Renting & Driving a Car in France: Guide for Tourists


Salut! If you’re visiting France, you might want
to be able to drive to be able to go wherever you want. For longer trips, I’d recommend taking the
train, since they’re more reliable and comfortable, but sometimes having a car is a necessity,
especially to explore more rural areas. Now many tourists rent cars here, but at first
they might get confused and face new problems. Where can you rent a car? Which papers do you need to drive in France? Do we drive in the left-hand lane? I’m Géraldine, bienvenue sur Comme une
Française TV, Sound French, even to the French! Let’s dive in! Louer une voiture Louer une voiture means “to rent a car.” It’s the easiest way for a foreigner to
drive in France. There are some famous chains with open shops
all across the country, such as Hertz, Sixt, or Avis for instance. In recent years, though, several new online
services have been created, trying to be the Air B&B of car rentals in France, such as OuiCar
or Drivy. They tend to be cheaper and sometimes more
helpful, but you might need to invest a little bit more time choosing a car and communicating
with the person lending you their vehicle. You must be at least 18 to legally drive,
and have un permis de conduire, a driving license. You can use yours if it’s from any EU country. If you’re not from an EU country, but you’re
staying in France for less than 90 days, your driving license will work but officially,
you’ll need to also have a certified translation. Something you might be able to sort out in
your own country before you arrive or at your embassy once you’re here. Or better still, just get an International
Driving Permit! The price for driving insurance which protects
against hurting other people, third party liability, is usually included in the rental
price. Your own travel insurance coverage will depend
on your personal situation, so check it out before leaving. If you’re here to stay for a year or longer,
you’ll have to face other hassles to be able to fully use your driving license. Also you might want to buy a car: either acheter
une voiture neuve, to buy a brand new car, or une voiture d’occasion, a used car. Which brings us to… La voiture, La voiture, the car, of course. The French auto industry is led by a few brands:
Peugeot and its lion, Renault and its diamond shape, and Citroën with les chevrons, the
rafters. The French tend not to drive big SUVs, but
smaller cars instead. You’ll find le volant, the wheel, le moteur,
the engine… and of course, le levier de vitesse, the gear stick. Most French cars have manual transmission,
even though la voiture à boîte de vitesse automatique, car with automatic transmission,
are getting a bit more popular these last few years. They’re also called called une voiture automatique,
an automatic car, but that will be confusing once self-driving cars arrive… We’ll have to think about that. French cars run on l’essence, gasoline or
petrol, and sometimes on le diesel, le diesel. Some others are des voitures électriques,
electric cars, and hopefully they’ll be much more common in the years to come. La station-service is the fuel station. They might not be as common in France as in
other countries, so you might want to be careful about this when you drive. Here, you can fill your car with du sans-plomb
(SP95), unleaded gasoline, or ethanol (E85), or diesel. Check which fuel goes in your car when you
rent it, or it will damage your engine if you get it wrong (it happens.) There are different ways to pay for your fuel,
as well: most times it will be à la pompe, at the pump directly with your credit card. But you might need to go to a pay station,
or even inside the building nearby to talk to the cashier. Le code de la route is the set of driving
laws about traffic. First, inside the car, wearing la ceinture
(de sécurité), the seat belt, which is required for the driver and all passengers. Any hand-held mobile phone usage, such as
calling or texting, is illegal (and it’s very dangerous) Driving after drinking is also a very bad
idea. The highest legal blood alcohol level is roughly
the equivalent of a small glass of wine. Now, once you are on the road, you will need
to watch for un panneau de signalisation, the road signs, to adjust your driving accordingly. In France we drive in the right-hand lane. (In opposition to countries who use the wrong
lane.) The speed limits are all expressed in kilometers
per hours, just like the speedometer inside the car. Be careful, or you’ll be photographed by
un radar (automatique), a machine on the side of the road that will take a picture of your
car driving too fast, which will send it to you along with a fine. The speed limit depends on the road you’re
driving on. Which bring us to… Les routes, Les routes are the roads you can drive on. There are many different kinds of roads in
France, with their own set of rules. Inside towns and cities, you can’t drive
faster than 50 km/h, while some areas will have a special limit of 30 km/h. This is called a Zone 30, and it covers around
a third of all streets in Paris for example. Speaking of Paris, the capital is circled
by a special road called le boulevard périphérique, or more commonly le périphérique (le périph’)
the Parisian Ring Road. It has some kind of cultural significance
as it separates Paris from its suburbs. Parisian people are sometimes accused of not
caring about any part of the country beyond le périphérique, for instance. Also, that circle isn’t very fun to drive
on since it’s very often jammed by people commuting, but it’s still faster than the
smaller city streets. Anyway, the official speed limit on the Ring
Road is 70 km/h. Don’t be surprised to see people driving
way faster than this, though. Most roads in the country are une nationale,
a road that keeps its name as it spans across the country, or une départementale, a smaller
road with only a local-level importance. On these roads, you can’t drive faster than
90 km/h. You might find un rond-point a roundabout,
since we kind of love them here. Especially in the Western part of France. All these speed limits can change on a local
basis, according to their situation or special circumstances, such as des travaux, roadworks,
un carrefour, a crossroad, un accident, an accident… Bad weather will also lower the legal speed
limit by 10 or 20 km/h. And finally, French highways are called une
autoroute. Here, you can drive as long as you want without
any intersection, with an usual speed limit of 130 km/h. Don’t forget to stop and rest at une aire
d’autoroute, a service area, for every two hours of driving! If you’re driving while tired, and you get
into a small accident, you can call for help from one of these orange phone boxes placed
every 2 km on the side of the road… or with the mobile app SOS Autoroute. But, I hope you won’t have to! Now, an important tip to close this episode. To drive on some highways, you might need
to go through un péage, a toll. To enter the driveway, you might pay upfront,
or take a ticket first and pay when you leave the road later. When it’s time to pay, you’ll see different
lanes with differents signs on top of each. Do NOT choose the lanes with only a “t”
! If you don’t have a special badge, you’ll be stuck. Instead, choose the green arrow, and you’ll
be able to pay with cash or credit card. The CB sign means you can only pay with credit
card. Be careful if you only have an American credit
card, they might not work at an automatic toll booth–check if yours works before you
have to enter a lane and have a long line of other vehicles just behind you. Driving back will be painful. Et toi ? Do you have any personal story about
driving in France? How would you advise a foreigner to drive
in your own country? Tell me in the comments section, I’d love
to hear from you! If you’re on Youtube, you’ll find a link
below this video to the blog CommeUneFrançaise.com. On the site I read all the comments and answer
all your questions as well! Want more? Like an exclusive lesson on “How you can
make the difference between “Entrer” and “Rentrer,” and the French riddle about
Sophie’s dog”? Subscribe now to join my “Everyday French
Crash Course.” It’s a free 10-day mini-course to sound
French, even to the French. It’s super easy to join. Leave me your first name and email and you’ll
receive Lesson 01 immediately. Best of all, it’s free. Merci for watching Comme une Française TV,
sound French, even to the French. Allez, salut !

