Things you should know when Driving in France

The thought of driving in France filled me with dread before we started our holiday and when our ferry was delayed and we ended up arriving in France in the dark I was even less confident.

Before you leave for France there is a checklist of 11 things you must have with you when you drive in France:

  1. Driving License
  2. Passport
  3. Insurance Documents
  4. Proof of Ownership (V5 Log Book)
  5. Vehicle Must be Taxed in the UK
  6. Headlamp Converters
  7. Warning Triangle
  8. Spare Bulbs
  9. Hi-Viz Vest
  10. GB Sticker
  11. Breathalysers

I bought a Europe Motoring Kit before we left which contained all these essentials and we put the headlamp converters (stickers for the headlights to stop dazzling oncoming vehicles) on the car before we got off the ferry in France.

Driving on the right hand side of the road is really strange at first, especially going around the roundabout the wrong way, but we soon got used to it. We did make a little mistake on a junction but thankfully the road was empty so no-one noticed.

Our journey from St Malo to Lenault where were staying was mostly motorways and the biggest change, apart from being two lanes, was the fact they have no cats eyes so it is really easy to miss your junction if not paying attention. At the junctions they have a giant turquoise sign with two opposing arrows which shine very brightly in your headlights instead.

French Junction

Once we relaxed into the drive though it was really straight forward. The motorways were mostly empty and I now know what cruise control was invented for. The drivers all left plenty of space between each other and the speed limits were a sensible 110kph in the wet and 130kph on the dry.

French road sign

If like us you have a car with a digital display, I would highly recommend you change it to measure in KPH and adjust your satnav too.


Talking of satnav’s, we ensured we purchased one with European maps and updated it before we left. We did however leave our normal voice over and did chuckle a few times when she pronounced the French road names. Apparently we were visiting Le Mont St Mitchell (I half expected to see Phil and Grant when we pulled up). Our favourite made us chuckle each time we drove through the local town where we were staying as sounded like Rue Dick n Dave, which made the kids start playing Dick n Dom Games.

I would also recommend you look at some of the road signs and what they mean before you go, as driving in town can get confusing and the right of way is not necessarily the same as it would be in the UK. In France a single continuous white line is the same as a double white line in our country, you must not overtake when there is one in the centre of the road.

At a yield sign in France, you must yield to traffic from the left and right, but don’t have to stop if there is no one coming. Yield signs are triangular with the point facing down and have thick red edges, they have no words on them.

Yield sign

The stop and no-entry signs are identical to that of the UK and the priority sign indicating your right of way looks like this, although we always slowed down just in case.

Priority Sign

The one issue we had is that our card wasn’t accepted at an unmanned petrol station so I would recommend that you fill up at a manned one if possible and the fuel was so much cheaper than the UK too.

Don’t be afraid of driving abroad but do make sure you are prepared!

For more information about driving in France the website was invaluable in helping us prepare for our trip.


17 thoughts on “Things you should know when Driving in France

  1. This is such a handy post, thanks for sharing your tips. I’m driving abroad for the first time later this year (albeit in Italy rather than France) but I suspect that many of these will be the same there!

  2. Oh wow, I had no idea how different it was! Although it’s kinda the same still, if that makes sense? Lol. When I went to Greece we had to get money out rather than using our cards too! I’d probably get all panicky at roundabouts abroad and go the wrong way around haha x

  3. We are planning a trip to France maybe next year – we went a couple of times before our children, but have not been since. I’m not sure if I would be brave enough to drive on the other side of the road! I remember from last time all the things you need to have in your car! x

  4. We drove through France twice last year and I must admit that i didn’t realise you need so many things in the car incase you break down or stop. This is super helpful. x

  5. This is a really useful post. I don’t drive and I think the idea of driving abroad would terrify me. As a child, we used to go on a caravaning holiday to France every year. My dad used to drive a family five and a caravan for days on end. He was amazing and only now do I appreciate how tiring it must have been for him. I am so glad that you did eventually relax and enjoy driving in France. Hugs Lucy xxxx

  6. Can I add a couple of extra points. You need a hi-viz vest for each person in the car and they should not be stored in the boot as you must be able to put them on before you leave the car. Also you must disable speed camera detection on your sat nav or risk a hefty fine if caught with it working. There were a whole new raft of laws brought in last year – most are total common sense but this post is worth reading if you are going to be driving in France –

    Driving in France is not difficult – you just need to be aware of a few differences tot he UK.

    And I love how your sat nav “translated” places for you!!

  7. Great tips! We have driven all over Brittany as J’s Mum lives over there. I find the worst thing is coming back to the Uk and forgetting what side of the road I should be on 😉

  8. I’ve never driven in France. In fact, I’ve never driven abroad. I’m a bit of a scaredy cat. Thanks for sharing your tips though – great advice!

  9. I knew that you needed some of that equipment but not the breathalysers! I don’t think I could ever get behind the wheel if I had to drive on the wrong side of the road (notice the old school use of wrong side lol). Stephen

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