France Driving Guide (2023)

Explore France by driving with International Driving Permit.

2021-08-06 · 9min read

French fries may not be from France, but this magnificent country still is a home of rich cuisine, along with affluent art, culture, and architecture. Most of its lesser-known cities have been getting a lot of attention lately, but Paris still secures a spot in the list of most visited cities in the world. Enjoy its capital traveling along the Seine, around the Arc de Triomphe, or ride out to Versailles.

If you have always dreamed of visiting the most romantic city in the world, driving would be the most liberating way for you to do so. You can manage your own time and be more flexible with how you want to explore France without the inconvenience of commuting. Whether you will be having a short vacation or a long-stay visit to this magnificent country, having an international driving permit along with your U.S. license or any native license when driving in France would enable you to maximize your experience.

France Driving Guide (1)

General Information about France

Known as the country with the “City of Love” worldwide, France is more than just the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, and Notre Dame’s Cathedral. France is a country with lots more to offer. That’s why before you travel to the nation, learn some knowledge about getting into the country. Develop the habit of researching about the country before traveling to make your trip worthwhile.

Geographical Location

The two of the world’s largest saline water bodies - the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, primarily surround the state. It has always been a bridge connecting northern and Southern Europe in geography, culture, and language.

Land Area

With a total land area of 547,556.992 square kilometers, France is among Europe’s most important agricultural producers and one of the leading powers in the automotive, aerospace, and luxury economic sectors.

Languages Spoken

Being the official language, French is the primary communication system among France’s government and education system. However, the regional languages have five language families: Vasconic, Italo-Dalmatian, Germanic, Celtic, and Gallo-Romance. The Gallo-Romance is then further subdivided into the highest number of regional dialects and is the most widely spoken across France.

Along with the substantial number of regional languages spoken in France, an expansive range of immigrant languages, including German, English, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Turkish, Arabic, and Vietnamese, has also become an integral part of its communication system. President Emmanuel Macron implored French schools in his October 2020 speech to teach the Arabic language to end separatism. Maghrebi or Western Arabic speakers comprise approximately 2% of the urban population of France.


France has played a significant role in the history and culture of international affairs in countries across the globe as its previous colonies. It is one of the oldest nations in the world, which was brought forth by an alliance between monarchies under a single ruler during the Medieval period. Today, the principal autonomy is still under the state, with its people expecting it to safeguard their freedom.

The state had given liberal provisions for the people, including but not limited to free educational and health services and pension plans. Even though France looks like it unifies parts of Europe, its long-standing national theme revolves around the demand to give paramount importance to the individual. It seeks to provide the highest level of protection to a person, as stated in the pro homine principle. Sounds like a great place to travel to or even live in, right?


When the French nation suffered in political turmoil, General Charles de Gaulle crafted a government by creating the June 1958 Constitutional Law. However, in making the Third and the Fourth Republic, it only ends up having several conflicts in achieving political stability. To resolve the issue, the 1958 Constitution made the parliamentary and presidential system as one. As a result, the parliament is now a bicameral legislature, having a National Assembly and the Senate.

Talking about France’s inhabitants, in early 2000, five percent of the French population is non-European and non-white. It sums into at least three million people, forcing ethnic or race diversity issues onto the French policy. At the same time, most French descent, the largest immigrant groups residing in France, were from Africa (30% Maghrebi and 12% Sub-Saharan), Portugal, Italy, Spain, and Asia.


Paris, the country’s capital, is significantly its most famous and vital city. It is one of the world’s distinguished centers of culture, commerce, and arts. It has been reconstructed a couple of times. During the mid-19th century, Emperor Napoleon III commissioned Georges-Eugene Haussmann to redesign the city with a vast urbanization program of new broad avenues, boulevards, and public works that contributed to Metropolitan France is today.

Other major cities such as Lyon, Marseille, Nantes, Lille, Cannes, and Bordeaux have multiple world-renowned spots rich in culture and history.

Renting A Car in France

If you want your trip to be as smooth as possible, and you can’t bring your own, renting a car is a viable option. Finding where to rent a car and figuring out everything about renting one in France can be tricky, but lucky for you, some car rental guidelines are readily available for you.

Car Rental Companies

You can book a rental online ahead of your departure date or check out car rental agencies personally when you arrive in France. Many of these companies are readily accessible from the airport, and you can also arrange your preferred pick-up spot. Some car rental agencies include Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Europcar, Hertz, National, and Sixt.

You may use your smartphone to browse for the best vehicle to rent in terms of booking a car. Remember to visit only the legitimate and verified websites. When doing an online transaction, give what is mandatory, and do not share any special codes that can hack your details. You don’t want to be a victim of scams or fraud. If you have dilemmas about processing your reservation online, you may have a walk-in booking at the airport.

Documents Required

Car rental agencies would have their terms and conditions, so you should always check them before anything else. There may be slight differences in the legal requirements for driving in France using rental cars, but some usual requirements include:

  • A complete, valid local driver’s license
  • International Driver’s Permit for France
  • Your passport
  • For advanced booking, an international debit or credit card
  • For pick-ups, you’ll need a receipt or voucher to verify your payment for the rental

Vehicle Types

You can choose from a wide variety of rental cars to fit your style and vacation vibe. You can rent mini-vehicles and economy cars to aim for a more agile and economical drive. Compact and family cars are great for family or group vacations to accommodate more people and luggage. You can even rent out luxury cars in France.

Here are some rental car types with respective car models to give you an idea of what you can choose to rent for your trip. You can also check out other rental agencies for their pool of car types and models you can rent out.

  • Mini Car Rental Models: Renault Twingo, Fiat 500, Ford Ka, Smart For Two, Toyota Aygo, Peugeot 107.
  • Economy Car Rental Models: Ford Fiesta, Opel Corsa, Peugeot 208, Smart For Four, Citroen C3, Fiat Punto, Renault Clio.
  • Compact Car Rental Models: Fiat 500L, Fiat Tipo, Ford Focus, Opel Astra, Toyota Auris, Peugeot 308, Opel Mokka, Renault Megane.
  • Mid-size Car Rental Models: Renault Scenic, Fiat 500X, Citroen C4 Picasso, Ford C-Max, Peugeot 3008, VW Touran, Opel Zafira.
  • Family Car Rental Models: Peugeot 508, Toyota Avensis, Citroen C5, VW Passat, Renault Talisman, BMW 3 Series.
  • Luxury Car Rental Models: Volvo s90, BMW 5 Series, BMW 4 Series, Mercedes E Class, Mercedes S Class, Audi A5, Mercedes E Class, Audi A6, Mercedes GLC.
  • SUV Rental Models: BMW X3, BMW X5, BMW X4, Renault Kadjar, and others.
  • Van Rental Models in France: Renault Trafic 9 passengers, V Class 8 passengers, VW Sharan 7 passengers, Mercedes Vito 9, Ford Turnero, and others.

Car Rental Cost

Grabbing a rental vehicle in France is relatively cheaper than in any other country. You may score a car by paying only $12/day. However, the price will vary depending on the car type you will pick to rent. Remember that before you proceed to canvass for the rental fee, make sure that you have a final passenger’s count so that you won’t have difficulties choosing the vehicle to rent out. Car rental companies in France accept credit card payments.

Here’s a list of estimated prices when renting a car in France. Please note that the cost is still subject to change depending on the availability of the vehicle.

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  • Mini - $12/day
  • Economy - $13/day
  • Compact - $17/day
  • Intermediate - $23/day
  • SUV - $40/day
  • Passenger Van - $42/day
  • Luxury - $43/day

Age Requirements

Age requirements for renting a car are determined independently based on various car rental agencies’ policy terms. The minimum age limit for renting a car in France is 18 years old, but some companies may set it at 21 to 23 years old.

If you are under 25, driving in France may cost extra fees ranging from €30 - €40 per day, which will probably not be in your virtual booking payment rate. You will have to pay for it personally during the pick-up day, but may also give some restrictions from renting some vehicle types.

Car Insurance Cost

French law requires drivers to carry third-party insurance, so most car rental companies offer inclusive rates for car rental insurance in France, especially for younger drivers aged 18 - 21. If you have current car insurance, you may have to check if your policy extends to other countries, specifically France.

You may want to avoid rate increases or high deductible in using your insurance to make it better for you to avail of inclusive car rental insurance. It ensures maximum coverage if your current plan does not.

Car Insurance Policy

Insurance coverage rates include Value Added Tax (VAT), Liability Insurance, Fire Insurance Collision Damage, Theft Protection, Personal Accident Insurance, and Roadside Assistance. Be aware that there may be rental premiums for driving in France under 25 years old. Using major credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard, and AMEX when booking rental cars may offer some form of insurance coverage for your rental car.

If you opt to utilize that, you should verify your coverage and bring the necessary documents to show the rental agency during pick-up.

France Driving Guide (2)

Road Rules in France

Now that you know about the process of scoring a rental vehicle, in this part, you’ll learn about the driving rules you need to follow in France so that you can blend in and drive like the French in no time. Find out more driving rules and other things to know about driving in France.

Driving laws include carrying specific items required when driving in France. Drivers must always be aware of the side of the road to go on, speed limits, and other regulations, so research about the specific requirements for you and do maintenance checks on your car before driving in France.

France’s Drinking-Driving Law

This is one of the most important driving laws you need to follow. A maximum legal blood alcohol level of 0.05% is the limit for private vehicle drivers. At the same time, 0.02% is the limit for bus, coach, and new drivers with less than three years of experience. The police can do random breath tests, and such trials, including a drug test, are compulsory either after a driver caused an accident or committed a serious violation.

Parking Rules

Parking can only be allowed on the right side of two-lane roads and on both sides for wide one-way streets. Yellow lines or road signs may indicate restrictions, while broken yellow lines mean parking is not allowed. Road signs indicate paid parking areas with parking meters and machines that sometimes accept credit/debit card payments.

Illegal parking will result in towing and impoundment of your car. You will have to go to the local police station to pay a fine for the violation and the vehicle released separately.

Warning of Approach

Horns are only to give essential caution to other road users for a specific duration within a day. Flashing passing lights must be used to warn of approach when driving in France from sunset to sunrise. The use of horns in all built-up areas is strictly against the law except in total emergency cases. It is also forbidden to use multi-tone horns, sirens, and whistles. You also need to use your dipped headlights all the time.

Fine and Confiscation Rules

Road enforcers will collect on-the-spot fines of up to €750 from drivers who break driving rules. The police may hold your vehicle until you settle your payment. It can be paid by cash in euros, by French bank, or traveler’s checks. Confiscation of vehicles may happen in some cases, as well as your license. If you don’t want your domestic license for driving in France to be confiscated, take note of these significant violations where this can happen:

  • If you do not stop during a police contrôle (being stopped or checked by police)
  • When driving without a license or insurance
  • Exceeding the speed limit by over 50 km/h
  • Multiple offenses of driving under the influence of alcohol
  • During hit-and-run situations
  • When driving a vehicle with the wrong license category, which does not cover that vehicle

In these cases mentioned, your car can already become the property of the French government.

