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Motoring information

Documents | Passports Visas | Vehicle Registration Certificate | Car insurance | Driving licence | Children | Customs allowances | Breakdown on a motorway | Drinking and driving | Drugs | Fines | Mobile phones | First aid kit | Fuel | GB stickers | Lights | Motorway tolls | Priority | Radar | Seat belts | Speed limits | Warning triangles and reflective jackets

Documents

The following documents are compulsory for entry into France by car: 

  • A passport for each passenger
  • The vehicle registration certificate.
  • A current certificate of motor insurance.
  • A valid driving licence.
Passports, Visas

A standard 10-year UK passport is required to enter France. If you are accompanied by, for example, an au pair from another European Union country, they do not require a Visa. However, citizens of most non EU countries do require a visa which must be obtained from a French embassy or consulate in the UK before travelling.

Vehicle Registration Certificate

You must carry with you your vehicle registration certificate (V5C) or, if the vehicle is not registered in your name, a letter from the registered owner giving you permission to take the vehicle into France.

Car insurance

Minimum third party cover for a motor vehicle used in France is automatically provided by UK insurance. However, most UK insurers require prior notification of a visit to France for them to provide fire, theft and comprehensive cover. The certificate of insurance must be kept in the car.

Driving licence

The minimum age for driving in France is 18 on a full UK licence. You may not drive a temporarily imported vehicle in France on a provisional licence. Visiting motorists who have held a full driving licence for fewer than two years (exluding the period when they were under 18) are subject to speed restrictions. Police or car rental companies may ask to see the paper counterpart if you hold a UK photographic licence. An International Driving Licence is not required.

Children

Children under ten years of age may not travel in the front seat, except babies aged less than nine months and weighing less than 9kg, strapped into an approved rear-facting baby seat. Never fit a rear-facing baby seat in a seat with a front airbag. Children in the rear seats weighing 9-15kg must sit in a child seat and over 15kg on a booster cushion in conjunction with a standard seat belt.

Customs allowances

There is no limit on the importation of tax-paid goods purchased in France provided the goods are intended for the importer's personal use, which includes gifts for family and friends. However, the UK Customs authorities will ask importers to justify the intended use of their goods if they bring back per individual more than 3,200 cigarettes, 110 litres of beer, 90 litres of wine and 10 litres of spirits on any one trip or make the same trip regularly and import similar quantities.

Breakdown on a motorway

1) Emergency telephones are located every 1.5 miles on the motorway.
2) Each phone is linked to the local police station which can automatically locate you and send out an approved repair service.
3) The repair service rates are regulated and vary between 70 € and 90 € but be aware that between 18.00 and 08.00, as well as on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, the service rates go up an additional 25%.

Drinking and driving

The maximum permitted level of alcohol is 0.05 per cent, lower than the UK limit. The penalties for exceeding the limit reflect the severity of the infringement and range from an on-the-spot fine, confiscation of driving licence, confiscation of vehicle and a term of imprisonment. Random tests are permissible in France.

Drugs

Saliva drug tests have been introduced in France, with similar penalties to those for drivers shown to be under the influence of alcohol.

Fines

French police are authorised to levy on-the-spot fines for a variety of motoring offences and will give a receipt. Credit cards are not accepted. Drivers with insufficient means to pay may have their licences confiscated until they do.

Mobile phones

The use of hand-held mobile phones while driving is strictly prohibited.

First aid kit

A vehicle first aid kit, although a wise precaution, is not compulsory in France.

Fuel

Unleaded petrol, 95 and 98 octane, LPG and diesel (known as ‘Gazole’) are available in France. Credit cards are accepted at all filling stations.

GB sticker

UK registration plates displaying the GB Euro-symbol (a circle of 12 stars above the national identifier on blue background) do not require a GB sticker or magnetic plate. For cars displaying normal number plates, a sticker or magnetic plate is required.

Lights

Dipped headlights must be used in poor daytime visibility. Outside built-up areas, 4x4 vehicles are expected to use dipped headlights day and night irrespective of visibility. Headlight conversion kits or other measures must be used to divert the beam away from oncoming drivers. Some vehicles with high-density discharge or halogen lights cannot easily be adapted by applying an external mask and may require adjustment by a dealer.  Spare bulb kits are not compulsory but the lack of one may make the police more likely to recommend prosecution for having a failed light on the car.

Motorway tolls

Most stretches of motorways are subject to tolls. Euro coins are useful for some toll booths with automatic exit gates. Tolls accept Euros and credit cards.

Priority

All roads of any significance have right of way known as ‘passage protégé’. In built-up areas, however, for roads of equal importance, France still operates a system of priority for traffic coming from the right, 'priorité à driote'. At the entrances to roundabouts carrying the sign ‘Vous n’avez pas la priorité’, or ‘Cédez le passage’, traffic already on the roundabout has priority. If a French driver flashes his headlights, he is not allowing you to go first but letting you know he has right of way.

Radars

Radar detection devices are illegal in France and their use may result in a heavy fine. Even devices that are not in use may be confiscated by police and the driver fined.

Seat belts

Seat belts are compulsory for front and rear seat passengers.

Speed limits

The standard legal limits for experienced drivers are 50 km/h (31 mph) in built-up areas, 90 km/h (56 mph) outside built-up areas, 110 km/h (68 mph) on dual carriageways and 130 km/h (80 mph) on motorways, where the minimum speed is 80 km/h (49 mph). For drivers who have held a licence for fewer than two years, and for all drivers in wet weather, the legal limits are 80 km/h (49 mph) outside built-up areas, 100 km/h (62 mph) on dual carriageways and 110 km/h (68 mph) on motorways. Increasingly large fines are now levied on speeding motorists, and holders of EU driving licences found to have exceeded the speed limit by more than 40 km/h (25 mph) invariably have their licences confiscated by the police. Speed cameras hidden in police cars are becoming increasingly common and the police may use entry and exit times shown on motorway tickets to establish speed infringements.

Warning triangles and reflective jackets

A law concerning the compulsory carrying of a warning triangle (ECE R27) and a reflective jacket (EN471) in France came into force on 1st July 2008. On-the-spot fines of between 90 € and 135 € are enforceable.

Motoring information