Safety and security
Industrial action and demonstrations
If you’re due to travel to or within France, check the website of your chosen operator for the latest information before you set off.
Demonstrations can take place in France, often in major cities. If demonstrations do turn violent, a heavy police/gendarmerie presence is to be expected. Avoid demonstrations wherever possible and follow the advice of the local authorities.
If you use an individual paper ticket on the bus or on trains, make sure you validate it in the machine on the bus or in the station. If you don’t validate your ticket, you may be fined.
For assistance in any emergency situation, dial 112.
Take sensible precautions against street and car crime. Don’t keep your passport, credit cards and other valuables in the same place; use the inside compartments in bags where possible. Carry your bag across your body rather than on your shoulder.
Pickpockets can work in gangs: one to distract you while the other one goes into your bag. Keep your belongings close to you in restaurants and bars. Don’t be distracted around tourist attractions and cash points.
Thieves and pickpockets operate on the Paris underground, RER lines and at mainline stations, for example Gare du Nord.
There have been several victims of serious assault on the RER line B, which serves Paris Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports and Paris Gare du Nord Eurostar terminus. There have also been serious assaults on RER line D, which serves the Stade de France.
Alcohol and drugs can lead to you being less alert, less in control and less aware of your environment. If you’re going to drink, know your limit and take sensible precautions such as not becoming separated from friends.
Hiking, winter sports and outdoor activities
Check weather forecasts and conditions and make sure you’re properly equipped. Don’t undertake any activity alone, and consider hiring a guide for expert advice. Always leave copies of your itinerary with someone.
Observe all warnings regarding avalanches and where appropriate consider carrying avalanche search equipment. You can check the latest avalanche risk areas on the Meteo Alarm website. Conditions on roads in mountainous areas can quickly become difficult in winter. You should carry water, food, warm clothing and medicines in your vehicle.
For sports activities like skiing, potholing and mountaineering, and for sports classed as particularly dangerous (eg off-piste skiing, snow-boarding, mountain biking, climbing, ice-climbing, paragliding), make sure you have appropriate insurance. In the départements of Savoie and Haute-Savoie, you may require transfer to Switzerland for treatment.
For travel to mountainous areas, make sure your insurance covers you for extra medical costs in case of accident or emergency, mountain rescue services and helicopter costs.
Read more about how to stay safe on the slopes.
Beaches and Swimming
Take care when swimming in the sea, as some beaches may have strong undercurrents (“baïnes”), especially along the Atlantic Coast. Local sea conditions can endanger even strong swimmers. Many – but not all – beaches provide lifeguards and flag warning systems. You should make sure you understand the warning system before swimming and always follow the advice closely (a red flag means swimming is forbidden). You can find information on the specific rip tide danger on the coast of the Gironde and Landes departments from the Gironde Prefecture/French local authority website (in French).
Further advice can be found on ABTA’s swim safe pages.
Follow local advice if jellyfish are present in the sea.
If you are planning to drive in France, see information on Driving Abroad.
Licences and documents
To drive in France you must be 18 years old and have a valid UK driving licence, insurance and vehicle documents. You do not need to carry an additional International Driving Permit (IDP). If you do not own the vehicle you’re driving, you should get written permission from the registered owner.
If you’re living in France, check the country Living in Guide for information on requirements for residents.
Driving a British car abroad
You may need a UK sticker to drive your car outside the UK. From 28 September 2021 UK stickers have replaced GB stickers. Check the GOV.UK Displaying number plates website for more information on what to do if you are driving outside the UK.
Driving regulations in France can differ from those in the UK:
- The normal rule is to give way to the right each time you reach an intersection
- The maximum speed on autoroutes is 130kph (80mph) in good weather and 110kph (68mph) in poor weather. Speeding can result in heavy, on the spot fines, and your vehicle and licence could be confiscated
- Using mobile phones with headsets or ear pieces when driving is forbidden
- In-car radar detectors and satellite navigation systems warning of the presence of speed cameras or radars are illegal, whether in use or not
- It’s compulsory to carry a warning triangle and reflective jacket. The reflective jacket must be stored inside the vehicle itself and accessible without getting out of the car
- It’s illegal to cross, even partially, on to the hard shoulder of a motorway without good reason.
See the European Commission, AA and RAC guides on driving in France.
Motorway journeys are usually trouble-free, but if you’re asked by another motorist to stop and you decide to do so, park your car in a public area with lights - like a service station. If you’re involved in a car accident or witness an accident on the motorway, use the orange emergency phones to ask for help.
Many drivers undertake long journeys in France. Plan your journey carefully, taking into account unknown roads, weather conditions and fatigue. Make sure you take regular breaks.
In 2021 there were 3,219 road deaths in the France (source: French road safety observatory). This equates to 4.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.6 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2019.
Keep vehicle doors locked in slow moving traffic and secure your vehicle when it is left unattended.
Information on road safety and potential traffic black spots (in French only) is available on the Bison Futé website. Alternatively, real-time information on road traffic conditions is available on 107.7 FM in French and in English (Motorways radio – Autoroute Info).
There remain some migrants around Calais, who may seek to enter the UK illegally. There have been instances of migrants seeking to slow down traffic on approach roads to ports, including by placing obstacles on the Calais Port approach road. If this happens you should keep moving where it’s safe to do so, or stop and call 112 if isn’t safe to proceed (keeping car doors locked).
Air pollution sticker
All vehicles, including motorbikes, driving in central Paris, Lyon and Grenoble now need to display a special ‘pollution sticker’. You must display a sticker to drive in central Paris from 8am to 8pm on Monday to Friday. Checks can take place at any time, depending on pollution levels. Some older vehicles don’t qualify for a sticker at all due to their high emissions; these vehicles can’t be driven in central Paris at all from 8am to 8pm on Monday to Friday. In order to manage air pollution levels, other cities may also limit vehicle access to town centres and main roads. For more information, and to apply for a sticker, visit the French Ministry of Environment website (in English).
There have been reports of burglaries taking place while lorry drivers have been asleep in their vehicles. Avoid parking in isolated or dark areas of unsupervised camping grounds or car parks. Consider installing an alarm in your vehicle.
There have been attempts by illegal migrants to enter lorries while stationary or in slow moving traffic. Take sensible precautions against attempts to break in to your vehicle.
Heavy goods vehicles over 7.5 tonnes are banned from driving on roads in France on certain days during the year, including all Sundays and public holidays. Dates are set by the French Ministry of Transport. Full details of restrictions can be found on the Bison Futé website.
The Department for Transport and the FCDO have jointly published separate guidance for the freight transport industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
British haulage companies and their employees should contact the Road Hauliers Association for further information about driving in France.
Camping and caravanning
There have been reports of burglaries taking place while travellers have been asleep in their caravans, mobile homes and other vehicles. Avoid parking in isolated or dark areas of unsupervised camping grounds or car parks and consider installing an alarm in your caravan or mobile home.
There have been many attempts by illegal migrants to enter vehicles while stationary or in slow moving traffic. Take sensible precautions against break in to your vehicle, particularly in Northern France.