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IN FRANCE, 2017
- over 200 pages of up-to-date general, cultural, travel and tourist
information about France, written by people who know. All content on
this site is written exclusively for this website .
PLAN YOUR JOURNEY......
New speed cameras in 2017. Speed cameras
on board moving unmarked private cars are being introduced in 2017 - starting with Normandy. To keep informed
of important driving news for France, follow us on Facebook.
Beware of the "cheap ferries" scam
Some internet sites that announce "cheap" ferry prices are actually
than the Ferry companies themselves. Avoid dodgy websites; click to book directly with ferry
Car hire in France.
Cars can be hired throughout France, at airports, in city centres, at
mainline railway stations and other locations. The big names in car
hire all have their operations in France, but there are also a number
of cheaper suppliers. Visit our car-rentals page and get your quotes
from a range of companies. Click for car-hire in France
Some of the warning
announcing upcoming fixed speed cameras have been removed. Gone are the
days when all fixed speed
cameras, radars, were announced in advance... a
effective way of slowing down traffic. Today, beware of unannounced
speed cameras anywhere in France; some of the old signs are still up,
and others have been replaced with electronic signs that flash up the
speed of approaching vehicles; but in other cases, cameras may not be
announced at all, so it is important for drivers to take extra
care..... In addition, there is never any warning about unmarked police
cars with on-board speed-cameras; there are now hundreds of these now
on French roads, including a couple of hundred that work from moving
police vehicles. Beware also of average speed cameras; there is no
special warning about these.
is generally accepted that today's France has an excellent road and
motorway network; compared to the UK, France has the same population
spread over twice as much surface area, which tends to mean less
congestion on the roads, easier driving than in the UK, but longer
distances to cover.
: Save on
motorway tolls when driving to southwest France
Though it is usually easiest and in the end worth it to take direct
motorways and pay the tolls, there is one journey where you can make an
appreciable saving for just a few extra kilometres.
If driving from Paris
and southwest France, do not follow the A 10
all the way. Leave the A10 at Orleans, following A71 > A20
At Limoges, follow N141 > Angoulême. At
Angoulême, follow the
for Bordeaux. All but about 60 km. of this alternative route to
Bordeaux is on autoroutes or dual carriageway, but after Vierzon, it's
all free. Saving
about 36 €uros less in tolls, for a distance of about 15 miles
extra.... and cheaper off-motorway petrol if you need it.
anywhere in France
at best rates
and breakdown information
taking their car abroad are strongly advised to have some form of breakdown
that will ensure repatriation of the vehicle in the
event of problem or immobilisation.
► What to do in the event of a road accident in France
If you are involved in any accident involving two or more vehicles
while driving in France, you will be asked to fill in a "constat
amiable" (an amiable declaration) by the driver of a French car
involved. This is standard practice.
If possible, call your
insurance company at once on your mobile phone. They may put you in
touch with a local French representative.
If you are involved in an accident involving any sort of injury - even if it is not your
- you MUST
remain until the police have come.
Click this link for further information about doctors, hospitals and using the
French health service
Breakdown or accident:
if your car is immobilised on or partly on the road due to a breakdown
or an accident, you must set up your red warning triangle at a suitable
distance behind the vehicle, to alert approaching traffic to the
hazard. All cars driving in France must carry a red warning triangle,
available from any motoring store, and also a yellow fluorescent jacket.
When driving in France, you will need a
recognised full driving
, the car's registration
(for cars registered in the UK, the V5C
certificate), and proof of insurance
The standard international and European insurance document
"green card", though a standard insurance document from any EU country
provides basic insurance for your vehicle (third party cover)
throughout the Union, whether or not a green card is provided.
An international driving
is not required for short term visitors (up to 90 days) from countries
of the EU, EEA, USA, Canada; however it is either recommended or else
required for visitors from other countries. For specific details, check
with the local French embassy in your country of origin.
stays, standard EU driving licences remain valid, but holders of
driver's licenses from non-EU countries will probably need to obtain a
French licence. Again, check with the French embassy in your country
before starting off on your trip.
