If you are a foreigner living in France (and over the age of 18) you are able to drive in France for at least one year after your arrival. If you have a driving licence from an EU/EEA member state you do not need to change your licence. Your licence is valid and can be used indefinitely. This was the case for British nationals, however, this changed after Brexit.
If you are a British national and your licence was issued before January 2021 then you can still continue to use your British licence in France. If it is after this date you will need to exchange your licence for a French one but you can do so without taking a French Driving Test.
Additionally, if your UK licence has expired or is lost of stolen you will need to apply for a French licence. The points system differs to that of the UK. In France, you are given points on your licence once you have passed. A newly qualified driver will get 6 points initially, increasing to 12. In the UK, it is the opposite – you receive your licence with zero points and for every infraction you will receive points.
If you do have infractions in France and you are stopped by the Gendarmes, they will ask you to exchange your licence for a French one, so that they can take points off your licence. You will have a limited time in which to do this.
You can also apply to sit the French Driving Test but you will need to compete their Code beforehand. The driving test is 25 minutes long and the results of which will be given online in 48 hours.
If you are a learner driver and are over the age of 18 years – you can take driving lessons with a local school. You will need your residency card and can expect to pay, on average, 40 euros a lesson. Lessons are generally in 2 hours slots. You will be given a estimation of the length of time it will take and in addition you will need to pay for the code. Allow for approximately 1500 – 2000 euros to obtain your French Drivers Licence.
If you are under the age of 18, you can obtain your licence another way. You can learn to drive from the age of 15 but will not be able to pass your test until you are 18. This is called accompagnement permis de conduire– the number of lessons are less than the traditional route taken and once up to a standard, the driving school will then allow the minor to drive with their parent(s)/legal guardian. They will have to drive 3000km over the course of the year and pass their code before they take their lessons. Once they have done this, they will then be able to take their test when they reach the age of 18.
The benefit of this is that it gives the driver more experience and reduces their insurance. The insurance on the parents car does not increase either. In addition, when the minor reaches 18 they may find it more difficult to have driving lessons whilst at university – this is easier, insofar as lessons can be carried out at weekends/Wednesday afternoons whilst they are still in high school.
Youngsters can also have a scooter licence from age 14. They can also drive a car without a licence from the age of 14! Yes, you heard that correctly and we shall speak more of this later.
At Collège, (3éme) children are given two road proficiency certificates. They will need to keep these if they then want to obtain their driving licence. The driving school teaches youngsters how to ride a scooter over a period of 2 days. This costs about 240 euros. They spend the first part of the day watching a road safety video and then, in the afternoon, learning how to ride the scooter. The following day your teen has a full day of scooting.
Whilst this may appear to be young – many areas are very rural and this means a minor can have a way of getting to and from school, become mobile and independent, before they reach the age of 18.
Turning to the Sans Permis car. You can effectively drive a car from the age of 14 without a licence. This is also ideal for people who have never had a licence eg the elderly.
The sans permis car cannot go more than 30mph/50km. They are also used by people who have been banned from driving.
We should also mention that some driving schools offer a 1 euro a day interest free loan of 1500. So it costs your teenager (or you!) 30 euros a month, interest free over a period of 3 years.
Here in Normandy, we are lucky to have a service called Mobylis based in Vire and probably in other towns around the country. If a person is registered with the pole emploi and seeks mobility they can pay 300 euros to pass their driving licence – a fraction of the normal costs. You can also hire a car for 3 euros a day, an electric bike for 1 euro a day and scooters. They can also fix your car for a fraction of the cost of a normal garage and their mechanic will come out and cast his/her eye over a second-hand car you may wish to purchase – free of charge.
In addition, for those on low incomes, there are some Mairie’s that will pay for driving lessons in exchange for community service tasks. Please enquire locally if you feel you could avail of this.
So there is lots of help out there to get you mobile if your live in a rural part of Normandy and have little income or do not have a drivers licence. We have provided lots of links below, depending on your circumstances, which you may find of use.
We hope you have found this interesting and the various ways your can obtain a French Driving Licence. Bonne route !
Information for British Nationals Post Brexit https://uk.ambafrance.org/UK-and-France-reach-post-Brexit-agreement-on-driving-licences
Government website for all matters car and licence related https://ants.gouv.fr/
Information on the 1 euro a day loan https://www.securite-routiere.gouv.fr/passer-son-permis-de-conduire/financement-du-permis-de-conduire/permis-1-eu-par-jour/definition-du
Information regarding the code https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F33694
More details on the sans permis classic in the making Citroen Ami in English: