It might only be a short hop over the Channel, but driving in France is very different from in the UK. A French road trip is a great way to see the country, but you’ll need to know the rules of the road. Here’s our essential guide to what you’ll need to know when driving in France.
Rules of the Road
You’ll be driving on the right, of course, but what else do you need to know? Something that often catches out British drivers is the Gallic “headlight flash”. This doesn’t mean they’re letting you go – they’re telling you to keep out of their way! French drivers are also notoriously keen overtakers. Keep calm if someone comes rocketing past on your left, and be ready to keep out of their way.
“Priorite a droite” is still found in some parts of France. If you see the sign “Cedez le passage”, it means traffic from the right has right of way. This can be confusing and counter-intuitive, so keep your eyes peeled.
Another big difference between French and UK driving is that you can’t take phone calls at all, even on a hands-free device. It’s always best to wait and take the call later to avoid a hefty fine.
You’ll need your drivers’ license, known as a “permis de conduire”. All EU drivers’ licenses are valid throughout France (though it isn’t clear how this might be affected after Brexit). However, the legal age limit for driving in France is 18, whether you have a license or not.
Gendarmes might also ask to see proof that you’re insured, which you are required by law to carry. If someone asks to see your “preuve d’assurance”, you’ll need to show that you have at least third-party cover. Most rental companies provide this documentation, but check with them first; if you hire a car in the UK then drive it to France, you may need more detailed proof.
Finally, you may need to show your registration documents. This will be the V5C if you’re the car’s owner, or the rental agreement if you’ve hired the car. Keep your passport on you, too, in case officials need to check your ID.
Staying Safe On The Roads
If you haven’t spent much time on the Continent before, French driving might seem bewildering. As long as you’re prepared, though, you’ll quickly get the hang of it. Don’t let French drivers put you off a holiday in France – this country has a lot to offer.