Driving tips for motorists and bikers in France
Are there road problems on your route – the Bison Futé site will tell you.
Are there delays on cross-Channel ferry routes – see here:
For additional up-to-date information on road conditions and radar traps, rules and regulations for driving in France, speedlimits, roadsigns, fuel, what to do in case of an accident, see this page:
Fixed Radar Traps
It was announced in May 2011 that radar warning signs were being removed; this was reversed in 2013 but the official government site showing positions of fixed radars in France is no longer maintained.
GPS-data-team.com is a user-maintained site for Speed Cameras in France downloadable to GPS; the free version is updated monthly. The mobile radar points indicate where mobile speed camera patrols are known to operate but they are very unreliable. Please note, it is illegal to use radar warning points on your GPS when driving – they should be disabled when driving. Some GPS manufacturers still supply radar warning information but only in conjunction with other ‘traffic danger zones’.
French Road Signs
Most French road signs are the same as in the UK but here are some common road signs in France that are rare or unknown in the UK, USA and elsewhere.
Fixed radar camera ahead. There will be a camera coming up shortly or the area is subject to frequent mobile radar controls. Mobile radar controls by gendarmes on foot or using unmarked cars are frequent – if oncoming drivers flash headlights it often means that gendarmes are parked ahead of you. This practice is discouraged by the authorities.
Stop really does mean stop. These are commonly used as a cheap “traffic calming” measure and so may appear in places where a “give way” sign would be more appropriate, or where logic suggests that you would normally have priority over a side road. Unless you’re 100% sure there are no gendarmes around (make sure there are none hiding behind a bus shelter or sitting in a car up ahead) bikers should stop and put both feet down, and cars should come to a complete halt for a few seconds before moving off again. Failure to do so will result in a hefty on-the-spot fine – no excuses, even though you can probably see for miles that there is nothing else approaching the junction and there is no real need to stop.
Roadside parking for more than 24 hours in the same place is forbidden (unless it is a long-term parking facility). If you do, your car may be towed away.
Disabled parking Cars parked in disabled spaces must display a blue GIG – GIC parking badge.
Free parking bays or free car park. There is usually a separate bay for motorbikes.
Blue and red sign indicates you are entering a “No Parking” zone. The same in black and white with a bar through indicates you’re leaving said zone.
If dates are shown in the top right of the sign, then parking IS NOT allowed on those dates but is allowed on other dates.
If dates are shown in both the top right and bottom left of the sign, it means that parking is allowed on one side of the road for the first half of the month but is not allowed on the other side of the road, and the reverse in the second half of the month. Nice and simple. Not.
Paying parking zone – could be meters or pay and display machines. Usually there will be some non-paying bays for motorbikes. Parking is often free between 12.00pm and 14.00pm and after 19.00pm until 8.00am but check on the ticket machine / meter.
Limited free parking zone, usually for 1-2 hours. Cars need to display on their dashboard a disc which indicates what time the car arrived. A “disque de stationnement” can be bought for a couple of euros in many a bar/tabac and most supermarkets with a motorist section.
These blue signs are found inside the parking zones indicated by the previous signs. They mark the actual parking bays or car parks. Slang for a parking ticket is a “prune”.
Coming to a junction, the main road on which you are travelling bears left ahead.
Lights on : usually seen at the entrance to a tunnel – turn your lights on.
Lights off : usually seen at the exit from a tunnel – a reminder that you can turn your lights off if you wish.
Autoroute speed limits. Normally 130kph (about 80mph) in dry weather, 110kph (about 70mph) in wet weather, in which case dipped lights should also be turned on.
Rest area on motorway with drinks available – possibly also a cafeteria for snacks, but not guaranteed.
Whereas this motorway rest area has a proper restaurant.
24 hour petrol, payment by credit card – these are sometimes found at péage exits. Some péage exits also have toilets next to a parking area. Otherwise there’s always the side of the road, French-style.
As you come on to a toll paying (péage) section of road – mainly motorway – you will see this sign if you need to take a ticket. Most toll roads require you to take a ticket, unless it is a section of toll road with a fixed fee as you exit.
This marks an automated Télépéage lane on a toll road. Some lanes are for télépéage “badge” or bleeper holders only – don’t go in these lanes unless you have a bleeper or other signs indicate that they also take cash or credit cards.
Pay attendant in booth at exit from toll road. Cash or credit card.
Pay by credit card at machine at exit from toll road. You can use these with UK credit cards without problem and they are usually quicker than queueing at the pay booths at busy times. Stick your ticket in and then your credit card – the machine will charge the appropriate amount and spit the card back out. Press button to request a receipt if you need it.
Usually seen on a main road as you leave a town or village, this means that the main road that you are on has priority and that all traffic joining from side roads must give way.
If you’re on a main road you do not necessarily have right of way over side roads – there are MANY “Priorité à Droite” junctions where you have to give way to traffic coming from the right, particularly in villages and on country roads. If there is no roadsign or road marking to indicate otherwise, traffic coming from the right always has priority unless it is coming from a car park or a private road. When three cars reach such a junction from different roads at the same time, you’ll often see everyone stop, unsure what to do.
Black streaks of rubber on the road surface due to hard braking at the approach to a junction are another sign of “P-à-D”.
End of priority zone. Traffic from the right has priority unless there are road signs or markings indicating otherwise.
You are coming to a junction where priority to the right applies – give way to the right.
You are coming to a junction where you have priority.
Viewpoint – usually there is some parking space nearby. If not in a hurry, this is often a good spot to stop and stretch legs – take note, you may sometimes have a way to walk to reach the viewpoint. Most give a panorama over the countryside/down a valley etc., whilst some have an orientation table indicating places within view.
More information here: Motorbiking and Driving in France