France autoroute by Spedona, used under CC licence

10 Jan Driving in France

Whether you’re heading for the Eiffel Tour, the chateaux of the Loire Valley or the beaches of the Côte d’Azur, here are some helpful tips if you are considering bringing your car or hiring one when you arrive in France.

TOLLS

Autoroutes in France are dotted with numerous tolls which can add up, particularly on a long journey, so it pays to do your research before you go. The costs vary but as a rule of thumb it’s about 7-10 cent per kilometre travelled in a car, and you can add half as much again if you are towing a caravan. Figures below correct as of 10/1/18, taken from here.

Journey Car Car towing trailer/caravan Distance in Kilometers
Bordeaux to Paris € 55.10 € 85.60 641km
Lille to Paris € 16.30 € 23.40 225km
Bordeaux to Toulouse € 19.60 € 31.40 245km
Lyon to Paris (A6) € 34.10 € 53.30 466km
Marseille to Paris € 58.80 € 92.60 744km
Nantes to Bordeaux € 29.20 € 44.70 346km
Nantes to Paris € 36.60 € 56.70 384.6km
Rennes to Paris € 28.80 € 44.30 348.8km
Toulouse to Paris (A20) € 36.00 € 55.70 683.5km

Tolls can be paid in cash or with Eurocard, Mastercard or Visa. Maestro and Electron debit cards are not accepted.

There are alternative non-tolled routes in France that are very easy to drive on (similar to dual-carriageways). You can locate these routes by selecting the “show routes without tolls” option on AA Routeplanner.

LEGAL REQUIREMENTS

French authorities are quite stringent on all motorists carrying the correct documents and compulsory equipment when driving. These include a warning triangle, headlamp converter and a reflective jacket. The jacket must be kept within the passenger compartment of the vehicle and be put on before exiting the vehicle in an emergency/breakdown situation.

It is absolutely prohibited to carry, transport or use radar detectors. Anyone who does risks a fine of up to €1,500 and confiscation of their vehicle and/or device.

In January 2013, the French government announced that the enforcement of the law requiring drivers to carry a breathalyser has been postponed indefinitely. So while you are theoretically still required to carry a self-test breathalyser when driving in France, no fines are being issued for non-compliance.

PENALTIES

Be warned that some French police are authorised to impose and collect on-the-spot traffic fines of up to €375. French traffic police take their job very seriously so your Irish charm is not likely to work on them!

CAR RENTAL ADVICE

Avis, Europcar, Hertz, Budget and Sixt have branches at most major towns all over France. Keep an eye on their websites or your airline’s website as they may offer good deals or discounts.

Car rental companies in France are required to provide basic liability insurance to renters for the duration of their trip. However, collision damage waivers vary from company to company so check with yours in advance.

Don’t forget, if you’re an AA customer, you get to up to 10% off and add an additional driver for free with Enterprise, Alamo and National Car Rental, our AA Rewards partner. To get a quote or book click here.

Damage

Check the car for damage with an employee from the car rental company before signing a rental agreement, and again when the vehicle is returned. Have the damage-free condition confirmed in writing, or note any damage. Disputes can sometimes arise after you arrive home so it’s a good idea taking the time to take some phone pictures of the car both when you pick it up and when you return it.

Controls

Check all the switches, indicators and other controls carefully and if any are unfamiliar or don’t work, ask the rental firm for guidance.

Refuelling

Check the refuelling requirements in advance and keep fuel bills as proof of a full tank when the vehicle is returned. Consider taking a photo of the fuel gauge, particularly if dropping the car off without a hire company employee present.

Insurance cover

Third-party insurance is a must but in some countries the minimum statutory cover may be higher and if cover is insufficient, the hirer is personally liable for the excess. There may be a charge to increase cover.

Additional insurance

If you can, choose comprehensive damage cover without an excess, but check what is actually covered as some may exclude damage to tyres, rims, the underbody or stone chips.

Theft insurance

This is recommended if it is not included in the comprehensive insurance.

PARKING AND TOLLS

You can get parking discs for ‘blue zone’ (zone bleue) pay-and-display parking areas from police stations, tourist offices and some shops. These let you park free for one hour between 9am and 12pm and from 2pm or 2:30pm until 7pm from Mondays to Saturdays, with no limit outside these hours or on Sundays and public holidays.

If you see the word horadateur (ticket machine) or stationnement payant (paid parking), this means that there is a nearby machine and you have to pay and display. Also beware of signs saying stationnement interdit – this means No Parking.

As mentioned above, make sure to factor in road tolls when planning your journey. Keep money aside to cover these costs and keep some spare change handy but don’t leave it lying about in your car.

EUROPEAN BREAKDOWN COVER

If you plan on taking your own vehicle, The AA offers European Breakdown Cover. Some of the benefits include:

  • 24 hour English speaking emergency telephone assistance throughout Europe.
  • Roadside assistance for the duration of your motoring holiday.
  • Emergency roadside repairs or towing to the nearest garage in over 40 European countries.
  • Location and dispatch of spare parts(s) needed to complete repairs overseas.
  • Vehicle recovery to the Republic of Ireland.
  • Provision for emergency car hire, accommodation or alternative travel.
  • Emergency accommodation if you have to wait for repair work to be completed.
  • Discounts for AA members.

Get a quote here!

FURTHER READING

Photo by Spedona, used under CC licence.

Chris Jones
jonesc@theaa.ie