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Driving in France

If you come to La Rochelle with your own car, or you plan to rent once here, make sure you’ve taken the necessary precaution to avoid any worry.


First, things you need to drive in France:

  • A valid full driving licence (you must be 18 and up)
  • The vehicle registration document
  • Your insurance certificate
  • Your identity card
  • Headlamp converters if you take your own car. It re-aligns your headlights so that they don’t dazzle oncoming motorists when driving on the right.
  • A warning triangle
  • A high visibility jacket inside the passenger compartment.
  • A child car seat if you are travelling with a child under 10.
  • A set of spare car bulbs


Driving laws in France

First, if you rent a French car, do not confuse indicators (on your left) with windscreen wiper (on your right)! In France and most of Europe, you drive on the right.

If there is no special indication or traffic lights, priority is given to vehicles coming from the right.

Speed limits:      

Highways are usually limited to 130km/hr (110 when raining)

Express ways (4 lanes): 110km/hr (90 when raining)

Rural 2 or 3 lanes are usually limited to 90km/hr

Urban speed limit: 50km/hr (but many areas are limited at 30km/hr, near schools or developments)


French road signs

For non-motorway main routes, signs are white lettering on a green background. National route name begins with the letter N. The N11 national route links Niort to La Rochelle.

For motorways, signs are white lettering on a blue background. Motorway name begins with the letter A (Autoroute). The A10 motorway links Paris to Bordeaux.


Behaviour on the French roads

Alcohol: In France, the tolerated blood alcohol level is 0.5g per l. You would be liable to a fine from 90€ to 4500€, a penalty up to 2 years of imprisonment, a suspension of your driving license up to 3 years... Don’t drink and drive!

Phoning at the wheel: you may be faced with an on-the-spot fine of 135€, and 3 penalty points on your French driving license.

Speed camera detector: it’s against the law in France. Switch off your car sat nav if it has a speed camera detection function.

Automatic Speed detectors: they are usually indicated, but more and more mobile radars are used by gendarmes. The fine is between 45 and 1500€, depending on the official speed limit and your speed measured.

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