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France - Parking

In most towns and cities in France there are a number of parking restrictions that should be adhered to and these will vary depending upon the area you are in and the fees imposed by the local authority. You should check carefully when you park your car as different streets will have different time limits or charges imposed upon them by the authorities and you can be fined if you do not follow the regulations.

Many towns operate an alternating system for parking. This means that for one half of the months you can park on the side of the street with the odd-numbered houses and for the other half of the month it is the side of the street with even numbered houses. If this is the regulation then you will see a sign marked ‘stationnement alterne semi-mensuel’ in the street. This could also alternate on a daily or weekly basis. In larger urban areas you may find that you are unable to park on one side of the street at certain times of day in order to leave them free for cleaning and maintenance.

In the centre of many cities you may find that you cannot park on the streets, particularly if a road is considered to be an access route. These are known as ‘axe rouge’. In some areas if you do park you may find that your car is towed away or your tyres are slashed. There are a number of places where it is always forbidden to park. These include in front of fire hydrants, in any place where the car has been stationary for more than 24 hours, parking caravans on the roads and overnight stays in lay-bys are also not permitted.

A number of towns have ‘zone bleue’ areas. These are indicated by blue markings in the street. This gives the driver the chance to park for an hour free of charge between 9 am and 12 noon, and then again from around 2 pm to 7 pm. These areas also give the driver unlimited parking at other times, on Sundays or when there is a public holiday. In order to use the area you must have a parking disc ‘disque de stationnement’. You can obtain a disc from most garages, tourist offices, police stations and some shops. Many are free but in some areas there may be a small charge. You set the time that you arrived on the disc and it will show you what time you have to leave by. Fines are issued for drivers who stay longer in these areas than they should.

There are not as many parking meters located in French towns as there used to be as these are being replaced by ticket machines. Parking signs will have a sign indicating that you must pay for a ticket. This is usually between the hours of 9 am and 7 pm although you will be able to get free parking between 12 noon and 2 pm. The cost of using the ticket machines will vary. Rates at railway stations are usually higher but in most towns you can park for 30 minutes free of charge and then you purchase a ticket for the number of hours you intend to remain beyond that.

All towns have a variety of car parks and very few of them are free. Rates vary but in some car parks you are able to buy a ticket which covers your parking for 24 hours or more. In the larger cities parking charges are much higher than in rural areas. Some car parks give you the chance to purchase a monthly ticket so that you can budget for parking and save money as these usually work out cheaper if you regularly use the same car park. Most car parks use a ticketing system which issues the ticket when you arrive but you pay for it when you leave at a cash desk or machine. You cannot normally pay as you drive out so you need to ensure that this is done before you move your car.

Some local Mairies will issue a permit which will qualify you for discounts on parking. Those who are disabled will qualify for free parking with designated parking spaces in many towns and car parks. In order to use these parking spaces you must have the ‘macaron’, which is the official badge for disabled motorists. These can take up to two months to arrive when you apply and you need to be in possession of a ‘carte d’invalidite’.

Fines for illegal parking are not high but can increase dramatically if they are not paid quickly. To pay the fines you can purchase a fiscal stamp, which is available from a number of different outlets, and send it with the notice that has been sent to you by the local authority.

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