UK Post Brexit travel regulations for travelling to France for non EU members
With the UK leaving the EU on 1st January 2021, there are now many new travel regulations and below you can find Post Brexit regulations for travelling to France including border control, pets, documentation and driving along with references to the official government sites and French customs for travel advice.
So whether you are going on a day trip, touring with a caravan, driving a motorhome through France, travelling to a hotel in Paris, flying to a resort, etc, there are some points that you must think about to make your trip go smoothly.
France can be a fantastic experience that you will never forget, especially getting to see some of the historical towns, quaint villages, scenery and monuments or enjoying the capital city with its numerous Paris tourist attractions, so we have compiled together some tips and guidelines to hopefully keep you out of trouble, although requirements may well change as Brexit issues are ironed out, or additional laws and regulations are put in place within France.
Post Brexit Border Control
Because the United Kingdom is no longer a part of the EU from 1st January 2021, it is now classed as a third country, which is just like being a visitor from somewhere such as the USA, and therefore you cannot enter France via one of the EU lines.
If you are travelling to France on holiday and are a British National, you of course have to have a passport, but you do not need to have a Visa providing you are only going to be holidaying in France for less than 90 days within a 180 day period. So, for any period longer than the 90 days you would have to apply for a Visa.
The 180 days is a rolling period, but also the length of time accumulates, and you will find that UK residents will now have their passport stamped upon entry and on return from a European country, so if you are thinking of taking more than one holiday in a particular country, be aware of these regulations, as the length of time will be checked at border control to ensure you are not breaking any regulations, such as the 90 day rule and so on.
Also, When you go through customs, the French customs, known as Douanes can not only ask where you are going, what you are doing, and how long you are going to be staying in France, but they can also ask you prove it, which includes things such as a hotel reservation, package holiday confirmation, etc, even proof of your return flight or ferry booking. Yet if you are lucky enough to have friends in France, then it is also advisable to get some kind of confirmation that you will be staying with them, such as an email.
The recommended amount according to French Authorities that is needed to be able to spend time in France is around €65-€70 per day, but as with any country some areas are going to be more expensive than others, so do bear this in mind, and Customs can request that you can prove you have enough means in which to stay, eg cash, credit/debit cards, already paid for travel or accommodation and so on.
Although, we would like to point out that if you cannot prove your booked accommodation, then customs and border control can ask for proof you have enough funds to cover your holiday at a minimum of €120 per day, but if staying with friends or family in private accommodation then the guideline amount is only around €33 per day as of 2021.
Another important point is health care, and even though you can get a UK Global Health Insurance Card, GHIC for short, this only covers basic medical needs and not everything would be covered, so just like if you were travelling to countries like the United States of America, Thailand, India, Switzerland, Australia, etc, getting holiday insurance cover is more essential now that the UK is not part of the EU.
Therefore, again, border control can request to see proof via a valid certificate of insurance showing that you have sufficient cover including if horrible and unforeseen circumstances arise, so that medical repatriation costs are covered and scenarios like being airlifted to safety, etc.
Many people also travel abroad for sporting events or concerts, but also to attend conferences, trade fairs etc, so your trip to France may not be purely pleasure, it could also be partly work orientated. If one of these are applicable to you, then you need to have proof of the event you are attending, such as tickets for a show, company documentation proving you are there for work, itinerary, etc. Also, the same time frame applies for business as it does pleasure that we mentioned above.
Now being that the UK is classed as a third country, there are many items totally prohibited from being taken into France or other European countries and these include any meat or dairy products for personal consumption, except for limited amounts of baby formula milk, and when Brexit first happened even sandwiches were being confiscated!
There are also certain plants and plant products along with certain fruits, vegetables and seeds that are prohibited from being taken into France, So please bear this in mind when crossing the border and don't expect to be able to bring your own picnic, nor even a potted plant to give to the host you are staying with!
If you have to have medication, such as specific drugs only available on prescription, then you must carry a prescription or doctors letter with you in order to bring in any items across the border for your personal use whilst you are on holiday in France, and this is normally limited to 3 months supply, although certain types of medication can only be for 1 month, otherwise, for obvious reasons, these are also prohibited. Non prescription items such as over the counter pain killers can also be carried for personal consumption, but again with limited quantities.
