Before driving in France, you need to be cognizant of certain travel requirements and basic information about road rules. First of all, you must have following documents:
- Any visitor must have a valid personal ID card. If visitor is from a country which doesn’t issue ID cards, he must have a valid passport. For tourists from not European Union and not North American countries must obtain a tourist visa.
- Short term visitors (up to 90 days) must have a valid driving license. Standard European Union (EU) driving permits are valid. If you are not from EU country, you should obtain an International translation of driving permit. For more information, check with the French embassy in your home country before your travel. Licenses must be carried at all the times when driving.
- If you are going to travel by your own or rental car, you must have the car’s registration certificate as a proof of ownership.
- For driving in France, car insurance documents are compulsory. If you are going to rent a car in France, the insurance and safety documents will be provided by the rental car company. If you are travel by your own car, you may have European “green card”.
A car insurance “green card” is a legal document that is recognized in over 40 countries of the world including all countries in Europe. It issued by car insurance companies and is a proof that the minimum legal requirements for third party liability insurance are covered by the insured's own motor policy in countries where the “green card” is valid. If you are from a country where the minimum requirement for 'third party' insurance is in force, you don’t need a “green card”. You must have an insurance certificate to prove that your vehicle is insured.
Except required documents, French road rules require drivers to carry:
- A spare set of bulbs.
- Hazard warning triangle. It must be placed at a suitable distance behind a vehicle if it is spotted on the hard shoulder or highway.
- A fire extinguisher.
- A first aid kit.
- A high-visibility waistcoat. It must be carried so driver can get on immediately if he needs to go out of the car.
- A sticker that indicates a country of car registration.
- If you have contact lenses, a pair of glasses.
- At least two breathalyzers (alcohol-level test).
- French roads are well maintained; many of motorways are toll road. France like any country has road rules which drivers, even temporary visitors, must carry out.
- Traffic keeps to the right side of the road.
- In France, minimum driving age is 18 years. It is forbidden to drive to persons less than 18 even they have driving permits issued by their home countries. To rent a car, visitor must be 20 years or older and be holder a driving permit for at least one year.
- Distance and speeds are given in kilometers per hour (km/h).
- In towns, the speed limit is 50km/h, on open roads, 80-100km/h, and on motorways 110-130km/h.
- There is not a specific speed-restriction sign at the entrance to a town or village. The name board (a white background with dark blue letters) indicates a built-up area where a speed limit is 50 km/h. There are often police speed cameras in villages because drivers forget to slow down.
- It is forbidden to have any radar detection equipment, whether or not it is used.
- It is prohibit travelling in the front seat to children under 10 years of age.
- Allowable blood-alcohol levels are .05%.
- Using the horn is only acceptably in an emergency.
- Seatbelts for a driver and everyone in the car are required. A crash helmet is required for riding a motorcycle.
- That is not allowed to use cell phone while driving. Hands-free use of mobile phones is not illegal.
- Children under 10 years must ride in a child or booster seat in the back seat. Babies (under 13 kg) are allowed to travel in the front passenger seat placed in an approved rear-facing baby seat when the airbag is turned off. Children from 9 kg to 18 kg must be seated in a special child seat, from 15 kg to 10 years can use a booster seat with a seat belt or a harness.
- France has following road numbering: “A” roads are motorways (Autoroutes), "N" roads are strategic trunk routes (the National network), and “D” roads are roads whose upkeep the local Department pays. European route numbers (a white number on a green background) are in addition to the French road numbers.
- Every weekend from 10 p.m Saturday to 10 p.m Sunday, heavy goods vehicles (HGV) over 7.5 tonnes are banned on the French motorways and roads.
- From early July to middle August, HGV are banned Saturday between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., then between Saturday 10 p.m. and Sunday 10 p.m.
- HGV are also banned on public holidays from 10 p.m the night before to 10 p.m on the holiday.
- It is not allowed the right turns on a red light.
- If you don’t have the yellow diamond sign on your road, you must give way to cars coming out from the right.
- Lights have a yellow phase and switch from green-to yellow-to red. Driver may pass through on a yellow light if he is not able to stop safely. Traffic lights go directly from red to green.
- Parking restrictions are strictly enforced.
- Bus lanes are only for buses, taxis, and bicycles.
In Paris you don’t need a car; you can use the subway system. But, if you want to see true France in the countryside, you should drive.
Driving Overseas - Short Information
France Road Traffic Signs