If you’re heading to or through France by car this year, there’s an essentials checklist that you can’t get caught without. Everything on the list is a legal requirement to have in the car with you, and if you’re caught without an item you can be fined on the spot.  I’ve included links to the items we have in our ‘Going To France’ bag, which will hopefully help you get set up for driving in France with no fuss.

If your journey through France is to get you to Disneyland Paris, check out Family Travel With Ellie’s guide to driving to Disneyland Paris.

Three things to remember:

  1. Your emergency kit has to be accessible from inside the vehicle, so you can’t pop it in the boot or the roofrack. You must be able to reach it.
  2. You can pick up any of these items on the ferry, but you will pay more for it than just getting it in advance.
  3. In brackets is the amount you’ll be fined for each item you don’t have.Driving in France

What you must have when driving in France:

  1. Headlight Beam Adjusters (€90 fine)Headlight beam adjusters are the most obvious thing you need because you can see from outside the car if you don’t have them – since they’re outside the car. In your pack you will receive a variety of different beam adjusters, so you have to look at the pamphlet inside to see which ones you have to add to your headlights and in which position.According to the RAC Website, “Modern car’s headlights are set up to point towards the nearside – or kerbside – of the vehicle. A right-hand drive car on the right-hand side of the carriage way means this could blind oncoming traffic at night.” The adjusters do exactly that – adjust the beam of the light so that you don’t blind oncoming traffic.
  2. Visibility Vests (€135 fine)There needs to be a visibility vest for every person in the car. The link above takes you to children’s vests for £1.50 and adults vests for £2.55 – a lot cheaper than the fine! You have to keep the vests inside the vehicle, and you have to wear it as soon as you exit the vehicle. If the police see you standing outside the car going through the roofbox or trailer trying to find your vests, you can be fined.
  3. Spare Light Bulbs (€80 fine)In the UK, changing a defunct lightbulb asap is generally acceptable, but in France, you have to change your lights there and then.  Carry a spare light bulb kit and perhaps get someone to show you how to change them if you don’t already know.”Travel Spot’s comprehensive halogen bulb kit includes 12 bulbs and 6 fuses and fits the majority of vehicles. All items are ‘locked’ into an injection moulded plastic (NOT sponge) base. Travel Spot’s Universal Bulb Kit will stay current even if you change your car as it contains the 3 most popular primary bulbs.”
  4. Single Use Breathalisers (No fine, but still the law)I don’t really ‘get’ these. I bought a reusable breathaliser for our first trip after the law came in, the realised that’s not acceptable. You have to have two disposable breathalisers so that you can use one when required by a policeman, and still have one in the car.  These are available in supermarkets in France for around a €1 each, but you have to actually get to a supermarket to buy them first, and could just as easily be pulled over coming out the ferry/train terminal.Keep in mind that the disposable breathalisers can be inaccurate if exposed to high or low temperatures, and they do expire.
  5. Warning Triangle (€135 fine)Another big-fine item is a warning triangle. If you have a breakdown or accident, you need to put the triangle out to warn oncoming vehicles.
  6. GB Sticker (€90 fine)Technically if you have a new-style licence plate, you shouldn’t need as sticker, but if you look at the fineprint, the GB on the licence plate isn’t actually big enough. The stickers are available from as little as 85p delivered, and while you can get magnetic ones for more, these do the trick, and mine’s still good to go second year running.
  7. GlassesIf you wear driving glasses, you have to keep a spare pair in the car.
  8. “Environmental Zone” StickerIf you are driving in Paris or other big cities you’ll need an “environmental zone” sticker which is like the London Congestion charge. The sticker determines when you can drive in the city centre. You can find out more here.

Laws to note when driving in France:

A few things to note when driving in France:

  1. Children under 10 are not allowed in the front seat of the car in a car that has a back seat. They do have to be in carseats in the back.
  2. The alcohol limit is lower than in the UK, so pretty much, don’t drink and drive, even when they sell wine in the motorway cafes!
  3. Radar detectors are illegal
  4. Using a phone with headset or handsfree is illegal. You can have your licence suspended on the spot for using a mobile phone while driving. The only type of mobile phone now legal to use in France while driving is one that is entirely hands-free and headphone free.

Documentatation for driving in France

If you’re driving in France you need to have with you:

Your passport

  • A full, valid driving licence
  • Proof of ID (Passport)
  • Proof of insurance (third party or above)
  • Proof of ownership / registration document (V5C Certificate)
  • M.O.T Certificate if your car is over 3 years old


And finally, I’d strongly suggest RAC European Breakdown Cover. We locked the keys in the car in September and would have had to get someone out from the nearest dealership – a three hour drive away – to bring a master key or something or other. I phoned up RAC and they sent out their local connection who was able to unlock the door in seconds. I saved my year’s International cover and more in that little exercise!

It’s also really important to remember that while you’re in a foreign country, people are people, and good and bad people exist everywhere. Make sure your car security is exactly as you’d have it back home. You certainly don’t want to be stranded on holiday… although now you mention it… !

There’s a great post by EmmysMummy on how to entertain kids on a road trip, and if you’re keeping it local this summer, here’s a list of 22 places in the UK to visit for the ultimate road trip  from Otis and Us. I also had a good giggle at this post on the things kids ask form the back seat!


Categories: Europe France