Driving in France – Our Top Six Tips

driving in france

Driving holidays are great fun and a fantastic alternative to flying for your summer holiday. If you’re popping over the channel this year, you’ll need to be clear on the driving regulations in France – even if you’ll only be passing through en-route to your final destination.

French driving laws and requirements can be quite different to those in the UK, so it’s wise to be fully informed before you go. To start you off, here are our top tips for driving in France!

1. Lights

If you blow a bulb on your car in the UK, it’s generally accepted that you’ll get it fixed ASAP. However, in France, you’re expected to replace bulbs as soon as they break, meaning you’ll need to carry spares with you and be able to replace them yourself.

You’ll also need to adjust your headlights. Most modern car lights are adjusted to point toward the kerbside of the road, so when a right-hand drive car meets a left-hand drive car, the lights are pointing directly at the oncoming driver and could blind them. If you are not able to adjust the position of your lights manually, you’ll need to purchase headlight beam adjusters before you travel.

2. Safety Kit

Every car needs to have a high-vis vest for each passenger and a warning triangle in the passenger side of the car. This is a much stricter regulation that in the UK and the French police will often stop to check you have them.

3. Clean Air Sticker 

In Jan 2018, clean air stickers were introduced to Paris, Lyon, Grenoble, Lille, Strasbourg and Toulouse, with more cities expected to join them in the upcoming months.

A clean air sticker, or ‘Crit'Air’, shows the level of emissions a car produces. They have been introduced to help clean up the air quality in France’s cities. On set days or when a city is at risk of high pollution levels, cars with the highest levels of emissions can be refused entry and fined between €68 and €135 for driving when restrictions apply or not having a sticker.

The stickers €4.80, and you can apply for one on Crit’Air website. Make sure you leave enough time to apply for and receive your sticker before travelling.

4. Drink Drive Regulations

The blood alcohol limit in France is the same as Scotland but lower than England and Wales. You must not have more than 0.5g per litre of blood. And for novice drivers, with under 3 years’ experience, the limit is 02.g per litre.

In addition, all drivers must carry a breathalyser kit. It needs to be unused, in date (some single use breathalysers only last 12 months) and showing the French certification mark.

5. Children

If you have children with you, those under 10 years old must be in the correct child seat for their weight. Children under 10 are also not allowed to sit in the front of the car. There are a few exceptions to this – If the car has no rear seat belts, if the rear seats are already occupied by children under 10 or for babies under 9 months old who are in the correct child seat.

Remember, as in the UK, it’s also the driver’s responsibility to make sure that everyone is secured properly.

If riding or travelling as a passenger on a bike, children up to the age of 12, must also wear a helmet. Parents could be fined 90 euros if they break this law.

6. Speed Limits

Speed limits can vary by location and weather conditions. In normal conditions, the limits are 110 km/h on the motorway and 80km/h on major and trunk roads. When it’s raining or wet, the limits decrease to 100km/h for motorways and 70km/h for major roads When visibility is reduced below 50m, the limit is 50km/h on motorways and major roads.

In built up areas, the speed limit is generally 50km/h but can be reduced to 30km/h in residential areas. If you go over the speed limit by more than 40km/h, police can confiscate your driver’s license on the spot. It’s also important to know that devices which can tell you the location of speed cameras are banned in France. If you are found using these, you could get a fine of up to €1,500 and have the device/your car confiscated.

As well as different driving laws, you’ll also have to get used to the different road signage, driving on the left and reading signs in a foreign language. Remember to take your time, not get distracted when driving and take regular breaks if you’re on a long drive.

You should also make sure that your car insurance covers you for driving in Europe and that you have breakdown cover in place.