Written by Beth Nicholson,
22nd May 2023

There’s been a lot of news in France recently surrounding the dos and don’ts of driving in France as a non resident. A subject of interest to us all, as most people own and depend on vehicles (particularly in rural areas). Here we take a look at some of the headlines.

Driving in France, Ville Franche sur Mer

Driving licences

If you’re planning on moving to France, you may already know that your current license (from your home country) will remain valid for driving in France until it’s eligible for exchange. However, it’s been highlighted recently that lots of expats have failed to do so. So it’s important to double check rules and regulations – we break them down for you below.

The advice here is to check and double check the dates on your licenses as soon as possible.

For UK Licenses where a driving test was passed prior to 1 January 2021, licenses become eligible for exchange either 6 months prior to the expiration of your photocard, or if you commit an offence, which would result in issued points, that’d have to be added to a French license. You’ll also be eligible if your UK driving license is lost or stolen. However, if your UK license was issued since 1 January 2021 (or indeed from any non-EU or EEA country) you must exchange it within a year. This begins from the day of your arrival in France for anyone other than holiday makers.

For the unsuspecting, this has caused chaos. With some not realising that their licenses may no longer be valid and legal. As we all know, ignorance is no defence in law. Under these circumstances, the only course of action, is to retake a driving test in France. The advice here is to check and double check the dates on your licenses as soon as possible.

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cars driving in Paris

Cars on the Champs Elysées in Paris

Registering vehicles

As well as regularizing driving licenses, the law states that you have one month from your date of arrival in France to start the re-registration process of your vehicle. Most garages offer this service for a small fee, as well as the cost of registration. Every vehicle is subject to registration, whether imported or not. Since Brexit, as with other cross validation checks, this is something that is being very much clamped down on. With many vehicles continuing to run on UK plates.

Once again ignorance on this point is no defence. If you have started the process you should have an attestation to that effect. Which you should carry in your vehicle at all times, should you be stopped as proof.

Failure to register your vehicle in France, carries understandably hefty fines or worse (impoundment). Perhaps no surprise given the fact that holding up the process long term invariably also means a lack of insurance and invalid MOTs to boot.

March 2022 : Total Energies gas station with high prices

Petrol prices

In other driving in France news, France claims an unfortunate accolade. That of being the EU country where petrol prices are currently the most elevated, when compared with prices prior to the war in Ukraine.

Despite efforts of the government over the last few years, and the newly implemented petrol aid announced for people requiring it for commuting purposes, this is clearly not good news for French residents. Affecting both individuals and businesses, at a time when the cost of living crisis is already taking enough of a toll.

Low-emission zones

More French residents than ever before have reported receiving fines for driving in in London’s low and ultra low emission zones. There is however, still some doubt over how authorities have accessed their contact data. This issue surfaced months ago and the debate is sure to rage on.

Meanwhile in France, a public consultation into their own low emission zones (ZFE) has been launched by the Senate. As yet, only 11 cities have implemented restrictions on heavy polluting vehicles. But the zones are predicted to become enforceable within 43 cities by the year 2025.

To encourage buy electric cars, like this one in Paris, you can get discounts up to €8,500 (Vereshchagin Dmitry / Shutterstock.com)


It’s been reported that France is looking to test electric motorways. This would mean that electric-powered trucks could recharge their batteries as they drive.

Plans are also underway to remove toll barriers along some sections of motorways. With the Paris to Normandy A13/A14 being the first to announce that toll barriers will be removed along it’s entire length. This measure is in an effort to stop the hold up of traffic on certain routes.

Some good news

Finally, in good news, it has been announced that drivers exceeding the speed limit by less than 5km/h will no longer have points deducted. This will start as of January 1, 2024.

Also in a bid to aid his plans to “re-industrialise” France, President Macron announced plans to reform bonuses for those looking to buy environmentally friendly cars.

For more guidance on driving in France, read our Living in France guide.

Living in France

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