France Travel Planner by Tom Brosnahan & Jane Fisher   Travel by Car in France
Outside of Paris, hiring/renting a car gives you the freedom and efficiency to make the most of your trip to France.

Priority sign, France
Do you know what this sign
means? You should, if you
plan to drive in France.




A Frenchman invented the first self-propelled mechanical vehicle in 1769, and another Frenchman invented an internal combustion engine in 1859. It's no surprise that France still produces lots of automobiles.

You will probably—you should!—use public transportation (especially trains) for part of your travel in France, but travel by car gives you freedom beyond France's fine public transport network.

French Highways

Autoroutes are France's high-speed limited-access express highways connecting regions and major cities. Speed limits on autoroutes are 110 km/h (68 mph) to 130 km/h (81 mph). Some portions of the autoroutes are subject to tolls. More...

Nationales are the main all-access (and in some cases limited-access) highways of two or more lanes. This was France's main system before the construction of the autoroutes. Speed limit on Nationals outside of towns and villages is usually 90 km/h (56 mph).

Départmentales are regional all-access highways of one or two lanes. Speed limits on Départmentales vary from 30 to 50 kp/h (19 to 31 mph) in villages and towns to 50 to 80 kp/h (31 to 50 mph) in the countryside.

Narrow Country Road Dangers

Many French drivers tend to drive very fast on winding country roads. When they come toward you in the opposite direction, they may not leave quite enough room.. It's easy to lose the left-side rearview mirror of your rental car if there's not enough clearance. We tend to avoid the narrowest country roads if possible.

Priorité à Droite

Regulations for vehicle priority are elaborate and important! You must understand and observe them. More...

French Driving Habits

Most French car drivers are competent and skilled, but some love to tailgate (follow you too closely), and some like to go too fast on narrow country roads. Large truck/lorry drivers are professionals, skilled and patient, and observe lower speed limits than autos. More...

Car Hire/Rental in France

Car hire/rental is an integral part of France's fine public transportation system. You'll find car rental agencies located conveniently in all train stations, seaports and major airports, making intermodal travel (mostly train + car) your preferred travel method in France. More...

Motor Fuels

Unleaded gasoline/petrol, clean diesel, liquefied propane gas, electric—you'll find them all. More...

Car Parking

It's well organized and convenient, but you must know how it operates. It can be highly frustrating if you don't know how it works. More...


On French roads and highways, bicycle riders have the same rights and duties as motor vehicle drivers, and must observe the same regulations. Sharing the road is essential, and is easily achieved if everyone observes the rules. More...

Car Hire/Rental

Typical Hire/Rental Costs

Driving in France

Priorité à Droite

Fuel & Charging

Highway Tolls & Payment

Car Parking

Transport in Paris

Transport in France


Paris Girls Secret Society, a novel by Tom Brosnahan


Arromanches, Normandy, France

Arromanches, on Gold Beach in Normandy: good to have a car to tour the D-Day beaches.

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