rear seat of a car

    If you’re traveling with children, it’s important to comply with the child safety regulations in France. Children under the age of 10 must be seated in an appropriate child restraint system suitable for their weight and height.

  8. Headlights Use

    Car with turned on headlights

    In France, it is mandatory to have your headlights on at all times, even during the day. This applies to both urban areas and rural roads. Ensure that your headlights are functioning properly before you start your journey.

  9. Phone Usage

    Phone showing directions is installed in the holder next to steering wheel of a car

    Using a handheld mobile device while driving is strictly prohibited in France. If you need to make a call or use your phone’s navigation system, it must be done using a hands-free system.

  10. Alcohol Limits

    Two beer bottles in light of the sunset

    France has strict laws regarding alcohol consumption while driving. The legal blood alcohol concentration limit is 0.5 grams per liter. However, it is advisable to exercise caution and refrain from drinking alcohol before driving.

  11. Road Conditions

    A car passing the road with signs of maintenance

    France boasts an extensive network of well-maintained roads. However, it’s important to be aware of potential hazards, such as construction zones or inclement weather conditions. Pay attention to road signs and adapt your driving accordingly.

  12. Tolls

    Toll gates on the road

    France has an extensive toll road system, especially on major highways. Toll fees can vary depending on the distance traveled and the type of vehicle. Be prepared to pay tolls using cash or a credit card, and keep some change handy for smaller tolls.

  13. Fuel Stations

    Close view of a person fuelling a erd car

    Fuel stations are readily available throughout France, especially on major highways. Many stations are open 24 hours a day, but it’s advisable to fill up your tank before embarking on long journeys, especially in rural areas where stations may be less frequent.

  14. Necessary Documents

    Person checking a wallet for necessary documents

    When driving in France, you must carry your valid driver’s license, passport or ID card, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration documents at all times. Make sure you have these documents readily available in case you are stopped by the authorities.

By familiarizing yourself with these guidelines, you can confidently and safely navigate the French roads as a foreign driver. Enjoy your journey and immerse yourself in the beauty and culture that France has to offer. Happy rental!

FAQ

Which side of the road do they drive on in France?

In France, driving is done on the right-hand side of the road.

What are the speed limits in France?

The speed limits in France vary. On highways (autoroutes), the maximum speed limit is 130 km/h (80 mph). On national roads, it is typically 80 km/h (50 mph), and in urban areas, it is usually 50 km/h (31 mph).

How do traffic lights work in France?

Traffic lights in France follow the standard color scheme of red, yellow, and green. Red means stop, yellow signals an impending red light, and green allows you to proceed, but always be cautious of other vehicles and pedestrians.

Are there many roundabouts in France?

Yes, roundabouts are common in France. When entering a roundabout, yield to vehicles already inside and use your turn signal to indicate your exit.

How does the priority of movement work in France?

In general, vehicles coming from the right have priority in France unless indicated otherwise by signs or road markings. Always yield to vehicles already on the road when entering an intersection.

Are seatbelts mandatory in France?

Yes, wearing seatbelts is mandatory for all occupants in the vehicle, both in the front and back seats.

What are the rules for child safety in cars?

Children under the age of 10 must be seated in an appropriate child restraint system suitable for their weight and height.

Should I use headlights during the day in France?

Yes, it is mandatory to have your headlights on at all times, even during the day.

Can I use my phone while driving in France?

No, using a handheld mobile device while driving is strictly prohibited. If you need to make a call or use your phone’s navigation system, it must be done using a hands-free system.

What are the alcohol limits for driving in France?

The legal blood alcohol concentration limit in France is 0.5 grams per liter. However, it is advisable to refrain from drinking alcohol before driving.

How are the road conditions in France?

France has well-maintained roads, but it’s important to be aware of potential hazards like construction zones or adverse weather conditions. Pay attention to road signs and adjust your driving accordingly.

Are there tolls on the roads in France?

Yes, France has an extensive toll road system, especially on major highways. Toll fees vary based on distance and vehicle type.

Are fuel stations easily accessible in France?

Yes, fuel stations are readily available throughout France, particularly on major highways. It’s advisable to fill up your tank before long journeys, especially in rural areas where stations may be less frequent.

What documents do I need when driving in France?

When driving in France, you should carry your valid driver’s license, passport or ID card, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration documents at all times.

What are the emergency numbers in France?

In case of an emergency, dial 17 for the police, 15 for medical emergencies, 18 for the fire department, or 112 for the Europe-wide emergency number.

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