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Car Hire in France - Guide to driving on French Roads

Car Hire Spain

Driving in France**

If you're booking your France car hire with Holiday Extras, then our mission isn't just to bring you cheap car rental, but help you get the most out of your holiday too. We realise that driving an unfamiliar car can be an unnerving experience, particularly when you're in a foreign country. We've therefore put together the following information on traffic laws and driving customs in France that may help you make driving your car hire in France as hassle-free as possible.

The road network in France is one of the easiest to drive around, and with a similar population to the UK spread over twice as much surface area it remains relatively free of congestion. To ensure you have a hassle-free journey, here are a few things to remember while driving in France.

  • Left hand drive vehicles - Drive on the right, overtake on the left.
  • Minimum car hire age - 18 years old. Under 25's may have to pay a young driver surcharge.
  • Seatbelt - It is compulsory for all occupants to wear a seatbelt. The driver is responsible for ensuring all passengers under 18 are wearing a seatbelt.
  • Travelling with children - Under 10's must not travel in the front of a vehicle without a specialist child restraint or booster seat.
  • Mobile phones - It is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving.
  • Toll Roads - Cash and credit cars are accepted.
  • Petrol stations - Many are open 24/7 and accept all major credit cards.

Road safety laws

Speed limits

  • Toll motorways (autoroutes) - 130kph/80mph
  • Dual carriageways - 110kph/68mph
  • Out of town roads - 90kph/56mph
  • Paris périphérique - 80kph/55mph
  • Built up areas - 50kph/31mph

Some road cameras in France will capture your speed, safe driving distances and if you jump red lights or stop signs.


It is a legal requirement to carry both a reflective triangle for breakdown and a high-vis jacket or vest in the vehicle (NOT in the boot) at all times. Ensure you check that these are present before leaving the car hire depot.

This is also required for car hires taken out in other countries that are driven over the border into France.

Drinking and driving

Random testing for drinking and driving is now commonplace in France. The limit for all motorists is 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood and since 2012 it has been obligatory for all cars to carry two official 'NF' (Norme Française) approved breathalysers. Your car hire company is obliged to provide all necessary equipment but it is worth double checking they are in your car before setting-off.

It is important to note that drinking alcohol and then driving may invalidate your car rental insurance, irrespective of local drink driving laws. Check your policy for full details.

Radar detectors/SatNavs

SatNavs that show the location of speed cameras are illegal in France. Those caught can be fined up to €1500 and have the device confiscated, even if it is not in use. Radars placed in cars that can detect fixed and mobile speed cameras are also illegal.

The use of a Satellite Navigation system is not illegal, but make sure you deactivate speed camera locations before use.

On-the-spot fines

Fixed and mobile speed cameras have become commonplace throughout France and if caught, the French authorities can issue on-the-spot fines of up to €375 euro (£323) that are payable in cash.

Credit cards and travellers cheques are not accepted, and cash must be in the local currency. If you do not have cash, you will be taken to the nearest ATM.

Mobile phone use

It is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving or in control of a vehicle in France. If caught you are liable to a €135/£110 fine.

Driving licence

Important Information - Changes to the UK Driving Licence

Fuel advice

It is not difficult to find a petrol station in France but so as not to pay too much, it is best to avoid filling up the car on a French motorway (autoroute). Prices in a town or intersection can save you around 15 cents per litre. You will find that many service stations in France have a 24-hour self-service option (24/24h) and accept all major credit cards.

Although the price of unleaded fuel (sans plomb) is comparable to that of the UK, diesel (gasoil/gazole/gas-oil) is considerably cheaper per litre in France.

Top tip: If you know you are going to be driving a lot while in France, and are given the option, you may be better off hiring a diesel car.

  • Unleaded petrol - Sans plomb 95/98
  • Diesel - gazole/gasoil/gas-oil
  • Petrol - essence (super/super 97)

Toll roads/péage

It is likely you will be driving on a French toll road (autoroute à péage) at some point, so to save some time and money, it is worth having some spare change handy just in case. If not, toll booths accept all major credit cards.

**This information should be considered as a broad overview of things to remember when hiring a car. It is therefore very important that you read the rental terms and conditions and associated policies for your own specific policy as well as doing your own research into the motoring laws of the country in which you will be driving.