Driving in France
With lively cities and picturesque countryside just waiting to be explored, it’s no wonder that France is such a popular tourist destination for holidaymakers. Plus, as one of the easiest European countries to travel to by car, many Brits prefer driving in France rather than flying.
But before you start packing your bags and loading up the car, it’s important that you know the rules for driving in France. To help make your trip as relaxing and stress-free as possible — and to make sure you’re not caught unaware by French driving law — we’ve put together a list of key information that every driver should know before driving in France.
Driving in France kit
When you set off in your car in the UK, you rarely need to take anything more than your keys with you. When driving in France, however, there are a few key items and documents that it’s crucial you keep on you at all times. Follow this checklist to make sure you’re always prepared for the road:
There are a number of important documents that you need to make sure you keep on your person if you’re planning to take to the roads in France. The documentation you’ll need includes:
A full, valid UK driving licence
Proof of ID (passport)
Your motor insurance certificate
A V5 registration document
2. GB sticker
If you’re driving a British car on French roads, you’ll need a GB sticker on your car. An exception to this is if your car has EU licence plates, showing the country code in a circle of stars on a blue background. Anything you’re towing, including caravans, will also need a GB sticker.
3. Clean air stickers (Crit’Air vignettes)
Certain cities in France now require that drivers need to display a clean air sticker on their cars if they wish to have access. There are six colour-coded categories that relate to how much emissions your car produces.
Clean air stickers only cost €4.80 (around £4.30) and can be purchased through the French environment ministry’s website. Make sure you buy a sticker in advance, as you could be hit with a €68 fine on the spot if you’re caught driving a car without a sticker in designated areas.
4. Other essentials
Here is a list of other essential items that you are required to carry by French law:
Headlamp beam deflectors — You will need deflector stickers or to manually adjust your beam, depending on your car.
Waring triangle — All motorists on four wheels or more are required to keep a warning triangle.
Reflective jackets — You must keep a reflective jacket for each passenger in your car, not the boot, in case someone needs to exit the vehicle on the side of the road.
Breathalyser — All motorists must carry their own breathalyser in their vehicle and can be issued with an on-the-spot test by police officers.
Safety helmets — As you might expect, all motorcyclists and passengers are required to wear safety helmets.
Who can drive in France?
Thankfully for those looking to take a trip in the car, there aren’t many driving in France requirements to meet. Drivers must be aged 18 or over and hold a full, valid driving licence to legally drive in France. Those who wish to ride mopeds or motorcycles up to 125cc must be 16 or older and hold a category AM licence or a category A or B licence.
Driving rules in France
Using the horn
Car horn may only be used during the day to give necessary warning to other road users. Between sunset and sunrise, flashing headlights must be used as a substitute unless absolutely necessary. The use of horns in built-up areas is prohibited unless someone is in immediate danger.
Who has priority on French roads?
You must give way to oncoming vehicles from your right at intersections. Drivers on roundabouts must give way to vehicles already on the roundabout, plus, you always need to give way to emergency vehicles with sirens and flashing lights, wherever you are.
Overtaking cars in France
When driving in France, you need to keep to the right and overtake to the left. When you’re driving on steep gradients, cars travelling downhill must always give way to those travelling uphill.
Seat belt laws in France
It’s compulsory for all drivers and passengers to wear seatbelts in a car. It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that all passengers under 18 are securely fastened into the car. If caught driving without a seatbelt on, you can face a fine of €135.
Wearing headphones in a car in France
As of March 2017, it is an illegal act to drive in France while wearing headphones or earphones. Ensure you take them off before driving or you could face a fine penalty.
Traffic lights in France
France makes use of the international three-colour traffic light system, however, there is no amber light after a red light. There are other differences too:
A flashing amber light — Indicates drivers to slow down, caution or to proceed while giving way to the right.
A flashing red light — Indicated no entry. It may also indicate a level crossing or exit used by emergency vehicles.
A red light accompanied by a yellow arrow — Proceed in the direction of the arrow, provided you give way to vehicles travelling in that direction, as well as pedestrians.
French speed limits
As France uses the metric system for road signs, all speed limits are indicated using kilometres and are lowered during adverse weather conditions. The following national speed limits apply in France:
Priority roads and dual carriageways
Normal traffic conditions
Rain or other precipitation
Visibility less than 50m
French speeding fines
Speeding is taken very seriously in France, so you need to make sure you’re always adhering to the speed limit. The standard fine for speeding is set at €135, plus, you’ll receive points on your licence depending on how far over the speed limit you are driving. Holders of EU driving licences will also have them confiscated on the spot if caught driving more than 40 km/h over the speed limit.
Using speed camera detectors in France
There are laws in France that prohibit drivers from using devices that can detect speed cameras or warn drivers of their location. This is a very serious offence in France and can lead to a whopping €1,500 if you’re caught using such a device.
For more helpful guides on using your car while travelling, make sure to check out our driving abroad section. Here you’ll find tips on driving etiquette, laws and essential items you’ll need to drive safely and hassle-free on your holiday.
France Driving - Pocket Guide
Be sure to check out our other driving abroad guides: