Top Ten Tips for Driving in France

Driving and rules of the road – top 10 tips 

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  1. Speed limits are higher in France than in the UK. On motorways the limit is 130kph (equivalent to 80mph) and 110kph when it’s raining. On most A roads it is 90kph and in towns and villages either 70kph or 50kph. People do tend to adhere to the speed limits: there are way more speed cameras now in France and frequent matrix boards telling you the speed you are going at so beware!

 

  1. Driving laws have generally become much tougher over the years, with a huge clamp down on drink driving. The level of alcohol to blood permitted is lower than in the UK, and radar is increasingly in use on motorways and other major roads. Don’t risk drinking and driving: even a tiny bit over the limit attracts a fine of €90, and any higher, you will be automatically banned from the moment you are stopped!

 

  1. Remember the “priority from the right” rule. Even on minor roads, if there is no marking, the car on your right has priority over you. This is something which is quite hard to get used to. If in doubt, slow down massively and give way!

 

  1. Petrol and diesel are roughly the same price as in the UK and many petrol stations have automatic payment machines which accept most credit cards. This can be useful in the evenings and on Sundays when sometimes the actual petrol station is closed! Try to avoid motorway petrol stations: they are way more expensive.

 

  1. There is no road tax in France but many motorways have a toll system, and the toll cost can mount up. However, the upside is that the roads are very well maintained, with few roadworks or contra flow systems – and of course there is FAR less traffic!

 

  1. Buying a new car in France is relatively straightforward, and your dealer should take care of all the paperwork for you. Pricewise, you will not find much difference between the UK and other countries of Europe so if you do want a brand new car, it may be easier to simply buy one once there, rather than importing one into France. Second-hand cars are a different matter however! They are just really expensive compared to the UK. Even looking at private adverts, we are constantly shocked by what they are asking. On the other hand of course, once you come to sell your second-hand car you will be happy to see it achieve a price higher than you had imagined!

 

  1. Remember to keep the log book (carte grise) and licence in the car with you at all times. This is a legal obligation and if you are stopped by the police they will always ask for these as well as proof of insurance.

 

  1. Also obligatory is a warning triangle and a fluorescent yellow jacket. Keep these in your car at all times. Don’t worry about all the recent talk of the alcohol tests you can buy to keep in your car. This has pretty much been scrapped as was unenforceable.

 

  1. There are several left-hand drive outlets in the UK which offer some good deals. This is what we did: bought both our cars there and re-plated with French plates on arrival. Often the speedometer shows both kilometres and miles so that does not need tinkering with and my advice would be to invest in a left-hand drive car rather than a right-hand drive car if you are going to be either living in France or spending a good deal of time here. For one thing, it is way easier when it comes to the toll booths.

 

  1. As far as your driving licence goes, there is nothing to stop you driving in France on your UK driving licence. If you are going to be living in France it probably makes sense to change to a French licence. This is done in the prefecture. If you commit any driving offences, such as speeding or drink/driving, you will be asked to change your licence to a French one. This is so that you can affiliate to the system as there is currently nothing reciprocal between the countries; for example, if you were to have, say, several speeding convictions in France, you would not receive any points on your English licence and vice versa. Rather than gaining points on your licence in France, it is the other way around – points are taken away, and when you have none you will receive a ban.

 

My final top tip: the French tend to drive either much too fast or like snails so take it easy and enjoy driving in France!

 


Further reading for Living In France

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The best way to get settled in France is to find out as much as you can about your new community.
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The French healthcare system is one of the best in the world...

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