Paris Hotels Articles

April 26, 2010

Travel Tips For Driving and Car Rental In France

A car is a convenient way to travel around in France. Roads are very well maintained and the French road network includes 4960 miles of motorways (many with tolls) which link Paris and the main provincial towns and cities.

The French motorways are a delight to drive on, as they are all relatively new and incredibly well maintained. They are usually expensive and the locals prefer to avoid them and stick to the national routes. One leg of a motorway is often 1.50 euros no matter how short. To give you an indication, the toll from Paris to Tours is about 26 euros one way for a journey of about 2.5 hours.

If you want an up to date break down of the tolls on any trip log onto the Michelin website and it will calculate the current tolls for you. Beware they really do add up quickly.

The motorways are fast efficient way to travel and once you are on them they are easy to navigate. The speed limits on motorways are 130 kilometres in fine weather and 110 in the rain. Beware the gendarmes usually hang out around the exits with their speed cameras catching unsuspecting motorists as they fly past. If you must speed on a motorway do not do it under an exit bridge.

The gendarmes also like the long viaducts, which span huge valleys. Typically the speed limit is reduced to 90 kilometres per hour because of the huge winds at those altitudes. The gendarmes catch out many unsuspecting motorists at the far side of these huge high bridges.

Lorries, trucks or HGVs (Camions in French) are not permitted to drive on the motorways on Sundays. The exits from the motorways often bank incredibly hard and when they say 30 kilometres per hour for the exit, it is a fair indication and should not be ignored.

If you have the time it is lovely travelling along the national routes and not just hurtling past all of the countryside on the motorway. It is easy to get stuck behind lorries and extra wide vehicles.

If you are travelling on the national routes you have to be really careful about buying petrol or diesel on a Sunday. Almost every service station is closed on a Sunday (except those on Motorways) and all of the automatic petrol pumps do not accept international credit cards only French debit and credit cards.

It is easy to find yourself almost out of petrol at a pump unable to fill up on a Sunday because you only have foreign cards. This happened to me and luckily I was able to convince a lovely French man to put 60 euros of petrol in my car on his card in exchange for cash. If I had not happened upon this very sweet gentleman, I would have been sleeping in the car until Monday morning until the service station staff returned.

Permanent speed cameras are normally well signposted and are big rectangular boxes painted with bright fluorescent yellow and black diagonal stripes to warn you. The Michelin website also lists where these fixed speed cameras are on your journey and advises the speed limit at those locations.

The French are a very proud nation and avidly support their own automobile manufacturing industry. Accordingly there will be lots of Peugots and Citroens available to rent. Because France is such a large country being the size of Texas, lots of French have embraced diesel-powered cars for economic reasons.

Most people prefer manual to automatic diesels, as they are more responsive. The end result is that if you are from Australia, New Zealand or England and do not fancy driving a manual car and changing gears with your right hand whilst driving on the other side of the road, you need to book your automatic hire car early as they only have a few and they get booked out early especially in the height of summer.

Perhaps you may want to request your hire company to arrange an automatic car for you from a different depot. This is all possible, if you provide the hire car company with enough notice.

The minimum driving age in France is 18 years old.

A valid U.S. driver’s license is required for all U.S. citizens who drive in France. Minimum driving age is 18. Proof of insurance coverage is necessary; your license, insurance certificate, and vehicle registration may be requested along the way.

To rent a car in France you must be at least 20 years of age and have held a full driving license for at least a year. Insurance is obligatory. The main car rental companies have offices in all railway stations and airports, as well as in major city centers.

Car rentals in France can be costly; reserving a car in advance on the internet can mean significant savings if you reserve ahead for a minimum of days and pay in advance.

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