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Driving in France


The first stop on a European road trip, or just nipping across for a weekend? Either way, France is the place for you.


Sir Norman Foster’s Millau Viaduct, the world’s highest road bridge, is a breathtaking feat of engineering taller than the Eiffel Tower.

It’s also incredibly handy, banishing bottlenecks on the journey south along the A75 between Clermont-Ferrand and the Mediterranean.

The bridge, which opened in 2004, was built to divert traffic away from the pretty Roman town of Millau. Ironically, Millau, now free of tourists, is once again a great place to visit.

It also boasts gob-smacking views of the bridge overhead. So the smart move is to cross the bridge in one direction and, in the other, take the back roads into Millau.

If you fancy something a little more quirky, there's always the lemon festival in the city of Menton every spring.

Best of the rest

Whether it’s beaches, mountains, rolling farmland or winding valleys that light your spark plug, France has enough spectacular drives to keep you gee-whizzing for years on end.

The trick is to get off the beaten track. So rather than sit in a jam on the Cote d’Azur, head north along the Ardeche, where the road climbs past unspoilt villages, and historic castles.

In Brittany, avoid the busy resorts and take the coast road from Morlaix to Le Conquet past fishing villages, pretty coves and lighthouses.

Or you can potter around Alsace – Europe’s most attractive wine region, where the route between Obernai and Soultz is dotted with exquisite medieval villages, gothic churches and vineyards.

Laws of the land


  • In built-up areas horns should only be used in emergencies.

  • In the mountains in winter you must have winter tyres or snow chains.

  • Don’t park on a single yellow line - you could be towed away.

  • If you witness a serious accident you are legally obliged to offer assistance. At the very least, call the emergency services by dialling 18. The Pompiers - the fire brigade - will co-ordinate other services.

  • Motorcyclists must dip their headlights during the day and wear crash helmets - including the passenger.

French speed limits

Road type Speed limit
Built-up areas 50 km/h
Outside built-up areas 90 km/h
Urban motorways / dual carriageways 110 km/h
Motorways 110 km/h (minimum 80 km/h)

In addition:

  • Lower speed limits apply in the wet.
  • Lower speed limits apply if you’ve held a licence for less than two years.
  • Radar detectors are illegal.

Local knowledge

On a narrow or congested road an oncoming driver who flashes his lights at you is not inviting you to pass first.

He means: “I’m coming through - whether you like it or not”. On main roads the same signal could be a warning of a police speed trap.

In France, as in much of continental Europe, drivers tend to treat cyclists with respect and give them a wide berth. Pedestrians, on the other hand, get short shrift.

The baffling French law that gives priority to drivers entering a road from the right has largely been phased out. However, it persists on some roundabouts and built-up areas. 

If you’re pulling onto a main road a yellow diamond sign indicates that you need to give way. In the countryside it’s best to be wary of cars entering from the right.

Planning on driving to another country? Take a look at our guide to driving abroad.


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