Originally, if you were from the UK and wished to take your pet on holiday abroad within the EU, you would have needed a pet passport, however, post Brexit, from 1st January 2021, the rules have changed.
To start with, for those within England, Wales and Scotland, a Pet Passport is no longer issued, although they are still valid if the pet passport was issued within Northern Ireland or the EU.
If you had a pet passport issued in Great Britain, or you have recently got a pet and want to take them with you on your next holiday to Europe including countries such as France, then you will need an Animal Healthcare Certificate and do the following...
Your pet must be microchipped, and this tiny chip has a unique identification number that can identify your pet if it goes missing or gets stolen and with all details held on a central database, you as the owner can be contacted when your pet is found. So, a point to remember, is to keep the details up to date, such as if you move home.
You must ensure that your pet has a valid rabies vaccine, but bear in mind that these are not a one-off and therefore a booster vaccination may be required and after this has been done, you must wait a minimum of 21 days prior to going on holiday, so like with many other documents required, do not leave things until the last minute and plan ahead.
Additionally, some countries such as Ireland, Northern Ireland, Norway, etc also require dogs to have a Tapeworm treatment, which must be given and certified no more than 5 days prior to travel, but not less than 24 hours prior.
With Brexit, for travel from Great Britain to Europe and for your return after your holiday with your pet, instead of the Pet Passport you will require an Animal Healthcare Certificate, or AHC for short. This must be obtained from a registered veterinarian for an approximate cost of around £100, that will include information like the owner's details, proof of the rabies vaccination, where you are visiting, etc.
Again, there is a time frame, and the AHC cannot be obtained more than 10 days prior to travel and is only valid for a set time, but no more than the 3 months, just like a UK citizen being able to visit Europe without a Visa. So, for each trip you will be required to obtain a new Animal Healthcare Certificate, although the rabies injection booster is only required once a year.
Also, you are not allowed to travel with more than 5 pets unless you obtain special permissions and have documentation for reasons such as shows and competitions and have proof that all the animals are attending the event.
The above rules generally apply to dogs, cats and ferrets, so different animals may require different forms of documentation that vary from country to country, not forgetting that certain animals can also be banned from entering some countries. For instance, it is illegal to take certain breeds of dog to France, including those classed as dangerous animals and attack dogs like Mastif's and Staffordshire Terriers, and so on.
Also, if you are taking horses or other equine animals for races and competitions in France they will require an Export Health Certificate for short stays of less than 90 days along with additional documentation such as an industry issued Equine ID, plus meeting specific criteria including tests to confirm they are free from certain diseases like equine infectious anaemia, etc. So please check official websites carefully and well prior to travel, as the information here is only provided as a general guide and some animals require stays in specific types of places prior to any travel to another country.
General Driving Regulations
You can take your own vehicle over to France for a holiday, but bear in mind that any UK registered vehicle can only be in another country for a maximum period of 6 months, or 180 days, which applies to France, Spain, etc. If you are going to be within a country in the EU longer than that period and have a UK car, van, etc, then you are required to get it changed to the country it is within. But there come the issues such as residency, visas and so on! So be careful, as a vehicle can be confiscated and impounded, along with hefty fines imposed, etc!
Now when it comes to driving in France, an obvious one, is that in many countries every passenger must wear a seatbelt. But in France it is also illegal for a child under the age of 10 to be in the front passenger seat, and all children must have a suitable seat and restraint according to their age and weight, size, etc.
It is against the law in France to have any device that is capable of detecting speed cameras or ones that provide a pre-warning of their location, which also include some GPS devices that have speed cameras listed as a point of interest! If you are caught with one, then you could be in for a very hefty fine, which can be around €1,500.
Driver's in France cannot use a mobile phone unless they have a dedicated hands-free kit. Another more recent regulation to come into effect in France, is that it is now illegal to wear headphones or earphones while you are driving, and this also means you cannot use headphones for your mobile phone either, even it you wanted to take a phone call.
Additionally, if you are travelling in France during the winter months, then it is a legal requirement to have winter tyres.
In some areas such as mountainous regions like The Alpes, you will get lots of snow and ice, and although great if you are on a skiing holiday in France, it is not ideal for driving and therefore, on snow-covered roads or during these conditions, you are required to have snow-chains fitted, so it is recommended you carry these with you, so as not to be caught out, and if you are caught out in certain conditions and areas, then you are likely to be fined. But better safe than sorry as the saying goes!
Because of the vast open spaces, scenery and numerous cycle paths, you will often see people taking their bikes with them on holiday to France and you will often also see entire racing teams training for cycling competitions such as the Tour de France. Yet a point to remember is that it is compulsory for all children under the age of 10 to wear a cycle helmet, even if they are just a passenger on a bike, and even though not a requirement for adults, many do wear a helmet as a safety precaution.
One point you may not know, is that the legal age to drive in France is 18 years of age. So even if you passed your driving test in the UK at the age of 17, you still cannot drive in France until you are 18.
Also, you are not allowed to drive in France on a Provisional licence.
Plus, if you have only had your full driving licence for two years or less, then you must abide by the bad weather conditions speed limits, which are shown on motorways and dual carriageways and are as mentioned below.
You must always carry your driving licence with you at all times, and these days it also advisable to have one of the photocard driving licences (and this is also the preferred form of ID for many countries when purchasing goods).
If you do have one of the old green style driving licences, then it is highly recommended to update this to a photocard licence. Alternatively, you can obtain an International Driving Permit, classed as an IDP for short, which is essential in some EU countries and places such as Norway. This is also the same scenario if you have a driving licence issued in the Chanel Islands and even if you have an old UK or Northern Ireland paper license it is recommended to get an IDP so that you do not get into any difficulties as many places will not, or may not, recognise and accept the old style licence.
In addition, depending upon when you first got your driving licence, that will also determine what type of trailer you can legally tow, so do make sure to check carefully, especially if you are thinking of getting a caravan or camping trailer.
Car Insurance Documents
For obvious reasons you do have to have car insurance to drive legally within any country, but before Brexit you could add European cover to your car insurance, yet since the UK is no longer a part of the EU, these regulations have changed.
Many years ago, there used to be a system where you had to get a Green Card, and this has come back into force since Brexit from January 2021. You need to request a Green card from your insurance company in order to be covered while driving in France and any other European country. This is only valid for a set period of time and your insurance company may charge for this, but we would like to point out that this has to be a physical copy carried with you at all times.
However, another point to take note of, is that if your car insurance happens to renew while you are touring with your vehicle, then you will need to obtain to different Green Cards, which could prove awkward if you wish to change insurers.
Additional documents when driving in France
A very obvious point, but every person travelling with you on holiday to France must have a valid passport including children, and after Brexit, you cannot travel to France or other EU countries unless you have at least 6 months left on your passport.
You must also carry the V5 car logbook, the current MOT certificate if this is applicable and of course a valid certificate of motor insurance with the Green card as mentioned above.
If towing your caravan or trailer, then you should also carry your CRIS document and insurance documents where applicable.
Also, everyone in your party should have a UK Global Health Insurance Card, formerly the EHIC before Brexit, and hopefully this will never be needed, but accidents do happen! Although, being the UK is now classed as a third country after Brexit on 1st January 2021, travel insurance is also very important, as this can include cover for repatriation, airlifting you to safety and so on, which are things that are not covered with the GHIC.
When it comes to travelling with pets, there are numerous campsites in France that do allow your four-legged companions as well, but you also need to be able to prove that they are not on the dangerous list and have the relevant documentation as we mentioned above, with many French campsites also stating they require to see an anti-rabies certificate for any pets as well.
A Camping Card International is an identity card that is widely recognised throughout Europe and it is advisable to have one as this is a form of ID that some campsites will keep hold of during your stay. Also, some of the campsites in France will offer a discount to those that can produce the CCI.
And even though the original documents need to be carried, we would advise taking photocopies of all of these including your passports and credit cards, then keep a copy at home, preferably with a relative that you can contact in an emergency and another copy with you in a safe place, and separate to the originals, just in case anything gets lost or stolen.
