While most guides you find online advise against driving in Paris, the renowned megacity is an excellent starting point for your French adventures. Whether exploring the castles in Loire Valley or driving further south to the lavender fields of Valensole, there are plenty of trips where driving a car makes more sense.
On top of that, the French capital hosts special events year-round that warrant a chauffeur service so you can arrive in style. You can check out this Paris limousine car service for such events.
This article lists 13 things you need to know before renting a car in Paris.
You Have To Be At Least 21 To Rent A Car
While the legal driving age is 18, you must be 21 to rent a car. Most rental companies will also ask you if you've had your licence for at least a year. Note that thre is an additional fee of for every drivers under 25.
Primary Requirements For Renting A Car
The common requirements rental companies will ask of you include the following:
- Driver's licence
- International insurance
- Valid passport
- Credit card for the deposit (some companies accept debit cards)
You'll likely be offered to purchase insurance. Before you do so, contact your credit card company to check if you have auto coverage. Alternatively, you can purchase a collision damage waiver (CWD) for added protection. However, a CWD can be expensive, so if you must get one, find time to compare vendor prices.
Parisians can be very aggressive drivers. And when you combine that with the busy roads and the narrow streets, getting a scratch is not a faint possibility. Rental companies can also impose hefty fees for vehicle damages.
Check The Fuel Return Policy
There are cases when it's cheaper to fill up the rental vehicle yourself than let the company take care of it.
Expect To Pay Value Added Tax Of 20%
This expense is on top of the rental price. While this may not always be the case, it's best to be prepared.
Check With The Rental Company If You Can Cross Borders
If you're planning to visit neighbouring countries like Switzerland or Belgium, check with the rental company if they allow it. Additionally, remember to have all your documents with you, as police make frequent stops to check for overstaying non-EU (European Union) tourists.
Checklist Before Leaving The Rental Parking
Make sure to tick off the following before driving off:
- Check the condition of the car. Go around it, taking photos or videos if you notice any dents or scratches. Usually, the rental company will make you sign a check-out form, which lists existing issues. If you find anything that isn't on the form, let them know immediately.
- Check if all the electronics work. That includes the lights, both exterior and interior, the GPS, the air conditioning, etc.
- Ask what fuel the vehicle uses.
Make sure you get the contact details of the rental company so you can get in touch should any issue surface.
Accepted Driver's Licence
Your national driver's licence will suffice if you're from an EU country, the EEA (European Economic Area), or Switzerland. Outside those territories, however, it gets trickier. While there are rental companies that will accept a driver's licence from the US or Canada, this isn't a sure thing. Some will ask for an international driver's permit (IDP) or an official French translation of your licence.
If you are a UK licence holder, you can legally drive in France using your British driving licence. There’s no need for IDP or a French-translated one. However, if yours is from Gibraltar, Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man, it may be required to obtain a 1968 IDP.
To be safe, get the IDP before leaving your country. The American Automobile Association (AAA) and its Canadian and Australian counterparts issue IDPs. For other countries, visit the International Drivers Association website.
Documents You Need To Carry While Driving In France
The papers you need to carry while driving includes the following:
- Valid driver's licence
- Vehicle registration
- Valid passport (for everyone in the car)
- Car insurance.
In case there are any new regulations, check with the rental company if you need to bring anything else.
Parking In Paris Is Expensive
Parking in Paris can be a costly affair for both locals and visitors. The high demand for limited parking spaces and the city's efforts to reduce traffic congestion has led to steep parking rates.
Additionally, there are various regulations in place that determine the maximum amount of time one can park in a specific area. To avoid costly rates and ensure that you can find a parking spot while you're in the city, it is best to plan ahead and reserve a spot in advance.
There are several online platforms and mobile apps that allow users to book a parking spot in advance, often at a lower rate.
Alternatively, parking the vehicle outside major city centres is best if you're driving around France. The country's sound transport system should make it easier to get around, instead of constantly looking for an expensive parking space.
French Highway Tolls Are Expensive
Similarly, toll fees in France are costly. For example, the expressway going to Annecy from Paris costs over USD$50. To help travellers prepare their pockets, there are a lot of online resources and mobile apps that can help calculate driving costs.
It's best to plan your drives using B-roads, as much of France's beauty can be absorbed and enjoyed away from the highways.
Gas Prices Are Higher Along Motorways
Keep this in mind if you're travelling to different areas of France, so you can gas up before entering motorways.
You Can Be Charged Cleaning Fees
While this would only apply when you return the car in terrible shape, it's something to keep in mind.
Additional Tips For Driving In France
Below are a few more tips for driving around France:
- If you're planning to indulge in France's renowned libation, don't. The permitted blood alcohol content in the country is a meagre 0.02%. Fines are hefty and jail time is possible if you drink and drive in France.
- While you won't always see it from local drivers, give way to traffic coming from the right. There are intersections and roundabouts without clear signs, so make giving way to right-hand traffic a habit when driving in France.
- France has increased its use of speed radars, so be wary of the speed limits when driving. In cities, it's usually at 50 kph, 110 kph for dual carriageways, 80 kph for B-roads, and 130 kph for motorways. Take note that they automatically lower the limits when it's raining, so keep an eye on how other vehicles around you are slowing down.
- Do not use your phone under any circumstance while driving, as even hands-free devices are prohibited. You can be fined on the spot for using your phone, so if you really must, pull over.
- Dial 15 (on a French SIM) and 112 for other networks if you get into an accident or require assistance.
Other than road signs, driving around France shouldn't be much different from your own country, especially if you drive on the right side of the road.
Paris is an excellent jump-off for exploring the many lovely villages of France. And whether you want to drive around in luxury or opt for more economical vehicles, you have plenty of choices for car rentals in the French capital.