Friday, June 14, 2013

FRANCE - DRIVING ( left hand drive )

Using a sat nav - we have a Tom Tom and it was brilliant ! - was an absolute godsend and took a lot of the worry of negotiating  our way while driving on what, to us, is the wrong side of the road.

We picked up and returned our hire car at Charles De Gaulle airport so we were certainly thrown in at the deep end from  the beginning !

Our experience of driving in France was a positive one with a couple of exceptions.

French drivers are impatient and prone to using their horns at the slightest provocation.
If you come from a country where people seldom use their horns this can be unsettling and sometimes stressful as if you are unsure or hesitant French drivers will give you a blast.

On highways, although there are posted speed limits, they are often ignored.


We found that, on a three laned highway, the right hand lane is for trucks and slow vehicles,  the middle lane was used by vehicles traveling around the speed limit and the left hand lane was for the speedsters often traveling --very fast-- !

In our experience there was a huge difference in the amount of traffic we encountered in different areas.
In Normandy, the Loire Valley and Burgandy in May there were not many cars on the road. Perhaps in the busier Summer months this could be different especially in the wine areas of Burgandy.

However the South of France in May was another story with very heavy traffic on the Cote D'Azur and long delays at toll booths on the large toll roads servicing the area. I hate to think what it would be like at the height of the Summer season.

And of course traffic leaving and approaching Charles De Gaulle airport is heavy but clearly signposted.
Forget driving in Paris !!!

In general the roads were good and on the whole wide enough for two cars.

Of course in the centre of very old villages that were built in the days before cars were invented there is no way a car could pass and these places need to be explored on foot.


Parking areas, often free, were provided on the outskirts of all the pretty villages we visited in Provence. In larger towns like Grasse we were alert for parking signs and used the paid parking. In busy times when tourists are many this may not be easy.

Most tourist attractions like Mont St Michel, Aiguille du Midi ( Mt Blanc ) have large parking areas to cope with tourists and they are sometimes free.

Places like Cannes and Nice have paid parking and if you can cope with the traffic AND negotiate a place in them you'll be doing well. We managed in Cannes but caught a train to Nice to avoid problems.


  1. Have just found you travel blog Helen and it is interesting to see your take on the countries in Europe. We always found driving in France a breeze and the French very good at lane discipline ie not staying in the fast lane as drivers do in UK sometimes. My French friends tell me that we are considered very polite drivers and your comments on the frustrated French drivers' use of their horns illustrates the differences! I think you were very brave to attempt driving the country lanes in UK which as you say require an act of faith and an abilility to manoeuver one's car into and out of difficult situations!

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