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Bonne Route! Tips for Successfully Driving Through the South of France

Country road in southern France

This blog post was updated on October 4, 2019.

There are few places in the world more beautiful or captivating than the south of France. Driving in France (for at least a week) is a great way to experience the splendor of the French countryside, medieval villages, and coastal cities. Here are four tips to make your southern French adventure magnifique!

Rent a car in a major city

young girl sitting in the car and holding a key against blue sky in Paris, France, next to Eiffel tower

After you’ve disembarked your airline flights to France, it’s time to make your way to one of the major cities in the South of France, where most car rental spots are located. Aix-en-Provence, Lyon, Toulouse, Nice, or Marseilles are easily accessible by train. If you feel more comfortable renting from an American company, many major American rental companies do operate in France. Make sure to bring your driver’s license, passport, and insurance information. Speaking of insurance, it’s a good idea to check with your carrier to make sure you are covered internationally. If you’re not, additional insurance will be available to purchase at the rental desk. Drivers in France drive on the right side of the road (like in the U.S.), so you won’t experience too much culture shock there.

Learn some road trip French

Female driver asking a handsome young for directions as he stands at the roadside pointing out the route for her on a rural road

Thanks to GPS, driving in France, and in particular navigating through the south of France, is quite easy. However, it’s not a bad idea to have some “road trip French” in your back pocket in case you need to stop for directions in a small town where English is less commonly spoken. Conversation starters like bonjour (hello) and excusez-moi (excuse me) are helpful, as is basic direction vocabulary. It will also be important to familiarize yourself with French road signs and transportation-specific vocabulary. A reminder that road signs and speed limits will all be in kilometers. One kilometer is approximately 0.6 miles, for reference.

Sketch out an itinerary

The road along the Plage des Catalans, Marseiile. France

There’s so much to see when driving through the south of France, so sketch out a basic itinerary so you know where you’re headed each day and where you’ll stay each night. Top places to visit in the south include the perfumeries of Grasse, the glitz and glamor of the French Riviera, the medieval walled village of Carcassone, and the Château d’If fortress on the coast of Marseilles. Read up on these sites and others, and then decide what your priority stops will be for your road trip. This will help you plan a route and book accommodations along the way.

Take time to stop and smell the lavender

Meadow of lavender. Nature composition

Southern France is known for its lavender fields, so taking time to stop and smell the lavender is both literal and figurative. The best part of driving through the south of France is the opportunity to stumble upon new and interesting sights on your way to your daily destination. Don’t remain too committed to your schedule that you forget to slow down and enjoy the journey. Sip an afternoon cappuccino in a café in St. Tropez, hike Cap Ferrat, tour a vineyard in Languedoc-Roussillon, or stroll an open-air market in Aix-en-Provence. You’re sure to remember these moments for years to come!

Have you taken a road trip through the south of France? What other road trip tips would you add to this list?

About the author

Jen Westmoreland Bouchard

An insatiable foodie, art collector, and international literature aficionado, I have traveled throughout Europe, Asia, the U.S. and Canada. For the past fifteen years, I have written about my adventures for various travel and literary publications. I am the owner of Lucidité Writing ( and Bouchard Design Co. (

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