Handedness of road traffic
France is a right-hand traffic country.
The general speed limits in France are presented in the table:
|Type of vehicle / Conditions||Built-up areas||Other roads||Two-lane roads separated by a central reservation||Motorways||Paris ring road (French: Boulevard Périphérique)|
|Motor vehicles < 3,5 t||50 (31)[note 1]||80 (49)[note 2]||110 (68)||130 (80)||70 (43)|
|Atmospheric precipitation of any nature||50 (31)[note 1]||80 (49)[note 2]||100 (62)||110 (68)[note 3]|
|In case of visibility < 50 m||50 (31)|
|Vehicles ≤ 3,5 t with studded tires[note 4]||50 (31)[note 1]||80 (49)[note 2]||90 (55)||90 (55)||70 (43)|
|Cars with trailers with a total weight > 3,5 t & < 12 t||50 (31)||80 (49)||100 (62)||110 (68)|
|New drivers with a license < 3 years||50 (31)||80 (49)||100 (68)||110 (68)[note 5]||70 (43)|
- This limit can be raised to 70 km/h on sections of road where local residents' access and pedestrian crossings are limited and are protected by appropriate measures. The decision can be made by the competent local authorities
- On sections of these roads with at least two lanes assigned to the same direction of traffic, the maximum speed can be increased to 90 km/h on these lanes only. That decision can be made by the competent local authorities and has not nationwide effect.
- The limit falls to 100 km/h on sections of motorways where the limit is lower than 130 km/h on dry conditions.
- In traffic, the drivers of these vehicles must affix, visibly, at the rear of their vehicle, on the lower left, the appropriate sign.
- The 110 km/h limit refers to sections of motorways where the speed limit is 130 km/h. For sections of motorways where the limit is lower for drivers with licenses newer than 3 years it falls to 100 km/h.
- You have to be 18 years old with a valid full driving license in order to drive in France. Driving licenses issued by any of the EU member states or the EEA are valid throughout the European Union and of course in France. Drivers in possession of a license issued outside EU are required to have an international driving permit (IDP).
- Registration certificate.
- Certificate of Motor Insurance. Insurance documents from any EU country are acceptable, though holding an International Motor insurance card (Green Card) with you is a good practice.
- All foreign-registered with non-EU number plates vehicles in France must display a nationality sticker at the rear. Separate signs are not needed for Canada, Mexico and the United States, where the province, state or district of registration is usually embossed or surface-printed on the vehicle registration plate.
Items required in cars or with motorcycles
- Emergency warning triangle. Two wheeled vehicles are exempted from this requirement.
- A reflective jacket that conforms with EN471 standard must be kept within the passenger compartment of your vehicle and must be put on before you get out in an emergency or breakdown situation. Riders of motorcycles should also carry a reflective jacket for emergencies.
- Right-hand drive (RHD) cars have to use headlamp converters to prevent dazzling oncoming traffic if their headlamps are not adjustable.
The use of winter tires in not mandatory in France. Winter equipment is mandatory for vehicles driving on roads marked with the B26 sign. If the car is not fitted with winter tires the use of snow chains is mandatory in this case.
Vehicles < 3,5 t GVWR are allowed to use studded tires from first Saturday before 11 November to last Sunday of March. The maximum speed limit for vehicles fitted with studded tires is 90 km/h. Vehicles with studded tires have to be labeled with a sticker at the rear of their vehicle, on the lower left.
Motorcycles should have their low-beam headlights turned on all day long. There is no such a requirement for cars, but it is recommended.
There are both manned and unmanned stations in France. Many supermarkets have fuel pumps, manned at certain times during the day. If you use a manned station, you fill up as required and then drive up to the booth where you can pay without leaving your vehicle in cash or with a debit or credit card, if you haven't already paid at the pump with your card. In unmanned stations you can pay directly by using a card. You have to insert the card before starting refueling your vehicle. Be aware that automatic stations block the whole amount of money that the pump can deliver to your vehicle's reservoir at one go and they unblock the difference of the actual value you have pumped later.
Lots of fuel pumps have a 24/24 sign that indicates that the station is in service all day long.
- Unleaded petrol / gasoline (French: Essence sans plomb)
Petrol is commonly called at the pump SP95 when it has an octane rating of 95 RON or SP98 / Super Plus 98 when it has an octane rating of 98 RON. The labels E5 and E10 that may accompany petrol fuel's name refer to the percentage of ethanol in the mix with it being 5% or 10% respectively and the rest of the mix consists of standard unleaded petrol.
- Diesel. In France it is also called Gazole.
- LPG. It is also called Autogas or GPL in France. A list of stations that offer LPG can be seen by following the previous link.
- CNG. A list of stations that offer CNG can be found by clicking the link at the start of this sentence.
Indicatively some sources of locations of fuel stations and real time prices of fuel in France are listed here:
- prix-carburants.gouv.fr, an official governmental website.
- Cheap Refuel for Android.
