Driving in France - A few things to know before you set off

driving in france

Driving in France is pretty much the same as any other country if you use your common sense and drive on the right. However, there are some little quirks that might be worth drawing to your attention and a general overview of the main points probably wouldn’t go amiss.

Firstly, the French Gendarme has a zero tolerance – no amount of smiling and ‘me-no-understandy’ will get you off the hook. Rules are rules and they are not to be broken or bent (no matter how small the infraction). On the spot fines and points on your licence are the norm.

The three main areas where you should be saintly are speeding, drink driving and stop signs. Abide by these and you won’t go far wrong.

It is compulsory to have your driving licence, car registration papers (carte grise) and insurance documents (these must be the originals) with you at all times. You are required to carry a warning triangle (ideally two) and a fluorescent safety vest (one per passenger) in your car (not the boot).

Speed Limits

As in the UK, signs will notify you when you are entering or leaving different speed restrictions.


Beware as radar speed traps are very common. When you see this sign it means there is a fixed radar camera ahead. There always is, it’s not a joke, and designed to make you adhere to the speed limit in a black spot.

Speed regulations start at the town name sign and end when you pass the same sign crossed with a diagonal red line on leaving the town or village.

French Speed Limits Dry Weather Wet Weather
Toll Motorway 130kmh/ 80mph 110kmh/ 68mph
Dual Carriageway 110kmh/ 68mph 100kmh/ 62mph
Other Roads 90kmh/ 56mph 80kmh/ 50mph
Built-up Areas 50kmh/ 31mph 50kmh/ 31mph

Drink driving

As everywhere, the best advice is not to drink if you are driving. The limit in France is 50mg alcohol per 100ml of blood which means that just one glass of beer can take you up to the limit.


Stop really does mean come to a grinding halt: no gentle slow down and roll across while you check there are no cars for miles in either direction. You must come to an absolute standstill for a few seconds before moving off again, and bikers should stop and put both feet down.

Giving way to the right

One law you must be aware of is ‘priorité à droite’. You must give way to any traffic coming out of a side-turning on the right hand side, particularly if there is no road sign. This can be a dangerous trap for the unwary tourist, and if you collide with traffic arriving on the right hand side, where there was no road sign, it is your fault, so take care, especially in small villages and in the countryside where traffic on a minor road may have right-of-way when joining a main road.


However, on the open road and town bypasses you will often now see a yellow diamond sign signifying that you have the priority.


Conversely as you enter a town or village you will see a yellow diamond with a black line through it - signalling the re-commencement of Priorité à Droite so take extra care again! If in doubt, take care at all road junctions when in France and just give way to be on the safe side!