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Driving in France

Driving in France can be a wonderful experience, even for first-time travelers. You can explore the countryside at your own pace and visit little towns that you will be zooming past on a train. It is our preferred way to travel in France (outside of Paris.)

Here are some hints and information on driving in France

  • When you pick up your rental car, be sure to note whether it takes diesel or petrol, and fill it accordingly.
  • Seat-belts are compulsory for all passengers.
  • Unless indicated otherwise, the speed limit is 50 kph in built-up areas, 90 kph (80 kph with rain) on other roads, and 130 kph on motorways (110 kph with rain). It is an offence to drive with more than 0.5 grams of alcohol per liter of blood (equivalent to two glasses of wine.)


These traffic circles provide a great way to travel through intersections without stoplights. Remember that the drivers already in the traffic circle have the right of way. If you are confused going through the circle, just go around again until you get your bearings.

The signs usually indicate the next small town, so the navigator should always be on the alert when reading the map for the small towns ahead.

Alternate routes

The Bison futé system has been set up to prevent traffic-jams as far as possible. A Bison futé map proposes alternative routes. These are indicated by green and yellow panels and the word bis, and help you avoid the main traffic arteries. There are also 68 reception desks spread along major roads, which provide traffic information and can suggest alternative routes. Bison Futé Map

Motorways (Autoroute)

Entering the AutoRoute

Péages (toll booths) are paid per network – or certain sections of the autoroute. On entering a particular network you take a ticket from the dispensing machine and you will pay when leaving that particular section. Payment can be done in cash (Euros) or by credit card – either by driving up to a booth where there’s an attendant or automatically. Large overhead signs indicate which lane to take depending on your preferred method of payment.


The left lane on the Autoroute is for passing only. Keep to the right until you feel comfortable driving on the Autoroute. If a car flashes its lights, move over right and let it pass.


Service stations are available on the autoroute offering petrol/gas, 24-hour restaurants, shops, playgrounds for children, baby-stops, bureaux de change and tourist information etc

Aires de détente or rest areas are situated at regular intervals. Each has their own name, such as aires de foret. So when you see the words Aires de — you can recognize it as a rest area.


A radio station, Autoroute FM 107.7, provides traffic information

Emergency Numbers throughout France

  • Police (Gendarmerie) Tel: 17
  • Fire (Pompiers) Tel: 18
  • Ambulance (SAMU) Tel: 15

Car Accidents

In the event of a car accident, you must fill out a damage assessment form. You will find them in the glove compartment of your rental car or you may request it from your insurance company. It must be signed by both parties, and in the event of a dispute or a refusal to complete the form, you should immediately obtain a constat d’huissier. This is a written report from a bailiff (huissier.)

In the event of a dispute, call the police so that they can make out an official report. In the event of an injury, call the SAMU or the fire brigade. The police are only called out to accidents when someone is injured, a driver is under the influence of alcohol or the accident impedes traffic flow.



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