Your Ultimate Guide to Secure a French Driving Licence as an Expat


If you’re an expat who’s just made the exciting leap to living in France, you might be wondering about the ins and outs of driving in your new home. It’s no secret that France, with its picturesque countryside and sprawling vineyards, is a country best explored behind the wheel. However, before you embark on your French road journey, it’s crucial to familiarise yourself with certain regulations, licence prerequisites, and insurance requirements. 

It’s not all about remembering to drive on the right side of the road—there’s a bit more to it, and that’s exactly what we’re here to walk you through. From understanding the French points system to knowing the intricacies of car insurance, we’ll ensure you’re well informed and ready to hit the road, French style. So, buckle up, as we delve into the world of driving in France for expats.

Driving in France: A Handy Guide for Expats on Licenses, Insurance, and Regulations

1. Obtaining a French Driving Licence

Depending on your nationality and the type of driving licence you possess, different regulations apply for obtaining a French driving licence. Here are the key factors for various nationalities:

  • European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) citizens: If you hold a valid driving licence issued by an EU or EEA member country, you can drive legally in France without the need to exchange your licence. However, if your licence does not have an expiration date, French authorities require you to exchange it within two years of establishing residency.
  • Non-EU/EEA citizens: Most non-EU/EEA driving licences are valid for one year after establishing residence in France. After this period, you must exchange your licence for a French driving licence or pass a driving test in France. Some countries have reciprocal agreements with France, allowing a straightforward exchange without the need for a driving test. Check the French government’s list of countries for specific requirements applicable to your nationality.
  • UK citizens: Following Brexit, a special agreement was reached between France and the UK. If your UK licence was issued before January 1, 2021, you can continue using it in France until it expires. If your licence was issued on or after January 1, 2021, you can use it in France for up to one year from the date you establish residency, after which you must exchange it for a French licence. No driving test is required for the exchange​.

It’s advisable to initiate the licence exchange process well in advance, as it may take several weeks to complete.

2. Registering and Insuring Your Vehicle

If you plan to bring your vehicle to France, you must register it with the French authorities and obtain French licence plates. The process involves:

  • Certificate of Conformity: Obtain a Certificate of Conformity from your vehicle’s manufacturer. This document confirms that your vehicle meets European standards.
  • Quitus fiscal: If your vehicle is used and imported from another EU country, you need to obtain a ‘quitus fiscal’ from your local French tax office, proving that you have paid the VAT on the vehicle.
  • Vehicle inspection: Depending on the age of your vehicle, you may need to have a ‘contrôle technique’, the mandatory roadworthiness test in France. The test is valid for two years and must be performed by an approved inspection centre.
  • Request for registration: Submit the required documents to your local prefecture or online via the French government’s online portal (source: https://ants.gouv.fr/).

Additionally, French law requires that all vehicles be insured with at least third-party liability insurance. Failure to have adequate insurance can result in hefty fines or legal penalties.

3. Understanding French Traffic Regulations

Familiarising yourself with French traffic regulations is vital for driving confidently and safely in France. Key rules include:

  • Driving on the right-hand side of the road
  • Priority to the right, when no road signs indicate otherwise
  • A blood alcohol concentration limit of 0.5 mg/mL (0.2 mg/mL for novice drivers)
  • Seat belts are compulsory for all passengers in the vehicle
  • Children under 10 years old must be seated in an appropriate child restraint system
  • Use of mobile phones is only allowed with a hands-free device
  • Local speed limits must be adhered to – city roads are generally 50 km/h, rural roads 80 or 90 km/h, dual carriageways 110 km/h, and motorways 130 km/h (reduced to 110 km/h in wet weather)

4. Carrying Required Documents and Equipment

While driving in France, you must have the following documents and equipment:

  • Valid driving licence
  • Original vehicle registration document
  • Proof of insurance
  • Warning triangle
  • High-visibility vest for each passenger (to be kept inside the vehicle, not the boot)
  • In some regions, a breathalyser kit is recommended, although the law is not enforced

It’s important to carry these items in your vehicle at all times to ensure compliance with French laws and avoid penalties.

5. Adapting to French Road Etiquette

Adjusting to French road etiquette is essential for a smooth driving experience. Some key aspects include:

  • Maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle in front
  • Overtaking on the left, unless in heavy traffic situations with multiple lanes, where passing on the right might be permissible
  • Indicating lane changes with the turn signal
  • Use of car horns is generally restricted to emergency situations or warnings of imminent danger

By understanding French driving regulations, obtaining the necessary licence and insurance, and following the required road etiquette, English-speaking expats can drive safely and legally in France.

As you adapt to driving in France, consider seeking the expert support of French Connections HCB. Their assistance in various relocation-related matters will instil confidence and peace of mind throughout your journey.

Drive Confidently in France with French Connections HCB

So whether you’re an expat planning to drive on the French Riviera or navigate through the bustling streets of Paris, being well-prepared and informed can make the whole driving experience smoother and more enjoyable. Remember, the goal is not just to get from point A to point B, but to do so safely, legally, and with a good understanding of the road rules.

French Connections HCB’s expert support can make your relocation and integration to France as seamless and stress-free as possible. From immersing yourself in French culture to settling in your new home, French Connections HCB will guide you every step of the way. 

Discover how we can help you adapt to driving in France and provide you with comprehensive relocation assistance. Explore our range of services for French driving insurance and licenses, and consult our team for expert insights tailored to your unique needs. Start your journey with the support of trusted partners who understand the importance of a smooth transition to life in France.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Sign up to our free newsletter for regular admin tips, advice and updates.

Copyright © 2023 French Connections HCB | Pôle entreprise Labordeneuve – 32300 Idrac-Respaillès – SAS with a capital of 10 000€ | SIRET N° 88970854100020 |  Privacy Policy

Scroll to Top
A Place in the Sun Live

Manchester Central 1st - 3rd March

See us on stand FR30 - Click below to get tickets or book a live consultation with our Moving to France specialist Richard Hammond!