Driving in France
Handled by the local authority known as the Préfecture du département
All foreign citizens can buy, hire and drive a car in France, provided that they respect the French Highway Code. All foreign driving licences (permis de conduire) are valid for at least one year in France.
EU driving licence
A driving licence issued by any EU member state plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, is a community licence and is therefore valid throughout Europe for an unlimited period of time.
However, to be legal in France, it must be a permanent licence. If only temporary, it will not be valid in France beyond its expiry date.
If your community licence is lost or stolen, the local French préfecture will obtain the necessary information from the member state that issued the licence and replace it with a French driving licence, valid throughout Europe.
Non-European driving licences
Other citizens can drive in France with their national driving licence for a period of one year from the start date of their residence permit, provided that the licence:
- was obtained before the residence permit,
- complies with the minimum legal age for driving in France (18 years),
- is valid,
- is presented with an official translation by a translator approved by the préfecture of the French département (county) where the citizen resides (list available upon request at the desk marked 'permis de conduire' at this préfecture).
When the one-year period is up, the foreign driving licence must be replaced by a French licence. The foreign resident must still meet the above requirements. In addition, his/her country must have signed a reciprocal agreement with France, i.e. allowing a French licence to be switched for the country's national licence.
If there is no reciprocal agreement, the driver must take driving lessons (20 hours’ driving lessons compulsory) and pass a driving test in France at an estimated cost of 1,300 EUR.
Holders of residence permits marked "student" have the right to drive with their national licence throughout the duration of their studies in France, including beyond the one-year period.
© All Contents, Laurence de PERCIN, janvier 2014.