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Driving in France

If you’re planning to drive to France there are some important things you need to know so you can plan ahead. From the France car driving kit you’re required to carry by law to rules of the road on the continent, our simple guide has you covered.

Skip to: Key Essentials You Need | Insurance & Breakdown Cover | Driving Laws | Rules of the Road | Parking | FAQs

Person driving in France

Key Essentials & Car Kit For France

Starting with the basics, anyone driving in France must be a minimum of 18 years of age and carry a valid driving licence with them in the vehicle at all times (so don’t forget to pack it along with your passport!). You should also take the V5 registration document for the vehicle and a copy of your motor insurance certificate.

By law it’s mandatory to display a ‘UK’ sticker on your vehicle when driving a UK-registered car in Europe. These have replaced the old ‘GB’ stickers and if you don’t want to have a big sticker on your paintwork you can place a sticker on the rear number plate. Dependening on where you’re driving (e.g. Paris, Lyon and Marseille) you’ll need to display a Crit’Air anti-pollution sticker when travelling through selected zones.

It’s mandatory to carry the following items in your vehicle:

Insurance & Breakdown Cover for France

It’s a legal requirement to have third-party insurance for driving a vehicle in France. Most comprehensive policies include up to 90 days of European cover per trip, but it’s vital you double check your policy before leaving the UK to make sure you’re covered.

Although it’s not a legal requirement to have breakdown cover, it’s always advisable to have it as it can cost over £1,000 to repatriate your car back to the UK if it can’t be fixed during your travels. If you’re only driving to France for a short period and aren’t planning on taking your car on another self-drive holiday in the same year, single trip European breakdown cover is often the cheapest option. You can get cover from just over £4 per day from leading providers.

RAC European Breakdown Logo


per day

AA European Breakdown Logo


per day

Green Flag European Breakdown Logo


per day

Motorways in France are privately owned, which means if you break down on one of them you’ll need to use an emergency phone to get recovered to a safe area by one of their own recovery vehicles. This costs around €150, but is usually reimbursed by your UK breakdown company if you’ve got European cover.

Driving Laws in France

Below are some of the main laws and requirements you should be aware of when driving your car in France – the list isn’t exhaustive and you should always check the latest laws before heading off on your trip.

Seat belts must be worn by the driver and all passengers in the vehicle (it’s the driver’s responsibility to ensure any passengers under the age of 18 are wearing their seat belt). If you get stopped in France and someone isn’t wearing a seat belt the fine is €135.

Children under the age of 10 are required to be in the back of the car, unless there are no rear seats or seat belts in the back. Any child between 9 and 18kg has to travel in a child seat, although those over 15kg can travel in a booster seat. It’s also a requirement that any baby up to 13kg must travel in a rear-facing baby seat.

The drink driving laws in France are strict, with only 50mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood permitted (this is the same as Scotland, but lower than England, Wales and Northern Ireland where the limit is 80mg).

For any new drivers in France with less than three years of experience, the limit is lower at 2mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. Expect to receive a minimum fine of €135 if you are stopped and found to be over the limit.

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Like in the UK, the speed limits in France vary dependent on the type of road. Limits are also lowered when weather conditions are poor, so always make sure you’re paying close attention to the signs if it’s raining. As a guide the limits are:

You can use sat nav devices or a navigation app on your phone for directions when driving in France, but you’ll need to turn off any speed camera alerts. It’s illegal in France to use any device that can warn you about a speed camera’s location and you can face a €1,500 fine if found to be using one. Ouch!

Like in the UK, it’s illegal to use a hand held mobile phone while driving. In addition it’s illegal in France to use headphones or earpieces (including for bluetooth) while driving. If you want to make/receive calls you must use a completely hands-free unit within the vehicle.

As stated at the start of the article, depending on where you’re driving you may be required to display a Crit’Air sticker on your car. They’re mandatory when driving in designated low emission zones (usually in French cities) and it can take around 6 weeks to apply. Check before you go and make sure you allow plenty of time to receive the sticker before setting off on your car travel to France.


Much like in the UK, parking restrictions in France vary by town/city and region. Most French towns allow parking on one side of the street and free parking is permitted on roads without any markings or with a dotted white line. In cities parking is heavily enforced and you’ll run the risk of your car being towed away if you don’t obey the regulations or display adequate proof that parking has been paid for.

One big word of warning – don’t park on a road with a single yellow line. This line means parking is prohibited at all times.

Rules of the Road in France

As a final round-up to our guide on driving in France we’ve listed some rules of the road to help you avoid any issues during your French adventures:

The standard three colour traffic light colour (red, amber and green) operates across France, however the amber light doesn’t show after the red light.

Just like in the UK you must give way to any vehicles on the roundabout. As you’ll be driving on the right this means that vehicles to your left have priority. You’ll go around the roundabout anti-clockwise (opposite to the UK) and should take extra caution to check for vehicles coming from your left.

In France the road lanes are the opposite to the UK (as you’ll be driving on the right), with the left-most lane being the fast lane and the right lane being the slow lane. Therefore when passing you should use the lane to the left of you. There are a couple of exceptions, including one that allows you to use lanes to the right on multi-lane roads when there are slow moving lanes.

Common questions on driving in France

What side of the road do they drive on in France?

Like the rest of Europe people drive on the right in France. This means that on motorways the slow lane is on the right and you overtake on the left.

Do you need to have a breathalyser kit to drive in France?

It’s no longer a requirement to carry a breathalyser kit, but as the alcohol limits for driving are less than the UK it’s worth carrying one or not drinking at all if you plan to drive shortly after.

Is car travel to France easy?

It’s relatively easy for experienced drivers to tackle French roads. They’re similar to the UK and the main difference is that you’ll be driving on the right. After a short period you’ll get used to the change and shouldn’t experience any difficulties.

Are headlight converters compulsory?

Yes, to drive a right-hand drive vehicle in France it’s a legal requirement that you use headlight converters to avoid dazzling oncoming drivers.

Is it compulsory to carry a spare wheel in France?

You’re not required to carry a spare wheel, but it’s a requirement that the tyre depth is at least 1.6mm on all tyres on your vehicle.



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