Speed Limits

Keep in mind that the French use kilometers and meters for their national speed limits. They use the metric system for all traffic signs and road markings. The standard speed limit is 130 kilometers per hour. The speed limit on main roads outside built-up areas is 80 kilometers per hour and 50 kilometers per hour for build-up areas.

EU licenses of drivers who will exceed the speed limit by more than 40 km/h will have their driving cards confiscated. A recent development in GPS systems and devices warns drivers about the locations of speed cameras, so the law prohibits drivers from using such devices. Transgressors may pay up to €1,500 while confiscating their device and vehicle.

Seatbelt Laws

Both the drivers and passengers must always wear seatbelts at all times. It is the driver’s responsibility to make sure that all passengers wear seatbelts, especially for those below 18, to have an adequate restraint in the vehicle. A €135 fine will be charged to the driver if a 10-year-old child below sits in the front seat without a seatbelt or child seat. Another €135 penalty for not wearing a crash helmet or seatbelt is for adult passengers to settle.

Driving Directions

Traffic flows around a roundabout in a counter-clockwise direction. Drivers approaching a roundabout indicated by a triangular sign with a red border and three arrows forming a circle in the center must give way to traffic already on the roundabout. In the absence of a road mark, the rule of priority for vehicles coming from the right applies.

A priority-junction sign, a triangle with an X in the middle, indicates that there is an up ahead and that you don’t have priority, so you should slow down and be prepared to give way to vehicles joining the roundabout. Don't worry; these old-style roundabouts are relatively rare, and once you have one under your belt, they'll be like second nature. You must also give way to emergency vehicles with flashing lights and sirens.

Traffic Road Signs

Driving safety is what most travelers aim to achieve abroad. Of course, achieving it requires the designated four-wheel operator to know the standardized road signs, especially in France. Most of the road signage in the French nation follow the international ones. However, some marks may give you a hard time understanding and deciphering its meaning. Take the initiative to learn those beforehand, so you already know the signs when you get to drive.

The European state has four road signs classification. Those are warning signs, regulatory signs, informational signs, and directional signs. To know their differences from one another, continue reading below.

Warning Signs in France alerts drivers of possible hazards. You can see these marks enclosed in a red border and has a white background. If you sight signage in a yellow triangle with a red border, it’s only a temporary warning mark.

  • Equestrians warning sign
  • Uncontrolled crossroad ahead
  • Heavy crosswinds in area warning sign
  • Road narrows ahead
  • Rail crossing ahead with one railway
  • Steep descent ahead
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Regulatory Signs advise operators about the primary road policies. It’s more like telling the drivers what to do when encountering signage enclosed in a circular shape with a white border and blue background.

  • Snow Chains
  • Pass on the Right Only
  • Mandatory Lights On
  • Right Turn and Left Turn Sign
  • Pedestrian Crossing
  • Cyclist Lane
  • Tram Lane
  • Speed Limit
  • Bus Lane

Informational Signs are typically the usual marks that road users know. It also informs about what’s going on the road.

  • Begin of a built-up area sign
  • Parking for A Limited Time
  • Motorway Lane
  • One-Way Traffic
  • Speed Bump

Directional Signs are like physical navigators that primarily assist drivers in reaching their destination point.

  • Autoroute/Motorway Signs
  • Major Roads Sign
  • Temporary Roads Sign
  • Local Road Signs

Right of Way

Priorité à Droite is a longstanding French driving rule valid up to this day. Vehicles approaching from your right have the right of way at intersections unless indicated differently by present traffic regulators. Cédez le passage is a standard to give way in most roundabouts. Drivers approaching these roundabouts must give way to vehicles already in them or about to enter from your left. But sometimes, you will still have to give way to cars that are about to enter the roundabout, even if you are already in it.

Main roads marked with yellow diamond signs such as N and D roads are priority roads. Priority ends when the diamond has a black strike-through. Being on a priority road gives you priority over all traffic entering from a side road until your privilege ends. Entrance to urban areas with a different road system or a junction may terminate your rights. You must yield to traffic coming in from the right for non-priority roads, unless it has a stop or give-way sign. Vehicles traveling downhill must give way to ones traveling uphill.

Legal Driving Age

According to France’s road regulations, the minimum age for driving is 18 years old. It’s relatively similar to any other country. If renting a car is the goal, a driver must be at least 21 years old to qualify. Though a few rental agencies allow an 18-year old to rent, it is still better to wait to reach the minimum standard for rental to make things convenient.

When you plan to hit the French road, especially on slopes, and you are not even at the legal age to drive, leave it up to an adult. It’s better to set things in a safer way than take the risk of facing danger. Do note that a driver is responsible for the occupant’s lives. It’s not that lighter than you think.

Law on Overtaking

The general rule for overtaking is driving on the right while overtaking is on the left. But in some cases, when heavy traffic affects specific lanes, you may overtake on the right of other cars on slow-moving highways. When overtaking, make sure there's no traffic coming on the other lane that can cause an accident.

Driving Side

Like most countries, the French drive on the right side of the road. But if you're hiring a car and haven't driven on the right, you may want to practice driving on your rental car before going on your road trip.

Driving Etiquette in France

In every country or city, there are proper etiquette to follow through with the norms of a town aside from the driving rules. These protocols are essential to remember to keep yourself from panicking if trouble arises while you’re on a road trip through the country. Read on to know more about what to do in different scenarios.

Car Breakdown

If your car breaks down in the middle of the road, you cannot request your own assistance company to help you because French motorways are private. If this happens, orange emergency telephone lines are placed every two kilometers along main roads and motorways for emergency calls to the police or the official breakdown service within the area. You can also use your safety equipment like a warning triangle. Place the warning triangle in a distance to let other drivers know your situation.

