Driving in France on a GBR licence

Good morning from a sunny (for a change) Belgium

After reading the article http://www.survivefrance.com/group/americansinfrance/forum/topics/d... posted by Holly I started wandering about my inlaws that have had a place in Aquitaine for a couple of years now.

Is it OK that they are driving around in a French reg car insured in France but using a GBR licence? Do they get around the rules in the article posed by Holly, who had a US licence, by the virtue of the fact that the licence has that EU symbol at the top?

Any pointers please?


I used to have a dual Welsh/English licence too (provisional to boot) - interesting when I got stopped in Corsica by the CRS at a roadblock - interesting half an hour spent in the back of their van attempting to explain that I wasn't some Welsh nationalist separatist.

Same here, with the exception of my birth certificate when I got married in France, because it was filled out in handwriting that was illegible to the local Mairie at the time.


Ah, unlucky there. I was even escorted during a routine "contrôle" (in which they could find nothing wrong other than the fact that I had a German driving licence) to the local Gendarmerie for an interview which lasted an hour as to my resident's status, having to fill out a form that got sent off to the Prefecture. After this hour long waste of time, I asked the gendarme what would happen, to which he replied "You should hear within 2 weeks, but in the end probably nothing, the Prefecture doesn't chase these things up". Well, he was right.

I have actually been to three different Prefectures about changing my licence during my residency in France, and each one has told me to go away with a "We're not interested" wave of the hand. Just goes to show the inconsistency in the whole handling of the thing.

I'll go with you there. An English couple not far from here came in 1996. They still have the car they came with that still has a UK number plate. Since I know from their chatter that the car has never been back to the UK the MOT is obviously long since lapsed, who knows what insurance they have (I doubt they have any) and how they get away with it. It is just plain illegal. I've seen a local 'freelance' mechanic's van going that way, so I guess I know how they keep it going. I also assume that it is by luck rather than judgement.

I know they do not have a computer, I offered them an SFN card and the man said they don't and do not care to use the internet anyway, but if they did then things like Mike's attachment would probably shock them. If they care. There again, given they have been here around 18 years and still cannot string a sentence together it may just wash over them anyway. They most definitely should not be on the road because they do not play by any of the rules.

However, they are an obvious tip of the iceberg. The former owner of this house is only a couple of hundred metres away now. His old wreck of a car cannot possibly be legal. he does not display a CT sticker and I can't see an insurance one either. He rarely leaves the commune, his ancient mother's daily brings in most shopping. The same goes for his tractor which is all but appears to be a collection of 'sellotape and elastic bands'. He uses the busy main road for a few hundred metres frequently, including at night, with no lights, flash markings and who knows whether insurance is in the equation for either vehicle. Here in the 'backwoods' it seems everything goes. If ever non-local police came in to clean up they would have a very busy time I suspect.

a very serious one, Mike, and people who don't play by the rules shouldn't be on the road, simple as that!

Worth a read -


No joking matter......!

When your fellow Brits back in the UK vote to leave the EU, I wouldn't be at all surprised if France sends you back where you came from........!

I just hope I never meet you on the road :-O and that you never have an accident (No MOT ,No insurance, CG...). I hope that, after 18 years here, you can speak some French and are road legal!!!

Bonne route !

This is how its gone for me my wife and my mum and dad over the last 18 years in france

Driving in France on a GBR licence

First of my wife and i have been stopped more than once with are old uk licence i am 45 and she will kill me for this shes 42 never mind that.

So the frist time i got stopped i was being chased be a 2cv and i was in my UK reg BMW and thinking it was some boy racer no blue light on the top and think about it 2cv can it be the old bill any way i put my foot down eat my dust boy

They just would not give up, so i stopped and WTF two off them got out i all most passed out it was the French plod

they asked for paper at this time i did not under stand a word of French and asked my wife to pass the A toilet roll out of the glove box :) , it worked they just waved us on.

The next was an old car we had 205 you just have to love them go on for ever No MOT ,No insurance, CG not in my name the works you would think o sh1t we are in for it this time NO he gave us a papers and told us to show the papers to the cop shop asap well what do you think i did , still can not find them dam papers and that was 9 years ago oh well never mind.

Next this one may not be so good it XMAS and what do we do at this time of year , you got it we get pissed yes we are in France and what is cheep over here? drink and lots of it woot woot.

So the day after a good piss up with me French posse/bros the night before , the wife and i and the mother in-law go out for dinner at lunch time on the way back the wife goes are you ok to drive i say hell yes only drunk the one. can you see wear this is going yet ?

Yep got pulled by the French plod 0.53 in the bag what did they do "can your wife drive" he asked lol i replied why don't you ask her, blow in this he said by this time i just had to get back in the car it was to much what a joke, 90 euros fine and get on your way that was it.

So on to my mum 75 years old licences has run out for over 2 years OMG what will we do as it happens my wife has a brother in the uk and a phone we got him to pop down the road to the PO and get the forum to fill out and send it to us, we filled it out and sent it back to him and HE sent it to the DVLA who sent a new licences to him and in turn he sent it back to us and all ends happily ever after.

Love france like the old days back in the UK

"Vic, I'm guessing that you were never a civil servant."

