The majority of people travelling in France on holiday are more likely to experience the quieter more rural parts of France as drivers. However, wherever you drive there are some basic laws and common-sense tips to apply:

You will need a recognised full driving licence, the car's registration certificate (for cars registered in the UK, the V5C certificate), and proof of insurance.
An international driving licence is not required for short term visitors (up to 90 days) from countries of the EU, EEA, USA, Canada; however it is either recommended for visitors from other countries.

The wearing of front and rear seatbelts is compulsory.
No children under 10 are allowed in the front seats of the car. When in the rear of the car, if they
weigh between 9 and 15 kg they must use a child seat --over this a booster cushion can be used--to give proper restraint.

Carry a warning triangle and reflective jacket-- it’s a legal requirement. (your hire car should have one)


From 1 July 2008 it has been compulsory for any vehicle being driven in France to be equipped with a warning triangle. This must be placed 30 metres behind your vehicle if it becomes immobilised after a breakdown. Emergency flashing lights must also be used.
The law also requires that there should be at least one high-visibility reflective jacket stored in the passenger compartment of the vehicle (not in the boot), for use by the driver on exiting the immobilised vehicle.

From 1 October 2008 a fine of 135€ will be imposed
for non-possession of these items.


It's often suggested that the French are relaxed about drink driving - but the truth is that the police operate a policy of zero tolerance of drink driving.


If using a right-hand drive car please note the following:

• By law you must adjust the direction of your headlamp beams for driving on the right, either by using the stick-on adapters or (on more modern cars) by making an adjustment to the lights. Check your manual or consult your dealer if in doubt.

• Drive on the right! -- Yes we know you know but even the best and most diligent of drivers can, after a few days or weeks of successful right-side driving “forget”, especially when pulling out of filling stations or small side roads – drivers have come up with some ingenious (and some weird) ideas to remind them --look for the one gloved hands or the obstacles stuck to the screen -- a simple post-it note will do.

• Get familiar with the rules for priorities when entering and exiting roads junctions
, roundabouts, etc; if in doubt give priority to the right. It can be helpful to have a Frenchman in front of you --to follow his lead so to speak --but remember the first rule of French rules-'they are there to be broken' so you might find yourself going through a red light!

 Come to a complete stop at STOP signs. (Why English?)

• Someone flashing their lights behind you on a motorway means ‘get out of my way-my time is more important than yours and anyway I want to go faster than you’ ; it’s best just to quietly move over and don’t let your ego get the better of you.

• A driver flashing their lights on a country road may mean there’s an obstruction or a police check ahead.

• It is illegal to drive with your side (parking) lights on at any time, (though you would not know this as you'll witness a lot of it) and you must use your dipped  headlamps when visibility is low. 

•  GB stickers are compulsory in France although apparently only about half of  the British cars going  abroad actually have one. 

• Your driving licence, insurance documents and car registration documents should be carried at all times, plus It is a good idea to have your passport with you. (Spot checks are quite common, even in country areas) Anyway your passports are sometimes needed at tourist attractions as security for hiring equipment.

• If you break the rules you will be fined. These vary from around 30 euros - to the equivalent of paying for your holiday again - for serious speeding offences or  drunken or reckless driving.


      Visitors must pay in cash on the spot. Residents have 30 days to pay up.


Expect the unexpected is a good rule to follow in France. In rural areas don't be surprised to meet  someone tottering along the middle of the road as if no-one else ever uses it! Or to have the local driver 12 inches away from you back bumper. You will most probably, on one of the more scenic and quiet roads, wonder why the driver coming towards you is on the wrong side of the road -don't- its most probably you !!!

So as we have said before -be diligent.

Speed Limits


French speed limits When dry When wet/snowing
Motorway 130kmph /81 mph 110kmph /68 mph
Dual carriageway 110kmph /68 mph 100kmph /62 mph
Open roads 90kmph /55 mph 80kmph /49 mph
Towns and villages 50kmph /31 mph 50kmph /31 mph


If you have a pre planned route print-out ie 'Via Michelin' then zero the mileage if it has not been preset, as this is a good as-you-go indicator as to at what distance you should have to look for, or react to signs or instructions.


If you lose your way in a town or village the best solution is to follow either "Toutes Directions" or "Autres Directions" ( the latter if you cannot see a specific sign to where you are going.). This will normally take you to an interchange or roundabout on the outskirts where it should be possible to pick up the correct route. It also handy to take a small torch for map reading  just in case your journey takes longer than you think—or indeed a different direction!—and you need to rely on your navigator in the passenger seat if your car is not fitted with 'sat-nav'.