You may dial 112 if no emergency road telephone is accessible. Towing agency will take your car and charge accordingly.

Police Stops

You do not have to worry when the police stop you because random compliance checks are typical around France. However, you may also encounter police stops for minor road violations that you overlooked if you have no idea why they call you out. It is best to comply and communicate with the police officers to avoid misunderstandings. Here are the things you have to do:

  • Slow down towards the side of the road, then stop your car.
  • Turn on your hazard lights.
  • Communicate with the police officer. Let them discuss the reason for hailing you.
  • Present your identification documents, whether it’s an ID check or a violation.
  • Wait for further instructions.
  • Cooperate with the authorities when asked to be spoken with at the precinct.

Asking Directions

Although most cars are equipped with GPS systems, you can also ask the locals for clearer directions. You may start by saying “Excusez-moi” to sound more polite and don’t come off as rude to French nationals. Then, you can ask for directions to anywhere in France by memorizing just one phrase, which is: “Est-ce que vous savez où est..” or you can shorten it to “où est” and “où sont”, if plural. All you have to do next is to add the place you want to go to:

  • (Do you know where the Orsay museum is?) Est-ce que vous savez où est le musée d’Orsay ?
  • (Where is the nearest subway station?) Où est le métro le plus proche ?
  • (Where is the train station?) Où est la gare?
  • (Where are the toilets?) Où sont les toilettes ?
  • (Do you know where the champs Elysées are?) Est-ce que vous savez où sont les champs Elysées ?
  • (Where can I find an ATM?) Où est-ce que je peux trouver un distributeur de billets ?
  • (On the right) A droite
  • (On the left) A gauche
  • (Straight) Tout droit
  • (the first (street) on the right) La première à droite
  • (the next street) La rue suivante
  • (in front of) En face de
  • (next to) A côté de
  • (at the end of the street) Au bout de la rue


Observe the same standard practice for police stops during a checkpoint. You have to slowly pull over and present your identification documents or legal requirements for driving in France. You have to cooperate and communicate with the local authorities and comply with their instructions to not get on the wrong side of the road, not to mention the law.

Here’s a list of documents to show once you pass through a checkpoint in France. Be sure that you have these beforehand.

  • Foreign Passport
  • Local Driver’s License
  • International Driver’s Permit (IDP)
  • Car Registration Documents

What Do You Do in the Case of Rental Car Accidents?

In case of any vehicular accidents, you have to stop immediately and pull over to the side of the road. Switch your hazard lights on and leave your vehicle safely. If two or more cars are involved, it is standard practice that you will be asked by the French driver involved to fill a “constat amiable” or an amiable declaration, which is an accident report sheet. Call your insurance company at once, so they may get you in touch with a local representative.

If there are injuries inflicted on anyone involved, it is a legal requirement when driving in France to call the police and remain in the area even if you are not at fault. You must set up a red warning triangle at 50 & 150 meters behind your car to warn approaching vehicles. You should personally document all vehicle damage with your phone or digital camera. No matter how minor an accident is, it is required to have a valid police report.

What to Do If an Uninsured Driver Hit You?

If you got involved in a car accident, always remember to exchange car insurance details with the other driver. But if the other driver is not insured or refuses to give out their details, you should report them immediately. The police would know if a car is insured since they have the database for registered insurances.

What if You Fall Asleep at the Wheel?

Falling asleep at the wheel can cause accidents, and it is considered “dangerous driving.” If this happens to you, it means that you do not meet the expected standard of competence when driving in France, making you liable for any mishaps or accidents that would occur. Dangerous driving includes driving when unfit, having an injury, or being visually impaired and will be dealt with accordingly.

If you are found guilty of this, you can be fined and banned or, worse, end up in prison.

Driving Conditions in France

Knowing all the technicalities in road rules are extremely important but may not be enough in preparing for your road trip. Below are some general ideas you may want to know and serve as your guide when driving in France.

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Accident Statistics

As per Statista, road fatalities in France seem to be decreasing. For example, the death rate on toll roads per billion kilometers went from 4.8 in 2000 down to 1.8 in 2015. France is one of the few European nations that experienced a decrease in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities and a 13 percent decrease in road deaths from 2010 to 2016.

In 2016, traffic accidents were the fifth cause of death in the European Union. Road accidents in France have been considered a societal issue for decades. Alcohol influence ranked as the second leading cause of road fatalities, which commonly involved young drivers from 2013 to 2015. Fortunately, the French Government has already implemented road safety measures to limit high-speed and establish tighter restrictions for driving under the influence.

Common Vehicle

There are several railway stations across the country but you'll still find several cars on the road. When traversing the French highways, you’ll mostly see compact cars and sedans, as they are the most popular types in France. So, when you get yourself a rental vehicle, be sure you won’t get surprised by the demands received by those two. Since they are the hot vehicles to drive, make sure you do it earlier than usual when you reserve. You don’t want to end up getting a bigger one when you only have a few passengers to accommodate.

Based on the statistical data of car registration numbers in January 2021, there are only 165,446 vehicles registered than the record in January 2020, 171,189. It’s a 3.35% decrease from the previous year. Though there’s a loss in car registrations, there’s also a 5.7% increase in car sold in January 2021, equivalent to 39, 066 compared to the January 2020 record.

Toll Roads

Different companies own autoroutes in France, so the cost of toll fees will depend on the type of vehicle you are driving and the distance you’ve traveled. The type of vehicle has five classes, depending on the car’s height and weight.

