Hardly any other country in Europe offers travelers as much variety and individuality as France. With the rental car, visitors can conquer the Ch’tis region – the Nord-Pas-de-Calais – the sun-drenched Côte d’Azur, wild Brittany, the breathtaking, natural Pyrenees or one of the metropolises. No other form of travel promises more freedom, more individuality than driving around with a car. Every location, no matter how remote, can be reached quickly, easily and in a time-saving manner.
If you want to enjoy your holiday in France from the very first minute, you should search for and book a suitable rental car from home. This not only saves time but also money and nerves. Further advantages: The right car with all the necessary extras is in the right place at the right time – all this without any language barriers.
Which rental car for which region?
In the summer heat on the Côte d’Azur, the rental car must offer sufficient legroom and comfortable seating for all occupants. While singles and couples get along well with a sleek two-seater, a combi or a van is recommended for families with children. If you prefer city trips, you should opt for a small, maneuverable rental car to get through the narrow medieval alleys without damage. Travelers who want to be on the wide west coast or on the streets of the Mediterranean in summer can treat themselves a convertible. Anyone who chooses a vacation in the French Pyrenees or the French Alps is particularly well served with an SUV or even a four-wheel-drive to get easily over unpaved roads or steep passes such as the Col du Tourmalet or the Col de Galibier.
Visit neighboring countries
When choosing a rental car, you need to be clear about where your journey is headed. France has 8 neighboring countries, and thanks to the Schengen Agreement, hardly any driver is immune from crossing the borders. If you like to cross the border into Luxembourg to get cheaper fuel there, you should check the permitted travel area when making your selection. Depending on the car rental company, cross-border trips may be prohibited, only possible in selected countries or may involve additional costs and formalities.
In France, insurers are legally obliged to have unlimited liability for personal injury. In the case of pure property damage, they may limit the coverage to 1.12 million Euro. Some rental car providers include a higher amount associated with higher daily fees. However, protection only applies as long as all the conditions of the rental agreement are met – and many insurers rule out journeys on unpaved roads. Another such requirement is that all drivers are entered in the contract – depending on the provider, there is a fee per each driver.
To receive a rental car in France, the driver must present a driving license, passport or ID card, credit card and proof of booking. The minimum age differs for individual companies. There may be a minimum age limit of 21, drivers up to 25 may have to pay an additional fee, or certain age limits may apply to certain vehicles, such as all-wheel-drive vehicles. Last but not least, you have to familiarize yourself with the various conditions of the corresponding vehicle type renting a car in France. These include:
- What fuel does the rental car need?
- What are the individual gears?
- Where is the switch to turn on the lights?
- Where is the first-aid kit located?
- What air pressure must the tires have?
- Do the tires have enough tread?
- Are they the correct ones for the current season – such as winter tires in the mountains?
- Does the rental car have a GPS system and how does it work?
Traffic rules in France
In principle, traffic in France is similar to that in Europe: high traffic is expected in metropolitan areas, and it is very quiet on the smaller country roads. In the south of France, drivers should be careful. Basically: Never be too hesitant, otherwise you can never get out of a driveway. The streets themselves are sometimes a little different. There are, for example, toll-free and paid routes. Other important facts:
- The alcohol limit in France is 0.5.
- When overtaking, the turn signal must be set until the end of the overtaking process.
- Trams are always to be overtaken on the right, in one-way streets you can also overtake on the left.
Roads and tolls
On the one hand, there are motorways (A). Most of them are subject to fees. Some of the toll booths are still staffed, but at many booths, the free must be paid for through a machine. This can be done using money or a card. When driving to the toll station, make sure that the lane with the “t” for “télepeage” is avoided. However, the national roads in France – the Routes Nationales (RN) – are often four-lane and well developed. The departmental roads (D) often lead through typical villages and idyllic landscapes and bring you closer to a country and its people.
In 2017, Paris was the first French city to introduce an environmental zone within which a pollutant badge is mandatory. The cost of the environmental badge differs depending on the level of pollution of the rental car.
Maximum speed in France
The numerous fixed and mobile radar systems in France make even most French drivers more carefully. A maximum of 130 km/h may be driven on motorways. A maximum speed of 110 km/h applies on expressways, and the rental car may be driven at a maximum of 90 km/h on normal country roads. In France, there is a limit of 50 km/h in urban areas, but there are more and more 30s zones. Amateur drivers ( everyone who has their driver’s license for less than 2 years) have to drive 20 km/h less than set.
In France, the are parking signs. However, these are often ignored by the French themselves. Parking is regulated by colored markings on the curb: Yellow curb means that the rental car must never be parked or stopped here. With blue markings, parking and stopping are permitted, but parking is limited in time and with additional costs.
Traffic in and around major cities
Traffic within cities is often multi-lane. The French often add another lane and like to overtake in the roundabout. If you don’t want to go to a city in France, there are numerous ways to get around it: the motorways around larger cities are free of charge, and – as in Paris – there are so-called “péripheriques”, meaning city motorways with a good recognizable control system. During rush hour, however, they often end up in traffic jams or stop-and-go.
Car accident in France
If you are involved in an accident in France, it is good to have legal protection. In addition, the green insurance card and a European accident report (“Constat amiable”) should be carried in the rental car. The report must be signed by all parties involved in the accident and forwarded to the insurance company. The police in France only comes to the scene of the accident if it blocks traffic or if any personal injury occurs. Metal damage is more often seen as a minor matter.
