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How to drive in France

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The process of converting a driving licence can sometimes be a long and complicated process, but this is not the case in France. For many drivers, the process is simply administrative, but it is essential that you request the change within a year of your arrival in France, otherwise you will be required to go through the long and excruciating process of obtaining a fresh French licence. If you do not already have a licence, you will have no other option than to sit for the theoretical tests and take driving lessons.

As with other EU countries, EU nationals are able to drive in the country using the licence of their home country if they are of age and it is valid. This can be converted to a French licence, however it is not obligatory.

Converting your driver's license

The procedures for converting a licence varies depending on your nationality. In most cases, the process is smooth and automatic, as long as you remember request a French driving licence within the prescribed timelines of the French authorities. The following residents are required to convert their licences if they wish to drive in France:

  • Non-European applicants with a resident permit less than a year following the start of the card's validity period
  • Non-European applicant holding a long-stay visa serving as a resident permit less than a year after the visa validation date by the OFII (Office Français de l'Immigration et de l'Intégration)
  • French nationals holding a foreign driver's licence for less than a year following a relocation to France

Note that European or Swiss nationals are allowed to exchange his driver's licence as from his 6th month and before the 18th month of his residence in France. Finally, the fees applicable for the conversion process vary from region to region.

Procedures

The application for a conversion has to be made at the police department nearest to your place of residence. It is advisable to call at the police department beforehand as the procedures as well as the times during which officers are available can vary. Note that some may request you to print and fill an online application form beforehand which in other cases an online application might suffice. Some stations still only accept application forms sent by post-mail.

In general, the following documents are required, but do check beforehand whether there are specific requirements in the area in which you reside:

  • Cerfa form No. 14879*01 for driver's licence exchange
  • 06 Cerfa form No. 14948*01 printed in colour
  • 2 color copies of your foreign driver's licence, along with an official translation if needed
  • A recent driving certificate issued in your home country, specifying its origin, conditions and validity, along with an official translation if needed
  • Proof of residence
  • Two passport-size identity photos
  • A stamped envelope addressed to your name and address (requested by some prefectures).

Types of driver's license

There are different types of licences in France, based on the type of vehicle you wish to drive:

  • A licence for two-wheelers
  • B licence for four-wheelers (allowing you to drive as from the age of 16 but under certain conditions for less than 18 years old people)
  • C licence for professionals
  • D licence for professionals
  • E licence for categories B, C and D vehicles coupled with a trailer.

 Good to know:

Foreign nationals who wish to apply for a French driver's licence, regardless of the type of licence, are required to pass driving tests beforehand. Adults may enroll in driving schools (this is usually the simplest way), but it is also possible to rent an instruction car and to follow lessons with someone who already holds a licence.

Driving tests

You need to be at least 18 to pass the driving test in France. However, it is possible to pass the first part of the examinations as from 17. You may choose whether you prefer to enroll with a driving school or to hire an accredited tutor with a specifically equipped car (with a brake pedal and a clutch pedal front passenger side).

The following steps will then apply:

  • Registration at a driving school
  • Learning the highway code
  • Oral examinations
  • Driving lessons (a minimum of 20 hours is compulsory)
  • Driving test

Fees

Obtaining a drivers’ licence is not cheap. The whole process should cost an average of 1,200 euros. Besides the 20 hours driving lessons, you may also want to take additional lessons which will cost around 35 to 50 euros per hour, depending on the driving school and region. The fees charged in large cities are typically higher than those of smaller towns or villages. Be sure to check websites such as Groupon, which often have deals on driving lesson packages.

In the even you fail the driving exams, you need to wait three months before starting the process over. In this event however, driving schools often offer additional driving lessons for a reduced fee which amounts to about 500 euros.

 Useful link:

Service Public
Cerfa Form No. 14879*01 – Exchanging your driver's licence
Cerfa Form 06 No. 14948*01 (to be printed in color)
Code Route
Official directory of administrations and nearby public service

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.
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