Equipping your car
The first thing you need to do is make sure that you have headlight deflectors for your lights so that you do not dazzle other motorists, as you will obviously be driving on the opposite side of the road.
The second is to have a GB sticker on your vehicle and also another on the caravan or trailer if you are towing.
A more recent regulation that France has introduced is a clean air sticker, which is called a Crit-Air vignette, that must be displayed on your windscreen to identify a vehicle's emissions levels, which you can read more about below.
It is also a legal requirement to have the following in your car:
- Emergency triangle (although in some EU countries two / three are required).
- Reflective safety jackets for each passenger.
- Two Breathalysers.
- Fire extinguisher.
- First aid kit including needles.
- Replacement bulb kit (plus additional kit for caravan or trailer).
- Spare wheel (if one was included at manufacture).
- Replacement fuses.
- Extending Mirrors (if towing a caravan).
- Documentation, including Green Card.
- Snow chains (if required as mentioned earlier).
Designed to help control air pollution, not only is the sticker a legal requirement for all French drivers, but this is now a legal requirement for any person driving in France to have this clean air sticker when venturing into certain cities or zones.
There are 6 colour coded stickers that define the category of your vehicle and its emissions, and in certain areas or certain days, the most polluting of vehicles will not be allowed access to specific areas.
When you are entering a clean air zone you will see a sign with a red circle that states Circulation Restreinte below, and when the zone finishes, Fin de Zone in French, this will be a grey circle crossed through.
Some of the popular cities such as Lyon, Toulouse, Strasbourg, Marseille and the capital city of France, Paris, already have this system in place, and if you do not have a sticker you could end up with an on the spot fine.
Since the system was first introduced in 2015 more stringent measures have been put into place and only Crit-Air Vignettes in the categories E, 1, 2 and 3 are allowed into Paris between the hours of 8am and 8pm on a Monday to Friday.
In addition, as from 2019, all diesel cars manufactured prior to 2006 have been banned from the roads in Paris and all cars manufactured before 1997 plus all motorbikes and scooters produced before 2000 are banned in the ZCR or Zone a Circulation Restreinte Ares, which are the permanent low-emission zones.
There is only one official place to obtain your Air Quality Certificate sticker, which is the from the French Government for a cost of €3.11 plus postage to your home address, so do be aware of scams and companies charging many Euros more.
You can order your clean order sticker here: https://www.certificat-air.gouv.fr/en
But we would like to point out that it can take up to around six weeks or more to arrive, so it is wise to plan well ahead before starting your driving holiday in France and you can find out more about this from our article on French Roads.
Motorhomes and Towing
It is against the law to drive a motorhome or a combination of car and caravan that exceeds 12 metres in length and more than 2.55 metres in width, although currently there are no height restrictions.
You will find that there are also maximums limits for weight and loads for vehicles with two axles must not exceed 19 tonnes, whereas the maximum weight for single axles is 12 tonnes. You are also required to only tow a trailer at a maximum length of 7 metres if your gross vehicle weight is 3.5 tonnes or under, plus there are restrictions referred to as a Gross Combination Weight or Gross Train Weight, which refers to the towing vehicle and what is being towed, which you can find out more about from one of the links below.
Additionally, the speed limits are reduced, and if the weight of a caravan exceeds the towing vehicle then there are different percentages to take into consideration for how much your maximum speed would be limited to.
We would also like to point out that it is illegal to tow another motorised vehicle, and you can find out more about breakdown further down the page.
Also, there are many people who like the idea of utilising an a-frame to have a small car with them while on holiday in Europe with their motorhome, yet there are many countries who state that these are not legal, which is actually a very grey area, and so the Department of Transport advises UK campers not to use one while travelling to France, Spain, etc.
Road speed limits
When it comes to speed limits the motorways are 130km per hour, but this is reduced in bad weather down to 110km per hour.
A dual carriageway is 110km per hour and main roads were 90km per hour, but as of July 2018 this has been lowered to 80km per hour for any road that does not have a barrier in the middle, which is now the same speed as the periphery at 80km per hour. But in bad weather the same rule as a motorway applies, where the speed limit is reduced.
Towns or minor roads are a maximum of 50km per hour, although you will find that some roads will be less.
