France is one of the most popular tourist
destinations in the world, with more than 80 million
international visitors per year. With one of the richest
cultural histories of any country, France is full to
brimming with landmarks and tourist attractions in the
major cities as well as the countryside. Renowned for
food, fashion and art, visitors can enjoy everything
from water sports on golden beaches to skiing atop
mountainous peaks on the Alps. Wonderfully diverse
cultural experiences are on offer in the capital Paris,
where tourists can indulge in all that France has to
With over 7,000km of roadway, driving is the best way to
see the land of cheese and wine. From the highest
through road in Europe (Col de la Bonette) to rugged
coastline, dense forests and volcanic corridors, driving
in France offers something for everyone.
Important things to note
The autoroute, the French equivalent of a motorway or
freeway, is mainly linked by a toll road. You will be provided
with an entrance ticket, which if you lose, you will be
charged for by the distance you have travelled between tolls
along with an additional fee. Coins and credit cards can be
used to pay the toll fees, though only credit cards with the
correct transponders may be used (these can be purchases from
Sanef in the UK). Unless the road is marked otherwise, drivers
give way to any vehicle coming from the right. This differs
from the roundabout rules; drivers on the outside of the
roundabout must yield to those on the inside.
Driving culture in France
What are the roads like
The system of highways through France is well-treated, with
major routes across the country home to wide smooth roads.
However, many of the roads around urban areas, in cities and
in towns, date back to the original construction of the town,
which tend to be narrow, winding and made with cobblestone.
What are the drivers like in France?
Where once city drivers would drive rather aggressively (and
rely heavily on the car horn), persistent policing has
significantly reduced the amount of aggressive driving across
What are the best times to drive?
Across the country, most driving conditions are reasonably
consistent across the day and week. However, Samedi noir, aka
"Black Saturday", takes place at the start and end of school
holidays and marks a day of notoriously bad traffic. It is
advised to attempt to avoid driving during this time.
What are the driving laws?
Be at least 18 and have a full driver's licence (sorry
learners). Carry vehicle registration and insurance documents
(originals, not copies). Have a warning triangle and high-vis
vest in your car. The vest must be within reach of the driver.
Carry snow chains if you are driving in mountainous regions
during the winter. Use a hands free kit if using your mobile
phone and do not touch or program a device unless parked in a
safe place. Buckle up! Seatbelts for everyone at all times.
Seat all children under ten years old in the back. If the
child is under nine months old and weighs less than nine
kilos, then the law permits a rear-facing baby seat in the
front as along as the airbag is disabled. Keep a single use
NF-approved breathalyser in your vehicle calibrated to the
0.05% French alcohol limit. If stopped and you have no
breathalyser the Gendarmerie (the French traffic police) will,
em, well, they won't actually do anything as there is no
penalty for not having one. However, if breathalysed and you
are over the limit you will be fined on the spot and held
until fit to drive. If you are over 0.8g/litre, you face a
hefty fine, possible jail time and a three-year ban from
driving in France.
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