France is one of the most popular destinations for British tourists both in the winter and summer months, and many of us drive to the country’s cities, gites and campsites via car ferries or through the Channel Tunnel.

French law requires that you carry certain items in your vehicle which are not compulsory in the UK. If you are heading across the channel soon and taking your car with you, here is our checklist of what you need to keep in your car if you drive in France.

What do I need to drive in France?

Let’s start with the documents:

  •  A valid, full driving licence
  •  Proof of at least third-party insurance
  •  ID – usually your passport
  • Vehicle registration document (V5C)

There are also some other legal requirements for driving in France and you can be fined if you don’t adhere to them. This is what you need to carry in your car at all times.

  • Warning triangle – to be deployed in case of an accident.
  • Breathalysers – all motor vehicles (even motorbikes) must carry one in-date, unused, French government-certified (NF) breathalyser at all times. Standard advice is to carry two unused breathalysers at any given time.
  • One reflective jacket for each occupant, within easy reach of all passengers .
  • If you have a satnav which can signal speed camera locations, this function must be deactivated. Failure to do so may result in a €1,500 fine.
  • Headlamp beam deflectors – these are to avoid dazzling other road users.
  • If your number plate does not have an integral GB symbol, you’ll need to attach a GB sticker to the rear of your car.
  • In the winter – snow chains, which must be fitted when driving on snow-affected roads according to road signage.
  • In some areas, Crit’Air clean air stickers – see below.

For additional road rules, tips and rules pertaining to specific types of vehicles or towing, please refer to the AA or RAC websites.

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What are Crit’Air clean air stickers?

France has introduced low-emission zones in Paris, Lyon and Grenoble. Vehicles in these areas need to display a special sticker produced by the French government – this is called the Crit’Air. This is a certificate of air quality.

Driving in France checklist: What you need to take with you if you’re driving to France this year

There are six different Crit’Air stickers, depending on the type of vehicle you drive and its emissions. If you intend to drive in one of these low-emission zones, you need to apply for the sticker from the official website before you travel – only use the official website to gain your sticker.

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The higher the sticker number, the more polluting the car. Cars with certain sticker numbers may be subject to additional restrictions at times of high pollution.     

In order to apply, you will need to know your car’s Euro emissions standard. The official French website defines the categories as:

  • Euro 2 – between January 1, 1997 and December 31, 2000
  • Euro 3 – between January 1, 2001 and December 31, 2005
  • Euro 4 – between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2010
  • Euro 5 and 6 – from January 1, 2011

The Crit-Air sticker scheme doesn’t just apply to cars. It also applies to all vehicles on the road, including two or three-wheelers, quadricyles, HGVs, coaches and buses.

The sticker, which costs €3.70 (not including postage), will remain valid for the vehicle’s lifetime, as long as the sticker is legible and undamaged – so once you buy it, you don’t have to reapply year after year. 

You can be fined between €68 and €135 (depending on vehicle type) for not adhering to traffic restrictions.

Once you receive your Crit’Air sticker, you should stick it to the front of your vehicle in a place it can be easily seen. More instructions will be provided with the sticker.

All information correct as of May 19, 2017.

Photo credits: Ryhor Bruyeu, Christophe Ena/AP/REX/Shutterstock