Driving Around Paris – All You Need to Know

A road trip to Paris is full of magic, romance, and sights. It has long been a city that holds an allure thanks to its history and culture. Should you decide to make a journey across the channel to explore this delight of France, there will be a few things you need to be aware of to stay safe on the roads and enjoy your trip. Driving in France can be exciting, it can be stressful, it can be fun. Just check out our advice and you’ll be fine!

As experts in providing excess car insurance in Europe, we know from firsthand experience that driving in a foreign country can be stressful. Read on to see how you can drive safely in Paris and enjoy the stunning city worry-free!

What are the requirements for driving in Paris?

The first requirement is to be of legal age to drive; in France, it is set at 18 throughout the country. This is not the only thing to be aware of though. Most rules are the same as you would expect across France, however, there are some that are specific just to Paris.

For this piece, we will be talking about driving in Paris. It certainly would not hurt to follow the same suggestions regarding safety equipment for trips across France, so you don’t find yourself hit with a fine or worse.

A Paris drivers’ checklist

To be fully compliant when driving around Paris, the list below shows all that is required to be always kept in your car.

  • Valid driver’s licence and copy of the rental agreement. (or, proof of ownership if you own the car)
  • Valid passport for the driver and all of the passengers
  • A high-vis jacket for everyone in the vehicle
  • Warning triangle
  • Full set of spare bulbs for headlights and taillights
  • Spare glasses
  • Headlight converters
  • Breathalyzer test
  • “Crit’ Air badge

What is a “Crit’ air” badge?

Introduced to cut down on pollution and improve the air quality of the city, The clean air initiative has been rolled out throughout Paris and adopted by other French cities. It illustrates the category your vehicle falls in for its emissions and determines whether they can be in the city. A sticker showing the compliance of your vehicle must be on display at all times. Failure to comply can result in fines of up to £117. Considering the sticker is a little more than 3 Euros, it would make sense to get one before you go! They can be ordered via the French govt website. Just be aware that they can take up to 6 weeks to be processed. Factor this into your trip planning.

Certain vehicles can be refused entry based on the clean air sticker they display. In some cases, this refusal can be time-specific or at all times. Before departing, check which category your vehicle falls into, otherwise you may not be able to fully enjoy your trip.

Can I drive a rental car in Paris?

You can certainly drive your rental car around Paris, but to be eligible to rent a car you will need to be at least 21yrs old. Some rental companies may ask you to be 25 and over. Some rental companies may also ask for you to have held a full licence for a year at least.

Can I use my UK licence in Paris?

Your UK drivers’ licence is recognised in Paris for the duration of the licence. You will also not need to obtain an International Driving Permit. However, if you still have a paper licence or had it issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man you will need to apply for an IDP. It has been reported though that some hire companies are not renting cars out without one. Our advice is to play it safe, get an IDP and at least it will be one less thing to worry about.

Rules for driving in Paris

Unlike countries like the USA where rules can change quite dramatically per state, France is pretty uniform with what it expects of drivers.

Seatbelts and car seats

Everybody in the vehicle must wear a seatbelt.

Child passengers and car seats

Driving in the front seat is forbidden for all children under 13 unless the back seats are all occupied by younger children. All seatbelts must be age and size appropriate; the driver will be responsible for ensuring full compliance of this rule.


It is highly advised to refrain from drinking at all when driving in Paris. The permitted alcohol blood level is very low at 0.02%. Breaking this law is dealt with severely and you could find yourself with heavy fines and even a spell in prison. Simple advice – don’t drink and drive.

Give way to the right-hand traffic

The roads in Paris can get very busy, so it is wise to keep your eyes on everything that is happening. If you see a triangle-shaped sign with a red border, marked with an X, you must always give way to the right. You may also see another sign written in French telling you that you no longer have the priority. Keep an eye out for, Vous n’avez pad le priorite.


What are the speed limits in Paris?

Rather than the mph signs you see in the UK, all road signs in Paris illustrate the speed in kph. Most of the built-up areas will indicate that the maximum speed is 50kph whilst any freeways and highways have a minimum of 80kph. Once the weather gets worse, the speed limit is automatically reduced in most cases to 50kph on all roads.

The Arc de Triomphe and Place de la Concorde

There is no doubt you will want to visit the iconic Champs-Elysees when visiting Paris, but driving there can be tricky. Drivers seem to take on a new personality as they jockey for position. If you stay alert and follow the standard rules you will be fine. Just remember the rule for going round roundabouts or traffic circles is those already on it have the right of way and the circles go clockwise.

Getting into Paris by car

You may be staying elsewhere in France but have chosen to visit Paris, if that is the case, you will have to access the circular highway that surrounds the city. Known as la Peripherique, it is busy and has four lanes bringing people in and out of the city. The exit lane is on the far right. On this highway, you are permitted to drive at 80kph but always be aware of people joining the highway. Vehicles entering from the right have the priority over vehicles already there.

Is it illegal to use my mobile phone whilst driving in Paris?

This is a rule that is very strict, so it is best not to risk it at all. You could be putting yourself and other road users in danger. Phones and other handheld devices must not be used, even if you choose to connect them to a hands-free device. Failure to comply will result in an on-the-spot fine.

Is it easy to park in Paris?

With Paris being as busy as it is, it is no surprise that parking can be tricky. Luckily there are a lot of underground car parks. You will know you are near one by spotting a P sign with a blue background. You pay by the hour but there are some that will allow you to stay for a half or full day. You collect a ticket at entry and pay when you depart.

Should you follow these rules and are looking for additional ways to avoid fines and save cash whilst in France, you can check our money saving in France guide.


Hopefully, you are now prepared for your trip to Paris and are a little more knowledgeable in the rules around driving through the stunning city. Booking your trip, hiring your car and getting the correct european excess car hire insurance is the first step to enjoying a memorable trip. Contact us for a free quote to see how we can protect you from excess fees and make that holiday worry-free.

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