Toll gates in France are like any other toll road. Take a ticket upon entering the motorway and pay the fee at a booth upon exiting. Simply insert your ticket into the machine, and it will show you how much you need to pay. You can pay by cash, but toll gates also accept most international banking cards.

Road Situations

Knowing the road situations in French motorways is important before you start driving in the country. Road conditions and safety in France are generally similar to those in the United States, but traffic systems and driving habits may present some risks. Lane markings, road sign placements may not be seen by drivers, so you should be prepared to make sudden maneuvers, especially on country roads. Driving is typically faster and more aggressive there than in the United States.

Service stations are positioned at least every 25 miles on major highways but are not as accessible for secondary roads when driving in France as they are in the US. Pedestrian accidents may occur, so you should be cautious and aware when making a turn through pedestrian crosswalks. But a lot of prevention campaigns and redeveloped traffic regulations have caused road deaths in France to decrease.

Driving Culture

French drivers have had a bad reputation for driving aggressively in the past, but it is safe to say that the driving standards have improved a lot over the years. However, two road areas have caution, so drivers should observe those sections. One is in roundabouts where many drivers fail to apply the right of way rules. And another, on slip roads, usually on dual carriageways and autoroutes, where usually older drivers just briefly slow down then just continue driving faster presumably thinking they have given way long enough.

What Are the Different French Road Types?

French roads are classified into a wide variety of types, since France is the third-largest European country.

  • French motorways are also called autoroutes. Autoroutes or motorways are denoted with the letter A followed by a number in blue signs with white lettering. Some autoroutes are free, but most of them are toll roads and are the best road to travel across large areas quickly.
  • National roads or route nationale are denoted by the letter N followed by a number written usually on green signs consisting of white lettering and a red background.
  • Departmental roads are denoted either by the letter D or letters RD, followed by a number written in black on a yellow background. These once-national roads overseen by the French government have been transferred to departments that have their system.
  • Routes Communales are denoted by the letter C followed by a number. These single-track roads are linked to French communes and are generally similar to UK countryside lanes.

What Is the Black Saturday Phenomenon on French Roads?

According to the Centre National d'Information Routière (CNIR) or the National Centre for Highway Information of France, ‘Black Saturday’ is a term for the busiest days for French roads. These “black” days usually occur on Saturdays scattered throughout the year linked to the French’s holiday habits but are aggravated by motorists from other EU countries and even the UK.

What Are Private Radar Cars?

Aside from speed cameras and speed guns, the French government plans to use unmarked radar-enabled cars operated by private companies. A 12-month trial in 2018 turned out to be successful when these radar cars recorded approximately more than 12,000 speeding violations in northern Normandy.

Yes, everyone should always follow French speed limits. Still, the existence of these additional speeding detectors is worth being aware of, so be extra careful to observe speed limits during your trip.

Things to Do in France

France is not only a country limited to sightseeing. There are so many opportunities and activities you can venture into this beautiful country, and one of them is being a driver. Learn more about the things you can do in France in the following subheadings.

Drive as a Tourist

Tourists can drive in France. If you plan to stay for less than 90 days, driving in France with a U.S. license is allowed. An authorized translation must accompany any valid native license or, better yet, get an international driving permit, a legally translated document. An IDP is a legal requirement you need when driving in a foreign country. You can get one from the International Drivers Association for express shipping worldwide.

Work as a Driver

If you plan to live in France permanently or for an extended period, you can consider applying for a driver’s license for driving in France. As mentioned earlier, some countries have established an exchange agreement with France about license policies. If your country has no diplomatic contacts with France, then you can organically obtain your French license after one year of residence by taking driving and theory tests. As long as you know the driving laws in France and have the requirements, you can work as a driver in the country.

Work as a Travel Guide

Securing professional work in France is relatively more complex than in other nations. Having a work permit and visa is mandatory, especially if you are not an EU or EEA resident. However, if your home country is part of any international organization, you won’t need to undergo the lengthy procedures. You can freely proceed to look for a job and start right away if you get hired, whether it may be a travel guide or other professional careers.

In case your nation is not part of E.U and EEA, you must obtain a work permit and visa when planning to render service in France. Be sure that you already have a valid employer in the French state before acquiring a working permit. Take note that the entire application will require patience, but the overall experience is worth trying. To know what are the documents to bring when getting a work permit, below are the details.

  • Employer’s Recruitment Letter
  • Employment Contract
  • Work Permit Application Form
  • Employer’s Passport or National ID
  • Latest Curriculum Vitae
  • Professional Credentials
  • Job Posting Ad Documents

For Working Visa Requirements:

  • French Work Visa Application Form
  • OFII Form
  • Two Passport size Photos
  • Original Passport (valid at least three months after the end date of your stay)
  • Financial Documents
  • >Bank Statements
  • >Employment Contract
  • >Sponsorship Documents
  • Criminal Record Certificate
  • Police Certificate
  • Visa Fee

For French Long Stay-Visa:

  • Passport (with Working Visa stamp)
  • Lodging in France
  • Paper Tax Stamps (with payment proof)
  • Medical Certificate

Apply for Residency

If you are a successful candidate that secures a job in France as a non-EU/EEA citizen, you can now proceed to apply for a residence permit. Do note that obtaining the said permit should be at the application center accredited by the France Embassy in your home country. Exemptions only apply for nationals under the E.U countries. For EEA residents, they must get a residence permit if they are planning to stay for more than six months.

For the standard documents to bring when acquiring a residence permit, here’s the list of requirements to submit. Please note that all papers must be in French. A translation document is a must if not in the said language.

