Updated 20 January 2021

Your Guide to Traveling Around France with a Rental Car

Aleksandrs Buraks
Head of Growth at DiscoverCars.com

Why should you rent a car in France?

A feature destination on any self-respecting travel list in 2020 France remains as classy and spectacular as ever. Receiving about 90 million visitors per year, it is actually the most visited country in the world, and Paris is, needless to say, among the most visited cities. Whether your destination is the City of Light, the posh beaches of St. Tropez and Cannes, the wineries of Bordeaux, or Europe's highest summits in the French Alps, you're in for a treat.

But the really great thing about France is that plenty of other gems — perhaps not exactly hidden, but certainly less as known — can also be found there. The countryside of central Burgundy is as idyllic as that surrounding Bordeaux and has fewer tourists. The rough Atlantic beaches of Brittany make for a very different experience than that of the French Riviera, and the region's sacred groves retain legends of King Arthur. Toulouse, located roughly halfway between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, is both industrial and artsy and can be as fun to explore as Lyon or Marseille. Even further south is Pyrenees National Park, one of the most scenic areas in Europe. You get the idea — in France, adventure and awesomeness can be found at every step of the way. With a rental car, you can easily visit as many of the world-class sights and off-the-beaten-path jewels as you want.
Top Tips:
  • If you can, pick up and drop off your rental car at the airport — you will likely save money doing this. Airports like Orly and Charles de Gaulle in Paris, Saint Exupery in Lyon, and Nice Airport are not only among the busiest in the country, they also offer the best choice of rental car companies and prices.
  • France is more than just Paris! Explore the French capital, but also consider traveling to some less visited, but equally fascinating, regions like Brittany, Burgundy, Alsace, or Central France.
  • Although best known for its history, art, and sophisticated lifestyle, France is also home to wild nature. Some of the best attractions include the Alps and Pyrenees, Cevennes National Park, and the Mediterranean island of Corsica.
  • Familiarize yourself with the rental conditions such as the mileage and fuel policies before booking a car!
  • If you're visiting France with a rental car you've picked up in another country (like Switzerland, Spain, or Italy), ask your rental car about getting a clean air sticker for your vehicle.
  • Getting the cheapest possible deal is tempting, but make sure to always check the rating of the rental car company and the reviews left by other customers. The highest-rated companies in France are National, SIXT, and Alamo.

Your Guide to Traveling Around France with a Rental Car

By Aleksandrs Buraks | Last updated January 20, 2021
Top Tips:
  • If you can, pick up and drop off your rental car at the airport — you will likely save money doing this. Airports like Orly and Charles de Gaulle in Paris, Saint Exupery in Lyon, and Nice Airport are not only among the busiest in the country, they also offer the best choice of rental car companies and prices.
  • France is more than just Paris! Explore the French capital, but also consider traveling to some less visited, but equally fascinating, regions like Brittany, Burgundy, Alsace, or Central France.
  • Although best known for its history, art, and sophisticated lifestyle, France is also home to wild nature. Some of the best attractions include the Alps and Pyrenees, Cevennes National Park, and the Mediterranean island of Corsica.
  • Familiarize yourself with the rental conditions such as the mileage and fuel policies before booking a car!
  • If you're visiting France with a rental car you've picked up in another country (like Switzerland, Spain, or Italy), ask your rental car about getting a clean air sticker for your vehicle.
  • Getting the cheapest possible deal is tempting, but make sure to always check the rating of the rental car company and the reviews left by other customers. The highest-rated companies in France are National, SIXT, and Alamo.

Why should you rent a car in France?

A feature destination on any self-respecting travel list in 2020 France remains as classy and spectacular as ever. Receiving about 90 million visitors per year, it is actually the most visited country in the world, and Paris is, needless to say, among the most visited cities. Whether your destination is the City of Light, the posh beaches of St. Tropez and Cannes, the wineries of Bordeaux, or Europe's highest summits in the French Alps, you're in for a treat.

But the really great thing about France is that plenty of other gems — perhaps not exactly hidden, but certainly less as known — can also be found there. The countryside of central Burgundy is as idyllic as that surrounding Bordeaux and has fewer tourists. The rough Atlantic beaches of Brittany make for a very different experience than that of the French Riviera, and the region's sacred groves retain legends of King Arthur. Toulouse, located roughly halfway between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, is both industrial and artsy and can be as fun to explore as Lyon or Marseille. Even further south is Pyrenees National Park, one of the most scenic areas in Europe. You get the idea — in France, adventure and awesomeness can be found at every step of the way. With a rental car, you can easily visit as many of the world-class sights and off-the-beaten-path jewels as you want.

