Driving in France: top tips, advice and guidance – RAC

From required documents to European breakdown cover and vehicle accessories, find all the up-to-date driving laws and advice for every country in Europe in our travel guides.
To make your trip to mainland Europe as safe and stress-free as possible, we’ve put together a guide to everything you need to know before you go, from required documents to rules of the road. 
For starters, it's a good idea to get RAC European Breakdown Cover before you go. It will give you a wide range of benefits should you break down in France to make sure you stay safe. You can get cover for a single trip abroad or throughout the year if you travel to France on a regular basis.
As with any holiday, you should have travel insurance for your trip to France.
Need insurance for your road trip? Our temporary car insurance product is perfect if you're looking for flexible and comprehensive cover for between 1 hour and 30 days.
If you are driving a vehicle or riding a motorcycle in France please take note of the latest regulations:
For a limited time, get FREE car health check with European breakdown cover.
If you take your car to France you are required by law to carry the following items:
French driving kit will have the items you need – so pick one up for £24.49 to help you avoid hefty on-the-spot fines.
If you’re camping, it may also be worth carrying a Camping Card International to give you additional proof of identity, third party liability insurance, plus discounts at a wide range of campsites and tourist attractions.
Note: Before 2020 it was a legal requirement to carry a breathalyser kit with at least two disposable testing units – however, this is no longer the case. It is still recomended to carry one, while travelling for safety purposes.
Be aware that you cannot take the following with you into France:
You cannot take the following unless you pay to have them inspected before you leave and get a ‘phytosanitary certificate’:
An important first step is to do these 12 essential car maintenance checks to ensure your vehicle is in top condition. This will ensure the safety of you, your passengers and other road users in both countries.
Once you’ve carried out these checks, you’ll need to prepare for taking a longer drive since it comes with its own set of unique challenges.
Follow our a complete guide to help you and your family get ready for your next road trip. Among the most important tips include sharing the drive, taking regular breaks, packing essential items, how to pack your car, and other items you may have forgotten about.
Are you travelling with your family? These family road trip tips will be handy to make the journey as easy as possible.
There are also some important pre-journey items you will need to purchase or install before stating your holiday.
Modern car headlights are set up to point towards the nearside – or kerbside – of the vehicle. A right-hand drive car on the right-hand side of the carriage way means this could blind oncoming traffic at night.
Either adjust the angle of your headlights, or fit headlight beam adjusters to compensate and help improve safety by increasing visibility on the nearside. It is mandatory that UK cars driving in France now have headlamp beam converters to avoid dazzling other road users.
You will also need reflective jackets, a warning triangle, spare bulbs – as well as some suggested items such as a breathalyser, snow chains and, for motorcyclists, safety helmets for drivers and passengers.
Also, as of September 28th 2021, the GB sticker that would be attached to the rear of the vehicle has now been replaced with the UK sticker. Drivers do not need a UK sticker if their number plate includes the UK identifier on its own or with the Union Jack flag.
The RAC has a comprehensive list of tips for driving through France. Make sure to check these out as part of your pre-journey preparation.
The RAC Route Planner can help you find the shortest route and help you on your way.
Be wary that if you’re using a sat nav on your journey that displays speed cameras, then you’re breaking the law and could face a large fine.
Emergency telephones linked to an SOS telephone network are installed at 2km intervals along motorways. 
112 – Here's a really important bit of knowledge; you can dial 112 from anywhere in Europe and an operator will connect you to an emergency service in the country you're visiting.
Operators can answer your call in their native language, English or French
Whether you have RAC European Breakdown Cover or not, read our guide on what to do if you breakdown in France so you are ready for any emergency. 
For the most part, the government-appointed towing service that tows you from the motorway allows the RAC to pay it directly – however, it’s at the towing company's discretion.
If you’re an RAC customer and asked to pay, please keep your receipt in order to be refunded by the RAC’s European customer care team.
Visitors must be aged 18 or over and hold a full, valid driving licence to legally drive in France. Riders of mopeds or motorcycles up to 125cc must be aged 16 or over.