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  • Original Passport (with French Long Stay Visa)
  • Passport Pages copy
  • Original Birth Certificate
  • Two Passport Size Photographs
  • Proof of Billing
  • Work Contract
  • Medical Insurance

Which American States Allow the Native Driver’s License to be Exchanged for a French Driver’s License?

France has also made similar arrangements as above with the following American states. Driving in France with a U.S. driver’s license is allowed, given that you also have a notarized translation of it in French. It is dependent on the state in which the driver resides and the type of vehicle they use. These states also offer reciprocal privileges for people with a valid French driver’s license:

Motorcycle or motor tricycle

  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Pennsylvania

Motor vehicles with 3500 kg or less maximum authorized mass, designed for carrying nine people

  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Iowa
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas

Any motor vehicle

  • Illinois
  • Kansas
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • New Hampshire
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • West Virginia

Top Destinations in France

Did you know that you can explore France on a budget by living in your car for about a week or two and spend as low as approximately a thousand euros for two people? It includes expenses for gas, food, and campsites. You can use a parking or car camping app to find unique places to spend the night for free in cities and even in nature. You can feel comfortable without having lots of luxury and worrying about expenses during your vacation.

Living in a car may not seem like a great idea at first, but you may want to reconsider that. You can experience so many places better in France if your accommodation alone doesn’t take more than half of your budget you can spend on real, life-altering activities. Live through the essence of France by exploring the different unique spots and hidden gems of France.

France Driving Guide (3)

Cathédrale Notre-Dame

A gothic architectural complex sitting in the great heart of Paris is the Cathedralé Notre-Dame in Ile de la Cité. King Louis IX founded the glorious cathedral in 1163 and had it constructed for 150 years. Scrutinizing its sophisticated decoration, the ornamental designs, stunning sculptures, mesmerizing gargoyles, and spectacular buttresses are what make it appealing and enticing to the tourists’ eyes.

Scheduling an evening visit to the enormous cathedral can let you enjoy the breathtaking sunset scenery while exploring the paradise. If you don’t like waiting games over the line at the entrance, try to target any date from November to March. You won’t find many crowds during those periods. Admission inside the complex is free. That’s why a long queue line exists on the site.

  1. From Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, get on the A3 road by heading to the east before slightly turning left to stay at the fork towards A1/A3/Paris/A16/A104/Cergy-Pontoise.
  2. Make use of any lane to merge on A3 by passing through the ramp leading to A104/Marne La Vallee/Sarcelles.
  3. Drive straight towards A3/E15 following the marks for A10/A86/Bordeaux – Nantes/Paris/Bobigny/Garonor)
  4. Occupy any two lanes to pass on the exit towards Bagnolet/A4/A6/A10/Aéroport Orly/Périphérique Sud.
  5. Keep left and merge on Bd Peripherique. After, proceed to the exit going to Paris-Centre.
  6. Upon approaching Quai de Bercy, merge on this road to continue driving to Quai de la Rapee.
  7. Take any two lanes to make a left turn to Pont d’Austerlitz. Another use of two routes to make a right turn on Quai Saint-Bernard.
  8. Keep on traversing the Quai de la Tournelle before turning right on Pont de l’Archeveche.
  9. Pass through the Quai aux Fleurs and Quai de la Corse, then make a left turn on Rue de la Cite.

Make your admiration excursion in Notre-Dame Cathedral more exciting and thrilling by doing any of these recreational activities on the site.

1. Capture the Gallery of Kings

While you appreciate the interiors, you can take the chance to sight the Gallery of Kings. It’s an iconic figure of kings that beheaded during the Revolution. There are over 28 king figures displayed above the doorway. Do not miss out on capturing those historical exhibitions inside the cathedral.

2. Tour the Cathedral Towers

Cathedral Towers are the 69-meter towers standing over the Seine River. This legendary sight in Paris is an impressive one, for it has not suffered any damage from the tragic fire breakout in 2019. Inside the place, you can have the chance to see the mesmerizing Bell Tower of Victor Hugo and the paradise’s most splendid bell, the Emmanuel Bell, which remarkably weighs beyond 13 tons.

3. Explore the Serene Sanctuary

Prepare yourself to be speechless with the magnificent space that will greet you upon heading over to the Serene Sanctuary. You can freely exercise your faith with over five aisles of holy chapels around the sacred complex. Plus, do not forget to observe the choir section highlighting its fantastic wooden stalls flourished with Romanesque acanthus and dazzling leaf ornaments.

4. Visit the Archaeological Museum

If you love tracing the marks left behind the ancient people, take a visit to the Archaeological Museum located underneath the cathedral. It houses many Roman-era artifacts and figures that are authentic. Another incredible display on the site is the vintage ruins containing the ancient maps, drawings, and even historical pieces.

5. Dine at Tour d’Agent Restaurant

Take your luxurious meal over the notable Tour d’Agent Restaurant while looking over the majestic Notre-Dame Cathedral. It’s a Michelin star restaurant that primarily serves healthy homemade dishes made from fresh ingredients.

France Driving Guide (4)


Through King Louis XV, he requested architect Jacques-German Soufflot in 1756 to create an exceptional church that would compete against the iconic Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome and Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London. After more than three decades of construction, the Panthéon is now France's national mausoleum. Its architectural design is far from the usual playful Rococo vibe of King Louis XV. It’s relatively pure and classic.

April to October are the ideal months to climb the Panthéon’s dome. Explorers can witness the epic colonnaded balcony that greets its visitors the capital’s stellar views and landscapes.

