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Driving in France: A Comprehensive Guide for Non-EU English Speakers

Moving to France is an exciting adventure, but navigating the driving laws and regulations can be daunting, especially for non-EU citizens. This guide will help you understand the essentials of driving in France, from obtaining a French driving license to understanding road rules and insurance requirements.

Obtaining a French Driving License

If you plan to stay in France long-term, you will need a French driving license. Here’s how you can get one:

1. Exchange Your License: Some non-EU countries have agreements with France that allow you to exchange your existing license for a French one. Check if your country is on this list. If eligible, you must apply for the exchange within one year of your arrival in France.

2. Pass the French Driving Test: If your country doesn’t have an exchange agreement, you’ll need to pass the French driving test. This involves both a theory test (code de la route) and a practical driving test. You may also need to take mandatory driving lessons.

Understanding French Road Rules

France has specific road rules that might differ from what you’re used to. Here are some key points:

1. Drive on the Right: In France, you drive on the right side of the road. This is crucial to remember, especially at roundabouts and intersections.

2. Speed Limits:

  • Urban areas: 50 km/h (31 mph)
  • Rural roads: 80 km/h (50 mph)
  • Highways: 130 km/h (81 mph) in dry conditions and 110 km/h (68 mph) in wet conditions.

3. Priority to the Right: The “priorité à droite” rule means you must give way to vehicles coming from the right at intersections, unless otherwise indicated.

4. Alcohol Limits: The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.05% for most drivers and 0.02% for new drivers with less than three years of experience.

5. Seatbelts and Child Seats: Seatbelts are mandatory for all passengers. Children under 10 years old must use an appropriate child seat.

Car Insurance in France

Having car insurance is mandatory in France. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Third-Party Insurance: At a minimum, you must have third-party liability insurance, which covers damage to others in case of an accident.

2. Comprehensive Insurance: For more extensive coverage, consider comprehensive insurance, which covers damage to your vehicle, theft, and fire.

3. Foreign-Registered Vehicles: If you bring your car from your home country, it must be insured. Some French insurers cover foreign-registered vehicles temporarily, but you must import the vehicle and register it with French plates within a specified period.

Renting a Car in France

Renting a car can be a convenient option if you don’t plan to stay long-term. Here are some tips:

1. Required Documents: You’ll need a valid driver’s license, a credit card, and an ID (passport) to rent a car.

2. Age Restrictions: Most car rental companies require drivers to be at least 21 years old. Drivers under 25 may incur additional fees.

3. Insurance: Rental cars usually come with basic insurance, but you can opt for additional coverage for peace of mind.

Driving Etiquette in France

1. Be Patient: French drivers can be assertive, but road rage is uncommon. Patience and politeness go a long way.

2. Use Indicators: Always use your indicators when changing lanes or turning. It’s a legal requirement and helps avoid accidents.

3. Parking: Parking can be challenging in cities. Pay attention to parking signs and restrictions. Illegal parking can result in fines or towing.


Driving in France as a non-EU citizen requires some preparation and understanding of local rules and regulations. Whether you’re exchanging your license, renting a car, or navigating French roads, being informed will help you enjoy a safe and pleasant driving experience in your new home. Welcome to France, and happy driving!

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