The Best Road Trips in France
A trip to Paris is worthwhile in every season. The Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Champs-Élysées have their special charm. Experiencing the enchanting smile of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre is just as essential when visiting the capital of France as it is to stroll through the famous luxury department store Lafayette. The unique atmosphere on Montmartre, where the visitor moves between numerous artists and can visit the many cafés and restaurants, will remain in everyone’s memory for a long time. Families with children can quickly get to the nearby Disneyland with a rental car, and a small rental car is best for a visit to the cosmopolitan city to get through the traffic and finding a suitable parking space. But parking in the outskirts with a nearby metro station is also possible.
Nice is located in one of the most scenic areas in France. It is a must not only for sun worshipers but for all those who love the glamor of old times. The location alone has a very special appeal: With a rental car, the fashionable Principality of Monaco, the perfume city of Grasse, the film city of Cannes or Menton on the Italian border can be reached quickly.
With the rental car, it is very easy to get close to Nice and it is even possible to find some parking spaces along the Uferstraße. There should always be a parking space in the side streets and in partially guarded squares, but also in parking garages.
The city awaits with the seemingly endless Promenade des Anglais and the architecturally interesting hotels as well as the long beach and the Vieux Nice, the fascinating old town. Art lovers can expect around 20 museums and galleries in Nice. A visit to the Musée Matisse or the Musée Chagall is particularly recommended. If you are interested in modern art from the past century, you can visit the Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain, where the paintings by French and American artists are on display.
A stroll through one of the daily markets is a must as well lingering in one of the typical cafés. While strolling through the narrow streets of Nice, visitors come across many places of interest – such as the Cathédrale Ste Réparate or the Palais de Justice. If you are not afraid to climb the Colline du Château, you will be rewarded with a wonderful panorama. Behind it lies the port with its unique flair.
With the rental car, it goes quickly up to Fort du Mont Alban, where a footpath leads from the parking lot to the summit with a fantastic view. Tourists storm the summit of Mont Chauve along winding roads – only the last part of the way has to be covered on foot. If you want to enjoy even more beautiful views, take the rental car to the observatory on the way to the Grande Corniche. The further route to Monaco will also remain an unforgettable experience.
The uniquely beautiful, much-praised port city of Marseille is located directly on the Golfe du Lion. The traffic in the city – like in all metropolises of the world – is nerve-wracking, especially at peak times. Nevertheless, it is worth it for every tourist to have Marseille on the route planner.
In addition to the impressive port, the beautiful old town is certainly worth a visit. The Musée d’Art Contemporain, the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle or the Musée Regards de Provence are just three of the city’s many museums. It is also worthwhile to stroll through the city center with visits to remarkable buildings such as the Notre-Dame de la Garde. A drive in a rental car over the Calanques to the beautiful town of Cassis reveals breathtaking scenery and invites you to hike in the area. On the way from Marseille to Montpellier, a detour to Avignon is worthwhile, whose imposing medieval old town is surrounded by a well-preserved city wall.
From Montpellier, one of the largest cities in the Mediterranean, you can reach the beautiful Mediterranean coast in just 10 kilometers with your rental car. Sights include the vibrant city of St Pierre Cathedral, the Doric-style triumphal arch Porte du Peyrou, the promenade of the same name on the opposite side, the historic Aqueduc de St Clément in the Les Arceaux district, the first botanical garden in France, the Musée Fabre and numerous other buildings and squares. Of course, the Place de la Comédie, on which the fountain of the three graces, the opera, and other interesting buildings are located, should also be mentioned. Because of its shape, the place is called “l’œuf” (the egg) by insiders. Almost all of Montpellier meet here.
Because of its many red brick buildings, the southern French city of Toulouse is also known as “La ville rose” (the pink city). It lies on the Garonne and is connected to the Mediterranean and the Atlantic by the Canal du midi and a side channel of the Garonne. Toulouse has several religious buildings – including the monumental Gothic Saint Etienne cathedral and the Dominican monastery Les Jacobins. A few Renaissance patrician houses enhance the city center. The Pont Neuf, the oldest still existing bridge over the Garonne, attracts a lot of attention.
Numerous museums such as the Center de l’Affiche (history of posters and posters) or the Musée des Abattoirs (modern and contemporary art) housed in the former slaughterhouse attract visitors to the city. Those who are more drawn to the future can visit the Cité de l’espace (space travel and the universe).
With the rental car, you can easily explore the immediate area around Toulouse. The hilly mountain landscape of the Midi-Pyrénées invites you to hike or just to enjoy. You will come across typical small villages, where a short stay is also popular.
Bordeaux is known for its very mild winters and long, warm summers. The city offers numerous religious buildings that not only impress with their exterior: for example, the Saint-André cathedral, the Sainte-Croix cathedral or the Sainte Marie de la Bastide church with its dome, which resembles the Parisian Basilique du Sacré-Cœur. The most beautiful secular buildings in the city include the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux from the 18th century, the former seat of the archbishop – the Palais Rohan – and the former city gate, the Porte Cailhau.
Of course, Bordeaux also offers some well-known museums such as the Musée d’Aquitaine, one of the largest regional museums in France, or the Galerie des Beaux-Arts and the Musée des Beaux-Arts with their unique collection of paintings. When you think of Bordeaux, you think of French savoir-vivre. In places like Place des Quinconces or Place du Parlement you can watch and enjoy French life to your heart’s content.
With a rental car, tourists can easily cover the 45 km route from Bordeaux to the Atlantic coast to sip fresh oysters or simply enjoy the sea. The Garonne, which forms a crescent-shaped arch through the city – hence the name “Port of the Moon” – joins the Dordogne just a few kilometers downstream to become the 70 km long funnel mouth of the Gironde. With the rental car, you can reach breathtaking places like Talmont-sur-Girond or Meschers with the well-known cave houses.