Driving in France

A well sign posted country road in Northern France

Driving in France

France is one of the greatest places to drive and unwind and every turn around a country lane has a new view to offer.

If you have never driven in France before let me give you a few driving tips before getting on the road. If you are traveling from anywhere in Europe including the U.K. your current drivers license from your country of origin will suffice. If you are traveling from outside of Europe such as the United States then you will need your current state drivers license plus you will need to purchase a short term international drivers license, they are relatively inexpensive. I bought mine from my automobile insurance carrier which was good for six months. If you stay longer you will need to renew from the country of origin.

You want to make sure that you carry these with you in the glove compartment of your vehicle whenever you drive. You also want to make sure that you carry your passport with you, preferably somewhere safe in your pocket for instance.

My suggestion when driving in France is to please put away your mobile phone device, don't text when driving! If the police or Gendarme as they are called pull you over for texting the fines are very steep and you often have to pay on the spot! That's right, if you get pulled over in France for texting or are caught speeding the Gendarme will have you pay then and there. I was told by someone that if you don't have the money on you they sometimes will drive you to you a a local ATM to withdraw the funds to settle the fine. And obviously don't drink and drive as you will be arrested and carted off, it's not worth it so don't be foolish and be respectful, your on holiday, have a drink when you are settled in your hotel at night, you can then look back at the great day you had and the photographs you took of the beautiful French countryside.

As mentioned in the Careful Planning section of this web site make sure you have a GPS device with you. When booking your car most car rentals will offer you a GPS at an extra cost that's already built into the car, make sure you get this option plus just to be on the safe side I would bring your own portable device. Again the smartest thing to do is to be prepared before you even step into the car. Get your trip ready and program your routes before hand, it's so much easier this way.

A typical sign post in France - this one letting you know the region you are heading into.
(click to enlarge)

I find that France is one of the best countries in the world for sign posts and directions. In Normandy for instance there are signs every few kilometers that detail the upcoming town or or area. There are also some great rest stops where you can have a nice lunch, go to the loo (restroom) or have a coffee etc. And anywhere there is a museum you will be guided long before you get there that the museum is coming up soon! I found this to be very helpful in case you have any self doubts that you are heading in the right direction.

The rest stops also have petrol / gas stations. France measures their petrol or gas by the litre not by the gallon as they do in the United States. It's all very straightforward of course, filling up the tank is the same as back home. When paying at the pump you will be required to use a credit card as there are no attendants to accept cash at the rest stop areas.

A typical toll booth in France

Now if you are making the long but beautiful drive to Normandy you will encounter a number of tolls. The way the French have these set up is that some issue just the tickets and then the next toll is where you insert the ticket and pay the toll. Make sure you carry plenty of Euros with you both notes and coin, not all tolls take credit cards.

This toll booth happens to have a nice toll taker.

Other tolls have toll takers as well. I think the drive to Calais to Normandy had about six tolls which came to about 50 euros.

When you return your car to the rental agency such as Avis or Hertz make sure the tank is full of petrol/gas. Keep in mind that some petrol stations are closed on Sundays.

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