Driving in France this summer? Things you need to know before you go.

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Driving in France this summer? Things you need to know before you go.

With the holiday season nearly upon us, now is a good time to brush up on European Motoring requirements so you are fully prepared for a stress free trip. We’ve created a handy checklist with particular focus on France as the majority of driving trips to Europe will involve some driving in France. On the spot fines can be issued on the roadside and need to be paid immediately to the arresting officer in the local currency and it’s worth remembering that credit cards or travellers cheques are not accepted.

Satnav and speed camera alerts

Carrying or using a speed camera detector in France is a big no no, the law was changed in 2012 to include satnav and any GPS based systems so don’t forget to disable speed camera alerts. Fines up to €1,500 could be issued or you could even have your vehicle taken away.

Headphones and headsets

This includes any device attached to your ear used for phone calls or listening to music. However, motorcyclists are permitted to use integrated systems or Bluetooth in a helmet.


Whilst carrying a breathalyser is a legal requirement, currently there is no fine as the authorities have acknowledged issues with the supply of suitable breathalysers. The breathalyser must be unused and show the French certification mark NF.  It has to be in date too, single-use breathalysers usually expire after 12 months so it’s worth checking ones bought and unused from last years trip.

It’s worth noting that the drink drive limit for new drivers (less than 3 years) has gone down from 0.05% to 0.02%.

Low emission zones

Low Emission Zones in Paris, Lyon and Grenoble affect UK-registered vehicles from 1 April 2017 and vehicles in restricted areas now have to display a sticker – CRIT’Air, Air quality Certificate. Failure to purchase and display the vignette can result in a fine between €68 and €135. There are six different types of sticker and the sticker required depends on the emissions of the vehicle. You can purchase an official sticker before you go for €3.70.

For up-to-date information on low emission zones for Europe visit Urban Access Regulations in Europe

GB Sticker

Unless you have a new style EU Number plate with the GB and the Euro flag on it, a GB plate must be displayed on the rear of your vehicle, caravan or trailer in both France and Spain. Although if you read the French regulations very carefully you will see that an EU Number plate is not in fact the right size specified as they are not big enough.

Headlamp beam adaptors

Headlamp adjustment is mandatory in both France and Spain and failure to adapt your headlamps whilst driving both in the day and at night time will make your vehicle unfit for use on the road and could invalidate your motor insurance.

Warning Triangle

In the event of a breakdown or emergency whilst on the road, drivers need to be able to give advance warning of a hazard on the road. Hazard warning lights are NOT always sufficient.

In Spain, 1 triangle required is for non-Spanish registered vehicles.

In France, 1 triangle is required for all vehicles in France and failure to do so can carry a fine of up to €135.

Spare Bulbs

Carrying spare headlamp bulbs is recommended in France and Spain as drivers need to be able to replace any blown exterior lights and failure to do so can carry a fine of up to  €80.

Reflective Vest

Reflective vests for drivers are compulsory in Spain and France and motoring law in an increasing number of other European Countries now requires all vehicles, including motorcycles to carry a reflective vest for drivers AND passengers, for use in the event of breakdowns or emergencies. These need to be stored inside the cabin of the car (not the boot as you must put it on before you get out!). If you are seen by the police stood outside your vehicle trying to find your vest in your boot it is very likely you will be issued with a fine.

Documents You Need to Take

When travelling abroad you will naturally take your passport but as you are driving your own car you will need to take a few other things with you

Driving License

Proof of Ownership (V5 Log book)

Insurance Documents (Some fully comprehensive insurance policies revert to 3rd party cover whilst driving abroad so it is worth double checking with your insurance company if you will be fully covered while driving in Europe.)

M.O.T. (If your car is over 3 years old)


Finally, for additional peace of mind and to avoid costly towing fees we recommend that you have European breakdown cover in place before driving to the continent. You may already have breakdown cover in the UK but it may not cover you whilst driving in Europe.