Cote d'Azur Stories and Tips

Driving on Cote d'Azur ... Don't!!

This entry is based on my experiences living, driving and travelling in Nice and is aimed at those who might consider making the ridiculous decision to rent a card and to drive around the city. This statement might sound very negative, but it is based on pragmatism. There is precious little point driving in Nice unless you absolutely have to. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that the roads in Nice are treacherous places. And, the second is that public transport is so cheap, clean and efficient that it is far more convenient than driving.

Let's start with the roads themselves in Nice. The biggest city on the Cote d'Azur has a road system that could, quite conceivably, have been designed by a three year-old playing with his or her crayons. It is a maze of poorly signposted one-way streets that are crammed with cars all trying to squeeze through. There are often no road markings and large pot-holes dotted at regular intervals. Parking is also an absolute nightmare. There is virtually no free parking in the city. There is street parking, but this is limited to two hours in the day-time. The police also regularly hand out tickets to those who over-stay. This means the only solution is to use large scale car parks, which can charge up to 30 Euros per day. Even hotels do not usually offer free parking.

The second aspect is the drivers themselves. Before Nice, I lived in Oman, a country with abundant space on the roads and extremely easy driving tests. The Omani drivers were awful. They ignored speed limits and weaved between lanes at will. I naturally assumed things in France would be better. Sadly, I could not have been more wrong. The French are just truly awful drivers. They pay scant attention to the lines painted on the roads. They drive and smoke. They drive and talk on their cellphones. When they find a parking space, they will stop and attempt to squeeze in no matter how much it disrupts other drivers. They also have no concept of slow lanes and fast lanes. This makes driving main roads truly awful.

Driving causes a massive headache, one which is completely needless. For starters, the majority of places to visit in Nice are within walking distance (The Old Town, MAMAC, Promenade des Anglais) and other attractions are accessible by bus. The buses and trams are not perfect, but they are extremely cheap (one Euro for any destination in the city, very frequent and cover almost all of Nice - there is no major sight that cannot be reached easily. In truth, getting across Nice on the tram is far quicker than going by car. The buses also have specialized lanes that allow them to move through traffic at a good pace, a luxury not afforded to normal motorists.

In short, driving in the Nice area can look fun. The idea of driving with the top down along the Promenade des Anglais is massively enticing, but the reality cannot match-up.

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