Children in the car, seatbelts.
under 10 years old are not allowed to travel in the front seat of a
car, unless there are no back seats. Children under 10 years of age
must travel in the back, using an appropriate child seat or booster
seat. Babies are allowed to travel in the front passenger seat, but
only when placed in an approved rear-facing baby seat and the airbag is
Seatbelts must be worn at all times when driving in
France, by both adults and children, and both in the back and front
seats. Rear passengers can only travel without seatbelts in the back of
older cars in which they are not fitted (Article R412-1 of the French
When driving in France, in spite of the cost,
it is generally worthwhile taking motorways (autoroutes
unless you have time to go at a more leisurely pace. However, there are
some useful tips to help you cut down on the cost of your trip across
(gasolene) (fr. essence
don't fill up on the autoroute! Wait until a major intersection near a
town or city, and come off the autoroute. You will almost certainly
find a hypermarket / superstore within a kilometer or so of the exit,
offering cut price fuel. The saving can be us much as 15 centimes per
intends to do lots of driving in France could find it in their interest
to have a diesel car, particularly a modern fuel-efficient model. Diesel
France (often called gasoil
used to be about a third cheaper than unleaded, but that is no longer
the case; today - 2015 - diesel retails for about 20 centimes a litre
less than unleaded, but it also goes further. Very few service stations
now stock the old leaded petrol, known as "super". See petrol prices in France
below for recent updates.
free autoroutes or dual-carriageways where they exist. See below for
French road signs:
Signs indicating a motorway
route (whether on the motorway or pointing to it) are indicated with
white lettering on a blue background, as in the picture below left.
Signs indicating a non-motorway main route (route nationale or other)
are indicated with white lettering on a green background, as in
anywhere in France
at best rates
PLAN YOUR JOURNEY......
AVOID THE BUSIEST WEEKENDS
are the days on which to avoid the French motorway system if you
possibly can. Heavy holiday traffic on these days will lead to delays
and tailbacks across the network, most particularly on the following
motorways: A1 Lille-Paris, A6 Paris-Lyon, A7 Lyon Marseilles
A8 Marseille-Nice, A9
, A10 Paris-Bordeaux (in
parts). A63 around Biarritz, and Alpine motorways in general.
traffic density forecasts:
Orange : delays likely in
some places Red= busy,
Black = saturated
: delays certain in
- Saturday 1st; orange
- Fri 7th, Saturday
Sunday 9th orange,
- Thur 13th Red, Fri 14th Red round Paris, orange elsewhere
Saturday 15th RED in south. orange elsewhere,
- Friday 21st Orange,
Saturday 22rd, RED
- Friday 28th Orange
Saturday 29th July - BLACK everywhere -
4th : orange everywhere
Sat 5th Aug BLACK
in Rhone valley and Mediterranean motorways -red
- Friday 11th Orange in Rhone
and 12th Aug bla&ck
26th ; orange
- Saturday 15th : orange in
Sunday July 16th Red and
- Saturday 22nd Orange in
- Friday 29th Orange in Rhone
Saturday 30th July, RED in
Sunday 30th Orange in south and Rhone valley
4th Orange in southwest and south
Saturday 5th & Sunday 6th
- Friday 11th oange everywhere
Saturday 12th RED
Sunday 13th Orange in south of France
- Friday 18th
Red in Rhone valley & south, orange elsewhere
Saturday 19th BLACK in Rhone valley & south, RED elsewhere
- Friday 25th
Red in Rhone valley & southwest, orange elsewhere.
Saturday 26th RED everywhere
French motorways, known as autoroutes, are designated with numbers
preceded by the letter A (for Autoroute). Thus, when driving to the
south of France from
can either take the A16 autoroute towards Amiens and Paris, or
(normally an easier solution) the A26
via Rheims. Most French
autoroutes are toll motorways
, and entrances to them are
marked as such with the word "Péage" (pronounced pay-arje
The normal procedure is to pick up a ticket from a booth as you enter
the autoroute (just press the button); tolls are paid either when you
leave the autoroute, or else when the toll section comes to an end. In
a few places, there are fixed toll points on the autoroute, notably in
urban areas or toll bridges.
French toll gates:
: closed -
open, all methods of payment.
Télépéage or credit cards (this is
(at ticket pickup booths) open to all traffic.
: debit or credit cards only
Télépéage slow down only,
no stopping - only for vehicles fitted with toll charging
Motorway tolls in France
The cost of motorway travel for a car without caravan or trailer is
about 1 €uro for 10 miles. For example, in early 2017,
on the 1060 km trip from Calais to Marseille, via Reims, almost all of
it on toll motorways, cost 88.20 €uros, about £75.
Here are the toll
costs for a selection of other common journeys that use toll motorways
over long distances:.
The average cost per kilometre depends on what
proportion of the journey involves free motorways or other roads.
Drivers wanting to avoid French motorway tolls should remember that it
is not necessarily the best solution to avoid all tolls, particularly
in fairly populated areas. using other roads, with their
lights, speed restrictions and roundabouts will mean longer journey
times and more stress. ... even if you have a satnav to help you
south by motorway:
a sample selection of motorway tolls : Jan 2016
add about 50%).
Truck / HGV toll rates (class 4) : approximately three
times the rate for cars.
. 8.00 €
- Paris, via A 16: 20.60 €
Calais-Marseilles, via Reims: 88.20 €uros
Calais-Bordeaux, via Rouen & Chartres 57,00 €
Calais-Bordeaux, via Rouen & Le Mans 72,50 €
Calais-Toulouse, via Paris 56.40 €
Calais-Toulouse via Rouen, Dreux: 37.10 €
- Perpignan via Rouen
, Chartres &
A 71: 55,20
, Dijon & A39: 103.80 €
Dijon, A39: 74.00 €
Le Havre :
Havre - Montpellier via Chartres & A 71: 44.70 €
Le Havre - Bordeaux, via Alençon: 62.80 €
Le Havre - Bordeaux, via Paris: 74.20 €
- Toulouse via Bordeaux: 43.00 €
For more information on French motorway tolls, follow this link to the French
motorway network website
in English: this site provides a
form to fill in, to calculate the cost of a motorway trip through
For a detailed route, use the route-finder
map and distance calculator
page on About-France.com.
Or see your part of France, or the whole country, on the
Note that there are just a few free
in France, and some long-distance dual
carriageways that are up to motorway standard. Among free motorways
note in particular
► Major dual-carriageway
- two thirds of the section on the A16 - A28 route
between Calais and Rouen
- the A 84 from Caen to Rennes
- 275 km of the A20 from Vierzon to just south of
Gaillarde (the longest stretch of free motorway in France,
and the main Paris-Toulouse route).
- the A75 motorway between Clermont Ferrand and Beziers - an
alternate route for people driving to Languedoc and the
Spanish border. Careful however, there is a bit of this still missing
at the southern end, and the Millau
viaduct has a toll (Toll
prices). Mountain motorway not recommended for caravans or in
- the motorway between Dunkerque and Lille.
urban and peri-urban autoroutes in France are also free; and even when
they are not, it makes more sense to pay the toll and avoid miles of
traffic lights and congestion.
For other dual carriageways, check on a detailed road map of
in France are still popularly known as "routes nationales
However, in the framework of "regionalisation", responsibility for most
roads has been devolved to local authorities, and the concept of
"routes nationales" has largely disappeared. The only "N" roads that
now survive are ones that - in the absence of an "autoroute", form part
of the strategic national road network, such as the N21 from Limoges
or the N13 from Cherbourg
as far as Caen
numbering in France
driving in France, it is always best to follow destinations rather than
road numbers. Following the regionalisation of responsibility for many
roads, the result - if you want to travel by following road numbers -
is a classic state of confusion; Drivers following the N13 south from
Cherbourg lose it at Caen, as it becomes the D 613 thereafter! From
Evreux to Mantes the "N 13" signs reappear, but after that it's the D
113....For another example, anyone wanting to avoid the toll motorway
and drive along the old "route nationale" to the southwest corner of
France, from Chartres
Biarritz, will follow three disconnected sections of main road known as
"N 10"; but in areas where the old N10 is now close to a parallel
motorway, the road is now signed as "D 910" or the "D 1010". Some old
"N" roads now blithely change their number each time they pass from one
department to another !!
This is all very confusing for foreign
visitors driving in France, but not so much for the French,
since with the exception of motorways, they follow a
rather than a road number. Destinations via main trunk routes are
indicated by the names of towns in white letters on a bright green
background, as shown above.
Note that France also displays European
route numbers where appropriate; these are marked with a white number
on a green background, and are in addition to the French road number.
For example the A
motorway from Paris to Lyon is also marked as E15
- E15 being a European route running from
Inverness to Algeciras.
In the motorway sign on the right, the A43 autoroute is also indicated
as being the E70; the main towns it leads towards are indicated in
normal lettering; other destinations, such as airports, are indicated
in italics. The word "Péage" at the bottom indicates that
this is a
Sometimes you may see direction signs starting with the word Bis
in italics. These are the equivalent of the British "HR" (holiday
route) itineraries, using less crowded main roads. Thus a sign saying
"bis Lyon" is an alternative route avoiding the main roads, and
generally with less lorry traffic. Bis, in French, means second (as in
the prefix bi-).
The "Bison futé" (in English the cunning bison) is
the motorist who does not follow the crowd, but seeks out less crowded
easier roads, the "routes bis", thus the "bis-on". If you see a bison
futé sign, it will be directing you either
routes themselves or to an information point. On summer Saturdays,
being a cunning bison is often well worth it, unless you love driving
in heavy traffic or sitting in traffic jams.
► Avoiding Paris
This is a good idea on most days. When driving from Calais to the south
of France, use the A
motorway via Reims, Troyes and Dijon.
If driving to south western and central France, avoid Paris going via
Rouen, Evreux, Chartres and Orleans. There is no motorway between
Evreux and Orleans, but the road over this section is currently being
upgraded to dual carriageway, and over half of it is now complete. Avoiding
Paris- click for details and route map
► Avoiding peak periods
If you can avoid travelling on Saturdays between July 10th and August
30th, this is very advisable. On these days, many French autoroutes -
and in particular all the main arteries to the south - are liable to
reach saturation. The worst bottlenecks are in the Rhone valley south
of Lyons, along the south coast, and around Bordeaux.
In January and February, Alpine motorways can get hyper-snarled up with
Check out the busy
holiday weeks for 2017
However, outside these periods, Saturday and Sunday are the best days
for driving in France, on motorways and arterial roads. Indeed, on
these days, HGV's - lorries or trucks - are banned, meaning that unless
you get stuck behind caravans or camper vans, combine harvesters or
other various slowdowns, driving is relatively hassle-free.
►HGV restrictions in France
Most heavy goods vehicles
over 7.5 tonnes are banned from the French road and motorway network
every weekend between the hours of 10 p.m Saturday and 10 p.m Sunday.
This weekend truck ban is longer from early July to mid August, when
HGVs are banned from Saturday 7 a.m. to sunday 10 p.m. HGV's are also
banned on public
normally from 10 p.m the night before, until 10 p.m on the holiday
itself. The two big summer public holidays in France are 14th July and
Further restrictions apply for HGV access to the Paris
area, (Mondays and day following a public holiday, from 6 a.m to 10
a.m), and for HGVs leaving the Paris area (Fridays and days preceding a
public holiday, usually from 4 p.m). This means that trucks cannot
transit via the inner ring road of Paris (boulevard
during these hours.
There are also extra weekend lorry bans on
Alpine motorways in February - though given the traffic jams that are
possible here at the time, these routes are best avoided by anyone not
needing to use them - lorries or cars, ban or no ban.
► Petrol (Gas) stations in France
Almost all petrol stations in France accept Visa and Mastercard;
however take care with 24h automatic pumps in supermarket forecourts.
Many of these do not accept credit cards without integrated chip and
PIN number. Most UK cards now have integrated chip and pin, so the
times when UK cards did not work in French petrol stations are now
history for most travellers. However, if you think you may need to fill
up in an emergency while driving in France, check your card out at a
supermarket self-service pump well before you run out. If it doesn't
work, nip round and join the queue for the pay-at-the counter pumps.