Exits from Motorways or Dual-Carriageways are clearly signposted but beware that some exits also serve for traffic joining the major road.  Do not forget  that most accidents involving British drivers occur at roundabouts where you must go to the right and give way to traffic on your left.



After that time they use the French charge cards.  They may not  take UK charge and credit cards even the new Chip and Pin cards though this seems to be getting less common.  The cheapest places to purchase fuel are at the large supermarkets.


• Motorcycles over 125cc must use dipped headlights during the day at all times.

Drivers who are going to be spending any time in France should try to familiarise themselves with all the rules of the road, including traffic signals, signposting, road-markings, speed limits etc..


Take some euros with you - small change- for paying peage/tolls as some are not manned at all times--and remember if you are in a right-hand drive car  its your passenger who pays!


If you have an accident.


If you are in a hire car and are unfortunate enough to have an accident, you must fill out a damage assessment form (you will find them in the glove compartment of your rental car or you may request it from your insurance company) It must be signed by the other party, and in the event of a dispute / refusal to complete the form, you should immediately obtain a constat d'huissier (or so everyone advises us) ,this is a written report from a bailiff (huissier) but where you find one is a mystery to us. Perhaps they live in small huts by the side of the road waiting to be called upon to give an opinion. When we find out we’ll let you know. In the event of an injury, call the SAMU, ambulance,(15) or the fire brigade (18). The police are only called out to accidents when someone is injured, a driver is under the influence of alcohol or the accident impedes the flow of traffic. Please notify your car hire company as soon as possible.




If your car breaks down, try to move it to the side of the road so that it obstructs the traffic flow as little as possible. You are advised to seek local assistance as, at the present time there is no nationwide road assistance service in France. On auto routes use the orange SOS phones which are situated every 2 km on motorways and every 4 km on dual carriageways and other major roads. Each one has a number. You will be expected to give your name, your location and your vehicle details.The use of warning triangles or hazard warning lights is mandatory in the event of an accident or break down.


Know the signs.


  Give way to right      Give way to left and right     Stop-full stop!

  You have priority     You have priority       Priority ends

Take special note of last two signs as the 'Prioity ends' means you can have someone pulling out in front of you from the right because they have Priority !  An apparently ancient rule that still applies, sometimes bizarrely but one you must adhere to. 

You should also know the following terms:


Autres Directions - other directions.

Cédez le passage - give way.

Déviation - Diversion.

Péage - Toll.

Sortie - exit.

Toutes Directions - All directions.



Aire de repos - Rest stops
Allumez vos lanterns (or feux) - Turn on your lights

Attention au feu - Beware of traffic signal
Attention travaux - Beware roadworks
Chaussèe dèformèe - Bumpy road ahead
Centre ville - Town centre
Ferme - Closed
Gendarmerie - Police station
Gravillons - Loose chippings
Nids de poules - Potholes
Ouvert - Open                                                                                                                    

Prochain sortie - Next exit
Rappel - Remember
Route barrèe - Road closed
Sens-unique - One-way
Serrez a droite - Keep to the right
Suivre - Follow
Sur - On
Vitesse adapteè sècuritè - Adapt your speed for safety
Voie unique - One lane road
Voitures - Cars


Hire/rental Car Check List


1.Reserve your car well in advance especially if you are booking for the holiday season. And always remember to get the best rates, book on line. Just like with airline tickets, early bookings ensure better value.

2.Bring you Driving License, Credit Card and Rental Voucher with you on collection of your car.

3.Familiarise yourself with all the driving instruments and find out what type of fuel your car takes.

4.Check to see if there is any additional charge if returning your car to a different location than where you collected it, known as a one-way rental.

5. Book your infant or child seat well in advance, most car companies have a limited supply. Check for any additional charges.

6. Always check the car rental company’s fuel policy before starting your rental. Check if the car should be returned full of petrol or empty, as it could cost extra on your final bill.

7. Always inspect the car for any marks and dents that are not stated on your contract, before you drive away be happy with the condition of the car, you can always change the car or model if not satisfied.

8. Check the rental company has provided you with a road map of the area you are travelling and plan you journey before driving away.

9. Remember if you want a second named driver that they must have a full drivers license with them, which they must produce themselves at the rental agency. There is usually a small additional charge for a second driver.

10. As most rental accidents happen on the first day of rental, Extra concentration is needed when starting off as you may be driving on a different side of the road.

Check out the website for great information on driving in France.


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