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How to Drive in France: Tips, Requirements, & Laws

If you're planning on visiting France for an extended amount of time or just want to be able to get around on your own while visiting, you'll need to learn how to drive in France.

You may have questions about the requirements - what you'll need, what the laws are, and what it's like driving in France. Perhaps you would like to learn some basic road rules in order to ease your mind. You're in the right place!

If you think that driving in France is different than driving in Canada or the US, then you are correct! Don't worry, it's not as scary as you might think!

This guide was created in order to show you the requirements, teach you some basic road rules, give a few tips on getting around, and show you where you can find more information on getting around in France. Once you've got these tips down pat, learning to drive in France won't seem like such a daunting task!

Heavy traffic in France can be stressful, especially if you are unfamiliar with French driving laws.

Heavy traffic in France can be stressful, especially if you are unfamiliar with French driving laws.

The Requirements for Driving in France

You can drive in France using your American driver's license if you're a tourist, but you're better off if you have an international driver's license. If you're in France on an extended stay, having an International driver's license or even a French license is an absolute must. If you plan on living in France, you will be required to obtain a French license after one year.

You aren't required to take a licensing exam if you're from the following states:
Ohio, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Kentucky, Michigan, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Virginia.

If you're from any other US state, you must take the French licensing exam before qualifying French driver's license. To get your French driver's license, you can enroll in an English speaking driving school where you will be taught how to drive in France.

The written test has forty multiple choice questions. You're allowed a maximum of 30 seconds per question and must answer at least 35 questions correctly in order to pass.

The driven part of the test lasts about 20 minutes. You'll have to show that you can parallel park, drive across intersections, drive on the highway, and change lanes.

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Basic Road Rules

There are some basic road markings in France that you may not be familiar with. Here's what they mean:

  • Dotted road marks are parking spaces.
  • White spaces generally allow free parking where those marked with the word payant are spaces where there is paid parking.
  • Yellow markings mean that the space is reserved.
  • Dotted yellow lines on the edge of the pavement mean that stops can be made, but only for a short period of time (like if you're just picking up a friend.)

Make sure your car has proper reflectors as well as working lights (headlights, brake lights, etc.) You can face a fine if these things aren't in working order. Also, make sure that your car is up to date on registration (and that you have the proper sticker on the car._

In France, cars are driven on the right side of the road as they are in America. If you're not used to wearing your seat belt, it is important to know that it's the law in France... and it's just safer to do so.

The speed limit through towns is 50 kph, 80 kph for the Paris area, 90kph for main roads, 110 kph for dual carriageways, and 130 kph for motorways. On days where there is snow or rain, the speed limit on all roads is reduced by 20 kph. Also, remember that only buses, taxis, or bicycles are allowed to travel in the bus lane.

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In Case of Emergency

In the case of any accident or injury, you should dial 15 for an ambulance or 18 in the case of fire. You can also call 17 (the police) to notify them of drunk driving or road blockages.

If there is an accident, drivers are required by law to help those involved in the accident. If you carry a first aid kit, this will not only help yourself if you are ever hurt, but it could also save another person's life.

If you have extra space in your trunk, carry a fire extinguisher. You should also have a warning triangle in your car. You are required to put the warning triangle behind your car if it breaks down as a way to warn other drivers.

Driving in France is not too different from driving in the US, but it’s important to know what is different and to follow French laws. By following the law, you will not only ensure your own safety but the safety of others -- and it'll also prevent you from being ticketed (which is always a bummer.)


Sang on December 02, 2011:


You have very helpfully hinted that one "can enroll in an English speaking driving school" and it would be even more helpful if you can hint some such contact info in the Paris area.

Many thanks!

wallacek on March 21, 2010:

I found this article very helpful. Thanks! I live in America but want to visit France sometimes. The cops in America love pulling people over. Do the cops in France do the same thing? What happens if you get a speeding ticket in France? You should write another hub answering those questions.

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