21 thoughts on “Renting & Driving a Car in France: Guide for Tourists

  1. salut , je suis mikael, jetudie le francais a mon collge ,je pense que la langue et la culture francaise est magnifique je t'aime!

  2. Be careful : "Diesel" is a car that will run on "Gasoi"l
    NEVER put "Essence" in a Diesel car ONLY "Gasoil" otherwise you're going to break the engine
    💚 Cilou

  3. Bonjour Géraldine, comment vas tu? Es que tu puex ma dire que comme faire une conversation avec coiffeur et comme le explique?

  4. In UK you can get a SANEF tag which operates the Telepéage (orange T) devices at the toll booths. Payment taken following month by Direct Debit in Stg from your UK bank account – saves a lot of time on m'ways (and also works in "Indigo" car parks) and once you have one you would not be without it.

  5. J'ai conduit en France dejà deux fois. Je loue ma voiture à Hertz TOUJOURS EN AVANT le départ depuis les États-Unis. Je loue des voitures automatiques. Ils sont toujours très exceptionelles avec technnologie d'avant garde. C'est un plaisir counduire en France.

  6. You'll only need your DL translated if it's not in French. Some Canadian DL's are in French, and some other countries are in French.

  7. I met a French man and went out to dinner with him. The man ate with his head in the soup bowl slurping the soup really loud and eating with his mouth open. After that it was over for me. I thought that the French had beautiful table manners. This man was from France, near the Mediterranean in an unknown town. Are there French people that are not brought up with table manners?

  8. Two things to advise new drivers in France. Firstly, at the pompe, diesel is usually labelled as 'gazole' and French drivers are commonly driving very close behind you or 'tail gating'as they say in the UK. They also overtake even when someone is driving toward them so be aware of this. Also, a few minor roads have priority over the larger road so pay attention to road markings.

  9. Je suis allé en France en vacances. Je viens d'arriver à chez moi, ensuite je trouve un lettre de le radar automatique. 🙂

  10. I've driven in Europe many times over the years and never had an "international drivers licence". I've never been stopped by the police and I expect most police can read the simple English on a licence anyway.
    A mon avis, ce n'est pas necessaire.

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