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Was driving in France a problem for you if you don't speak French?

Was driving in France a problem for you if you don't speak French?

Dec 26th, 2007, 04:58 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 8,675
"ville" per se might not be a common in the States, but "village" certainly is. Rockville - Rock Village! Centre ville - Center Village! Every town/city in France has this sign.

With 1st year Frech only and too long ago to remember, two women who hadn't been behing a wheel or any car in at least 5/years, we drove for 2/weeks, 1000/miles and not a worry about road signs. Sure we had a cheat sheet of possible road signs, few of which we actually encountered.

The one time we got turned around and apparently lost, we stopped an elderly women (the only soul out on the street) in a small town, asked where the entry to the road we needed. And, of course she replied in rapid French; though neither of understood a word, we watched her hands, thanked her and in 1/minute found the road we needed.

So along with some basic "road/travel" words and pics of actual road signs - found in most travel guides - driving in France should be almost idiot proof. Your brother should be able to do it!

sandi is offline  
Dec 26th, 2007, 07:05 AM
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 941
My husband rode in L'etape du tour a few years ago from Limogue to St. Fleur. As an acompaneuse I was given a map and a sticker for my car windshield. I then had to drive for 350 miles around the course because the roads had been closed. I drove through the villages in the mountains and the autoroutes with just a map. I had no problem at all. When I had to pull over to check the map, I'd see another car pass me with the sticker on the windshield, I would set off to follow, thinking I was obviously on the right road, only to pass that same car, pulled over checking the map themselves. It was funny to realize that we were playing this hopscotch game all through the French countryside.

The GPS is a great tool, but it isn't really a necessity, we've spend 3 weeks in France every year for the past 7 years and never had a serious problem using only maps.

I concur that having a cheat sheet of the common road signs will help tremendously. Any good phrase book will have the most common words dealing with driving and road usage. Just make sure he knows to have cash for the Peage's (tolls)on the highways, they don't always take credit cards.

I will say I do speak French now but my husband doesn't at all, and I didn't either for my first trip, but with a good guidebook with a chapter on driving with signage info, we were fine.

Tell him to have a great time and relax.
Celticharper is offline  
Dec 26th, 2007, 07:18 AM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 19,000
As far as signage and rules of the road are concerned, this will probably be all you need:

Robespierre is offline  
Dec 26th, 2007, 08:23 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 74,166
Hi S,

>Can you rent a car with GPS?

ira is offline  
Dec 26th, 2007, 08:45 AM
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 173
Here's some support for your brother. Years ago we arrived at CDG on our very first trip to Europe. We picked up our car and drove straight to Mont Saint-Michel after a long sleepless flight from the Midwest. We had no thoughts of a cheat sheet for signs and didn't know Michelin made anything more than tires.

In retrospect, we figured out everything we needed to without speaking a word of French. However, my advice to your brother is that if he is driving on a beautiful sunny afternoon, then he should keep a close eye on his rearview mirror. Several times we were on a busy two-lane road and saw motorcyclists passing at mach speed between vehicles going in opposite directions. The first time that happened to us, I was wishing I had a nitro pill.

anniemackie is offline  
Dec 26th, 2007, 09:20 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 21,486
The only advice that I would have had would have related to the 'no parking' signs (I presume that the driver would know the symbol for 'no parking') -- sometimes there is an indication that concerns market days like 'no parking Tuesdays and Fridays from 5am to 2pm' because of the market.

However, by just never parking anywhere where there is a 'no parking' symbol, one never has this problem. I must confess that once in Sydney, Australia, I parked somewhere downtown after carefully reading the restrictions on the sign -- something like "no parking except Sunday from noon to midnight and alternate Thursdays from 8am to 5pm excluding the month of February." As I was getting out of the car, a parking official came up to me and said "you can't park here" -- so I went to a normal parking garage.
kerouac is online now  
Dec 26th, 2007, 09:42 AM
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 6,137
We have driven all over France many times and don't speak French at all.

Our advise:
Stay out of the big cities(if you have to, train out to a smaller area.

Get a good map and learn a few signs.

Get lost, it's such fun and all the locals really will try to help you.

Look for a big city in the direction you are going and head that way.

Rent a small car, the smaller the better as the streets are narrow and the parking difficult--but not impossible.

Our favorite "driving story" takes place in a round about with 20-30 signs. My husband said "you have to be able to read something!", and I said "the bus is free". A lot of help that was. And still, we would not hesitate to drive there again.
TPAYT is online now  
Dec 26th, 2007, 09:57 AM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 132
Ira - any particular rental agency you can recommend? Can you get a mini/compact car with GPS or do you need to upgrade to a larger/more expensive one?
Thanks again!

Author: ira
Date: 12/26/2007, 12:23 pm
Hi S,

>Can you rent a car with GPS?


s_rk is offline  
Jan 31st, 2008, 06:44 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 464
littlehouse is offline  
Jan 31st, 2008, 06:55 AM
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 13,470
the problem was not the language but the drivers who seemed to feel that if there were more than two inches between you and the next car, they had to get in front of you .

danon is online now  
Jan 31st, 2008, 07:53 AM
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 3,654
Viva la France! Best roads, road signs, countryside - I LOVE DRIVING IN FRANCE!
tod is offline  

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