  • From the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, keep at the left fork by heading to the east. Follow the marks indicating for A1/A3/Paris/A16/A104/Cergy-Pontoise.
  • Have any two lanes using the ramp on A104/Marne La Vallee/Sarcelles to merge on A3 road.
  • Go ahead to A3/E15. Be sure to watch out for the signs A10/A86/Bordeaux – Nantes/Paris/Bobigny/Garonor).
  • After passing A3, get on any two lanes to reach the exit towards Bagnolet/A4/A6/A10/Aéroport Orly/Périphérique Sud.
  • Keep left and merge when approaching Bd Peripherique.
  • Make another merge on Quai de Bercy by taking the exit heading to Paris-Centre.
  • Drive through the Quai de la Rapee until Pont d’Austerlitz and Quai Saint-Bernard.
  • After Quai de la Tournelle, make a left turn on Rue des Fossés Saint-Bernard.
  • As you reach Rue Jussieu, turn left at Rue du Cardinal Lemoine.
  • In Rue Clovis, turn right before going straight ahead to Place du Pantheon.

You can do many enticing activities while in Pantheon. Be sure to list down what makes you think will be worth your time.

1. See the Foucault’s Pendulum

Foucault’s Pendulum is the beautiful highlight in Panthéon. It’s a 67-meter pendulum that showcases the Earth’s rotation through an experiment. Checking this out will leave you in awe and culturally curious about how it can exhibit the scientific planet’s rotational movement.

2. Visit the Greatest French Citizen’s Graveyard

If you wonder about the legendary French people who made remarkable contributions to history, a visit to the crypt is a must. It’s a graveyard of French citizens, including some veteran poets, notable scientists, and prominent writers. It’s around the underground chamber section of Panthéon.

3. View the City of Lights

Close your day by witnessing the phenomenal panoramic view at the Pantheon’s top. As you access the roof area, be sure to look out the Paris’s wonderful sight. You can instantly feel the spectacular vibes and atmosphere that French men and women give to make the nation a better sanctuary to live. Of course, do not leave without seeing the City of Lights personally.

France Driving Guide (5)

Fondation Louis Vuitton

Fondation Louis Vuitton is a former Bois de Boulogne Park, where French Kings served it as their hunting grounds. Through the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy chairman, Bernard Arnault, the marvelous museum exists in the French nation. It conceals 3,500 square meters of land comprising 11 exceptional galleries. Its interiors are visually extravagant. From its ultra-modern architectural design to gorgeous glass panels, it’s indeed a precious gem in France.

The excellent site is open to the public all year round. However, the complex is not operational on Tuesdays, as it is the week’s closing day. Heading to weekends can get you stranded in crowds and traffic congestion. So, better plan days of the weekdays and consider not targeting the unforgettable holidays, especially the Foundation day.

  1. When driving from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, go to the east to access the A1/A3/Paris/A104 road.
  2. Follow the road marks and stay left at the fork going to A1/Saint-Denis/Cergy/Pontoise/Paris-Centre/Paris-Porte de la Chapelle. Upon reaching A1, merge on it right away.
  3. Have two lanes to take the exit heading to Rouen/Peripherique Ouest/Pte de Clignacourt.
  4. In Bd Peripherique, merge on this section to have access to the exit towards Mailot-Bois de Boulogne.
  5. Upon arriving at Route de la Porte des Sabons a la Porte Mailot/N185, turn right and continue traversing the road until the first exit of the roundabout on Route de la Porte des Sabons a la Porte Mailot.
  6. Pass another roundabout section in Avenue du Mahatma Gandhi by proceeding to the second exit.

Fondation Louis Vuitton offers many dynamic adventures to appreciate its alluring beauty. Whether you are a first-timer or a frequent traveler in Paris, you will still have many things that you won’t expect would bring such delight to your mood.

1. Join the Micro-visits

“Micro-visits” is a cultural excursion with a mediator guide. It’s a free travel guide tour to get in Fondation Louis Vuitton. It usually takes 15-minutes to complete the exploration. The time will discuss and explain to you about the masterpieces displayed inside the complex.

2. Sign up at the Musical Program

While enjoying the tour, you may want to indulge your artistry by signing up on the Foundation’s musical program. The said activity primarily holds recitals and concerts showcasing aspiring artists’ masterpieces. The event typically happens inside an auditorium that can accommodate a thousand audiences.

3. Visit the Site at Night

If you can’t get enough of the free guided tour, you can avail the night tour on Fridays from 7:00 PM onwards. The night-time tour can consume around 45-minutes, which includes a more profound and intimate concept of exploration. It’s still a guided tour with a cultural mediator.


Is driving in France difficult? ›

Is driving in France easy? Driving in France is not fundamentally different to anywhere else on the Continent. Driving on the different side of the road is the main difference, and if you are driving your own car (rather than a French hire car) this will take a little getting used to.

What do I need to know before driving in France? ›

Top 16 tips for driving through France in 2022
  • High visibility vest(s) ...
  • Warning triangle. ...
  • Spare bulbs. ...
  • Headlight beam adjusters. ...
  • Breathalyser kit. ...
  • Lower drink-drive limit. ...
  • Speed limits. ...
  • Child passengers.
Mar 23, 2022

Can a US citizen drive in France? ›

You may only drive in France with a valid U.S. driver's license for a one-year period and obtain a French license before the end of the first year by taking the French written exam and road test.

What are the current rules for driving in France? ›

Driving licence laws in France

Visitors must be aged 18 or over and hold a full, valid driving licence to legally drive in France. Riders of mopeds or motorcycles up to 125cc must be aged 16 or over. Driving licences issued in the UK, the EU and EEA countries are accepted.

Can you turn right on a red in France? ›

In France, a right turn on red without stopping is allowed when a separate arrow-shaped amber light flashes, but drivers do not have priority. They must check if any pedestrians are crossing before turning and must give way to vehicles coming from other directions. A sign can also permit cyclists to turn right on red.

Can you rent a car in France with US license? ›

Valid ID (Driver's license or passport can be used; for non-EU visitors, an International Driver Permit is required if your license is not written in English.) International travelers must also show passport, proof of return travel & residency information.

Is it better to drive or train in France? ›

French buses are rarely as reliable or frequent as trains, so if you're looking to explore beyond the larger towns, hiring a car (even if only for a few days) may be the most practical option.

Which is the fast lane in France? ›

Drive on the right-most lane

- If the right-most lane is reserved for slow vehicles, you should only use it if your speed is below 60 km/h.

How do I pay tolls in France? ›

When using a toll road in France, there are several ways you can pay for tolls. Any driver can pay for tolls by credit, debit card or cash (for manned toll roads). Across the country, most tolls are now automated and unmanned – however, on the larger, busier autoroutes, some continue to provide manned booths.

Is it difficult for Americans to drive in France? ›

Driving in France is not too different from driving in the United States and should be fairly manageable for an American to handle.

What does a US citizen need to enter France? ›

Quick Facts
  • PASSPORT VALIDITY: At least three months beyond date of departure from the Schengen area. The 12-page U.S. emergency passport is not valid for visa-free entry into France.
  • BLANK PASSPORT PAGES: Must have at least one blank page for stamps.
  • TOURIST VISA REQUIRED: Not required for stays under 90 days.
Jul 27, 2022

Does France drive on same side as USA? ›

The most important thing to know about driving in Paris is that you'll be driving on the right side of the road. Many Americans think about driving in Europe and their first thought goes to the UK where drivers travel in the left lane and the steering wheel is on the right side of the car.

What does rappel mean on French road signs? ›

What does the French road sign 'rappel' mean? You'll often see the word 'rappel' underneath speed limit signs in France. It translates as 'reminder' and its purpose is to remind you that speed restrictions are still in place, so you need to stick to the specified limit.

What is the speed limit in France? ›

The national speed limit in France is as follows: Motorways: 130 kph (80 mph) Dual Carriageways: 110 kph (68 mph) Main Roads Outside Built-up Areas: 80 kph (49 mph)

Can I drink one beer and drive in France? ›

Drink driving limit

France has very strict drink driving laws. The French drink-driving limit is 50mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood. Sanctions and Penalties : Drivers found with between 50mg and 80mg of alcohol in your blood can be fined € 135 (£ 112).

Can you go over the speed limit in France? ›

Breaking the speed limit in France will likely result in being hit with a large fine, points on your licence, or worse – so stick to limits displayed on the road signs – no matter what type of road you're on.

Who gives way on French roundabouts? ›

Right of way on French roundabouts

On most roundabouts, the standard cédez le passage – give way – is in place. This means that you give way to traffic already on the roundabout or about to join from your left – the same way it works back home.

Do French stop in roundabouts? ›

Roundabouts are everywhere.

It does seem to be a national characteristic that, once behind the wheel, the French really do not like to stop until they reach their destination. Perhaps that is why so many traditional intersections have been replaced with roundabouts in recent years!

Should I get car rental insurance in France? ›

Rental car insurance in France

When renting a car in France, it is required by law that you have third-party liability insurance. With most companies, this is automatically included in the price of your car rental. A Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) or theft cover are recommended, but not mandatory.

Do I need an international driver's license in France? ›

You may drive with a valid U.S. driver's license if it is accompanied by a notarized translation in French. It is strongly recommended that you carry an International Driving Permit. You must be 18 years of age or older to drive in France.

What country is the hardest to learn to drive? ›

The most difficult tests to pass
  • Japan. Learners in Japan are expected to attend a mandatory driving camp for 26 hours. ...
  • China. In China, the theory test contains 100 questions and requires you to memorise 1,000 in total. ...
  • Croatia. ...
  • Montenegro. ...
  • Ukraine.

Can foreigners drive in France? ›

Driving licence

If you come to France for a short visit (such as holidays), you can drive using your foreign licence. It must be valid and either written in French or accompanied by an official translation into French or an international licence.

Which country has the hardest driving? ›

Croatia is the toughest country to get behind the wheel due to their expensive and stringent driving tests that require a minimum amount of learning and monitoring to pass.

Is driving through France safe? ›

Driving in France is safe, but there are a number of things travelers should look out for. Stay safe on French roads with these travel safety tips.

What is the hardest city to drive in us? ›

New York City, NY

How hard is the French driving test? ›

These tests are difficult. There is a lot of information. Sure, some of it is common sense, but a lot of it is very specific to the French driving laws. And since there are a lot of laws and you never know what will pop up on the forty question test, you really have to learn a lot of stuff.

Which European country is the easiest to drive in? ›

Latvia is the European country where it is easiest to learn to drive, and it is the third easiest country in the world to get behind the wheel.

Are road signs in France in English? ›

Yes, the stop signs in France look the same as in the UK, and, helpfully, they usually even display the English word 'stop' rather than the French equivalent 'arrêt'.

Do I need a International Driving Permit in France? ›

Check with the French Embassy. IDP needed for stays longer than 90 days. You do not need an IDP to drive here for periods up to 6 months. If you hold a paper driving licence or a driving licence from the Isle of Man, you may need a 1968 IDP .

Do you need an International drivers permit for France? ›

If you are on a short visit or short business trip (less than 90 days) You may drive with a valid U.S. driver's license if it is accompanied by a notarized translation in French. It is strongly recommended that you carry an International Driving Permit. You must be 18 years of age or older to drive in France.


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