These are the days to avoid driving on roads in France this summer

France's traffic info service has released its annual summer calendar indicating when holidaymakers are most likely to get clogged up in traffic jams. Read this before heading away this summer.

These are the days to avoid driving on roads in France this summer
Photo: AFP

Hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers drive through France each summer which means traffic jams and clogged motorways are often unavoidable.

But Bison Futé, the French government's traffic info service Bison Futé has drawn up a chart of the days when it’s best to avoid the roads, due to predicted long jams, this summer.

The roads will start to get very busy from Saturday July 8th, the start of the summer holidays and will remain that way until the school term starts once again on September 4th.

But Bison Futé warns, unsurprisingly, that travelling on Saturdays throughout the holiday period will be more complicated and it’s far more likely you’ll end up in a jam.

So anyone heading away on holiday is advised to delay their journeys until the Sunday. If you do have to leave on a Saturday then you are advised to set off very early.

As for returning from holiday then roads into the country’s biggest cities will be generally be very busy on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

But Bison Futé warns that there are specific days to avoid altogether.

The weekend of July 8th/ 9th will see the first wave of holidaymakers heading across France in search of beaches or mountains or a little bit of peace in deepest rural France.

The traffic on this weekend has been ranked as red – the second highest – meaning “very difficult”.

But the worst day for driving could be July 29th the day when the “Juilliettistes” (those who go on holiday in July) cross over whether the “Aoûtiens” (those who prefer to head away in August).

July 29th has been classed as “black” for all routes out of cities across the whole country, meaning traffic will be “exceptionally difficult”.

Other so-called “black” days for driving include Saturday August 5th in the Rhône-Alpes-Auvergne area on the roads heading out of cities.

And August 12th has also been ranked as “black” day in the Rhône-Alpes-Auvergne area as well as in the south of France and France’s Mediterranean coast, which will see huge numbers of Italian and Spanish holiday makers driving the region each summer.

The same parts of the country will also see heavy traffic on August 19th, but this time on roads heading back to cities.

The full chart is below includes a key for the regions.




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Reader question: Can I buy or sell a car in France if I have a foreign driving licence?

You can drive in France for a certain amount of time with some foreign driving licences. But can you buy or sell a car with one and what other documents do you need?

Reader question: Can I buy or sell a car in France if I have a foreign driving licence?

Let’s start with the good news: a driving licence is not among the list of official documents needed to buy or sell a car in France – just to drive one.

But it’s likely that are asked to provide one when you buy a car.

In that case does what happens if you have a foreign rather than French licence?

We know by reading certain Facebook posts that this question often arises and some people have reported that they were wrongly asked for their French driving licence when buying a car and told that a UK licence, for example, wasn’t acceptable. 

Not having a French driver’s licence should not stop you from being able to buy a car in France.

Kim Cranstoun who runs the Facebook group ‘Applying for a French Driving Licence’ told The Local: “It’s a dealer issue, they have it fixed in their mind that you have to have a French licence mainly because they don’t understand the new agreement and the last thing they read was a UK licence was only valid until the end of 2021.

“As long as you have a valid UK licence you can purchase a car in France. Anyone going into a dealer with a valid UK licence should carry a copy of the agreement,” she said.

Interestingly a driving licence is not on the list of official documents you need to buy a car (see below) but dealer’s will often ask for it if they take charge of registering the car.

What does the seller need?

The seller is responsible for providing the car registration document, called the certificat d’immatriculation and known informally as the Carte Grise.

You must sign a certificat de cession (transfer certificate) along with the buyer, and then declare the sale on the ANTS website within 15 days. 

You should then receive a code de cession (transfer code) which you must also send to the buyer so they can register the vehicle in their name.

If the vehicle is second-hand and more than four-years old, the seller should also provide a recent roadworthiness certificate, proving that the vehicle has passed a contrôle technique (similar to an MoT in the UK), in the past six months.

What does the buyer need?

When you buy a car, you must sign a certificat de cession (transfer certificate) along with the previous owner, who has to declare the sale on the ANTS website within 15 days. 

The seller should then receive a code de cession (transfer code) which they must send you because you will need this to register the vehicle in your name. There is a fee, which usually falls to the buyer to pay for transferring a vehicle registration – which varies depending on the region, type of car, and its CO2 emissions. 

The previous certificat d’immatriculation (registration certificate – aka carte grise) needs to be struck through, and completed with the date of the sale and the seller’s signature.

You will then need to register the car in your name, which can be done online. You have one month to do this, otherwise you risk a fine of up to €750. 

If you are purchasing the car through a dealer, this transfer of registration will be done at the time of the purchase. Be aware, a dealer may ask for your driving licence as part of the process, but – as long as you hold a valid licence, whether it is French or not, you will still be able to go through with your purchase.

In fact, you can ask any certified garage to apply for the carte grise on your behalf, which could save on time and hassle, even if you didn’t buy the car from them.

When applying for a carte grise you will need to submit proof that the vehicle has undergone a contrôle technique (vehicle safety check) within the previous six months if the car is at least four years old.

To register the vehicle, you need the following official documents:

  • Identification (passport or identity card)

  • Proof of residence (typically a utility bill or rental receipt, less than six months old).

  • A copy of the Certificat d’immatriculation/Carte Grise with the appropriate section filled in.

  • The contrôle technique (CT) certificate, if required.

Buying a car with a loan

If you have the funds to buy the vehicle outright, you’ll have no problems – simply hand over the cheque at the appropriate time. It may be harder, however, to access financing for your vehicle if you’re not permanently resident in France.

Driving your new vehicle

If you plan to drive your car away that day, you will also be asked for a copy of a valid insurance certificate for the vehicle – in France, the vehicle is insured rather than the driver. 

Most car insurance companies will provide a provisional certificate to allow you to drive your new purchase. You will then need to finalise details and provide them with a copy of the Carte Grise when it arrives.

Driving licence

If you live permanently in France, sooner or later you may need to swap your driving licence for a French one – but where you learned to drive in the first place could dictate whether you have to take a French driving test. We cover that in depth here – including what’s changed for Britons in France after Brexit.

You can buy some vehicles – known as voitures sans permis – and drive them on some French roads without having a driving licence. Anyone born after 1988 must, however, hold a Brevet de sécurité routière, which has a 15-year limit, and the vehicles are speed limited and can only travel on certain routes.