Driving in Paris, France
Like many major European cities, Paris harbors an excellent public transportation system. Its extensive metro, bus, tramway and inter-city train networks allow tourists and locals to get around easily between most places. And while cars have hardly disappeared from the streets, the local city government has worked hard to discourage people from driving within the city limits, notably by opening more pedestrian-only zones.
Before you take to the streets of Paris in a motor vehicle, you’ll first need to make sure you’ve covered all your legal bases. Never get behind the wheel before checking that you have all the required documents and items with you in the car. In some instances, failing to show that you have these items can result in fines should you be pulled over or assisted by law enforcement.
- A valid passport for the driver and all passengers traveling in the car.
- Make sure you have valid driver’s insurance. If you rent a car, this should be included in your rental agreement, but always double-check that you and all those who plan to drive the car are properly insured. Make sure that you keep proof of your insurance policy with you in the car.
- If you’re towing a caravan, boat, or other vehicle behind your car, it must bear license information for your country of origin or a sticker matching the one on the car itself. For example, a driver from Great Britain or from another European country would display a “GB” or European Union sticker on both the car and the item that is being towed.
- A high-visibility, reflective vest in case you get into an accident. French laws are relatively strict on this point: if you are involved in a car accident or incident that means you have to call for help on the side of the road, you’re required by law to put on a high-visibility vest before exiting the car—and so are all the passengers you’re transporting. If there are four of you traveling by car, make sure you have four vests readily available. Rental companies will usually provide these, but make sure to ask ahead to ensure you have the correct number in the car.
- A full set of replacement bulbs for head and tail lights are required in case one or more burn out after dark.
- If you wear glasses, you must keep a spare pair with you in the car, in case your spectacles break or are otherwise damaged.
- If you’re driving a car from the United Kingdom, headlight converters are required.
- If you plan to drive in central Paris, you may need a “Crit’Air” badge showing that your car adheres to anti-pollution standards enforced in certain zones of the city. Cars with insufficient ratings may not be able to drive in these zones, or could be restricted at certain “peak pollution” hours. Ask your car rental agency about these regulations if in doubt.
- A breathalyzer test for your car. Having one in the vehicle is technically required in France—although this regulation is not often enforced. Nevertheless, we recommended that you follow the law in this matter as in all others.