When should you go to France?

Opinions differ on when is the best time to visit Paris — indeed, it depends on what are your plans for the city. Most travelers say that the weather is nicest either from mid-April to the end of May or in September and October. The summer months are also a nice time to visit, but this is when Paris gets the largest number of tourists, so if you plan to focus on the city's most famous landmarks, it can get a bit crowded. Also, Paris (and the rest of France) has suffered from some serious heat waves during the last decade — the weather is milder in either early spring or late autumn. Paris can also be quite rainy, but the level of precipitation doesn't have large spikes or downturns throughout the year — every month has about eight to ten rainy days. Every year, Paris also gets about 12 days of snow.

Much sunnier, the French Riviera has about 300 cloudless days per year. The tourist season lasts from May to September, with an especial increase in visitors in July and August. October is warm as well but is the rainiest month (unlike Paris, though, the Azure Coast mainly gets strong, but short rain showers, so the amount of rainy days is lower even in the months when the overall precipitation is higher). The average high temperature in Nice is 20.7 °C (69.3 °F) in May, 27.7 °C (81.9 °F) in August and 16.6 °C (61.9 °F) in November.

The season for winter sports in the French Alps lasts from around November until April. It gets its busiest in January, but even in March, it's still nice to visit as there's plenty of snow, but not as crowded. The most popular destinations in the French Alps are Annecy, Chamonix, and Grenoble, all easily accessible with a car.

Now that you have decided when to travel to France, check out our prices for the dates you have chosen!

Where should you pick up a car in France?

Most travelers to France choose to pick up a rental car at the airport. There are around 40 international airports in France and 17 of them served more than one million passengers in 2019. Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport is the second busiest airport in Europe, having served 76 million travelers in 2019. Other large French airports include Paris Orly Airport, Nice Cote d'Azur Airport, Lyon Airport, and Marseille Provence Airport.

Many low-cost airlines fly to and from France, including easyJet, Ryanair, Wizz Air, and Transavia. Some airports like Beauvais–Tillé Airport actually specialize in low-cost carrier flights, and even the largest airports like Charles de Gaulle and Orly have flights by at least a few low-cost airlines.

In addition to airports, rental cars in France can also be picked up at various other locations like train stations, international hotels, etc.

Many car rental companies in France provide one-way rentals which are increasingly popular with tourists as they provide the freedom to travel around the country without the need to return to where the rental car was picked up. Car rental companies usually charge a small fee for the service. Some car rental companies also provide international one-way rentals and it's quite popular to travel with a rental car between Paris and Brussels in Belgium, Lyon and Geneva in Switzerland, or Biarritz and San Sebastian in Spain.

How easy is it to travel around France independently?

As awesome as France's sights and attractions are, the country wouldn't be such a tourist hotspot without great travel infrastructure. Luckily, that's exactly what's in place — France is extremely accessible, making it even more fun to explore.

When it comes to accommodation, rental cars, and tours, most things can easily be booked in advance online. Communication can sometimes be an issue — see the language section for more information — but most people working in tourism have at least some knowledge of English and even those who don't will usually do everything to make sure you're comfortable.

The French road network is in very good shape and the driving culture is overall friendly. The largest cities like Paris, Marseille and Lyon see their fair share of traffic jams, so driving during rush hours is best avoided. As most cities in France are at least a few hundred years old and have developed over centuries, navigating them can seem like no easy task, so getting an up-to-date GPS system is advisable — ask your rental car provider about the availability of one! Many French old towns have narrow streets, some are one-way, and some areas are pedestrian-only — make sure to follow the road signs!

France is home to two of Europe's most impressive mountain chains, the Alps and the Pyrenees, as well as a number of smaller ranges. While most of the mountain roads are in very good shape, driving cautiously is nonetheless a very good idea, especially if it's your first time driving at a higher altitude or if you're driving after dark. In winter, driving in the mountains might require snow chains — ask your rental car provider about it if you're visiting during the colder time of the year!
Source: Jenna Sue

How safe is it to travel around France by car?

