It wasnt so difficult, to drive over city by car. But we found it aweful and weird - when you need to park ur car.You need to buy plastic chip card for 10€ even when you are going to spend only 1 or 2, thats a rip off. Not mentioning about how difficult is to find free spot :( if not planning to travel a lot, fine, take car park it and forget, but do not even plan, to visit major attractions with a car
Now, unless you have driven to Paris there is pretty much, absolutely no reason why you would possibly want to be driving around in Paris when the public transport is so good.
Driving in Paris is a tad mad, especially in rush hour when the Parisians drive REALLY fast REALLY close and REALLY cut you up if you are not sure where you are going. Thus much said, it's not impossible and most places can be reached using the Perioherique (the ring road that runs the circumference of Paris).
I rented a car near Gare Austerlitz and drove it to Le Marais, where we were renting an apartment. Once I picked up the rest of the group, I drove out of the city to Rennes in Brittany. Needless to say, I was nervous about driving in the city. Most rental cars have standard transmission, so that took some effort even though I know how to drive a stick. Here are some general tips:
*Before you go, use Google Maps or ViaMichelin web sites to map your route through Paris. Study these maps carefully before you go. Be sure to have good printouts of your route.
*Don't count on any maps at the rental agency. We used Budget and they didn't have many maps (and the first clerk didn't speak English).
*Have a navigator as well as a driver. There is no way you can drive in this crazy city and try to glance at a map at the same time.
* Remember that drivers coming from the right have the right-of-way at unmarked intersections, even if you street seems to be an arterial. I almost forgot that at one intersection but braked just in time.
* French drivers are very aggressive but I felt more comfortable driving in my cautious style and letting them cut in front of me. Remember, your goal is to get to your destination safely and NOT get there first.
*Use a Web search engine for general driving tips in France. I found a good guide for British drivers that helped explain some idiosyncracies.
*There are few gas (petrol) stations in Paris itself. I was lucky. They asked me to bring back the car with the tank half-full. I used a service station on the Autoroute just before getting into the suburbs to fill up.
Don't use a car in Paris to get around the city, but if you need to rent one to get out of the city, it is possible to survive as long as you are prepared.
Well, although majority of the people do not recommend to drive a car in Paris, I decided to rent one just at the CDG airport. Armed with a GPS with EU loaded maps, I felt like at home.
Comparing to US, streets and lanes are much narrower... and parking spots are smaller as well. I have about 8 years of driving experience in US, and the most challenging part I found is actually driving in NYC, especially lower Manhattan, and Lincoln tunner access in rush hours.
It is much easier, I repeat, it is much easier to drive a car in Paris, than in NYC.
People in Paris drive differently, and they are considerate although they utilize almost every inch of a free space on a road. They obey posted speed limit, and you know what - they will never hog a left lane (try to see that on the NJ turnpike!)
Parking is expensive and it cost about 2-3euros per hour, but good news is that after 7pm is free. I also remember seeing message on a parking meter that in month of August, parking in Paris is free.
If you want to park on a street you have to buy a parking card (10,20 30euros) in Tabac stores.
Gas is expensive (~1.4 euros per liter), but if you want to save on gas - rent a diesel car (~1.2 euros/liter). Diesel cars have much better gas mileage than regular cars, and performances are almost the same.
If you don't know how to parallel park a car, you have to learn before coming in Paris.
I am not sure if you can rent a car with automatic transmission, but prepare to drive a stick shift It is more fun anyway.
Driving around Arc de Trioumphe is not hard as people think, but you have to focus on a street you want to go. All access streets have trafic lights, so traffic is not usually a mess (it is more mess on the Lincoln tunnel entrance at 38st street in NYC). It might look as a mess if you are inexperienced driver, but actually it is not.
There is no way that we could see what we have seen, if we were using a metro or a bus.
At the other end of the scale from the Ferrari in my previous tip are these ‘Smart’ cars, now ubiquitous in Paris. Of course, one features in the film ‘The DaVinci Code’, where it shows surprising performance in reverse!
It must be said that, with parking at a premium and fuel costs high, they make considerable sense in Paris. What’s more, as seen here, when parked they take only half the width of a pedestrian crossing. (Don't try that in Australia!) I find it really surprising that, in Paris, there seems little concern about where or how people park (though I did see one car which had been wheel-clamped): thinking about this since my return, I do not recall seeing any parking meters in the streets.
The Hotel de Crillon is one of the top hotels in Paris, fronting the Place de la Concorde. It isn’t the sort of place which fits my travel budget (‘promotional rooms’ from 500€), but should it fit yours, the phone is 01 44 71 15 00. Outside, it’s likely you will find some prestigious motor cars, carefully watched by the uniformed doormen.
I’ll have to admit it, this is a blatant excuse to put up photos of this gorgeous Ferrari I found parked outside. Interesting to see the Swiss number plate too (second photo). Hmm, a Swiss based top model Ferrari, I wonder could it belong to a certain racing driver …?
I never intended to take a car to Paris, but on our last trip, circumstances dictated that this was the case. Parking around the city is a nightmare for a few reasons. Firstly, you will be hard pushed to find a space at any time of day, even comparatively far from the centre in Clichy, where we were. Secondly, many parking meters seem to have been converted to a card system, whereby you have to purchase a card from a Tabac or similar and recharge it. These cost a minimum of 10 euros. Daily costs would be about 20 Euros.
But - there is a way to drive to Paris and not get grey hair! I drove across the Seine to Courbevoie, one of the suburbs in the north west. There beyond the river, I found that the side roads were unmetered and unmarked, and so I parked on a side street opposite a factory, where several car owners had done likewise. A short ride on the metro back to Paris, and one more to collect the car a few days later, and presto - a stress free trip and yet we had the benefit of a car to visit Versaillles, Senlis etc.
A word of warning though - DO keep an eye out for Car Towing signs, wherever you are. They are quite clear about where you can and can't park, but do check this out to avoid a nasty surprise.
I have ridden in a car as a passenger and lots of taxis in Paris, but I likely will never drive there even as a resident unless I absolutely have to.
Like all cities Paris has mucho traffic, but the way Parisians drive make it even more special.
I took this quick foto near the freeway entrance on west side near Bois de Boulogne.
Paul Orleman has an excellent tip about "Les Bouchons" here: