About France

Renting a car and driving in France

Things to know about Driving in France

  • First things first:  The French drive on the right side of the street. If you’re used to driving an automatic transmission car, you’ll be surprised to find very few automatics available to rent in France. You’ll also find that driving with a stick takes a while to get used to. This is something to consider when deciding on the means of transportation for your stay in France.
  • Driving in France:  You need to be aware that, as a whole, French drivers are not as courteous as they should be. Drivers – even in the right lane – will commonly drive fast, pass you in the most unlikely places, and tailgate.
  • There are no 4-way stops in France. Instead, there are the infamous priorités à droite and the roundabouts.
  • priorités à droite: The word priorité means “right-of-way”. Priorité à droite means “right-of-way to the right”. If there are no markings on the road at an intersection, the car coming from the right has the right-of-way. My advice is to pay careful attention to the priorité à droite whenever you approach an intersection, and to drive slowly and courteously.
  • roundabouts: On the other hand, in roundabouts, or traffic circles, you should not be tentative. Roundabouts are not easy to negotiate, in my opinion. Upon entering a roundabout, what seems to be the safest is, after having stopped and looked for a clear spot on the left, step on the accelerator and go in smoothly, yet, with no hesitation. You’re supposed to go to the inner lane until you’re ready to put your blinkers on to turn right on your street. However, nobody does it. Roundabouts can be stressful. There are more and more of them in France. On the bright side, though, roundabouts are generally very well taken care of by municipalities , with gorgeous flowerbeds and statues and sculpture of all sorts.
  • The speed limit in France varies between 20 to 50 km/hour in town, 90 on country roads when it’s clear, 110 on quatre-voies – four-lane highways and 130 on the autoroutes – ‘toll highways’. As soon as you hit the entrance of a city/village, slow down to 50km/hour. The police are always around and eager to fine anyone over 51km/hour.
  • At the crossroad, when you want to turn left and another car coming in the opposite direction also wants to turn left, go behind it, not in front.
  • Get a car with a navigation system (usually available in English) – make sure it’s in working condition, and easy to use – and/or a nice set of maps for the area you’re traveling. You may buy maps in bookstores and big department stores as well as in some big gas stations. Mappy Itinéraires is also a reliable source for itineraries if you have access to the internet.
  • Gasoline prices are very high, certainly a lot more than the ones I’m used to in California, although those too are rising. I advise you to get your gas in the hypermarchés – huge supermarkets – surrounding big cities.
  • Parking, particularly in big cities, can be a nightmare. The easiest way is to find a public parking lot, where they’ll accept a credit card. Parking is generally free on Sundays and during the lunch hour, between noon and two.
  • I would advise not to drive in big cities. French drivers are pretty excitable and public transportation is generally really easy, at least in and around Paris.
  • Also, take into account is the price of autoroutes, ‘toll highways’. Le péage – the toll can be as expensive as the price of gas on some trips. Note that autoroutes are free in Brittany. There are good sides and bad sides to taking the autoroutes. You definitely go faster, but you miss all the quaint villages and old castles along the road.
  • Road signs nowadays are pretty uniform all over Europe. I can’t think of one that might be a problem for you to interpret if you are used to driving in an English-speaking country.

Things to know about renting a car in France

  • Renting a car in France can be pretty expensive. Try to insist on getting a small-size car if your budget is tight. But then, a small-size car comes with a small trunk as well, so, think about packing light, with small suitcases. It’s often easier to rent your car from your country of origin, before your departure. That way, you don’t get into negotiations in a foreign language, and it might even be cheaper. If you are using a wheelchair, renting from home is definitely the way to go. It would be hard to find something in France.
  • Vocabulary for renting a car
automatic car f automatique
car f voiture
car registration f carte grise
cash m du liquide
compact car f petite voiture
convertible f décapotable
credit cards f carte bleue
diesel gas m diésel
Do you take…? ø Vous prenez… ?
economy car m modèle  économie
for a day ø pour une journée
for a month ø pour un mois
for a week ø pour une semaine
from (date) to (date) ø du (date) au (date)
gas f essence
how much is it ø ça fait combien
how much is it ø c'est combien
I prefer ø je préfère
I'd like ø je voudrais
I'd like to pay with ø j'aimerais payer avec
included m/f inclus/e
insurance f assurance
it's too expensive ø c'est trop cher
luxury car f voiture de luxe
mid-size car f voiture de taille moyenne
minivan f vannette
papers mp papiers
parking lot m parking
sports car f voiture de sport
to pay ø insignifiant/e ??
to rent ø louer
to return ø rendre
what address? ø quelle adresse ?
when ø quand
where ø

Mini Dialog on renting a car

- Bonjour, je voudrais louer un voiture de taille moyenne.

- Oui, pour quelles dates ?

- Du 7 au 14 juillet.

- Oui, bien.

- L’assurance est comprise ?

- Oui, bien sûr.

- C’est combien ?

- C’est 104 euros.

- Vous prenez la carte bleue.

- Oui.

- Voilà.

- Merci.


- Hi. I’d like to rent a mid-size car.

- Yes, for what dates?

- From July 7 to July 14.

- Ok.

- Is the insurance included?

- Yes, of course.

- How much is it?

- It’s 104 Euros.

- Do you take credit cards?

- Yes.

- Here.

- Thanks.








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