Driving licences issued in the UK, the EU and EEA countries are accepted. International driving permits are recognised but not required. 
eiffel tower france rac travel guide
Vehicles from the UK can be temporarily imported into France for up to six months in any period of 12 months. In order to stay on the right side of the law, the following documents should always be carried:
Hiring a car? You may want to consider car hire excess insurance – it could be cheaper than waiting to add it when you collect your car. 
Since September 2021, the distinguishing mark (or national identifier) displayed on vehicles registered in the United Kingdom that are driven abroad has changed from GB to UK.  
This means that vehicles registered in the UK must display the letters “UK” when driven in France.   
The identifier can be incorporated in vehicle number plates (along with the Union Flag) or as a separate sticker. Note that vehicles featuring the letters GB together with the Council of Europe golden stars are no longer valid for driving abroad.
If your vehicle does not have the UK identifier within the number plate, you will require a UK sticker when driving in France. GB stickers are no longer valid.
You do not require a green card from your vehicle insurer to drive in France, but you must have valid vehicle insurance to drive in France and third-party insurance is compulsory. 
ETIAS stands for the European Travel Information and Authorisation System. It is a visa program for visitors who don’t need a Schengen visa, who want to travel to the European Union and a few other European countries.
Visitors who purchase an ETIAS will be able to enter the 26 member states of the Schengen Zone as well as Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania.
This will be launching in 2024. Learn more about ETIAS here.
You now need a clean air sticker – called a Crit'Air vignette – displayed on your car when travelling to certain cities.
This six-category sticker system is designed to identify what emissions vehicles produce and are categorised based on your vehicles Euro emissions standard.
Find out when you need a French clean air sticker and how to buy one.
Did you know you could be fined up to €530 for not carrying the right kit with you in France?
As a general rule, drive on the right, overtake on the left. However, where traffic is in lanes, vehicles may overtake on the right of other vehicles in slower moving lanes.
On steep gradients, vehicles travelling downhill must give way to vehicles travelling uphill.
Overtaking trams in motion is normally permitted on the right only; it is permitted on the left in one way streets, if there is not enough space on the right.
At intersections, you must give way to vehicles approaching from your right, unless otherwise indicated.
Drivers approaching a roundabout must give way to traffic already on the roundabout.
You must also give way to emergency vehicles with flashing lights and sirens.
Horns may only be used to give necessary warning to other road users.
Between sunset and sunrise, warning must be given by flashing passing lights. The horn may be used only in cases of absolute necessity.
In all built-up areas, use of the horn is prohibited except in cases of immediate danger.
The use of multi-tone horns, sirens and whistles is prohibited.
On a standard driving licence, motorists are allowed to tow a trailer with a maximum authorised mass of 750kg, including the trailer and its load.
You’re not allowed to tow a motor vehicle except in the event of a breakdown or an accident and if the distance to be travelled is short. This practice is banned on motorways where the assistance of a recovery vehicle must be sought.
It is forbidden to carry people in a moving caravan.
Get specialist personal based cover for caravans, motorhomes and campervans from just £11 per month.^
If seat belts are fitted to your car, they must be worn by both drivers and passengers. The driver has a responsibility to ensure that all passengers under the age of 18 are suitably restrained in the car.
The fine for failing to wear a seat belt is set at €135, reduced to €90 if paid within 15 days. 
As of March 2017, it is illegal to drive a car in France using headphones or earphones. Be sure to take off your headphones once you cross the Channel, otherwise you could be fined on the spot.
The international three-colour traffic light system is used France. However, there is no amber light after the red light.
A flashing amber light indicates caution, slow down or proceed but give way to vehicles coming from the right.
A flashing red light indicates no entry. It may also indicate a level crossing or exit used by emergency vehicles.
If a red light is accompanied by a yellow arrow, you may proceed in the direction indicated by the arrow, provided you give way to vehicles travelling in that direction, as well as to pedestrians.
France uses the metric system for all road signs, meaning speed limits and other road signs including distance are indicated using kilometres and metres.
