Top 10 Things You Should Know about Driving in France
Posted on Jul 01, 2013 by
I hope you enjoy this excerpt from my trip report, in the form of a blog (blog address in my signature). We spent the last four days of our trip in the Loire Valley, right in the middle of France, so that we could visit some of the castles there. (More about that in a future post.) The castles are located in remote spots, so it`s a good idea to rent a car unless you want to spend a lot of time walking. We rented a Citroen C3 and it worked well for us. I had actually reserved a C1 (the budget, you know) but when our C1 was delivered to us we rejected it on the basis that the passenger side door didn`t actually work. This cost us an hour, as we had to demonstrate the problem to several people (and of course they all had to try it for themselves because these stupid Americans simply were not capable of handling French car doors) but they eventually caved in and gave us the C3. Driving in France is not the same as driving in Salem, \Oregon, so as part of our ongoing commitment to public service we offer you these Top 10 Things You Need to Know about Driving in France:
10. They drive on the right. It`s very important that you remember this, even if you`ve just come from England.
9. If you have a Peugeot you can drive as fast as you want, be obnoxious to lesser vehicles and pedestrians, and take the best parking spots. If you have a BMW the same
privileges apply, except that you also get to be obnoxious to Peugeots.
8. On a freeway or other highway with more than one lane in your direction, you have to stay in the right lane unless you are actually passing someone right now. While you are passing them, you must keep either your left or right turn signal on at all times, so that everybody else will know that you are not just cruising in the left (or center) lane.
7. If you are on the aforementioned multi-lane road and you come up behind a car that is cruising (i.e., not passing) in the left (or center) lane, you are authorized to locate your front bumper no less than 6.5 centimeters behind the cruiser`s rear bumper. You may also flash your lights and beep your horn until the cruiser gets over in the right lane where it belongs.
6. Directional signs are not allowed to indicate actual directions (i.e., east, west, etc.). Instead, a random town (or village), located somewhere between 10 and 1000 miles
from here, is chosen to indicate the direction that the road will be taking you. This is not a problem unless you have neglected to memorize the positions of all towns and
villages in France before your trip.
5. The CRASS (Clear the Roads of All Stop Signs) campaign has been quite successful in France. Instead of stop signs, they have roundabouts. When approaching a roundabout, there will be a sign on the road that graphically depicts the roundabout, showing you all of the available options and the remote town or village (see #6 above) to which each exit leads. You must read and memorize this sign (often located behind a tree) about half a second before entering the roundabout. If for any reason you do not completely comprehend the roundabout before you enter it, it`s perfectly okay to continue driving around in circles until
your navigator is willing to make a commitment.
4. When serving as the navigator, you must impart an air of confidence to your driver. When the driver asks "Do I want Bordeaux or Nantes?" you must answer quickly and decisively even though you`re not within 100 miles of either city and you know you never will be. When you`ve made the call and your driver has made an irrevocable decision, and you realize that you gave her the wrong information, do not immediately say "oops." Wait a while, then calmly suggest that an error may have occurred (but it`s not her fault), and always follow it with "but we can recover, I`m sure."
3. Some small French towns were established hundreds of years before the invention of the automobile, and streets were something of an afterthought. When the road narrows such that an old house actually protrudes into the driving space, remember that buildings always have the right of way.
2. There are many toll roads in France. When it comes time to pay, there may be 20 or more toll booths to choose from. You have what it takes to pass by only one of these toll booths. Pay no attention to the signs - they will not help you. The lane you want is the one that has the most cars in it.
1. When approaching a toll booth in your rental Citroen, it`s important that you know where the control is located for lowering the driver`s side window. (Hint: it`s nowhere
near the door.) If you have not mastered the technique of opening the window, you`ll be forced to open the door. This is not acceptable behavior in French toll booths. We know this from experience.