Driving in France: how to prepare for driving abroad

Driving abroad brings a whole new set of challenges – driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road is just the beginning. But if you have a holiday in Europe planned you’ll need to know all about driving in France, and possibly beyond.

Right now, travelling abroad is restricted because of the Covid-19 pandemic. But let’s fast-forward through the last few months of restrictions and think about what driving in France will be like when Covid rules have been lifted.

What do I need to drive in France?

There’s some kit you need to have with you when driving a car in France.

  • Your driving licence
  • Your passport
  • Motor insurance certificate
  • V5 registration document
  • Post Brexit, you also need a Green Card as proof of insurance (which your insurer will provide)
  • Reflective jackets for everyone in the car
  • A breathalyser kit
  • A warning triangle
  • Headlamp beam deflectors (unless you can adjust the beam manually)

Spare bulbs are recommended but not absolutely essential.

Check your insurance before you leave. You may be covered for driving in France already, or you may have to pay for additional cover. Either way, allow six weeks for a green card to be issued if coming by post. Some insurers will provide an electronic green card, but you’ll still need to download and print it off yourself. Showing a copy on a smartphone screen isn’t enough.

Do I need a GB sticker?

Yes, you do, unless the number plate has the GB identifier on its own or with the Union flag (also known as the Union Jack).

If you are towing a trailer or caravan, that will need a GB sticker too.

Do I need an International Driving Permit (IDP)?

No, not if driving within an EU country like France. The only exceptions are if you have a licence issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey, or the Isle of Man.

What are the speed limits in France?

In France, speed limits are given in kilometres. So remember to use the kph markings on your speedometer when checking your speed.

The limit on the motorway is 130kph/80mph, dropping to 110kph/68mph in wet weather. On dual carriageways the limit is 110kph/68mph in good weather. It’s 80kph/49mph on main roads outside of built-up areas, and 50kph/31mph on main roads in built-up areas.

Remember, the French autoroutes (motorways) are toll roads, so you’ll need to pay to use them. If you expect to travel in France regularly it’s worth getting a tag, which means automated payments and shorter queues at the toll booths.

Anything else I should know?

There’s lots to think about when driving abroad, even in our nearest neighbour, France. One important thing to remember is that the drink drive limit is lower in France than it is in England and Wales, at 0.5mg/ml of alcohol rather than 0.8mg/ml. So be doubly careful about drinking and driving. It’s safest to avoid drink completely if there’s any chance the alcohol will still be in your system when you next drive.

But it’s not all about pieces of paper, rules and restrictions. Driving in another country for the first time is another exciting milestone in your driving career. Enjoy it!

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