Are you planning a road trip and driving in France? Or are you going on holiday to France to visit the country? If yes, this guide might help you a lot to understand how to drive in France and what to expect from them. It can be difficult to drive in France since French people tend to drive fast and the government is really working on getting less person kill on the road. For your information, they were 8160 people kill in 2001 on the French roads. In 2018, France manages to reduce the number to 3259 deads. The laws about driving in France are getting stricter by the time and it is working. You might understand why there are radars everywhere when you will see some of the French people driving.
1 – What are the speed limits in France?
One of my advice would be for you to respect the speed limitations. First, this is for your safety. Second, there are a lot of radars on the roads mentioned by a sign, and, the police sometimes hide to catch the cars that are not respecting the law. The government of Macron voted a new law to reduce the speed on certain roads.
The main rules about speed limitation in France:
- 50 km/h in a city or village: It can be less sometimes like 45 km/h or even 30 km/h next to a school.
- 70 km/h: Most of the time this speed limitation is on curving roads or around a town where there are still habitations.
- 80 km/h: This is the new speed limit. On the road where you could normally drove at 90km/h, it went to 80 km/h. This new speed applies to the road with no physical separation in between the two ways.
- 90 km/h: This is the speed limit for secondary roads in France
- 110 km/h: This for “Voie rapide” or translated into English” Expressway”. There are like highways expect there are free. On that kind of road, there are 2×2 ways. Fun fact, Brittany does not have highways, this region got only expressways.
- 130 km/h: This is the maximum speed in France. This is the speed limit for highways. Be careful sometimes the speed can be reducing to 110 km/h or even 90 km/h for the highway in between Saint-Etienne and Lyon.
There are speed reductions for “wet roads”. This is only applies if it’s actually raining. For example, the speed on the highway will be reducing from 130 km/h to 110 km/h.
Tips about driving in France:
You can use the Waze app or the ViaMichelin app for the variable speed limits, if you put in directions for where you’re driving, it updates as you’re driving.
2 – Road signs you should consider
Red circle sign: It is forbidden or it is an order
Red triangle sign: It is a danger
Priority from the right: Meaning that unless there’s a give-way line at a junction, the driver on your right has the right of way.
Stop sign: This information is for our American readers, I have been in the USA 🙂 When you see a STOP sign at a junction, you have to physically stop. You can receive a fine of €135, and, if you are French you will lose four points on your driving license. There are 12 points on the French driving license.
Radar sign: a sign, few meters before, will announce the radars, watch out for them. France is developing radars that check your speed in between two points and calculate your average speed.
3 -How do you take the highway in France?
A blue sign will indicate French highways. Most of the highways in France are not free. You will have to go through a toll. Facing the tolls, you will have different options. You will need a highway pass to get through the “Télépéage” with the orange “T” and you might not have one in your car. Go to the toll with the green arrow, the credit card or cash signs.
4 – Rent a car in France
Are you driving through France with a rental car? If yes, you should know that rental car companies would not over charge you if you drop your car in another city. If the company charges you, it would not be pricey. Planning to drive with an automatic car? I recommend you to book it in advance.
5 – How is the French people way of driving?
Don’t be intimidated into speeding because someone is driving to close to you, if it bothers you, pull in and let them race on ahead and get fined themselves. French people love overtaking and then nipping in front of you really closely but it is a nationwide thing and they do not mean anything by it. Drive defensively, expects the oncoming car to be coming round the corner on your side of the road, French people often cut corners. Also, they tend not to use indicators and sometimes they are using it in the middle of the road at a speed exceeding the legal limit to show that they are in the hurry.
6 – Some random laws
You need to have a yellow gilet and breakdown triangle in the car. A weird law to me is that you cannot drive barefoot, in sandals, open toes/heels or flip flops but you must wear a full shoe at all times.
7 – No license car in France
No license car exists in France, and the maximum speed is 45 km/h. They are so slow and so small that it can be dangerous on the road. That car can be driven at the age of 14! Can you imagine! Also, a French teenager can ride a moppet at 14 years old.
8 – Driver gestures that you will see while driving in France
When a motorbike overtakes you, the driver might pull his leg. This gesture means “Thank you” for pulling your car a little bit on the right. In a parking lot, you might be looking for a spot for your car. Sometimes, you would not tell if the person has just arrived or he is leaving. If the person has just arrived, he or she will make a sign with one finger to the left and to right. This means, the person has just arrived and the sport is not free to park.
9 – Circle roads everywhere in France
Circle roads are quite popular in France. This is a national competition amongst French cities. The city halls love to decorate circle roads with statues or art objects using bad taste, most of the time.
10 – Are you lost?
Your GPS does not work anymore? No panics follow the sign “Toutes directions”, “Every direction”. This sign will take you to the big junctions where you can find your way.
I hope that this guide will help you for your next trip to France and do not get offended if a French driver overtakes you 🙂 I invite you to read my article about Corsica: The French Road Trip Island