- Fuel-Flash website, also available for Android
- Essence&CO app available for iOS
Electric vehicle chargers
Road user charges
Motorways in France have a toll system with toll plazas.
There are two types of tolls. A distance based scheme where you get a ticket when joining the motorway and you pay when exiting based on the distance you have covered and fixed price sections where you always pay the same rate and of course there is no ticket used for the calculation of the distance. There is also a barrier-free tolling system at Boulay on the Motorway A4.
Different payment methods are available in different lanes, distinguished by the signs above the toll booths:
- Lanes with a sign with person wearing a cap indicate a manned toll booth. Most of the lanes use automatic means of payment but manned toll booths still exist at some busy motorways. you can pay in cash or by debit or credit card at these lanes.
- Lanes with an electronic green arrow facing downwards take all methods of payment. You can use the automatic toll machines in the following simple steps:
- Insert the ticket if you received one when entering the motorway.
- Pay with coins (10 cents to 2 Euros coins are acceptable) and / or with banknotes (5 to Euros bills are accepted) or by using a debit or credit card. Visa and Mastercard as well as Maestro cards are accpeted in most of the cases, but it is a good practice to hold cash with you in case no one from your cards gets accepted for any reason, because the barriers won't open if the payment is not completed.
- By pressing the "Récu" button you can obtain a receipt. There is also a button you can press for assistance if you have any problems and you can communicate with an attendant through an intercom.
- Payment with the installation of the electronic transponder Liber-t. The transponder is also valid for paying tolls in Italy, Spain and Portugal. Vice versa the Italian Telepass transponder and the Spanish VIA-T (by any of the following providers: VIA-T, VIA-T Pagatelia or VIA-T Bip&Drive can be used for paying the French tolls, so if you previously have purchased and installed one of the aforementioned devices there is no need to buy the Liber-t transponder. In order to use this method after installing the device and connecting it with a bank account you have to enter the motorway using the dedicated lanes signed with the letter "t".
Vehicles with a height over 3 meters have to use lanes can't use the system and have to choose another payment method. Vehicles over 2 meters can't use the dedicated lanes for cars and have to use other lanes marked with "t".
- Specifically for the barrier free tolls at Boulay on Motorway A4 you drive under the gantry without even having to slow down. The payment methods are the following:
- You can pay each time you pass through the toll within 10 days online. Transactions can take up to 24 hours to appear on the system, so you may wait 1 day till trying to pay. If you also pass the deadline you won't be able to pay.
- If you have the Liber-t transponder then the fee is charged to the unit.
- You can install a payment tag specific for the Boulay barrier-free toll and choose between a Prepaid Pass option which is rechargeable and more suitable for occasional users or a Subscriber Pass most suitable for regular users with monthly direct debit. In this case you will receive a payment request, with a €20 surcharge. You can pay by filling the following form.
Calculation of toll fees is offered on ASFA website, by filling the departure and arrival points in the respective fields.
Urban Access Regulations
There is a number of cities implementing low emission zones and restricted access zones some of which also apply to light vehicles, while others apply to HGVs and vans. There are also emergency pollution schemes implemented by certain cities or departments of France. A list of all these schemes and the rules of its city can be found on Urban Access Regulations in Europe website. There are plans for stricter restrictions in the future in some cities.
Drivers who plan to drive in a city that has a zone that affects their vehicle have to buy a Crit'Air sticker. These can be ordered online on the official website of the Air Quality certificate Service for a cost of 3,11 € plus postage or a total of 4,41 € for EU countries.
According to the vehicle's Euro emission standard it will be assigned a certain sticker from one of the classes 1 to 5. Class 1 stickers are given to vehicles with lower emissions while Class 5 to vehicles with higher emissions. There is a special class for electric vehicles and there is no sticker for cars and motorcycles of Euro 1 standard or even older vehicles, meaning that they may not be able to access restricted zones according to its cities requirements.
The following table presents the classes of the stickers and the vehicles to which they are assigned:
tricycles and quads
|Cars and vans|
|Green Crit'Air sticker||Electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles|
|1||Gas vehicles and PHEV (plug in hybrid)|
1 January 2017 for motorcycles
1 January 2018 for mopeds
|Euro 5 and 6
From 1 January 2011
1 January 2007 to 31 December 2016 for motorcycles
to 31 December 2017 for mopeds
1 January 2006 to 31 December 2010
|Euro 5 and 6|
From 1 January 2011
1 July 2004 to 31 December 2006
|Euro 2 and 3
1 January 1997 to 31 December 2005
1 January 2006 to 31 December 2010
1 June 2000 to 30 June 2004
1 January 2001 to 31 December 2005
1 January 1997 to 31 December 2000
|No sticker||Without norm
Until 31 May 2000
|Euro 1 and before
Until 31 December 1996
Vans until 30 September 1997
|Euro 1 and before|
Until 31 December 1996
Vans until 30 September 1997
Instructions on how to affix the sticker can be found by following the previous link and there are also available on video: