Automobiles

Renting a car and driving in France

The wind in your hair, the highway stretching before you, the freedom to explore at will, the daily reminders that you have to drive on the left and navigate roundabouts... A car is the only way to see all of France's nooks and crannies.

 (Photo Public Domain)

The most important things to know before booking a rental car

 
 (Photo courtesy of Europe by Car)

Hints, tips, resources, and pointers for getting your own set of wheels in France

 
 (Photo Public Domain)

French road rules are similar enough to North American ones that you'll get by fine; here are the important differences

 
Useful French phrases

Useful French for car travel

English (anglais) French (français)  Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
car une voiture
or
une auto
ouhn vwa-TOUR
or
ouhn ow-TOH
scooter/motorboke une moto ouhn mo-TOH
gas station station-service stah-see-YOHN sair-VEES
gas de l'essence deh lay-SAWNS
diesel le gasolio
or
le gazole
leh gah-SOL-lyo
or
luh gag-ZOHL
Fill it up, please faire le plein, s'il vous plaît fair le plahn seel voo play
Where is... Où est? ou eh
...the highway l'autoroute lao-toh-ROOT
...the road la route lah root
...the street la rue lah roo
...the road for Paris
la route de Paris
lah root de pah-REE
to the right à droite ah dwa-t
to the left à gauche ah go-sh
keep going straight tout droit too dwa
to cross traverser trah-vair-SAY
toll un péage uhn PAY-ahj
parking stationner stah-see-yo-NAIR
road map carte routière kahrt roo-tee-YAIR
roundabout rond point rohn pwea
junction carrefour cah-ruh-FOUr


Typical road signs

English (anglais) French (français) 
Speed limit Limit de vitesse
Slow down Ralentissez
Stop Arrêt
Exit  Sortie
Give way Cedez le passage
Give way to traffic coming from the left/right Priorité à gauche / à droit
No passing Interdiction de doubler/dépasser
One-way Sens-unique
No entry Sens interdit
Road closed Route barrée
Detour Déviation
Risk of ice Verglas
Dead-end Impasse
Speed camera Radar de vitesse
Pedestrian crossing Passage piéton
Parking prohibited Stationnement interdit
Pedestrian zone Zone piétonnne

Basic phrases in French

English (anglais) French (français) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you merci mair-SEE
please s'il vous plaît seel-vou-PLAY
yes oui wee
no non no
Do you speak English? Parlez-vous anglais? par-lay-VOU on-GLAY
I don't understand Je ne comprende pas zhuh nuh COHM-prohnd pah
I'm sorry Je suis desolée zhuh swee day-zoh-LAY
How much does it cost? Combien coute? coam-bee-YEHN koot
That's too much C'est trop say troh
     
Good day Bonjour bohn-SZOURH
Good evening Bon soir bohn SWAH
Good night Bon nuit  bohn NWEE
Goodbye Au revoir oh-ruh-VWAH
Excuse me (to get attention) Excusez-moi eh-skooze-ay-MWA
Excuse me (to get past someone) Pardon pah-rRDOHN
Where is? Où est? ou eh
...the bathroom la toilette lah twah-LET
...train station la gare lah gahr

Days, months, and other calendar items in French

English (anglais) French (français) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quand est-il ouvert? coan eh-TEEL oo-VAIR
When does it close? Quand est l'heure de fermeture?   coan eh lure duh fair-mah-TOUR
At what time... à quelle heure... ah kell uhre
     
Yesterday hier ee-AIR
Today aujoud'hui ow-zhuhr-DWEE
Tomorrow demain duh-MEHN
Day after tomorrow après demain ah-PRAY duh-MEHN
     
a day un jour ooun zhuhr
Monday Lundí luhn-DEE
Tuesday Maredí mar-DEE
Wednesday Mercredi mair-cray-DEE
Thursday Jeudi zhuh-DEE
Friday Vendredi vawn-druh-DEE
Saturday Samedi saam-DEE
Sunday Dimanche DEE-maansh
     
a month un mois ooun mwa
January janvier zhan-vee-YAIR
February février feh-vree-YAIR
March mars mahr
April avril ah-VREEL
May mai may
June juin zhuh-WAH
July juillet zhuh-LYAY
August août ah-WOOT
September septembre sep-TUHM-bruh
October octobre ok-TOE-bruh
November novembre noh-VAUM-bruh
December décembre day-SAHM-bruh

Numbers in French

English (anglais) French (français) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 un ehn
2 deux douh
3 trois twa
4 quatre KAH-truh
5 cinq sank
6 six sees
7 sept sehp
8 huit hwhee
9 neuf nuhf
10 dix dees
11 onze ownz
12 douze dooz
13 treize trehz
14 quatorze kah-TOHRZ
15 quinze cans
16 seize sez
17 dix-sept dee-SEP
18 dix-huit dee-SWEE
19 dix-neuf dee-SNEUHF
20 vingt vahn
21* vingt et un * vahnt eh UHN
22* vingt deux * vahn douh
23* vingt trois * vahn twa
30 trente truhnt
40 quarante kah-RAHNT
50 cinquante sahn-KAHNT
60 soixante swaa-SAHNT
70 soixante-dix swa-sahnt-DEES
80 quatre-vents  kat-tra-VAHN
90 quatre-vents-dix  kat-tra-vanht-DEES
100 cent sant
1,000 mille meel
5,000 cinq mille sank meel
10,000 dix mille dees meel


* You can form any number between 20 and 99 just like the examples for 21, 22, and 23. For x2–x9, just say the tens-place number (trente for 30, quarante for 40, etc.), then the ones-place number (35 is trente cinq; 66 is soixsante six). The only excpetion is for 21, 31, 41, etc. For x1, say the tens-place number followed by "...et un" (trente et un, quarante et un, etc.).

‡ Yes, the French count very strangely once they get past 69. Rather than some version of "seventy,' they instead say "sixy-ten" (followed by "sixty-eleven," "sixty-twelve,' etc. up to "sixty-nineteen.") And then, just to keep things interesting, they chenge it up again and, for 80, say 'four twenties"—which always make me thinks of blackbirds baked in a pie for some reason. Ninety becomes "four-twenties-ten" and so on up to "four-nineties-ninteen" for 99, which is quite a mouthful: quartre-vingts-dix-neuf.