France is hands-down one of the best destinations in Europe – if not the world – for a road trip!
We just can’t get enough of it! And it’s all down to its sheer size and huge selection of attractions.
Fancy touring a lavish royal palace one morning, sampling world-class wines that afternoon and then soaking up the snowy peaks of the Alps the very next day?
Well, France it is then!
So, if you’re setting off on a country-wide road trip or you’ve got your heart set on exploring a specific region, there’s a few things you’ll want to get up to speed with before you fly or ferry yourself over to France…
Your French road trip checklist
Few things are worse than a road trip in an unfamiliar country that’s gone terribly wrong! To lower your chances of a French driving sojourn turning into the holiday from hell, make sure you:
Book a small car
Vision of an epic road trip involve you speeding around France in a spacious SUV? Let us stop you right there!
While France’s motorway system is made up of wide roads where you can slip into cruise control and relax, the country’s rural roads aren’t quite as dreamy.
Many roads, especially in mountainous regions, remote countryside or compact Medieval cities, are extremely narrow or just plain windy. Having a big car instead of something small and nifty will therefore make most of France a massive headache to navigate.
The same goes for a lot of car parks in France. It’s likely you’ll have trouble squeezing into a spot, or even making the clearance of the entrance, if you’ve hired a larger vehicle!
Remember they drive on the right in France!
Now this is one definitely not to forget!
Just like most countries in Europe, the French drive on the right-hand side of the road. It can take a bit of time to get used to this change if you’re venturing there from Australia or you’ve just been driving around the UK, so avoid driving when you’re tired and more likely to slip up!
Keep an eye out for toll roads
Know much about France’s toll roads? We’ve got the lowdown.
France is pretty huge, and you’ll find loads of dual carriageways which can whizz you quickly from one region to the next. Unfortunately, a lot of these are toll roads and, at €5-15 a pop, they can really start to add up after a while!
While they can be unavoidable at times (toll roads are typically the fastest ways to get from A to B), you might want to plan out some of your driving routes on smaller, country roads instead. They won’t be as well-kept (or as wide!), but they’ll probably be pretty scenic.
Map out a road trip route– but only roughly
All about the spontaneity? Love a random adventure? Us too!
But, while it can be nice to be a bit spontaneous on a driving holiday, it’s still a good idea to have a vague idea of where you’re going.
We find planning out a few spots you’ll definitely make pitstops at in advance is a good way to give yourself the freedom to visit wherever takes your fancy in between!
Plan your overnight parking in advance
Staying at a hotel or holiday rental which includes free or cheap parking? You’re sorted then. No drama!
But if you’re not, it’s a savvy idea to book your parking in advance to avoid spending half the night searching for a space (and shelling out half your bank balance for the pleasure).
It helps to give your accommodation a quick call beforehand for advice or simply do a web search for local parking garages in the cities/towns you’re planning to visit.
We can definitely all agree that finding parking is one of the most stressful parts of a road trip! Who wants to have to deal with that pressure if you don’t have to?!
Essentials to pack in your hire car in France
Preparation is the key to success on a driving holiday, so make sure you have:
– A paper map in case the GPS or phone signal fails you and you’re stuck out in the middle of nowhere. Some hire cars feature built-in satnavs, but it’s still a good idea to have a physical map or at least to download one on your phone.
– High visibility jackets and a warning triangle in case you breakdown (ask about this when you pick up your rental car). It’s also a requirement to carry a breathalyser test in your car in France, however there’s no specific fine if you haven’t got one.
– A Clean Air certificate on your wind shield if you’re driving into some cities, including Paris, Strasbourg and Marseille. If you hire your car in France (and particularly from one of those cities), it’ll likely come with one already. Picking up your car elsewhere in Europe and driving over the border? You’ll need to order a sticker in advance.
– Water and snacks are always a good thing to have stashed in your car in case you breakdown somewhere remote. If you’re journeying across France in the winter, make sure you’ve got plenty of warm clothing, too!
France road trip inspiration
This baguette-loving, castle-packed nation has an endless stream of bucket list places perfect for visiting at your own pace! Searching for some solid ideas on where to go on your next road trip in France? Why not:
1.Hit the mountains on a driving holiday between trendy Toulouse and the pretty Pyrenees.
2.Check out the stunning Champagne region for tours of vineyards (and lots of wine tastings…)
3.Walk (or drive) in the footsteps of France’s most famous war figure along the epic Route Napoleon.
4.Hop between France’s provinces on a regal tour of the country’s most Instagram-worthy chateaux.
Is the eco-warrior in you desperate to hire an e-vehicle for your French road trip? Get the lowdown on driving electric cars in France and where exactly you can top them up across the country.