Practical Advice on Driving in France

Many people are really worried about driving in France, especially the idea of driving on the right. You don’t need to be. Our advice is:

-If you are really wary, try a day trip – that means if you don’t enjoy it you haven’t wasted a holiday (money, time off work etc.) on the experience. Another option is to stay near one of the ports. St Malo, Cherbourg and Roscoff are really convenient in this regard, although there’s no reason why you can’t stay near Calais.

-Try to ensure your first experience of travelling in France involves a journey via one of the Calais ports. That way your first experience of driving in France will be on relatively quiet Autoroutes (Motorways) and you will have some time to acclimatise before you have to tackle any towns/villages.

-Take things really easy. The French generally drive quickly, but let them get on with it and drive at your own speed. No-one will mind and if they do, tough! As things will be a bit strange for a while you need to allow yourself time to think, especially around towns, so don’t be rushed into anything.

-Make sure you have plenty of time. Split your journey across several days if necessary – this helps keep you alert whilst driving and is a great way to get some real French culture, especially if you stay in a B+B (Chambre D’Hôte).

-Don’t drive if you’re tired. Especially think twice about trying to make an overnight dash for the south coast – we did it once but we would never recommend it, even with two people to share the driving as we did. We were wrecked the next day and it was incredibly hard to stay awake, even with the heating vents blowing cold air straight in our faces!

-Try to have an experienced driver in the passenger seat. When you need to overtake something they are your eyes and ears, especially when you are trying to judge whether it is safe to pull out or not. Also they can collect tickets and pay at toll booths!

-Obey the law! See rules of the road section – not an exhaustive analysis, but gives some useful guidance.

-If in doubt, keep right!

Getting around this Section:

Practical Advice: This section is for the first timer with helpful hints on how to make your first drive in France a relaxing experience, even driving on the right hand side! For example making sure that you always have some cash ready for the autoroute tolls.

Preparing your car: There are things you need to remember before you leave, some are legal requirements, some just good advice.

French Roads + Law: We explain to you about the types of roads in France, major road signs and basic highway code.

Priorité à Droite: This famous feature of French driving etiquette still causes confusion today! Priorité a Droite info here.

Route Planning: Advice on route planning with the best maps, traffic advice and the best rest areas on the main autoroutes

Read more travel in France: