France: Hit the Road!
This may surprise some but France is one of the best countries for a road trip! It has a variety of landscapes: from city life in Paris to the towering snow-covered Alps to the glistening blue waters of the French Rivera! In addition, it has very well-kept roads that wind across the country, ready to take you wherever you want to go! The country is safe, car rentals are cheap, and the people are friendly – what more could you need for a perfect road trip environment? Plus, for those of us from countries that drive on the right side of the road, so do the French!
I spent my first trip to France exploring by car for one week and I can’t think of a better way to truly experience this country. Plus, I learned some valuable tips and tricks along the way. Keep reading to ensure your France road trip is your best yet!
Rent a manual vehicle
For those of us who grew up with automatic vehicles, the unfortunate truth is that most people drive stick-shift (or manual) cars in France. This means that manual cars are about half the price to rent compared to automatic. Therefore, if you know how to drive stick, have time to learn, or are traveling with someone who knows stick, make sure to rent one of these instead!
Budget for Tolls
This was the biggest shock to me during our road trip – road tolls! In the United States, a toll road usually means 2 or 3 dollars. Therefore, you can imagine the shock on my face when our first toll after driving on the highway for about 3 hours was 40 euro! For reference, the tolls from the southern coast of France all the way to Paris (around 8 hours of driving) cost us about 90 euro.
Therefore, its important to calculate this cost into your total budget when doing a road trip, especially if you plan on doing a lot of driving. It is possible to avoid tolls by activating a setting on your GPS to avoid tolls, but this will take you down a maze of backroads. It can be a fun way to explore, but can also add a number of hours to your drive.
Pack Food for the Road
There aren’t many American-style “drive through” restaurants in France (no roadside McDonalds and Taco Bells here!). Plus, the rest stops with food are a little pricey. So head to the local grocery store before you hit the road each day and grab food to bring with you. It’s cheaper and will also save you time while driving!
I am big fan of staying in local hostels and AirBnBs over big name hotels. Not only will they usually save you money, but they also allow you to experience the destinations like the locals do! AirBnB hosts and hostel workers usually have a plethora of advice and sometimes even offer to show you around which adds to any road trip experience.
Having a car instead of relying on public transport is key to getting off the beaten path to find the coolest AirBnBs that aren’t normally in reach. When we stayed in Annecy for the night, we were able to stay at an AirBnB in a quiet lakeside neighborhood at the foot of the mountains rather than a busy hotel in the loud center of town.
Pick the Right Route
This is so important and also the most fun part – picking your route! However, there are so many possibilities when planning a road trip its important to remember to not try to do too much. You don’t want to spend every day driving hours and hours just to wake up and do it again.
If you have 7 days, pick 2 or 3 main places to make sure you have some down time between drives. Our route went as follows:
- Picked up the rental car in Paris and drove to Annecy for 1 day and 1 night
- Continued down south to Marseille where we spent 5 days exploring the French Rivera as well as the lavender fields of Provence and the Verdon Gorge
- Finally, we drove straight back to Paris on our last day and spent the evening at the Eiffel Tower
There are so many other amazing options so grab a map, choose your region of interest, and try not to squeeze in everything (I know it can be tempting to cover as much ground as possible).
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