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Jamie Gibbs

Driving in France

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Arc de Triomphe - Paris

A quick rundown of French driving laws, requirements and speed limits

Planning on making the long trek down to the Cote D’Azur, or you fancy tackling the traffic in Paris? Either way, it pays to know how French driving laws work before you're slapped with a fine or worse.

What you need to drive in France

What do I need to drive in France?

Before you load up your car ready for your road trip, be aware that there are some legal requirements for driving in France that differ from the UK.

Here’s a quick kit checklist of what you’ll need:

  • UK driving licence (minimum age 18)

  • V5C vehicle registration document (log book)

  • MOT certificate (if your car is more than three years old)

  • car insurance certificate

  • GB sticker or Europlates

  • warning triangle

  • high-vis jacket

  • breathalyser (calibrated to French alcohol limit)

  • headlamp converters

  • spare bulbs for lights

Speed camera detectors are illegal in France, so don’t even think about bringing one with you.

You can be fined up to ‎€1500 for having a radar detector in your car, even if it’s part of your satnav and switched off. If in doubt, get in touch with your satnav manufacturer and ask about using the device on French roads.

If you need to wear glasses while driving: You’ll need to have a spare pair in the car while driving in France.

French rules of the road

Drink-driving

The French alcohol limit is 0.5 mg/ml of blood. If you have fewer than three years’ experience behind the wheel, this is reduced to 0.2 mg/ml of blood. This is considerably lower than the UK’s drink-drive limit, so it’s best to not touch any alcohol if you’re planning on driving.

Yellow lines

If you see an unbroken yellow line, you can’t stop or park at the side of the road. If the yellow line is broken, you can stop there but can’t park. Go against this rule and you run the risk of being towed away.

Priorité à droite

Some French drivers may still use the archaic system of “priorité à droite” – right of way.

By this rule, all drivers should give way to traffic approaching from the right. These days, most roads have signs that indicate which drivers have priority, but country roads and smaller villages may still use priorité à droite.

If you have a French driver toot their horn angrily at you, chances are it’s because you didn’t follow this rule.

Traffic lights

It’s worth remembering that traffic lights in France go from red to green without any amber phase in-between.

 
French road signs

Common road signs in France

a. Give way / yield

b. 50 km/h speed limit applied while in this town

c-d. You have priority on this road

e-f. You don't have priority on this road

French toll roads

Most French motorways (autoroutes) have tolls along stretches of road.

All French motorways start with an A, so if you’re on one of these, be prepared to spend a few euros.

The exact amount you pay depends on what kind of vehicle you’re driving and how far you’re going. Different toll roads are owned by different companies, so rates are likely to change depending where you are.

You can pay these tolls by cash or card. And there’s also an automatic payment system called Telepéage that allows you to drive through tolls without stopping.

This also helps British drivers since the toll booths are to the left of the car. So you’d have to stretch over the passenger’s seat to pay the toll otherwise.

 

French speed limits

Road type Speed limit If raining/inexperienced driver 
Built-up areas 50 km/h 50km/h
Outside built-up areas 90 km/h 80km/h
Urban motorways / dual carriageways 110 km/h 100km/h
Motorways 130 km/h (minimum 80 km/h) 110km/h
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