Driving in France

Old Mar 11th, 2001, 01:39 PM
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Driving in France

How does driving in France compare to driving in the US? We're going from the Charles de Gaulle airport to Versailles, then Lyon, then to the coast (Aix, Toulon, Nice), then back up to Paris (no car there though, since we'd be crazy to try to park). What are the best highways/roads to take, and are there a lot of traffic jams?

Old Mar 11th, 2001, 01:52 PM
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The autoroutes (think "interstates") have SOME traffic driving at much higher speeds (80-130 MILES per hour - - i.e., 130-220 kph), and there is much less tolerance for "riding in the passing lane" - - get in and get out - - or you will have a big Mercedes on your bumper before you have even identified it as a car in your rear view mirror. Essentially no such thing as highway police giving speeding tickets, althought there are robot cameras performing a similar function in places.

And the autoroutes are all toll - - fairly expensive - - see www.mappy.com for toll information between any two points. About $60 USD, for example all the way from Paris to the south of France.

In small town rural France, you may encounter some pretty narrow roads with people still driving what you will probably consider too fast on such little roads - - unless you are from - - say eastern Kentucky.

Having said all that, it is one of the things I like best about going to Europe in general, and France in particular.

Best wishes...

avec pieds de plomb,

Old Mar 11th, 2001, 01:59 PM
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I just read your post again more thoroughly after I hit post, and I see that I left out a few things.

Park in Paris? Although this wasn't really a question of yours, I will say that it is not always crazy, if your goal is to use the car for a day trip out of Paris your last day or two there. Crazy is trying to use your car to try to move around from point A to point B withIN Paris.

Also not asked - - but I will volunteer this answer - - consider flying back to Paris (assuming you need to return there to catch a return flight home). You can fly for just as about as cheaply as the gas, tolls and wear-and-tear. You're essentially giving up a day of your vacation, if all you are doing is driving back to return the car.

Best highways to take? - - in addition to www.mappy.com take at look at www.euroshell.com - - better maps. And I think there is some kind of Michelin route planner also.

and traffic jams? you betcha there can be - - sometimes infuriating. Rarely anything you can do about them. but ask about specific dates here on this forum - - especially for the Autoroute du soleil (Paris to Lyon to Avignon to Nice) - - there are certain predictably terrible dates - - and people here seem to know them (I do not).

Old Mar 11th, 2001, 02:30 PM
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The most significant difference between driving in France and driving in the USA is that when navigating you don't look for route numbers but rather the names of towns along your route. That is to say, if, e.g., you are heading north out of Toulouse to Limoges, you don't look for a sign sayaing "N20," but rather for signs saying "Cahors," which is a large town along your route. Other things to keep in mind: always use a turn signal, always stay in the right lane if you're not keeping up with the fast guys, and be especially careful in roundabouts - generally speaking you must yield (cÚdez le passage) when entering, but in rural France you may encounter one of the old ones, where people entering the circle have the right of way.
The best highways to take are up to you, depending on whether speed is your priority, or scenic drives.
Traffic jams do occur in France, generally over major holidays. The worst are on the autoroutes the last week in July and beginning of August and again the last week in August.
Old Mar 11th, 2001, 08:21 PM
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Thanks to everyone for all of the advice - we're going to france from april 18 to the 25th - does anyone know of traffic jams during those times? And as for getting from the south of france back to paris, about how much would it cost (there are four of us), and should we look for tickets online?
Old Mar 11th, 2001, 08:28 PM
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Have you thought of taking the TGV train back to Paris? It would also be much quicker than driving. We will also be in France in April and plan to take the train from Lyon to Paris, but you can also get it at Marseilles.
Old Mar 11th, 2001, 08:40 PM
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Oh! Four of you! No, sorry, driving will be considerably cheaper than airfare for four. I assumed two.

But if you have more money than time, look into www.europebyair.com - - they offer Nice, Toulon or Montpellier all for $99 USD (one way).

If there is some reason you can't use europebyair, then the lowest regularly published fare I can find is the open jaw ticket FNI-CDG (AF 7747)/CDG-LYS (AF 7652) for $95.20 USD - - and of course, you throw away the second leg. This arrives CDG at 12:30 on 25 Apr. Is that too late for you? The same fare is available for evening departure on 24 April. but then you have Paris lodging costs (maybe you will have those anyway, by driving).

Of course, FNI (Nimes) may not be where you want to end up your week in the south of France. And if you go that much of the way back to Paris, others will argue that you might as well take the train. About 4 hours from Avignon to CDG. See www.sncf.com for details, if your timetable permits. It might beat getitng up at 4 a.m. to make the comparable drive.

Old Mar 11th, 2001, 10:21 PM
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Traffic jams can be expected around Easter (Apr 14-17, 21-22), 1st of May and previous weekend, 8 May and previous weekend (end of WWII anniversary), May 24-27 (Ascension weekend).

Be really careful at these times, since everybody North of the Loire wants to go to Provence for a few days, and the annual carnages ensue.

You can find day-to-day details on www.mappy.com (look for "bison futÚ", the official information center on traffic).
Old Mar 12th, 2001, 11:21 AM
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In small villages the signs are on buildings. The problem that we found was when we needed to change roads in a village the sign may not be in a location that you can see from the direction that you are coming from. So have someone always look behind you for signs as you go through the village. I know it sounds crazy but it's true.
Old Mar 12th, 2001, 12:29 PM
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You mentioned that parking in Paris isn't always crazy. Do you have any suggestions about finding parking? We want to find a garage, etc. for a few days while we use the metro.
Old Mar 12th, 2001, 01:45 PM
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There are numerous large underground parking complexes; even the gas stations are down there.

They are expensive of course - - just as parking in any major city downtown is.

Look near l'Etoile - - avenue Foch, perhaps? Very convenient to l'Etoile metro station.
Old Mar 12th, 2001, 02:11 PM
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I enjoyed driving in France. I did not find the route markers or directional signals at all hard to find (by the way, there are almost none in England on smaller roads). The traffic moves briskly but not unsafely. The traffic around Paris was really bad but not scary. Anyone with some experieince driving in American urban areas should not have a problem.
Old Mar 12th, 2001, 02:44 PM
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One of the things that I actually prefer about driving in France is that drivers, on the autoroutes anyway, seem to grasp the fundamental concept of "slower cars to the right, and faster/passing cars to the left."

I don't know about other parts of the U.S. but that's a simple concept that seems pretty elusive to many Seattle area drivers.
Old Mar 13th, 2001, 09:51 AM
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I am posting a quote from another thread that I found noteworthy regarding TGV service.

Message: From the DiscoverFrance.com e-newsletter:

TGV train service: New high speed service, even faster than before, will soon be available to the south of France. New service includes Aix en Provence, Nice, and Avignon. Paris-Avignon will now be cut to 2 hours 40 minutes starting on June 10 and will serve a new rail station in Avignon with connecting service to the city center station

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