Welcome to France




Some recommendations for the benefit of English-speaking motorists travelling in France in their historic (at least 30 years old) vehicles.



General warning

  • Keep right!
  • Law enforcement has become stricter over the last few years. Also, recent reciprocal agreements between most European licencing authorities have been signed; therefore road traffic penalties have to be paid, whatever the nationality of the motorist.


The following rules are checked with particular care by gendarmes (Ministry of Defense) and policiers (Ministry of the Interior), both legally entitled to deliver fines.

Speed limits


  • 130 km/h on motorways (110km/h if raining)
  • 90 km/h on other roads (unless a different speed limit is shown)
  • 50 km/h in villages (unless a different speed limit is shown). Note that the speed limit starts at the village sign and ends at the end of village when the sign is crossed out.
  • Large road signs “pour votre sécurité, contrôles automatiques” showing a speed camera to announce a fixed radar check
  • Minimum speeds: none on small roads. 80 km/h on left (fast) lane of motorways, 60 km/h on other lanes. Slow vehicles must use the special slow lane when there is one.

Drink and drugs


The maximum alcohol limit for a driver is lower than in many countires, at 0.5mg/litre. Drug use while driving is very severely penalized.

Since July 2012, it is mandatory to have a unused breathanalyzer in his vehicle. It should be required by gendarmes or policiers.



  • Beam adjusters are required.
  • We recommend a set of spare bulbs, since a missing light has to be replaced on the spot if the vehicle owner wishes to avoid a fine.
  • Please note that approaching vehicles flashing lights signify either appreciation of your vehicle or presence of a police check and/or a mobile radar.

Seat belts


Seat belts are not compulsory for vehicles built before July 1st 1973. Some vehicles were originally equipped with seat belts before that date and older cars have had them installed.
You must use them if you have them, whatever the age of the car.



Children under twelve are not allowed in the front of any vehicle (unless there are no back seats). Generally speaking, the rules for “modern cars” apply for historic cars.
Children under three are not allowed in historic cars, unless appropriate and approved equipment is used (seat adjusters, etc.)

Stop signs


They mean that a complete stop is required, as for a red light.

Mobile phones


Strictly prohibited while driving, use of hands-free device is only tolerated. Fines are expensive (90 euros and over)

Parking in towns


  • A yellow continuous line means no parking. In some cases, there is an explanation, e.g. delivery zone (“livraisons”)
  • A blue dotted line means that you must display a disk, available at any newpaper agent or tobacconist (approximately 3 euros)
  • A white dotted line means a pay zone, with park meters. Beware that euro coins may not be accepted and that a special “plastic card”, specific to the town, may be required (available at news agents and tobacconists).
  • Pay areas are usually free on Sundays and on week days from 7 pm to 9 am and during lunch time (12 to 2 pm). Hours are always indicated on park meters.

Warning devices in case of breakdown


Since 2008, a warning triangle and a reflecting jacket are compulsory. The jacket must be within reach inside, so one can put it on before getting out of the car.

Low emission or congestion charge zones


These do not exist in France

Settling down in France


The Law gives you six months to re-register your vehicle with French Carte Grise and number plates. Specific ways of doing so are detailed on this web site under “réglementation”, “carte grise de collection”, etc.

When in doubt, on any matter concerning your historic vehicle, contact the administrative office of FFVE (French Federation for Historic Vehicules) in Boulogne-Billancourt.
Tél 01 46 21 94 70 - Fax 01 46 21 94 99 - secretariat@ffve.org

Short glossary of terms


 Please fill it up

 Merci de faire le plein

 I have broken down

 Je suis en pann

 I have a puncture

 J’ai crevé

 Can you change the wheel ?

 Pouvez-vous changer la roue ?
 My car needs to be towed  Mon auto a besoin d’être remorquée
 It’s a fuel problem  C’est un problème de carburation
 It’s an ignition problem  C’est un problème de distribution
 Spark plug  Bougie


All petrol sold in France is lead-free. 

Petrol stations and supermarkets sell various approved lead substitutes

 Four star (petrol)  SP 98
 Three star (petrol)  SP 95
 Diesel  Gas-oil



Emergency telephone numbers




 Fire brigade


 Health emergency  19

 All emergencies (new European number)