A guide to driving in France

Driving abroad: France

France is one of the most exciting places in the world to get behind the wheel.

With great quality roads and diverse scenery, the way you travel between French destinations is a no brainer. Yet, navigating the rules of the road in a new country can be daunting. To help with this, we've compiled a comprehensive guide to driving in France.

From tolls to T junctions, you'll find everything you need to know about the French highways right here so that you feel at ease on your trip to the largest country in Western Europe.

French toll roads

How to pay the tolls

Toll booths appear at different intervals along the French motorways, known as Autoroutes. The more distance you cover, the more booths you will encounter. On entering a tolled section of road, you will drive through a barrier where you will issued a ticket. You'll come across another booth when you are required to pay the fee for that stretch of road.

The easiest way to pay tolls in France is to keep plenty of spare coins with you in the car. When approaching the toll booths, the lanes which accept cash (along with other types of payment) are marked with a green downward facing arrow. Some lanes accept card, and these are marked with a card symbol, however these do not accept cash so you run the risk of getting stuck if your card isn't accepted.

The pros and cons of using toll roads in France

  • French toll roads tend to be very well maintained, so you know that you won't be in for a bumpy ride!
  • Toll roads tend to be multi-lane highways meaning that the flow of traffic is often better and you won't sit in endless jams.
  • The speed limits are likely to be higher when compared to smaller country roads, which will result in you arriving at your destination more quickly.
  • Average speeds tend to be more consistent and therefore your petrol will go further.
  • Whilst endless miles of pristine tarmac is great for getting places, the toll roads lack the views that the smaller winding routes offer.
  • Visiting quaint villages en route can be all part of France's charm, but if you use the tolls then spontaneous stop offs become less likely.
  • Food in lovely local villages will far outrank the food you'll be offered at motorway service stations.
  • The cost of using toll roads can have an impact on your overall budget.

Example toll fees for common journeys in France

JourneyEstimated cost
Paris to Caen 29.10 EUR
Lyon to Montpellier 27.00 EUR
Nantes to Bordeaux 25.80 EUR
Toulouse to Limoges 15.90 EUR
Brest to Orleans 14.20 EUR

Types of road

SignRoad nameKey facts
AutorouteSigns will read Péage to indicate that you need to pay.
National roadsLabelled beginning with the letter N. These roads are free to drive on.
Departmental roadsLabelled beginning with the letter D, often offering a more scenic route.
E roadPart of a network of roads which run throughout Europe.

What needs to be in your rental car

Every country has slightly different legal requirements when it comes to what you need to have in your rental vehicle. Here are some important ones to remember for when you're planning to drive in France.

France: quick driving tips

  • One way rentals

    A road trip is a classic way to enjoy the country of France. With one way rentals, you can drop your car off in a different place to where you collected it – a useful option to bare in mind.

  • Speed detection

    Ensure any navigation systems you bring along with you (or you hire) have any radar detection switched off. It is illegal to use this feature in France.

  • Alcohol restrictions

    The laws in France are stricter than in many countries, so the best advice is do not drink and drive. More than 0.5mg/ml of alcohol per litre in your blood is over the legal limit.

  • Headlights

    It is recommended that road users keep their dipped headlights on at all times in France.

French Crit'Air clean air stickers

Q. What is a Crit'Air vignette?
A. These coloured-coded vignettes were introduced in France in 2017 to identify polluting vehicles in certain city centres.

Q. In which cities are these stickers required?
A. Currently, Paris, Lille, Lyon, Grenoble, Strasbourg, Toulouse, Chambery and Marseille operate this scheme, however it's best to check before you travel as new cities are participating all the time.

Q. Do I need to get a sticker?
A. If you're hiring a car, it's the rental company's responsibility to provide the correct sticker for the car you hire, so you can check with them at the desk. Check carefully if you are planning on driving into France from another country, as they may not provide one at, for instance, a Swiss depot.

Speed limits

What are the French speed limits?

RoadDry weather limitWet weather limit
Urban road / built up areas 50km/h (31mph) 50km/h (31mph)
Rural roads / outside built up areas 80km/h*( 50mph) 70km/h (43mph)
Dual carriageway 110 km/h (68mph) 100 km/h (62mph)
Toll motorways 130 km/h (80mph) 110 km/h (68mph)

Important info

Amended speed limit – *This is a new speed limit which was lowered from 90km/h in June 2018 to reduce the number of accidents on the roads.

New drivers – Wet weather limits apply to new drivers with less than two years experience in all weather conditions.

Rappel – If you see the word rappel below a speed limit sign, this means 'remember' or 'reminder' that you should already be doing this speed limit.

Péage – The word péage indicates that the road is a toll road.

Good to know:


In France, you must only use your horn to alert others of immediate danger.


A law was introduced in France in 2015 making it illegal to use headphones or headsets whilst driving.

Priority to the right

Probably the most unusual rule of the road in France if you're not used to it. You must give way to vehicles joining your road from an adjoining road on the right.

Speed limits

The legal speed limits in France change depending on the weather.

Villages étapes

A useful stop-off

Situated near to French motorways, villages étapes are easily accessed towns designed to act as a rest stop for travellers. There are around 30 in France, and they are usually well signposted from the main road. They are filled with amenities, most offering shops, restaurants, hotels, campsites, picnic areas and walking trails.

Uzerche – in the Limousine region – is an example of a particularly pretty village étapes which boasts historical significance, while the Breton commune of Josselin is famed for its castle which is nicknamed ‘the doll house' because of the doll museum inside.

Signs like this will let you know when you are entering a village étapes.

Road signs in France

Road sign Sign name What does it mean?
Priority on turn On the approaching turn, you have right of way over those joining the road.
Right of way You are on a road which is approaching an intersection, but you have priority.
Environmental zone This sign indicates that you are entering a zone where you need to display a Crit'Air vignette.
Emergency stopIf you see this sign, it's informing you that there is an emergency area to pull in up ahead.