Driving in France

Heading to Europe? Prepare for driving on the continent with our guide to driving in France.

Iconic Eiffel Tower standing tall against a clear blue sky, epitomising the thrill of driving in France for Channel Island residents.

With France being such a short distance away, it is the holiday destination of choice of many islanders in Jersey and Guernsey to pack up the car and head off on the ferry to the country of croissants, baguettes and delicious local cheese and wine. Not to mention the unique charm of French medieval villages, quaint harbour towns and grand chateaux. Gites and camping sites are popular with islanders too and can offer a low cost holiday break, great for families.

Islands have put together some top tips for driving in France which you will find below, and if your motor vehicle is insured with us, you will have motoring peace of mind with our European breakdown cover.

Top tips for driving in France

    • If you break down on the motorway, walk to the nearest emergency telephone (spaced every two kilometres along the motorway).
    • You will be towed from the motorway to a designated breakdown area, where those with European cover will be met by their breakdown provider.
    • Keep your insurance documents and our 24-hour helpline number to hand.
    • Take your time. Driving on the right-hand side of the road, understanding French road signs and differing rules of the road takes extra concentration.
    • Enjoy your trip!

On the road to your French destination, if you fancy a short break, look out for signs showing ‘aires’ approx every 20 kilometres along the motorways. Some offer just a picnic area and toilet facilities, while the ‘aires de service’ provide something similar to British service stations.

Top tip: Look out for road signs to “villages etapes” for a different view of France

Things to watch out for:

  • “Villages etapes” are villages close to motorways and offer services such as cafes, restaurants, toilets and overnight accommodation, as well as something of interest to explore. There are 35 “villages etapes” in France, so keep an eye out for them!
  • In July 2019, the speed limit on two-lane highways with no guard rails reduced from 90 kilometres per hour (55 mph) to 80 kilometres per hour (50mph) due to the amount of accidents on these types of roads
  • Driving for long periods of time on unfamiliar roads can be tiring, especially if you’re used to driving on an island. If you start to feel tired, stop and take a break.
  • Be as prepared as you can and as they say in France ‘bonne chance’!

Important information for CI residents driving a vehicle or riding a motorcycle in France

Items you should have with you in your car at all times:

  • Your full driving licence (make sure it is not provisional and is still valid)
  • Vehicle ownership paperwork
  • Your insurance documentation (including your insurer’s emergency contact number)
  • Passport/national ID
  • If you’re driving near a major city, you may need a “CRIT’Air” certificate to enter “traffic restriction zones” (“zones à circulation restreinte” – ZCR). These cost about £3.50, and driving without one in a ZCR can result in a fine of up to 135 Euros
  • Two breathalysers. Although the fine for not carrying one has been suspended since 2012, you are still required to carry two, so that you have a spare if you need to use one
  • Reflective Jackets for all passengers. These should be stored somewhere easy to get to without leaving the vehicle, such as on the back of seats or in the glove compartment
  • Speed camera detectors, sat-navs with camera locations and Bluetooth/hands-free devices are banned in France, and may result in a €135 fine
  • Reflective warning triangles
  • Headlamp beam deflectors
  • GB sticker
  • First Aid Kit
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Spare bulbs for every bulb in your vehicle. If you are pulled over with a blown bulb, French police deem it necessary to replace it then and there
  • If you’re riding a motorcycle, moped, motor-tricycle or quad bike (including as a passenger), you are required to wear CE-certified gloves (although at Islands, we also recommend that you wear full protective gear at all times whilst operating motorcycles, mopeds, motor-tricycles and quad bikes)
  • Motorcycle riders should also have four reflective stickers on their helmets, one on the front, one on the back and one on each side. The stickers should have a minimum surface area of 18cm squared
  • In the event of a no-deal Brexit, you will need an International Driving Permit, which can be obtained from your parish hall, and also a Green Card, which can be obtained from us on request


Have a question about driving in France?
We may have the answer already. See answers to our most frequently asked questions below.

Does my “Driving other cars” extension allow me to drive in the UK/Europe?

If included on your Certificate of Motor insurance the “Driving other cars” extension does apply, please check your policy wording for full details. We must however note the cover provides protection against legal liability for death or bodily injury to a third party and damage to third party property. This cover is very limited and should be viewed as emergency cover only.

How do I call out the breakdown company?

You can call them on 0800 197 1013 for Jersey/UK. 0800 197 1015 for Guernsey/UK. Europe on + 44 117 934 217.

How long am I covered to take my car to UK / Europe?

You can travel to the UK for 30 days or Europe for 60 days. If you need any additional cover please call us on 01534 835383 (JSY) or 01481 710731 (GSY) or 01481 824100 (ALD), 9am till 5pm Monday to Friday.

What do I do if there is an emergency when the office is closed ?

We have a 24 hour helpline you can call on 0345 604 7012. Remember to check your policy booklet and schedule to see if any of the damage is covered, as you may be able to recover the cost, less any policy excess.

Accidents & Claims

If an incident occurs while you are away which may give rise to a claim, please report the incident to us as soon as you can.

Please review your policy documents and insurance schedule in detail before making a claim as these include more detail on exactly what is covered and how we can help.

View our existing motor customers page for more information.

Contact our 24-hour claims helpline

Within the UK: 0345 604 7012 
Outside of the UK: +44 29 2055 8659

Motor Claims Guide

Existing Motor Customers

Request a callback

Due to recent events, we are currently experiencing a very high volume of calls in the claims department. For more information, please visit our Storm Support Hub.

Need help? Get in touch!

Our friendly team is ready to help with any questions or support you need. You can contact us at any of our local offices:

Alderney Office
Open: Monday - Friday 08:30-16:30 T: (01481) 824 100
Guernsey Office
Open: Monday - Friday 09:00-17:00 T: (01481) 710 731
Jersey Office
Open: Monday - Friday 09:00-17:00 T: (01534) 835 383

Our expert advisors are here during office hours to chat about what you need and find the best solutions for you. If it's outside these hours, just leave us a message. We'll get back to you as soon as we can.

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Guernsey / Alderney