France is a safe country to visit, and millions of tourists do so every year. Despite some media reports excessively focusing on certain dangers, France is statistically one of the safest countries in the world. The police, consisting of the national police, municipal police, and gendarmerie nationale, is trustworthy and should be contacted any time you require their assistance. The general emergency numbers are 17 or, as elsewhere in the European Union, 112.

The largest cities, like Paris and Marseille, do have a few suburbs that are (or at least feel) more dangerous than the city centers. It's probably a good idea not to wander around residential suburban neighborhoods after dark or at least consult locals about possible dangers before doing so.

By far the most common crimes committed against tourists are petty crimes like pickpocketing and tourist scams. These mainly occur near popular landmarks and tourist objects and in public transportation. Keep your wits about you and make sure you always know where your belongings are!

Although public protests do occur in France, they are not as frequent as some media reports would lead you to believe, and even when they occur, most take place peacefully. If you do accidentally find yourself at a public gathering or a confrontation, avoid being near the front lines and calmly leave the area by using side streets and moving away from the densest areas of the crowd.

What languages are spoken in France?

The (lack of) knowledge of English among the French is infamous but, luckily, also largely exaggerated. While it is true that many people in France do not speak English and you are likely to meet some, a good number of them do, especially urban dwellers, younger generations, and people working in tourism. Learning some French phrases can go a long way, but even if a tourist doesn't know a lick of French, it's very rare to experience rudeness or hostility because of that fact alone.

In addition to French, many other languages are native to France. These include Breton in Brittany, Alemannic German in Alsace, Basque in French Basque Country, Occitan in parts of Southern France amongst others. It should be noted, though, that while inhabitants of these regions are proud of their regional tongues, French is by far the most used language in all parts of France and virtually everyone in the country understands and speaks it. Some French people also speak languages like Italian (mainly those living near the Italian border), Spanish and Catalan (those living near Spain), and Arabic (mainly the French of North African descent).

Three underrated travel destinations in France that you can reach by car:

Centre-Val de Loire. The central part of France is sometimes overlooked by travelers as most of the country's attractions are located near one of the country's corners — Paris is in the north, the French Riviera is in the south, Bordeaux is located in the west, and the Alps can be found in the east. But the Loire Valley region, while not as immediately spectacular, offers plenty of joy for travelers going at a slower pace. This includes the capital city, Orleans, which is home to the House of Joan of Arc, a number of idyllic medieval villages, and more stunning châteaux or castles than it's possible to list (the standout one is in Angers ). Better yet, Orleans is less than a two-hour drive south of Paris, making it a great day-trip destination.
Source: Happy Hoppe
Chablis. A small town in the department of Yonne in Northern Burgundy and home to less than three thousand inhabitants, Chablis is a heavyweight when it comes to the world of white wine. A type of dry white, Chablis is a recognized and prestigious wine in France and around the world. Visiting Chablis will let you meet the winemakers, learn about the local traditions of viticulture that have been developed over centuries, and — if you're done driving for the day — try the amazing local product. Even without the wine, Chablis would be a worthwhile destination thanks to its charming architecture and the bucolic countryside that surrounds it. Chablis is located just a two-hour drive southeast of Paris, one hour from Troyes, and three hours from Lyon.
Vanoise National Park. The largest national park of mainland France — its territory is larger than that of two of France's neighbors, Andorra and Monaco — is an impressive corner of wilderness located in the French Alps. Made up of stunning peaks, with winding hiking trails, and home to animal species like the ibex, lynx, and Eurasian eagle-owl, it is the right place to escape the heat and the crowds that arrive in Southern France every summer. While spectacular, this escape is not especially complicated to make with the national park being just an hour's drive away from Grenoble, two hours from Lyon, and four hours from Nice and Marseille. If your rental car provider permits it, you can pop over the Italian border to the neighboring Gran Paradiso National Park, which is just as beautiful afterward.

What are the best places to rent a car in France?

The most visited country in the world, France has a wealth of different attractions for visitors to enjoy. The majority of tourists are naturally attracted by its capital, Paris. The city of light is home to such timeless attractions as the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur, as well as nearby Versailles and Disneyland. A capital of arts, culture, and fashion, the city and its atmosphere is a major attraction itself.