Speed limits are lowered in rain and other adverse weather conditions, while special speed restrictions apply to certain classes of vehicle, including coaches and cars with trailers, so check before travel.
There is a minimum speed limit of 80 km/h on motorways for vehicles travelling in the outside lane.
The following national speed limits apply:
The maximum speed for a car towing a caravan or trailer depends on their total weight:
If the weight of the trailer exceeds that of the car, the speed limits are lower as follows:
In these cases, a disc showing maximum speed must be displayed on the rear of caravan/trailers. They may not be driven in the fast lane of a 3 lane motorway.
The maximum speed for a motorhome, minibus or any other vehicle used for the transport of people only also depends on their total weight:
The standard fine for breaking the speed limit in France is €135, with points added to your licence depending on how much the limit is exceeded by.
Holders of EU driving licences exceeding the speed limit by more than 40 km/h will have their licences confiscated on the spot by the police.
French law prohibits drivers from using devices capable of detecting speed cameras and warning drivers of their location. In France, you could have to pay a massive fine of €1,500 if caught.
Find out more about driving offences in Europe here.
Drivers are responsible for ensuring that all passengers under 18 are wearing a seat belt or appropriate restraint.
Children under the age of 10 are not allowed to travel in the front seats of vehicles without using a special child restraint, unless there is no rear seat, the rear seat is already occupied with children under 10 or there are no seat belts.
Children up to the age of 10 must travel in an approved child seat or restraint, adapted to their age and size. European regulations classify child restraints in five different groups according to the child's weight:
Taxis are exempt but in other vehicles, a fine is levied if a child is not restrained.
Children under the age of 12 must wear a helmet when cycling – both when riding themselves or as a passenger.
The parent or guardian faces a €90 fine for breaking this law.
Camper vans are not allowed to exceed 12 metres in length, and 2.55 metres in width. There are no height restrictions.
Cars with caravans are not allowed to exceed a combined 18.75 metres in length, and 2.55 metres in width. There are no height restrictions.
Loads on vehicles with two axles mustn’t exceed 19 tonnes. While weights at single axles mustn’t exceed 12 tonnes.
If the weight of a caravan exceeds that of the towing vehicle, special speed limits apply:
It’s illegal to tow another motor vehicle except in the case of a breakdown or an accident and if the distance to be travelled is short.
Please note: The Department for Transport advises that A-frames are not legal for use by UK campers and caravanners abroad. In practice, this could mean towing your car while it’s fixed to a trailer.**
rac travel guide france
Visiting motorists should be warned that some French police authorities are authorised to impose and collect fines on the spot up to €750 from drivers who violate traffic regulations.
If the offence committed is not likely to entail the suspension of the driving licence or a prison sentence, the motorist can pay a reduced fine within the next three days. If you want to contest the fine, you must apply for a court hearing within 30 days.
If the offence committed is serious and likely to entail a heavy fine and the suspension of the driving licence or a prison sentence, a motorist who is not resident in France and has no employment there must deposit a guarantee.
The police may hold his or her vehicle until payment is made. This payment can be in euros, by cheque drawn on a French bank or by travellers' cheques.
Standard fines are classified into four categories according to the gravity of the offence, ranging from €11 to €750. They can be reduced if payment is made within 15 days (in the case of postal payments, three days if paid in person) or increased if payment is not made within 45 days.
In some cases, instead of (or in addition to) a fine or prison sentence, the vehicle can be confiscated. The main offences this can be applied to are:
Any of the above cases can result in the vehicle becoming the property of the French government.
Stopping and parking are permitted on the right-hand side only of roads with two lanes of traffic; in one-way streets, stopping and parking are allowed on both sides if the street is wide enough.
Restrictions and limitations are indicated by road signs or by yellow lines on the kerb. A continuous yellow line indicates that stopping and parking are prohibited. A broken yellow line indicates that parking is prohibited.
Road signs indicate the areas where parking is restricted and must be paid for, either at parking meters or automatic machines that issue tickets indicating the length of parking time paid for.
Some machines take debit/credit cards ‘stationnement à la carte’.
Vehicles that are parked illegally may be towed away and impounded, even if registered abroad. The owner is liable for the cost of impounding and for every 24 hours the vehicle is kept.
In Paris and some other large towns, illegally parked vehicles are immobilised by wheel clamps. The driver must go to the local police station and pay a fine for dangerous parking or for causing an obstruction, as well as a fine to have the vehicle released.
There are spaces reserved for the disabled. In Paris, free parking is allowed where a fee is normally payable.
In principle, the disabled badge gives the holder permission to park his/her vehicle in a designated space. It does not mean that he/she can park free of charge in a fee-paying zone.
Generally, a disabled motorist may park without time limit on roads where parking is free but restricted by time.
The responsibility for parking concessions usually rests with the local authorities, but the police are required to show consideration for parking by the disabled, provided they do not cause obstruction.
The maximum legal level of alcohol in the blood for drivers of private vehicles is 0.05% blood alcohol content. That's lower than the 0.08% in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but the same as Scotland.
For bus and coach drivers, as well as newly qualified drivers with less than three years' experience, the limit is 0.02%.
The police have the power to carry out random breath tests. A test is compulsory after an accident that has caused injury or when a driver has committed a serious motoring offence.
A driver involved in an accident, or who has committed a traffic offence such as speeding or not wearing a seat belt, must take a drugs test.
The police use saliva or urine tests to detect drivers under the influence of drugs. If the test is positive, a blood test follows.
French motorways are operated by a variety of private companies, with most featuring tolls.
Tolls can be paid in cash or with a Mastercard or Visa card (Maestro and Electron debit cards are not accepted).
There are three main types of service area in France.
Lay-by: parking area
Resting area: with toilets, drinking water, picnic area and playground
Service area: open 24 hours a day with petrol station, restaurants and shops
Unleaded petrol, diesel fuel and lubricating oil are readily available throughout France.
The fuel SP95-E10, which contains up to 10% of ethanol and 90% of unleaded 95 petrol, is available. This fuel can be used in 60% of petrol-driven cars, especially in recent models.
There are now many automated petrol pumps operated by credit or debit card. There is also a growing network of electric charging points.
Fuel prices in France can be found in our up-to-date European fuel prices page.
Credit cards are generally accepted at petrol stations.
There are now many automatic petrol pumps operated by credit or debit cards. However cards issued abroad are not always accepted by these petrol pumps.

France is filled with many incredible places to visit, including major cities, the Alps, the French Riviera and so much more. If you’re using France as the start of a European road trip – then there’s an almost endless list of places to go and travelling by car is the perfect way to see them all.
The country shares borders with 8 countries – MonacoSpainGermanyItalyBelgiumLuxembourgSwitzerland, and Andorra.
When you’re in France, you’ll want to visit the capital Paris – where you can see the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe, and Champs-Elysees.
But where should you go from there?
Do you want to experience the magic of Disney and travel there in the comfort of your own car?
Disneyland Paris is closer than you think, so you and the family could be meeting Mickey and the gang before you know it.
Follow our complete guide on driving to Disneyland Paris.
Although the journey from Calais to the South of France is around 600 miles – it is well worth the journey for all types of holidaymakers.
There’s nothing like a road trip to get a true sense that you’ve travelled. Hitting the open road while sat in the driving seat gives you the freedom to decide your own route and enjoy a unique holiday that’s perfect for you – and when there are so many amazing locations to stop off at along the way, driving the length of the country is an exciting option.
We have a separate guide that helps drivers plan their route to the south of France – providing 3 different routes and what you can expect to see along the way.
For a limited time, get FREE car health check with European breakdown cover.
You will need to display a UK sticker on the rear of your car. GB stickers have been discontinued.
No, it’s not compulsory to carry a fire extinguisher in private cars in France. Public transport vehicles with more than nine seats must have at least one on board though.
Strictly speaking, you’re required to have a breathalyser kit in your vehicle when driving in France, but the reality is that no penalty will be imposed if you can’t present one during a police road check.