Make sure that you don't have to fill up in an emergency using an
untested card at an unmanned filling station at night or on Sundays.
Fuel price watch:
The cost of fuel
France: France has suffered like any other country from the recent
sharp fluctuations in fuel prices.
Compared to the UK, there is not a big difference, except for diesel
which is much cheaper in France.
supermarket fuel prices in France were;
1.44 Euros – Unleaded
1.39 Euros – Diesel
In non-supermarket and motorway filling stations, petrol prices can be
anything from 5 to 20 cts. a litre more expensive, depending on the
E10 graded fuels (containing 10% of ethanol bio-fuel) are
a couple of centimes cheaper, where they are available. These
compatible with most modern cars; if in doubt check with your supplier.
(There are 3.79 litres to 1 US gallon; but generally speaking cars in
Europe are smaller and consume less fuel than cars in
limits and other rules
Here are the normal speed limits for driving in France:
The normal speed limit on French motorways
is 130 km/hr (just over 80 mph). - or 110 km/hr in rain.
The normal speed limit on dual carriageways
(divided highways) is 110 km/hr
The normal speed limit on main roads is 90
km/hr (outside built-up areas)
The normal speed limit in built-up areas is
50 km/hr – unless otherwise indicated.
there is not necessarily a specific speed-restriction sign at the
entrance to a built-up area, particularly at the entrance to small
at the entrance to a village or town
blue letters on an off-white background) automatically
indicates a built-up area with a speed limit of 50 km/h, unless
otherwise indicated. Police speed cameras are often set up in villages
where traffic too often forgets to slow down.
there is a small tolerance for drivers who exceed the speed limit - but
be advised that it is best to observe speed limits which are there for
a reason. Until recently, speed cameras tended to be stationary and
visible; nowadays, the gendarmerie
are using more and more mobile radars, in unmarked cars. Be warned !
Otherwise you may face an on-the-spot fine or - if your are caught
driving more than 50 km/hr over the limit - an instant ban and an
impounding of your vehicle.
are now well over two thousand stationary speed cameras on France's
roads and motorways.
Unfortunately, the official
French radar speed camera map
from the Internet in 2011, following a government decision to stop warning drivers
of upcoming speed cameras. New radars are being set up all the time, so
any unofficial maps that may be available on the Internet are unlikely
to be complete, and in any case cannot include the mobile radar cars or
the movable stationary speed cameras, of which there are currently
about 1000. So the best rule - not to say the most sensible one - is
"Do not drive over the speed limit".
2012 saw the introduction of the first average speed cameras,
known in French as radars tronçon, on French motorways.
already used in several other countries, calculate the average speed of
a vehicle driving between two points.
Contrary to a sometimes-heard myth, toll tickets are not knowingly used
to compute a car's average speed between two points.
it is an offence to hold and use a mobile phone while driving in
France. Hands-free use of mobile phones is not illegal. Though many
drivers ignore this rule, traffic police are clamping down on drivers
holding phones to their ears while driving, and drivers are liable to
an on-the-spot fine.
minimum age for driving a car in France is 18; thus no-one under the
age of 18 can drive a car in France, even if he or she holds a valid
licence in another country
Wining and driving
Wine is available with meals in French motorway service areas - a fact
that surprises a lot of visitors. But don't forget that the drink drive
limit in France is lower than it is in the UK. The best advice is the
same everywhere; don't drink and drive.
Motorway hotels or something else? France is very well equipped in
hotels and other types of accommodation. Many of the chains , such as Novotel
stars) , Mercure
(3 stars), Ibis
(2 stars) , Ibis
(2 stars), and Formule
(1 star), have outlets clustered near
motorway exits, notably
near the exits from toll motorways and around towns and cities. The
hotel links on the About-France.com route pages
list only the French motorway hotels that are really
easy to find.
See the French shopping guide
for useful information if you are planning to stop to shop on your way
page Rail travel in France
Gites in France
and text © About-France.com
2003 - 2017 except where otherwise indicated.