You may drive with a valid U.S. driver's license in France, but for a few dollars, go to the AAA of the US and get an International Driving Permit or attach a French translation to your US driver's license. You must also be at least 18 years old and hold a valid credit card.
There are several good car hire companies throughout Europe, I would recommend one of the following;
ADA – 0825 169 169
Avis – 0820 150 505
Europcar – 0870 607 500
Hertz – 0720 903 905
The speed limit is 50 km/h (30 mph) in the towns, and 90 km/h (55 mph) on the open roads.
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 …?
Citroen is nowadays a car maker as any other, but the Citroen cars that circulated until a couple of decades ago were probably the quirkiest cars around (with the exception of the Fiat 500). Among them, the 2cv was certainly the most loved, and a French icon. For many decades it was made in the same design as the first model in 1936. Small but comfortable, with an open top, it was a great favourite, especially in the ‘60s and ‘70s, among the young who wanted to explore the world on four wheels.
Now it is possible to use this car to explore Paris in a way that is far more interesting than from a bus or a taxi. Especially because the open top allows to play the paparazzi. There is a company called 4 roues sous 1 parapluie (it means “4 wheels under an umbrella”) providing 2cv cars with driver, for a wide choice of tours in Paris or outside. Each car can carry up to 3 passengers, and the fare is calculated per car, so the fare will be lower if you share it with one or two other passenger instead of going alone with your driver.
The shortest trip lasts 30 minutes, it is from Place de la Concorde along the Champs Elysée to the Etoile, and costs EUR 58 per car. If you take that, you will be able to take pictures of the Madeleine Church, the Petit Palais, the Grand Palais, the Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides and the Arc de Triomphe.
In the spring of 2014 there was a brief flurry of media stories claiming that the new mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, had ordered a speed limit of 30 km/h (= 18.6 miles per hour) on all the streets of the city, excepting expressways.
In one blow this would have transformed Paris into the world’s safest and most livable large city – if it had been true.
What they really decided was more modest. On 19 May 2014 the Paris City Council adopted a resolution announcing their “intention” to increase the number of 30 km/h zones in the city, but they did not specify which or how many streets might be affected, nor did they give any dates.
One of the deputy mayors was quoted as saying that the resolution was a “general orientation in the form of a wish” and that major thoroughfares would not be affected, particularly not the Avenue des Champs Elysées.
This is an important exception, because for French car fetishists (most of whom have out-of-town license plates, as Parisians are fond of pointing out) the Avenue des Champs Elysées and the circle around the Arc of Triumph are highly symbolic and emotionally charged places. To thunder up the Champs Elysées in an oversized car, screech to a halt at traffic lights and accelerate wildly when they turn green is considered the height of prestige. (See my reviews It used to be even worse! and The triumph of cars over people.)
In her election campaign, the new mayor promised to rearrange and calm the traffic at the Place de la Bastille, but she was careful not to mention the Champs Elysées.
Actually a third of the streets in Paris are already included in 30 km/h zones, but these are unequally distributed throughout the city. The eastern districts (arrondissements), which have socialist councils and mayors, have most of the 30 km zones. The 20th district consists almost entirely of 30 km zones, with only a few streets allowing higher speeds.
The 2nd district, which has a green-ecological mayor, is also well equipped with 30 and 20 km zones and large pedestrian areas. But 30 km zones are scarce in the western districts, which have conservative mayors. One of these, the 8th district, has no 30 km zones at all.
Second photo: A significant improvement in Paris traffic went into effect in December 2012, when the Grand Boulevards (Montmartre, Poissonnière, Bonne-Nouvelle, Saint-Denis and Saint-Martin) were changed from five-lane one-way streets (which had functioned as high-speed “urban motorways” since 1951) to two-way streets with only three car lanes, two going west and one going east, plus a bus-and bike lane going west and a bike lane going east. This change was very well prepared, evidently, because even the conservative opposition, the taxi drivers and the local shopkeepers were in favor.
Next: Paris Pratique par Arrondissement
Here’s a tip for all you rich folks who insist on driving your heart-attack machines into the center of Paris.
I’m sure you are aware that on-street parking is not an option in Paris. Politicians wanting to be re-elected like to boast about how many parking spaces they have eliminated. They exaggerate, of course – there never were as many parking spaces as they claim to have done away with – but still, your chances of finding a legal on-street parking space within twenty blocks of your restaurant or club are practically zero.
Like most motorists, you could simply head for the nearest parking garage, hoping it isn’t full (complet is the French word, and they often are), drive in and pay whatever they charge.
But you wouldn’t want to do that, because it would be undignified and unbefitting your status as a member of the financial elite. Also you never know what sort of riff-raff you might encounter in a parking garage. Some garages even offer free bicycle parking, and you know what sort of disreputable characters ride around the city on bicycles.
The solution is to look for the sign reading “voiturier” outside your favorite club or restaurant. A “voiturier” is a man (in job advertisements they have to say they are seeking a “voiturier/voiturière”, but you know who will get the job) who will take over your car and park it in some mysterious place for you, and then return it to you promptly and discreetly when you are drunk at the end of the evening, a service known in the English speaking world as “valet car parking”.
And where does the “voiturier” park your precious vehicle? In the nearest parking garage, perhaps, if he has reserved enough places. But more likely your car will be parked illegally, double or triple parked or on a sidewalk or bicycle lane. The police occasionally ticket these cars, but not often enough to discourage the practice.
By the way, a drink at the exclusive Esplanade (first photo) costs nearly double the price of the same drink at a normal pub a block or two away.
See also: The second photo and text on my Au Printemps review.
Next review: The triumph of cars over people
Since the Vélib’ system of spontaneous short-term bicycle rentals has proved to be such a huge success, the city of Paris has started a similar (but smaller) system for car rentals.
As with the Vélib’ bikes, the Autolib’ cars can be checked out at any time of the day or night from on-street stations throughout Paris (and 46 surrounding towns) and can be returned to any of the stations that has a space available.
The cars are 100 % electric, so they are silent and cause no local pollution.
(They might cause pollution somewhere else, depending on how the electricity is made. Since in France a high proportion of electricity is made by nuclear fission, the really serious pollution will be delayed until there is a catastrophe at one of the many atomic energy plants. Of course the French are convinced their atomic energy plants are so perfect that nothing can ever go wrong, but that’s what the Japanese thought, too.)
Autolib’ was inaugurated on a small scale in December 2011. It is gradually being expanded and is intended at some point to have 3000 cars (Bluecars, they are called) and 6600 recharging stations.
My first three photos show the Autolib’ station at 47 rue de la Grange aux Belles in the 10th arrondissement, near the St. Louis hospital. This station has four parking spaces with recharging points.
My fourth photo shows the only Autolib’ car that I have ever seen actually being driven on the streets of Paris. The building in the background is Les Invalides. The slogan on the car reads “Zero noise. Zero pollution.”
Next review from July 2012: Changes in the traffic rules
In a word, no. There is no reason to rent a car in Paris. Save yourself the aggravation and expense. Paris has excellent public transportation that is very reasonably priced. Parking is scarce and overpriced.
We often fly into Paris, spend several days (or more) in the city and then pick up a car when we leave the city so we can enjoy the countryside at our leisure. We made two trips to Paris with a car before we figured this out. The first time we paid nearly as much to park the car (which we did not use) as we paid for our hotel. The second time we managed to find a hotel that paid most of the parking fee at a public lot across the street but we still had to fight traffic in and out of Paris. Then we had a brilliant thought . . . enjoy Paris and then rent the car. We've been doing it ever since.
Check the web site below for parking in Paris. You can reserve or just look for car parks. Google Maps also will list parking if you type in a hotel address and the word parking. Google Maps
If you absolutely have to take your car to Paris, be sure your hotel has some sort of parking arrangement. The Hotel Clement in St. Germain is lovely and offers parking under the St. Germain market across the street. Other hotels have similar arrangements but be sure you check before you book. Try not to drive in or out during rush hours because often the traffic is at a standstill.
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:
The best way to travel I always said is the car. However, when it comes to driving in Paris most if not all yawn at the thought. I have been driving in Paris since 2003, and love it. I went out once and need to get back to home at the time Versailles earlier because the public transport was close, and a fellow expat here told me why not drive over,then no time limit. I did try it and it has been a blessing ever since.
You have many highways to come into Paris such as the A1 and A3 to the north, A5 and A6 to the south, A4 to the east and A13 and A10 to the west. Then some rules
•Drive on the right in France
•It is compulsory to wear a seat belt front and rear (if fitted)
•Children under 10 years of age must travel in the back seat of a car (if there are back seats), unless there are no seatbelts in the back or if there is no room on the back seat because it's already utilised by other children under 10. Children under 10 must wear a seat belt adapted for children or be strapped into a proper child seat. If a car seat is used in the front seat, it must be forward-facing unless the passenger-side airbag has been turned off
•Mobile cellular telephones may not be used while driving except with a "handsfree" system
•It is compulsory to carry a driving licence, car registration papers and insurance documents. These must be the original documents; keep copies separately
•Third party insurance is compulsory
•Driving with lights on by day is optional
•The driver must not have a TV, videogame, DVD or similar within his view
•The possession, transport and use of speed-camera alert systems, which notify drivers of speed camera locations, is forbidden. This includes satellite navigation systems (SAT NAV, also known as GPS) and Smartphones with this function. The software on these devices must be updated to replace the speed-camera alert function with a “dangerous zones” alert function. This updated function will display bridges, tunnels, schools, hospitals, and traffic problems
By law, one red warning triangle, one high-visibility waistcoat/vest must be carried in a vehicle. In the event of breakdown the driver must put on the safety jacket before leaving the vehicle, and then place the warning triangle 30 metres from the breakdown to warn approaching traffic
Pedestrians have priority over cars when crossing a road, provided that they display a clear intention to cross (a step forward or hand gesture)
the above are some basic rules, just enough.
Once in the city, always know where the Seine river is rive gauche and rive droite, this will help you tell where you are in tune with the place you want to go. The posting of signs telling you where the major sites and addresses are is very common and good service, you wont be far from a panel telling where to go Chatelet or Concorde or Bastille.
There is a BP=boulevard periphérique or beltway around the city but inside there are many mini beltways to speed your way such as the voie George Pompidou along the Seine, or ,also, big knonw boulevards such as Magenta, Montparnasse, Champs Elysées, Grenelle, Brune,Massena, Poniatowski, Soult,Davout,Ney, MacDonald, Berthier, amiral Bruix, lannes, the quais along the river Seine, and those in the center boulevard Raspail, Haussmann, Voltaire, etc. knowing these will make your driving easier.
get a good map or gps if you like, michelin 125000 range are best but also IGN; and just follow the flow; you will hear crazy stories about driving in Paris, but this guy has been to 76 countries, lived in four, and drove all over, first got my driving license n the NJ/NY border in the USA;and believe Paris is a doer.
Try it and you wont do anything else afterward. Its an adventure of a lifetime lol!! Some photos I have new and see my travelogue on more driving in Paris. Ahh in parking is easy underground ,above ground takes a bit of time but from blvd de la reine along the Seine I always find my spot, the parking chains are vinci ,saemes,
nostalgic parking Tuileries as used to work nearby and use it often afterward. 38 rue du Mont Thabor, mondays to saturdays from 7h30 to 20h tel 01 42 60 38 82.see photo
Update on video cameras taking pictures to find you beyond the law. 60 km of roads are covered and 14 major crossing of main streets that will be expanded to 34 new streets and 8 major lanes. Total of 1 200 caméras . The price more money for the city at 90 € if caught in a bus lane and parking in the aisles will cost you 135 €.No points loss of course its all money.
Some of the popular streets will be the Champs-Elysées ,rue de Rivoli ,avenue de Clichy,boulevard Barbès, the area of the Grands Boulevards, and boulevard Sébastopol. This is just a small sample. Nothing new for the law abiding visitor,residents.
a bit of history on the boulevard periphérique or beltway of Paris
What of the boulevard péripherique ,that big circular road that goes around Paris? Yours truly takes it regularly and again just this morning. It came from the idea of protecting Paris from invaders! The decision was taken in 1840 and the idea of Adolphe Thiers was chosen. A new defensive wall attached to fortresses towers was built in four years, it was composed of 94 towers with a lenght of 34 kms. the fortifications took about a strip of 140 meters with a zone of about 250 meters where no construction was allowed all around it! Taken into account villages that eventually were annexed to Paris in 1860 such as La Villette, Vaugirard, Auteuil, Passy, Bercy and Montmartre amongst others.
After the construction it was decided under Baron Haussmann that the wall was obsolete as the artillery of the times had improved!!! It was a difficult task on what to use of 1400 hectares ! About 3458 acres. The first towers were destroyed in 1919 ,the final concept presented to the municipal govt of Paris calls for the destruction of the towers only but what about the land in between? It was decided to build low income housing or HBM (the equivalent of today’s HLM); the other was given to private investors such as those who built the Cité universitaire de Paris from 1923. After WWII, the ministry of reconstruction tries to improve the highway system in France, it is under this idea that the land became the boulevard péripherique or BP that we see today. Remember speed limit is 80 km per hour Lol!!!!and they have speed radars all over !!!
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.
Self Driving To & From Paris, or almost anywhere,
Let's say you have leased or rented a car and want a safe trouble free experience. Here are some driving tips that have been accrued over many years of driving in Europe.
1. Set up your 3 mirrors so that you have a commanding view of vehicles behind you.
2. Besides being comfortable with your seating in relationship to the brake, clutch and accelerator you should be familiar with the position and operation of the other primary controls- LIGHTS, WIPERS, HANDBRAKE.
3. Keep at least 4 car lengths from the vehicle in front when on the open road.
4. Take a break every 2 hours. Eat only light meals or just snack sensibly every 2 hours when covering long distances. Drink at least 3 litres a day of water NO enhanced drinks or alcohol.
5. Drive within your capabilities and be considerate of the skills of others and let them by safely.
6. Don't be distracted by in-car conversations especially when negotiating difficult situations
7. Use a GPS and be familiar with it before you travel if possible, it removes a lot of stress.
Driving car in the streets of Paris is not to easy for strangers. But the city has a tunnel system which makes it easier to drive through the city and the right turn-off in the city. The photos are taken close to Porte de Saint-Claud in Paris.