Compulsory Equipment For Driving in France

11301619113_ba07a86986_k (1)

Even though we have travelled all over the globe, we are yet to take our own car and drive on the continent.  2016 will see this change as we are taking two trips to France and Holland over the two half terms in May and October. Our trip to France will be quite a long road trip as we will be driving to Paris for a short break and then onto Burgundy to explore the area, and visit Guedelon.  We haven driven abroad in New Zealand but gave little consideration to equipment and documents which are compulsory to drive in different countries.  The other day I did a quick google search and found so many items that I hadn’t even considered myself for our impending journey.  I thought it would be useful to share this information as I know many families make the trip to the continent with their cars and may not realise that these items are compulsory and could result in fines if you are stopped and have failed to comply.  So here’s the list of compulsory equipment for driving in Europe.

Documents / Cover – Compulsory

  • Driving License:  When driving in France, you will need a recognised full driving licence and carry this with you at all times.  With the change of the rules regarding the paper counterpart this is no longer required.
  • Personal ID:  Anyone visiting France must have a valid personal ID card. For visitors from countries like the UK which do not issue ID cards, a valid passport is required.
  • Proof of Ownership:  This is the car’s registration certificate, for cars registered in the UK, the V5C certificate.   If you are asked to asked for the “Carte grise” (grey card) they are referring to the vehicle’s registration certificate.
  • Proof of insurance: a standard insurance document from any EU country provides basic insurance for your vehicle (third party cover) throughout the Union, whether or not a green card is provided. As regards the extent of you vehicle insurance cover, you should check with your insurance company before setting off.  Many insurance policies that are comprehensive policies in the UK only provide third party cover when the vehicle is taken abroad.
  • MOT: If your car requires an MOT certificate you need this with your documents when you are travelling.  If your car is less then 3 years old you do not need to take this with you.

Documents /cover – Optional

  • Vehicle Recovery:  it is important to check the status of your vehicle cover and see if this covers your anticipated journey.  We have recently updated ours to include Europe, and thought it would be a good idea. Travelling with children can be stressful, stranded in a foreign country with a broken down car will not make for happy travellers.



Actual Items for your car – Compulsory

  • Headlamp Beam deflector:  I hadn’t thought about this being an issue but it does make sense.   In the UK, headlamps dip to the left, which is a big problem when driving at night on the continent, as that means they dip into the path of oncoming traffic.  The legal requirement is to ‘not dazzle oncoming drivers’ rather than specifically to adjust/convert the headlamp beam pattern. Without adjustment the dipped beam will dazzle oncoming drivers and this could result in a fine. Headlamp beam converter kits are widely available but may not be suitable for all types of headlights. Depending on your car, you will either need deflector patches or have to adjust the beam manually. Beam deflectors (often just a bit of opaque tape to stick on a part of the headlamp) correct this.
  • Spare set of bulbs.  Though it is highly unlikely that you will be stopped and asked to show your spare set of bulbs, and though it is not practical to carry spare sealed-beam units that require a garage visit for fitting, It is illegal not to have a spare bulb if ones blows in your car and this attracts a 90 Euro fine. It’s almost impossible to have every single bulb so most people just take a bulb kit that covers the vast majority of common bulbs and this will usually be enough to satisfy the police. It’s the people who don’t carry any at all who generally get fined.
  • A GB sticker to display in the rear windscreen unless your UK registration plates display the GB Euro-symbol (Europlates)
  • Breathalyzer kit or alcohol level test: The rules have changed for this since 2013, and even though it is still a legal requirement to carry one in your car, as this s no longer subject to a fine, many people have stopped carrying them.
  • Hazard warning: this is a red reflective triangle that can be placed at a suitable distance behind a car if it is immobilised on the highway or hard shoulder.
  • High Viz waistcoats.  All cars in France are required by law to carry a high-visibility waistcoat (fluorescent yellow or orange). This must be carried IN the car, not in the boot, so that it can accessed immediately by any driver who needs to get out of an immobilised vehicle, notably on a motorway or main road.  Ideally you should have a high viz coat for every passenger as you would all need to wait outside if a ca was to breakdown.
  • Tyre Chains: For those driving in winter, it is compulsory to have tyre chains.   These must be fitted to vehicles using snow-covered roads. (In addition, these should be carried and used as dictated by local signs or road conditions.)

Actual Items for your car – Optional

  • Spare set of car keys.  This is not compulsory but personally  think it would be highly recommended. I can only  imagine the upset and stress that losing your keys abroad could bring.
  • Stat Nav:  We are fast becoming a nation of leaving the maps and embarking on travels with our trusted GPS or sat nav in hand.  Unless you have data allowance overseas, I would recommend a sat nav system which includes overseas maps without the need for internet access.  If nothing else, ensure that you have all the maps for the areas you are intending to drive to.
  • Vehicle Condition: This is an obvious one and before setting off on a long journey always ensure that you have first had your car serviced or checked. In particular, check tyre pressure and condition

We hope this helps with any trips you are doing to France, do let us know if found the post useful!


I am a traveller, mother and blogger. We love to go on adventures (big and small, near and far) and strive to show our children how amazing and beautiful the world is! I caught the travel bug many moons ago and despite having three little adventurers, I still suffer from "itchy" feet. We love the great outdoors and one another. Come and join the fun :)

You may also like...

2 Responses

  1. We drove in France last year for the first time in a few years, and were surprised to find all this out. Cue last-minute scramble for high-vis vests etc! Have a wonderful time on your raod trips.

  2. Cerys says:

    Great advice – we are looking at the summer and this maybe a possibility but wouldn’t know what to take for driving. Thanks

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.