Here is our comprehensive driving in France checklist, 2019, for what you need to take with you when driving in France from a legal viewpoint. The items on the list carry some pretty hefty on the spot fines if you fail to have them in the car with you at all times. Remember the items shown here are compulsory equipment for driving in France.
May I suggest you double check the list and remember that the rules are the same whether driving on country lanes or in Paris except for the pollution stickers required for Paris and some other major cities.* (See below).
Although some people think the French driving laws are bureaucracy gone mad, some of the items do offer you improved safety while on the road.
Below the checklist at the bottom of the page is yet more detailed information on some of the items and requirements for the documents you need to take.
Please see the cost (in Euros) of the on-the-spot fines that the French police will give you if you are charged with non-compliance of these French driving laws. They are shown in the table below and further written explanations of additional things you should know are to be found below the table. These extra notes deal with Breathalysers, people who wear spectacles etc.
Do I Need a Fire Extinguisher?
Legally no you don't it's not a requirement in France. I don't recommend you waste your money buying an extinguisher for two reasons. Firstly if your car is a 20 foot fireball then standing next to it with a travel fire extinguisher that's the size of a can of hairspray isn't going to do much good and you're likely to get yourself seriously burnt or worse.
Secondly even for a very small (that you might think is manageable) fire don't waste time hunting round the car trying to find it under all your luggage just get yourself and any passengers out of the vehicle and far away from it ASAP. Call the emergency services and let them deal with it. If the flames are anywhere near the fuel line or any rubber hoses then it can escalate rapidly, so just get right away from it.
What if you Breakdown?
It is not a legal requirement to have Breakdown Cover while on the roads in France but could you imagine the trouble of trying to sort it out if you broke down?
It's possible to take out an inexpensive "single trip policy" that would cover you in this eventuality, and help with your onward journey. For more details see here. European Breakdown Insurance.
You will notice on the list that breathalysers do not carry a fine, even though they are a legal requirement. It was headlined as the new big road safety initiative by the French Government as it was saying for over 2 years that an 11 euro fine would be issued for non-compliance, but they have never actually brought the fine into force. They have finally decided that the fines for this offence are to be scrapped indefinitely.
Therefore do you want to go to the trouble and expense of taking some?
The decision is yours but the offence carries no fine or endorsement.
To save you having to wrestle with that dilemma we give them away free to anyone who buys one of our "All in One Travel Kits". Though if you wish to buy some separately we sell them in a twin pack here.
Do You Wear Glasses?
If so you are required to take a spare pair of spectacles in the car with you when driving in France.
If your car is towing a caravan, trailer, boat etc then whatever it is should have a GB sticker on it as well.
Regarding the GB sticker if you have a new style EU Number plate with the GB and the Euro flag on it then for the most part that "should" be OK. Though if you read the French regulations very carefully you will see that those are not actually the correct size stipulated as they are not big enough.
Hi Viz Vests
If you breakdown or heaven forbid are involved in an accident you will need to get out of the vehicle and stand at the roadside or on the hard-shoulder if on a motorway. The French authorities are very strict that people stood outside the vehicle on motorways especially are wearing "Hi Visibility" clothing such as a vest that fits over you clothing or a high viz jacket.
That's everyone you the driver and also all of your passengers. So if a family of four are travelling in the car then you should each have a hi viz. Also these need to be carried inside the cabin of the car not the boot so you can put it on before you get out, though in practical terms I presume most will be putting it on as they are getting out. However the police are strict and if they see you stood with the boot up rummaging round trying to find the vests under all your suitcases and beach balls they will very likely issue you with a fine.
Pollution Stickers for Paris
In Paris they have what is called an "environmental zone" which is like the London Congestion charge area. You cannot drive in it without displaying a sticker in the windscreen showing the rating of your vehicle. On certain days those vehicles with a high rating cannot be driven in the centre of Paris. See here for more information and how to get a sticker. Also older cars and motorcycles are not allowed in the city during peak hours.
Documents You Need to Take
You will obviously take your passport with when travelling abroad but because you are driving your own car you will need to take a few other things.
Proof of Ownership (V5 Log book)
M.O.T. (If your car is over 3 years old)
It is worth checking with your Insurance company if you will be fully covered while driving in France as some "Fully Comprehensive" Insurance policies revert to just offering "3rd Party" cover whilst driving abroad.
I also recommend that you take the phone number of your insurance company with you in case you need it and I would strongly recommend that you have some European Breakdown Cover.
One Final Suggestion
If you have never driven in France before have a look at our French Road Signs page, that will also be useful to you.