Located in the south along France's Mediterranean coast, the French Riviera is another tourist hotspot. Home to many of the world's rich and famous, the region is famous for its lavish lifestyle and beautiful beaches, but also nearby historic cities like Avignon. The peninsula of Brittany in the west offers a very different, much rougher coastline but attracts visitors with its dramatic scenery, unique culture, and some of the tastiest oysters in the world.
A trip to France is not complete without trying its famous wines, and wine tourism is growing in the country (Insider tip: the general rule is to go to Burgundy for the white and Bordeaux for the red). Driving a rental car and staying safe is perfectly compatible with exploring this side of France — you can either take turns with a friend or a family member or stay for the night in one of the villages where the wineries are located as there are plenty of places to stay.

Speaking of locally grown, the city of Lyon is said to trump even Paris when it comes to French cuisine. Located in the southeastern part of the country, it also boasts impressive architecture dating back to the Roman days and plenty of hidden gems. Other great places for city breaks in the country include Strasbourg in the northeast, a sophisticated city that's so much more than a political hub, and Lille in the northwest with its Dutch-influenced architecture and rougher, post-industrial charms.
Last but not least, France is not only cultured but also surprisingly wild. The Alps in the east attract visitors with some of the highest ski slopes in Europe while the Pyrenees [link: https://www.pyrenees-ariegeoises.com/en/practical/tourist-office ] in the west are home to many national parks and offer peaks that are slightly lower, but just as breathtaking. Rural central France, meanwhile, is the embodiment of quaint and bucolic.

What about filling up in France?

While there are notable differences in population density between different regions of France, there are gas stations to be found everywhere (even though many in the countryside have been closing down during the last decade). Google Maps and other navigation services do a good job of finding the one nearest you, although there are also a number of mobile apps dedicated to the purpose.

The prices at French gas stations are shown per liter (1 liter = 0.26 US gallons).

How expensive is gas in France?

As of January 2021, the average gas price in France is €1.37 per liter (or €5.21 per gallon). This is about the same price as in Switzerland and slightly more expensive than in neighboring Germany, Belgium, and Spain.

For how long should you rent a car in France?

Obviously, the length of your visit depends on the time you have available. France is a large, diverse country and could be explored for weeks, if not months. It's quite common for visitors who have three or four weeks of vacation available to rent a car and travel around the country for that entire period, never running out of things to see and do. That being said, France can also be perfectly enjoyable on a short trip.

Thanks to the rise of low-cost airlines, many travelers go to Paris for a weekend city break. While it's perfectly possible to get a first taste of the city on such a short trip, you should ideally put aside at least four days to a week to see most of the world-famous landmarks and also spend some time leisurely walking around and soaking up the atmosphere.

Keep in mind: It's worth remembering that while Paris might feel more compact than some other large cities, its region is home to more than 12 million people; and on top of that, it's also one of the most visited cities in the world. It's perfectly natural to experience lines and crowds at the most popular sites and museums, so being in too much of a rush or trying to pack too much in can spoil the experience.
Other popular French cities like Lyon, Lille, Bordeaux, and Nice take relatively less time to explore as they're significantly smaller. Still, if you wish to drive to some of the nearby attractions and scenic areas (of which each of these cities has many), it's better to visit for at least three to four days if you can.

You should also set aside at least four to five days to visit the country's ski resorts and national parks. Most French families visit the winter sports hubs on weekends and holidays, so going for a longer period of time than just one weekend will give you a much better chance of avoiding the crowds.

Insiders tip: Renting a vehicle for a longer period usually brings the daily price down significantly. A five-day trip might be only slightly more expensive than a three-day trip because of this. If you can, consider exploring France for at least a week!

How much does a rental car cost in France?

The price of a rental car in France is influenced by many things, especially the time of the year of your visit and the length of your trip, as well as the type of car that you choose. One-way rentals are usually more expensive than picking up and dropping off the rental at the same location. At the same time, though, it permits you to arrive in France via one airport and leave from another.

The tourist season generally lasts from May to September. However, other factors like the Christmas holidays can also be a reason for prices to increase. In the winter sports hubs of the French Alps, the opposite is generally true and the rentals are priciest during January and February.

In Paris, July is by far the most expensive month to visit when the average cost of a rental car is €84 (keep in mind, though, that this is, indeed, the average which includes premium class vehicles; even at the height of the tourist season, it's possible to find an economy class car that costs significantly less). The average price is €74 in May, €52 in September, and €53 in December.

