Ultimate Guide to Driving in France: Tips for Safe Driving

The article provides essential insights for driving in France, covering topics such as the right side of the road to drive on, speed limits, toll roads, right of way rules, and specific tips for driving in Paris. It also includes guidance on parking in Paris and offers general advice for driving in a foreign country.

Maayan & Gal Founders of Smoozitive

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

Smoozitive Magazine/Just Living/Ultimate Guide to Driving in France: Tips for Safe Driving

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Moving abroad can be an exciting and scary experience. Along with adjusting to a new culture and language, you may also have to adapt to a new way of driving. If you're planning on living in France, you'll need to know the ins and outs of driving in the country. In this article, we'll cover everything you need to know about driving in France, from which side of the road to drive on to essential driving tips for navigating the roads.

What Side of the Road Do They Drive on in France?

In France, as in most of Europe, people drive on the right side of the road. This may be different from what you're used to if you're from a country where people drive on the left side of the road, such as the United Kingdom or Australia. It's very important to keep this in mind when driving in France, as it can be easy to forget and cause an accident.

Essential Tips for Driving in France​

Get Familiar with the Road Signs

Before hitting the road in France, it's crucial to familiarize yourself with the road signs. While some may be similar to those in your home country, others may be completely different. It's essential to know what each sign means to avoid any confusion or accidents.

You can look for some French road signs explanations online or check one of the best guides we ever found that covers everything you need to know about driving in France like a local. 

Know the Speed Limits​

Speed limits in France vary depending on the type of road you're on. On highways, the speed limit is 130 km/h (80 mph), while on rural roads, it's 90 km/h (55 mph). In urban areas, the speed limit is 50 km/h (30 mph), and in residential areas, it's 30 km/h (20 mph). It's crucial to adhere to these speed limits to avoid any fines or accidents.

Keep an Emergency Kit in Your Car​

In France, it's mandatory to have an emergency kit in your car at all times. This kit should include a warning triangle and a reflective vest. The reflective vest should be worn in case of an emergency on the side of the road.

Be Prepared for Toll Roads​

If you're planning on driving long distances in France, you'll likely encounter toll roads. These roads are marked with a "Péage" sign, and you'll need to pay a fee to use them. You can pay with cash or a credit card, but it's essential to have some change on hand, as some toll booths may not accept cards.

Understand the Right of Way

In France, the right of way is given to vehicles coming from the right, unless otherwise indicated. This means that when approaching an intersection, you should yield to any vehicles coming from the right before proceeding. It's essential to pay attention to this rule, as it may be different from what you're used to in your home country.

french man riding bikes in the streets of paris Photo by Johan Mouchet on Unsplash

Be Aware of Pedestrians and Cyclists

In France, pedestrians and cyclists have the right of way on pedestrian crossings and bike lanes. It's very important to be aware of this and yield to them when necessary. Additionally, it's illegal to use your phone while driving, so make sure to keep your eyes on the road and avoid any distractions.

Use Roundabouts with Caution

Roundabouts are common in France, and it's essential to know how to navigate them correctly. Vehicles already in the roundabout have the right of way, and you should yield to them before entering, unless indicated otherwise. When exiting the roundabout, use your turn signal to indicate your intentions.

Driving in Paris

Driving in Paris can be a bit more challenging than driving in other parts of France. The city is known for its narrow streets, heavy traffic, and aggressive drivers. If you're planning on driving in Paris, here are some tips to help you navigate the city safely:​

  • Avoid driving during rush hour, as traffic can be extremely congested.
  • Use a GPS or map to navigate the city, as it can be easy to get lost.
  • Be aware of pedestrians and cyclists, as they can be difficult to predict.
  • Pay attention to road signs and speed limits, as they may change frequently.
  • Use caution when driving on cobblestone streets, as they can be slippery.

Parking in Paris​

Parking in Paris, and in other big cities, can be quite challenging due to limited parking spaces and strict regulations. It's essential to familiarize yourself with the different parking zones in the city. Paris has various parking zones and they are usually not free.

Some locations may seem suitable for parking, yet they're not. Do not park in an area dedicated for handicapped, for a pair of wheels or for 'livraison' (marked in yellow usually). There's a high chance you'll be fined.

Driving in a Foreign Country

Driving in a foreign country can be a daunting part of your life abroad experience. But with the right preparation and knowledge, it can also be an exciting adventure. Here are some general tips for driving in a foreign country:

  • Familiarize yourself with the local driving laws and regulations.
  • Make sure to have all necessary documents, such as your driver's license and insurance, with you at all times.
  • Research the local road signs and speed limits before hitting the road.
  • Use a GPS or map to navigate unfamiliar roads.
  • Be aware of cultural differences in driving etiquette and adjust accordingly.

It is important (and recommended) to prepare yourself in advance before you actually get in the car. One way to do this is with those super helpful country specific driving guides. By following the tips outlined in this article, we have no doubts, you can navigate the roads of France safely and confidently.

Don’t forget to buckle up, and Bon voyage!

Maayan & Gal
Founders of Smoozitive​

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