Driving in France

If you are planning to drive in France, the following articles may be of interest to you:

  • Insurance. You must be insured for France (even if you are just visiting) and must display your insurance policy in your windscreen. If you are visiting France from the UK, your existing UK policy may or may not cover you for France. For details, click on France Car Insurance.
  • Accidents. If you have a car accident in France, you must have in your car a copy of the accident report form and should immediatly complete this with the other party. Failure to do so could result in you being held liable for the accident, even if it is not your fault. Click on France Car Accident Report for more details. 
  • Other Legal. Some of the most common legal issues are covered here.

Roads and motorways in France are largely free of congestion, except around the major cities and in special circumstances (accidents, roadworks, or the South of France during holidays). One finds far less traffic than in most other European countries, especially when compared to the UK.

Almost all motorways in France are pay motorways, with the amount you have to pay being dependent on the distance you drive. When you enter the motorway you pick up a ticket (automatically dispensed from a machine as you drive through) and when you leave you return the ticket, which is used to calculate the charge (the charge is based on the distance between where you entered the motorway and where you exit). The exit will have up to three different types of lanes, so make sure you get into the one you want:

  • Lanes for people paying a person. These lanes have a small booth with a person who will tell you the charge and take your payment.
  • Lanes for people paying a machine. You put the ticket into the machine, it calculates the amount due, and then you put in your credit card in to pay.
  • Lanes for people who drive through. This is for cars which are fitted with a special radio device which automatically transmits the car's identification as the car drives through. A computer receives this information and automatically bills the person (or removes the money by direct debit).

Some of the most useful words to know when driving in France:

  • Diesel. The French word is Gasoil or Gazole.
  • Petrol (known in USA as gasoline). The French word for this is Essence.
  • Autres Directions. This is French for 'Other Directions'. It is seen in combination with another sign. For example, if you saw one sign that said 'Paris' and the other said 'Autres Directions', the latter is the route to follow to any major nearby town except Paris.
  • Toutes Directions. This literally translates as 'All Directions'. If you are in a town or city, following this sign will take you out of the town and lead you to the main roads.

Some useful links:

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