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driving in france

The following information is specific to driving in France.   And will help you to ensure you stay safe whilst you are on holiday in France.

seat belts

Seat belts are compulsory for drivers and passengers.


The Fédération Franšaise des Automobile-Clubs et des Usagers de la Route (FFAC) is at 8 place de la Concorde, 75008 Paris, tel. 0143124312.

The use of a warning triangle or hazard warning lights is compulsory in the event of a breakdown or accident.  It is also compulsory that you have a visibility vest available (normally flourescent yellow) for each occupant in the vehicle.  The vests should be stored in the vehicle, so if you do breakdown,  you can put them on before getting out.


Fire: tel. 18. Police: tel.17. Ambulance: tel. 15. Alternatively dial the European emergency call number 112 and request the service you require. If you are involved in an accident, you must complete a constat à l'amiable before the vehicle is moved. This represents the European Accident Statement Form and must be signed by the other party involved in the accident.

how to use the phone

Cardphones have largely replaced coin-operated payphones. The phonecards to operate them may be purchased from airports, railway stations, post offices and retailers, particularly tobacconists, displaying the sign Télécarte en vente ici. IDD (International Direct Dialling) code for UK: dial 00 44 and remember to omit the first digit of the UK area code.

motorway information

To join a motorway follow the signs with the international motorway symbol or signs with 'par Autoroute'. Signs with 'péage' or 'par péage' lead to toll roads. Emergency telephones, which connect the caller to the police, are sited every 1.25 miles (2km). Most motorways charge tolls, except for certain sections near large towns and cities.

speed limits for cars

Motorways 130kph (80mph) in the dry or 110kph (68mph) in the wet, but on urban stretches 90kph (55mph), and 80kph (49mph) on the Paris ring road. Dual carriageways 110kph (68mph). Outside built-up areas 90kph (55mph). Built-up areas 50kph (31mph). Lower speed limits of 80kph (49mph) outside built-up areas.

110kph (68mph) on motorways apply in wet weather and to visiting motorists who have held a full driving licence for less than two years. In fog, 50kph (31mph) when visibility is reduced to 50m (55yds).

equipment check

A warning triangle and high visibility vest (normally fluorescent yellow, one needed for each person) are compulsory in the event of a breakdown or accident. Spare set of vehicle bulbs strongly recommended. Yellow-tinted headlights are no longer a necessary requirement in France.


Children under 10 cannot travel as front-seat passengers with the exception of a baby up to nine months and less than 9kg (20lbs). A rear-facing restraint should not be used in a front seat with an airbag.


A valid UK driving licence is acceptable in France. The minimum age for a driver is 18. A Green Card is not compulsory but is recommended.

other regulations

In hours of darkness/dusk you must drive on headlights; driving on sidelights only is not permitted. In fog, mist or poor visibility during the day, you must drive on either two fog lamps, or dipped headlights. Failure to comply with these regulations will lead to an on-the-spot fine. In built-up areas, you must give way to traffic coming from the right - "priorité à droite." However, at roundabouts with signs bearing the words "Vous n'avez pas la priorité" or "Cédez le passage", traffic on the roundabout has priority. Where no such sign exists, traffic entering the roundabout has priority. Outside built-up areas all main roads of any importance have right of way. This is indicated by either a red-bordered triangle showing a black cross on a white background with the words Passage protégé underneath; a redbordered triangle showing a pointed black upright with horizontal bar on a white background; or a yellow diamond within a white diamond, which is most commonly used.

unfamiliar road signs in france

ALLUMEZ VOS PHARES - Switch on lights
CHAUSSEE DEFORMEE - Uneven road surface
CHANTIER - Road works
FIN D'INTERDICTION DE STATIONNEMENT - End of parking restriction
ITINERAIRE BIS - Alternative route
PASSAGE PROTEGE - Your right of way
PEAGE - Toll
POIDS LOURDS - Heavy vehicle route
PRIORITE A DROITE/GAUCHE - Priority to right/left
RAPPEL - Warning! (This literally means 'reminder', i.e. continue with the instruction given on the previous sign.)
ROUTE BARRE - Road closed
DOS D'ANE - Humpback
SERREZ A DROITE/GAUCHE - Keep right/left
TOUTES DIRECTIONS - All directions
TRAVAUX - Road works
CHEMIN SANS ISSUE - No through road


preparing your car

Your holiday journey may well be the longest car ride of the year, involving many miles of hard driving over unfamiliar roads. Mechanical repairs and replacement parts can be very expensive abroad, and many breakdowns occur because the car was not properly prepared before the journey.

Have your car serviced shortly before you go on holiday and carry out your own checks for any audible or visible defects.

warning triangles/headlamp converters/visibility vests 
Make sure you have headlamp converters and a warning triangle (available from car spares shops).

Inspect all your tyres carefully, including the spare. The legal minimum depth of tread is 1.6mm across the whole width of the tyre, but if you think they are likely to be more than three-quarters worn by the time you get back, replace them before you leave. See that they are inflated to the pressures recommended in the manufacturer?s handbook.

Ensure that you have clear all-round vision. Your car should have outside wing mirrors on both sides which is important if you are driving a right-hand drive car in Europe. Detachable mirrors for use in Europe can be purchased from Halfords or similar stores.

seat belts and car stickers
Check that seat belts are properly fixed (their use is compulsory in Europe) and that your GB/IRL nationality plate is clearly visible on the rear of your car (and trailer if you are towing one).

Carry your passport, national driving licence, registration documents and insurance with you, as spot checks are quite common abroad. If you have an old driving licence (green) you may need an International Driving Licence.

please note : Breathalysers - the French government confirmed that from 1 July 2012 drivers of all motor vehicles and motorcycles must carry a breathalyser. Visit

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