You may sometimes see the word ‘rappel’ under a speed limit sign on French roads. It’s just a reminder that you’re still in that speed zone and should already be at the limit. It’s not informing you that it’s changing to a new limit.
Yes, you will need to take the original vehicle registration V5 document (log book) with you to prove you’re the legal owner of the vehicle.
Yes. Depending on your car, you will either need deflector stickers or have to adjust the beam manually. This is so you don’t dazzle oncoming traffic when driving on the right side of the road at night.
The amount you pay will depend on the autoroutes you take and how long you stay on them. Costs also depend on the type of vehicle you’re driving, while those towing caravans also pay more.
Visit https://www.viamichelin.com to calculate the cost of your journey.
No, not unless there is a yellow arrow pointing to the right. Be aware, however, that the yellow arrow does not give you right of way.
The normal speed limit on French motorways is 130km/h (just over 80mph). If you’re on a main road outside a built-up area, the speed limit is now 80km/h after the law changed in 2018, and for built-up areas it’s 50km/h. In rain, speed limits are lowered.
As a general rule, all valid UK photocard driving licences should be accepted in other EU/EEA countries so it’s not necessary to have an International Driving Permit for France.
Winter tyres aren’t required by law in France, but snow chains must be fitted to vehicles using snow-covered roads in mountainous regions in compliance with local road signs or conditions. So, if you’re visiting in winter, it’s recommended you carry them with you.
To legally drive in France, you must be 18 years or older and in possession of a full valid driving licence.
On most toll roads, you take a ticket when you enter the motorway and pay the fee when you exit at a booth with a green arrow. Simply insert your ticket into the machine and it will show you how much you need to pay. You can either pay by cash or credit card.
If you regularly use toll roads, it’s worth signing up to the Telepeage scheme which takes you through the fast lane without having to stop and pay.
Yes, tolls can be paid in euro notes and coins. You can also use a Mastercard or Visa card. Debit cards Maestro and Electron are not accepted, however.
To drive in certain cities, you will need to display a vehicle emissions sticker on your windscreen, known as a Crit’Air vignette. There are six categories of sticker, which are colour-coded according to how much vehicles pollute. They range from the cleanest (Crit’Air 1) for electric vehicles to the most polluting (Crit’Air 6).
Traffic flows anti-clockwise round roundabouts in France, not clockwise as in the UK.
Drivers approaching a roundabout indicated by a triangular sign with a red border and three arrows forming a circle in the centre must give way to traffic already on the roundabout. In the absence of a sign, the rule of priority for vehicles coming from the right applies.
France uses the metric system for all road signs, so speed limits and other signs including distance are shown in kilometres and metres.
There is no legal requirement to carry a spare wheel as most cars no longer have them. However, you should make sure you check all your tyres before setting off. All motor vehicles and their trailers must have tyres with a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm.
Your licence is recognised in France for as long as it is valid. Paper licences are usually valid until you are 70. For plastic photocard licences, the expiry date is on the front.
See up-to-date travel advice
If you're thinking of driving in the UK, get complete peace of mind at home or at the roadside with RAC breakdown cover today.
British Embassy
35, rue du Faubourg St Honoré
75383 PARIS
Telephone: +33 (0) 1 44 51 31 00
Fax: +33 (0) 1 44 51 31 09
Website: http://www.amb-grandebretagne.fr/
British Consulate
353, Boulevard du President Wilson
Telephone: +33 (0)5 57 22 21 10
Fax: +33 (0)5 56 08 33 12
British Consulate
24, Avenue du Prado
Telephone: +33 (0) 4 91 15 72 10
Fax: +33 (0) 4 91 37 47 06
For a limited time, get FREE car health check with European breakdown cover.
^£11 a month is for existing Camping and Caravanning Club members purchasing new personal based Caravan or Campervan Standard cover only on a monthly renewing contract. Personal based Motorhome standard cover from £12 a month.
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By clicking subscribe you are adhering to our terms and conditions. Please see our privacy policy for more details.