In Nice, one of the main towns of southern France and a popular beach destination, the average price for a car is €71 in July but only €45 in both May and September. In Lyon, the price dynamics are different - the average daily cost for a rental is €58 in July, €71 in August and €40 in September. In Bordeaux, a vehicle costs, on average, €45 in April, €60 from May to to July, and €51 in August. Visit the airport and city pages of different French locations to learn more about the average cost of a rental car in each of them.

Which car rental company in France offers the lowest rates? What are some tricks for getting a better deal?

There are a number of companies in France that offer very cheap deals. Although, on the whole, renting a car in France is more expensive than in Spain, Italy, or Portugal, you can find deals for as low as €5 per day during the low season.

It is important to keep in mind, though, that different fees can also influence the final price, so make sure you are familiar with those before booking. The company's rating from previous travelers is just as important. Also, make sure to learn about the rental conditions as those differ from one company to the next (read more about rental conditions below).

If booked a week before the trip in January 2021, the cheapest rental for one day in Paris is an Opel Combo from Enterprise, costing 38. For three days, the cheapest car is a Renault Twingo from Alamo at a price of €66. For five and seven days, the cheapest vehicle is a Toyota Aygo from Keddy, costing €106 and €112, respectively. Keep in mind, though, that Paris and the French Riviera are outliers - prices will be noticeably lower for most other parts of France for the same period.

There are other factors that also influence the price — one of those is whether your rental has a manual or an automatic transmission. Cars with manual transmission tend to be much cheaper, especially during the low season. So if you know how to drive a manual, it is possible to find some real bargains.

Another surefire way to get a better price for your rental car is to plan your trip early and book in advance. Although you can sometimes find good deals at the last minute, it will almost always be cheaper to book a car a month ahead instead of just a couple of days before the trip.

Which car rental supplier is best for you? Are the rental conditions important?

Price is obviously a huge factor when choosing a car rental company, but it shouldn't be your only consideration — often, for a couple of euros more, you can find a much better overall deal. Instead, try to look for a company that offers both a good price and has a good rating from previous renters.

Also, make sure you are familiar with the rental conditions! Different rental car suppliers will have different conditions. The rental conditions can influence the final price of the car and are important to be aware of in general.

You can find the rental conditions when searching for a rental car on our website.

What else should you keep in mind when renting a car?

Some of the most important things when picking up a rental car is knowing your rental car supplier's fuel and mileage policies along with its driver requirements.

Mileage policy :
A rental supplier's mileage policy is the maximum permitted distance that you are allowed to travel per day (or sometimes per week) with your rental car. Once you exceed the permitted distance, you will be required to pay an extra fee for every additional kilometer you drive. There might also be the maximum permitted mileage for the whole of the rental period.

Different rental car suppliers have different mileage rules. It's important to know about them before booking your car, especially if you plan to drive a lot or travel long distances during your trip.

You can find the supplier's mileage policy in their rental conditions:
Fuel policy:
Different car rental companies have different policies when it comes to fuel. Some of the most popular ones are:
Full-to-full
You are given a car with a full tank of fuel and are expected to also return it with a full tank which means that you need to fill up the tank right before dropping off the car.
Same-to-same
You are given a car with a certain amount of fuel and are expected to return the car with the same amount.
Full-to-empty
You pay in advance for a full tank of fuel when picking up a car and are allowed to return the car with an empty tank; in these cases, you may or may not be compensated if you return a car with some fuel left in the tank.
Driver requirements:
Different rental car companies will have different requirements for drivers. These may include:
The minimum and maximum age of the driver
A potential young or senior driver extra fee for drivers under or over the certain age (e.g. 25 or 65 years old)
Driving experience (e.g., at least two years)
A credit card in the name of the main driver
An international driver's license (might not apply to driver's licenses that are in Latin alphabet)
The same as with mileage and fuel policies, the driver requirements of each car rental supplier be found on their rental conditions page.

Check our comprehensive FAQ section to learn out more about mileage, fuel, and driver requirements, as well as other important questions.

How can I choose the right insurance for my rental car?

Choosing the right insurance is very important as it will protect you in case anything goes wrong during your rental period. If you have your own personal insurance, it may or may not cover your rental car — you should ask your insurance carrier to find out.