The above speed limits are for private cars providing that the stated total gross weight of the outfit is less than 3,500kg, yet if you have been driving less than two years you must abide by the bad weather condition speed limits.
If you are above that weight, then the speed limit is reduced as you are classed as a heavy goods vehicle, which applies if you have a motorhome, large caravan or trailer, etc and depending upon the weight of a motorhome, you may require a sticker showing your speed limitations like you see on lorries etc.
If you are stopped for speeding you can be fined on the spot and the fines have to be paid in cash there and then, which can be quite expensive. Now, if you cannot pay or you are travelling more than 25km/h above the legal speed limit, then your car can be impounded and you could end up with a very hefty fine or even lose your licence, and exceeding the speed limit by over 50 km/h can mean instant confiscation of your vehicle that becomes the property of the French Government. So do be careful, especially when on the toll roads, as you do not want your holiday in France to come to an abrupt end!
The French Government do publish information on exactly where speed traps are located and this is one of the reasons why it is illegal to have a radar detector, GPS system with the location of cameras, etc fitted to your vehicle, as we mentioned earlier.
As mentioned earlier, you must have deflectors if in a right-hand drive vehicle.
In bad weather, fog etc, even during the day, it is compulsory to use your lights but you do not have to keep your lights on during the day at any other time other than if you are towing or going through a tunnel.
People will flash their lights if they have the right of way or if they are on a motorway to let you know that they are coming up quickly. This is the normal practice instead of using a horn, so do not be alarmed, but at the same time, it is also a warning for you to get out of the way, as horns cannot be used unless absolutely essential.
The legal limit of alcohol in the blood is actually less in France than it is within the UK. In theory you should think about a policy of no drink at all to be on the safe side, as the penalties for drink driving can be severe, plus the police often carry out spot checks and random breath tests as we have seen when we have been on holidays in France.
But to give you an idea, the maximum limit while driving a personal vehicle in France is 0.05%, although newly qualified drivers have an even lower limit of 0.02%.
In France the law states that if you are the first to arrive on a scene of any road accident, you must stop and provide assistance, and you have a duty to call the police immediately, who will then also notify the fire brigade and ambulance services if these are also necessary.
We mentioned earlier about some of the items you must carry by law and you may well need these to provide assistance, whether it be extinguishing a small fire or even providing first aid treatment.
If it is you involved in an accident, then the obvious thing is to call the police straight away. But you should always have an European Accident statement form that you can obtain from your insurance company that will make your life easier.
Additionally, if it is yourself involved in an accident, then you will automatically be tested for alcohol but also for drugs via either a saliva or urine sample and further checks like blood tests can be taken if the results show a positive.
If you happen to break down whilst in any regions in France, the first thing you should do is to put out at least one warning triangle (the legal requirement) at around 30 metres from the scene, but it is recommended to use two, especially for visibility reasons or as an added early warning even further away from you if you are on main roads or windy country lanes.
If you need assistance and you are on a motorway then you must call the police and they will instruct a breakdown truck, which can obviously be done through your mobile phone or via one of the emergency telephones, which you will see along the roadside, with one being approximately every 2km. Again, even if you are in a motorway service area, you must still call the police in order to obtain a breakdown service.
Motorway assistance charges are calculated by the government and are fixed rates for breakdown and any towing services required, but we would like to point out that no breakdown service vehicle will enter the motorway system without having police authority first.
Yet having your own breakdown cover does make things easier, especially if you are not fluent in French or the specific language in another European country. Although, even then, if you are on a motorway, it still has to be a designated police authorised recovery vehicle that attend to you initially, prior to your own breakdown service taking over.
But by planning your holiday in France prior to travelling will give you more peace of mind and with these few general rules out of the way, just enjoy the experience, the beautiful scenery, the French wine and food and have a great family vacation at one of the many lovely French campsites, hotels or resorts.
Please do bear in mind that regulations can change especially since the Brexit, and these are a general guide, so it would be advisable to check everything in detail prior to your journey abroad, and below you can find reference links to the main official bodies including government websites and French customs known as Douanes.
UK Government Driving Guidance to EU
French Embassy in the UK
French Government British Citizens travelling to France
Brexit Guide for Travellers