Cars in Paris

Planning a trip to Paris

The Traffic Light Tree is a a 1998 sculpture by Pierre Vivant, not a real traffic signal, but still indicative of how confusing it can be to drive in Paris. (Photo by Jeff Summers)

Do NOT, under any circumstances, rent a car to get around Paris. If you are renting one to leave the city, however, read on for tips.

 

Planning for a trip to France

 (Photo Public Domain)

The most important things to know before booking a rental car

 
An aggregator/consolidator like Auto Europe can let you compare car rental rates side by side (Photo courtesy of AutoEurope.com)

How to find the lowest rates on a rental car in France

 
The national speed limits in France are 50kph in towns and cities, 90kph (soon going to 80) outside of cities, and 130kph on autoroutes (major national highways) (Photo Public Domain)

Obey the speed limits of pay the (high) price

 
 (Photo courtesy of Europe by Car)

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

 
 (Photo Public Domain)

Hints, tips, and advice for renting a car in France

 
 (Photo Public Domain)

There are hundreds of road signs blocking your view on French roads and—more importantly—telling you how to get where you're going

 
The national speed limits in France are 50kph in towns and cities, 90kph (soon going to 80) outside of cities, and 130kph on autoroutes (major national highways) (Photo Public Domain)

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

 
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How to decide if a rental car is the best choice for your France vacation

 
Hotel garages are expensive in every country (Photo )

The hotel garage will often be far costlier than a nearby public garage or other parking option

 
 (Photo by Unknown)

Renting a car and driving in France

 
Trust me. You do not want to have to deal with the traffic in Paris. (Photo Public Domain)

A rental car is not always the best choice for a France vacation

 
Keep right, except to pass (Photo by Unknown)

Stay in the slow lane (the rightmost one) on a European highway unless you are actively passing another car

 
 (Photo courtesy of Drivethedales.com)

How to get the most out of renting a car in France with the lowest cost and least hassle

 
Michelin makes the best France road maps (Photo courtesy of the publisher)

A good road map can save you time and help you discover places and things not in your guidebook

 
 (Photo by Geoff Collins)

Get your airfare to France and rental car together and save on both

 
Every country in green is on metric; the yellow and orange ones are in the process of converting (yellow is closer to the goal). Only the U.S., Myanmar, Libera, and North Korea have not gotten with the program. (Photo by Thespaceface)

Get ready to do some math in your head

 
 (Photo courtesy of Europe by Car)

How to arrange for a short-term lease on a brand-new car in France—cheaper than a rental for longer periods, and far better insured

 
Gas in Europe is expensive (Photo by Images Money)

Prepare for REALLY expensive gas—like $7 per gallon

 
The author, at 12, with his Uncle Marc (19) and the author's trusty hippie-orange VW family campervan somewhere in the Alps (Photo © Frank Bramblett)

Camping is a great way to see France, but you needn't be tied down to tent pegs; RV rentals are as easy in Europe as they are here at home

 
 (Photo by Unknown)

You do not technically need a IDP for France, but consider getting one

 
 (Photo by Unknown)

Don't leave anything visible in the car

 
Car Tours
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Useful French phrases

Useful French for rail travel

English (anglais) French (français)  Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is? Où est? ou eh
...train station la gare lah gar
train train traah
ticket un billet uhn bee-YAY
ticket counter les guichet lay ghee-SHAY
departures within the hour départs dans l'heure day-PAR dohn luhr
local departures départs banlieue day-PAR bahn-LYOO
long-distance departures départs grandes lignes day-PAR grahnd leenyh
departure time heure de départ uhr de day-PAR
arrival time heure d'arrivée urh dar-ree-YAV
first class première classe pruh-mee-YAIR klahs
second class seconde classe say-COHN-duh klahs
one way ticket un billet simple uhn bee-YAY SAHM-pluh
round trip (return) ticket un billet aller-retour uhn bee-YAY ah-LAY RAY-tour
I would like to reserve a seat Je voudrais réserver une place dzuh voo-DRAY RAY-sair-vay ooun plahs
I have a Eurailpass J'ai Eurailpass dzay ao-rail-PAHS
sleeping couchette une couchette ooun koo-SHET
berth in a sleeping car une place en voiture-lit ooune plahs uhn vwa-TOUR-lee
track voie
or
quai
vwa
or
kay
car / carriage voiture vwa-TOUR
punch your ticket composter de billet cohm-poh-STAY de bee-YAY
departures le départ luh day-PAR
arrivals l’arrivée lah-ree-VAY
connection correspondance ko-ray-spon-DOHNZ
coming from en provenance de un pro-veh-NONS de
going to a destination de ah des-tee-nah-tzee-YOWN de
Is this the right platform for the Paris train? Est-ce que c’est le quai pour le train de Paris? es kuh say le kay poo-rh leh traah de pah-REE
delayed en retard hn ruh-TAR
information information een-for-mah-tzee-YOHN
left luggage consigne cone-sah-NYEH
exit sortie sohr-TEE

Useful French for air travel

English (anglais) French (français)   Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is... Où est? ou eh
...the airport l'aéroport lair-oh-POR
the airplane l'avion lah-vee-YOHn
terminal terminal tehr-me-NAHL
flight vol vohl
gate porte pohrt
customs douane do-AHN
to the right à droite ah dwa-t
to the left à gauche ah go-sh
straight ahead tout droit too dwa
departures hall Hall de départ ahl de day-PAR
arrivals hall Hall d’arrivée ahl da-ree-VAY
exit sortie sohr-TEE
delayed en retard hn ruh-TAR
on time à l’heure ah LOUR
early en avance hn ah-VAHNS
check-in l’enregistrement lun-rej-ee-stray-MUN
immigration l'immigration lim-ee-grah-SYON
security check le contrôle de sécurité luh kon-TROLL de say-cure-ee-TAY
shuttle la navette lah na-VET
boarding pass une carte d’embarquement ooun kart dem-bark-eh-MUHn
baggage claim la livraison des bagages la lee-vray-SOHn day bah-GA-j
carry-on luggage les bagages à main lay bah-GA-j ah meh
checked luggage les bagages enregistrés lay bah-GA-j on-ray-jee-STRAY

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.