We strongly recommend you choose our own Full Coverage. Not only does it come at a reasonable price and covers most potential scenarios, but it will also give you the clarity and peace of mind as you will have 24/7 support from our team for any issue that you might have.

Check the Insurance section of our FAQ to learn more about choosing the right insurance and everything related to it.

What type of rental car is the cheapest in France?

The general rule in France is that the smaller the rental car, the lower the price. On average, small cars cost just €31 per day and you can find significantly cheaper deals in most destinations and at certain times of the year by choosing one of the cheaper companies. The average price for a medium-sized car is €41 per day, a large car — €56 a day, an SUV — €75 a day, and a premium class car — € 99 per day.

Similar to neighboring Italy and Spain, the centers of many French cities and towns have maintained their historic planning and in some areas, cars are not allowed to enter. Even where they are permitted, you can expect the streets to be narrow, cobblestoned, and often also steep. For this reason, it might actually be easier to get around with a smaller car. If you plan to drive in the mountains or the national parks, however, especially during wintertime, you'd be better off with a more powerful vehicle.

Which is the best car rental company in France?

Customer Rating - 9.2
Customer Rating - 9.0
Customer Rating - 8.9
Customer Rating - 8.8
Customer Rating - 8.7

Should I go with a local or an international company?

While there are some local car rental companies in France, there are fewer of them than in the neighboring countries. The French rental car market is dominated by international companies. It doesn't mean that they know the country any worse than locals, though most of them have been in France for decades and their French branches have plenty of domestic expertise (and one of the largest car rental companies in the world, Europcar, is French). While going with a regional company can be a good way to support a local business, there is no particular reason to avoid international providers. The main reason for choosing a provider should be the price and rating.

Choosing an international company can be preferable if you're traveling across borders like from Paris to Brussels in Belgium, Nice to Genoa in Italy, or Lyon to Geneva in France. Many international companies have offices in most of France's neighboring countries.

What is the process of picking up and dropping off a rental car like?

To pick up a rental car, you'll need to have your booking confirmation voucher, passport, driver's license, a credit card on the main driver's name, and all the other necessary documents.

When making the reservation, you will see your rental car's pickup location, of which there are many types. Since most travelers tend to pick up their rental cars at the airport, we'll mainly focus on the pickup locations in or near the airport. These are the most popular pickup location types:

  • Meet & Greet. With this type of pickup location, you'll be met by an employee of the car rental company in the arrivals hall of the airport which you normally enter right after leaving the baggage claim area. The employee will usually have a printed sign with your name on it. The employee will take you to the company's office to proceed with signing the rental contract and collecting the car's keys.
  • In the terminal. In this case, you will have to find your rental car company's desk yourself. The desk will be usually located in the arrivals hall. Once you've found the desk, you can present your documents and continue with the pickup procedure. Do keep in mind that you might have to wait in line.
  • Shuttle bus. In certain cases, the car rental company's desk might be located outside the airport's terminal. Sometimes you can reach it on foot, but in most cases, you need to take a shuttle bus. For this, you'll need to find the shuttle bus stop inside the airport, the location of which will be given to you when making the booking. Sometimes, the shuttle bus is shared by multiple car rental companies while others have their own shuttle service just for them. Look for the name and the logo of your rental company to make sure you take the right shuttle bus.
  • Delivery service. This type of pick-up is similar to Meet & Greet but takes even less time to complete as you won't need to go to the car provider's office to sign the agreement.
  • Car rental center. This means that your car rental company shares its location with other companies. The car rental center is located in the arrivals hall, in another part of the terminal, or in a separate building next to the terminal.
  • Outside terminal. This pick-up location means that your car rental company has an individual desk located outside the airport's terminal, but within the larger airport complex, that can usually be reached on foot

At the pickup location: After the car rental company checks your documents and make sure you have enough deposit on your credit card, you will receive the car's keys and be taken to the rental car which will usually be parked in a nearby parking lot.

Inspect the car: Upon picking up the car, you will have to sign a document called the check-out form. If your rental car has any scratches or other types of damage, they should be listed on the form. Inspect the car carefully — if it has any scratches or other issues that are not listed, make sure to point them out to the employee before signing the check-out form. The form will also list the mileage and the amount of fuel the car has at the pickup time.