Nah! I always had a proper job Peter :-)

We've lived in France for 12 years now & NEVER have been asked for a translation of any documents. We are fully affiliated to all the things which let us live & die here. I pay my taxes here & receive all the benefits I am entitled to, all without translated documents. It was difficult for us at first with a small grasp of the lingo but even then we were usually treated with respect & understanding. It might be in the body language as I don't take/give crap from/to anybody unless they are intent on a problem. Perhaps being timid doesn't help although of course it shouldn't make any difference. I think you are probably right in the "power" thing inasmuch as my experience of civil servants is that they are usually little people trying to punch above their weight safe in the knowledge that nobody can be arsed to sack them. Nothing personal all you civil servants. Just this old cynics take on it;-)

Well yes and no. It is as you are saying effectively individual civil servant's decisions/choices to insist on translations. In fact they are safe because they have directives from Paris that let them off the hook, if they ever bother to read them. My friend's wife worked in the local agricultural bit of the district for many years, was a civil servant until about six years ago and will tell people that there are sometimes so many new directives issued, some specific to the actual work and others for the entire civil service. If people tried to read them all they would never have time to work properly so stick to reading those that relate to their job.

I have never been a civil servant although I still have a UN ID card as you will have had and know what that bureaucracy is like from being regulated and paid by it. We have turned up where there have been mumblings about translations and they get annoying, especially when they insist on my OH's Swiss documents that are all in the three or even four national languages, thus including French. The take there was that the document in question was not issued in France.

So I have my folder with 'pending' and valid EU legislation and directives which I have slapped down on desks when the question of translations arises. When the civil servant is asked to read the French language documents in front of them, which I have been careful to put down open, with the header toward me and a very clear directive about what they want but are not entitled to demand in full view, after a glance nobody has bothered to read but just given up. However, as I said above, the first one to try it on I shall demand that he or she read the lot and if that person refuses will demand to see a superior. If that is refused I also know that each one of them must give their name when demanded and can be made to answer to departmental prefectures if they are obstructive. That was told to me by the same ex-civil servant.

What it means though, is always going to them rather than telephone and postal means. We are close enough to be able to do so comfortably which not all people are and often do not have the language skills. The b*ggers know that and play it out to their advantage.

Vic, I'm guessing that you were never a civil servant. For many years, I took the view that they were a PITA, but finally came to the conclusion that I couldn't beat them. There followed the inevitable joining them, albeit within the UN as an International Civil Servant.

This experience showed me that everything is based around the exercise of power. No-one would ever agree to a proposal, since you exercise power by refusing things, not agreeing to them.

The same thing goes for national and local bureaucracies. Why let Johnny Foreigner get away without a translation when you can insist on one? It's the civil servant who might be criticized if there were any question of fraud, so let's not take any chances. We are, after all, exchanging the license without a fee, so let the étrangers at least pay for a translation.

This doesn't, moreover, only apply to France; the DVLA in Swansea have a rule that is almost identical for documents not in English (or Welsh, probably.)

Because they are not in French, they don't need any other reason. Or so it appears from so many comments on SFN. I have never had to do a single one for anything as yet and have a bundle of EU regulations for the first bonzo who tries it on with me, if ever.

As far as I can remember the UK & French paper licences are pretty much identical. Same format with same catagories. Why they would need a translation beats me.

This stuff varies all the time, as well as changing by département. For my wife, the Ain préfecture wanted a sworn translation of her license but nothing from the DVLA & it took about 7 months. A few months later, I had to have the sworn translation of my UK license plus the DVLA certificate of entitlement, with an 'official' translation of that, but it only took about 2 months. That was also sent to our local sous-préfecture rather than trekking half-way to Paris to get it. In a different département it would be totally different. Consistency of administration - you're joking!

As for giving a temporary license with photo, no way! The trek to the préfecture was so that we could hand in the UK licence before being given the shiny new French one. I was a little surprised that my wife wasn't refused the new French license as hers was, by then, expired!

Teehee, yep I was (pretending because I was already here really) living in Swansea, or at least Mumbles, when I renewed my Trwydded Yrru over the counter in 2010. When the gendarmes did some of their routine stops on a couple of occasions they have asked me what the heck the Cymru bit is. I have often felt like saying Martian or words to that effect, never had the courage though, explaining Welsh is hard enough.

Yes Vic, it was a long time ago, but we didn't have to provide a translation at the local prefecture. But they did send us away the first time, telling us to come back in three months - there were so many Brits arriving at that time, the in-tray was full!
Now it has all been centralized in Saint-Lo, so maybe some Jobsworth would demand his pound of red tape.

A small deviation.......

My stepson had a bilingual Welsh licence. He kept it folded so that only the Welsh language part was showing. The Gendames would study it intently, nod sagely and hand it back without comment. Got him out of a few sticky situations.....!

Mike If the prefecture have approved you for a French licence they will give you a temporary licence complete with photo which is valid for 3 months (I think). You will not be driving around with no licence.

Peter. What's all this stuff about translations etc? me & the missus changed ours a few years ago at our local prefecture (Quimper, but not there now) & it was simple. We took our British licences, passport & proof of residence plus photos. We filled out a simple form with the guy behind the desk. He gave us a bit of paper showing the catagories we were permitted to drive, kept our licences for a check with the DVLA to make sure there were no outstanding naughties & that was that! We received our French licences about 3 months later. I now need to renew my licence every year for PSV & HGV & need a simple medical for that. In reality I renew it every 2 years to keep the HGV part as I can't see me coach driving! The doctor gives me a similar bit of paper showing my entitlements & I give him money! A new licence normally arrives after about 3 months.