Take photos: It is generally a very good idea to take photos of the car before picking it up, preferably from multiple angles and including the inside of the car with the odometer showing the previous mileage on the car and of the amount of fuel in the tank (read more about fuel on our Fuel Policy section above). The photos should have a timestamp to show the date and time when they were taken; most pictures taken with mobile and digital cameras have them.

Find out the drop-off location: Before leaving with the car, make sure you find out the exact drop-off location and the directions to get there. While it will often be the same as the pickup location, it might also be in a completely different part of the airport (this is especially the case with the larger airports that have multiple terminals).

Returning the car: When dropping off the car at the end of your trip, carefully check the vehicle in the presence of an employee of the rental company. If any new scratches or damages are found, the company employee should point them out in your presence. If there are none, the car's check-in form should state that the car has been returned in the same condition. The same applies to the cleanliness of the car (if you return a car that is not clean, the company might later charge an extra cleaning fee). Make sure to check the car's trunk and the glove compartment to avoid leaving any personal belongings in the vehicle.

Can I add extras for the rental car when booking?

You might also want to add some extras for your rental car such as a GPS system, a child's seat, second-driver permission (if you're traveling with a friend or a family member who can and wants to drive). If you plan to drive in the Alps or Pyrenees, snow chains might be useful or even necessary during winter. Be sure to search for them in advance and add them before making the booking. Not every rental car supplier will have all of these extras available. Adding extras will influence the final price of a car and different car rental companies offer them for different prices.

What are the traffic rules in France?

France drives on the right-hand side of the road.
The priorité à droite or priority of joining from the right rule has been a cause of great confusion for motorists in France, but does not apply unless specifically indicated.
Proof of insurance and the car's documentation need to be in it whenever you're driving.
If you're the driver, you need to have your passport or ID card with you at all times.
The use of a mobile phone while driving is forbidden by law — only a fully hands-free system is permitted (so you cannot use headphones, either).
The nationwide emergency number, like elsewhere in the European Union, is 112.
If you receive a fine for a traffic violation, the car rental supplier will often charge an additional fee for administering it.
There is a low emission zone in Paris meaning that cars registered before 1997 are not permitted to enter it on working days from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. To enter some urban areas, vehicles also need a clean air sticker (or Crit'Air vignette).

What are the speed limits in France?

Are there speed cameras in France?

Speed cameras are in use in France and are just as common on secondary and rural roads as on the main highways. Although speed cameras in France are less common than in some of its neighboring countries, there are plans to significantly increase their use. French speed cameras also tolerate a significantly lower margin of error than their equivalents in many other countries, only permitting a 5% increase over the legal speed limit.

The use of radar detectors is forbidden by law and France has some of the steepest penalties in the world for those who are caught breaking it. The penalty can include the confiscation of your vehicle and a penalty of up to €3,000.

What are the drunk driving laws in France?

The legal alcohol limit is 0.05% for experienced drivers and 0.02% for novice drivers and drivers under the age of 21 (if you've gotten your international driving permit during the last two years, you are considered a novice driver, even if you've had your national license for a longer period).

The penalties for drunk driving are quite steep. Being heavily over the permitted limit or breaking a traffic rule while drunk can also lead to a loss of license and even jail time.

Are there toll roads in France?

Most of the main highways in France (autoroute in French) are toll roads. Their names start with the letter A and you can recognize them by red number signs. The toll for using a toll road depends on the specific route, the distance traveled, and what type of vehicle you are in - cars with trailers and caravans have to pay more than regular cars. You can pay by credit card or in cash. You'll be given a ticket that you have to keep while on the toll road to show where you entered — you'll then be charged for the distance traveled. If you lose this ticket, you may be charged for the entire length of the highway!

Some rental cars are equipped with an electronic tag and can use the automatic gates. Ask your rental car supplier to find out if they offer cars with these tags.

See the official French toll road website for more information (you can change the page's language to English by clicking the British flag on the upper right side). Scroll down to use the website's toll calculator to find out exactly how much you'll have to pay for using the toll roads on your planned route.

Aleksandrs Buraks

Head of Growth at DiscoverCars.com
Aleksandrs has over 10 years of experience in marketing with a focus on creating stellar content that provides topical insights using data. Having taken five road trips across Europe and one in the U.S., he is passionate about traveling by car. His favorite countries to visit are Denmark and Thailand. You can find him on Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter.

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