Driving For Members

Which countries can I drive on my French licence in?

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 27 Feb, 2023 Updated Mon 27 Feb 2023 10:54 CEST
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French driving licences are accepted in many countries - but not all. (Photo by Damien MEYER / AFP)

If you move to France, sooner or later you will have to swap your driving licence for a French one - but what happens when you want to drive in other countries? Here's a look at which countries French licences are valid in, and where you will need an International Driver's Permit.


If you live permanently in France you will probably have to swap your licence for a French one - how long you have to make the swap and whether you need to take a driving test depends on where your original licence was issued. 

READ ALSO By country: How hard is it to swap your driving licence for a French one?

But one you have your French licence, you may need to know which countries you can use it in.

Let’s start with the easy ones;

EU: A full French driving licence is considered equivalent to full licences issued by any EU or EEA country. So, you can drive in any of the EU/EEA nations or Switzerland on a French licence. If you're moving to another EU/EEA country to live permanently, you may be required to change your French licence for the local one, according to that country's rules.

If, however, you are going to a country outside the EU/EEA area, rules vary.


UK: For driving licence purposes, the UK is the same as the EU, following an agreement in January 2021.

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: How to swap your UK driving licence for a French one

Elsewhere, a French driving licence is sufficient to drive temporarily in several non-European countries.

In some countries, however, an International Driving Permit is required or recommended, in addition to your French licence, while other countries do not recognise French or international licences - and, confusingly, some accept them for a limited period, based on whether you intend to remain in the country for a longer period.

Also, note that several of the countries that do accept a French licence require you to have a certified translation of your licence into the national language (so that any local officials who stop you can easily read the details of your licence). 

The French government’s full list of non-EU countries and their driving licence requirements is available here - however, here’s a non-exhaustive list:

United States: a French driving licence that is more than a year old is sufficient for a stay of less than three months. An international permit is valid for up to one year, for those staying in the US temporarily. Anyone seeking permanent residence in a US state should be aware that an international permit runs out after three months, and they should contact authorities in the State in which they live.

Argentina: French tourists can drive a rented or purchased vehicle on presentation of a French licence and a passport (with or without visa). However, the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs recommends also having an international permit. If you have residency in Argentina, you will need to swap your French licence for an Argentinian one.


Australia: For those without resident status, a certified English translation of a French licence should be sufficient to drive in Australia. It’s advisable to contact authorities in the State or territory you’re staying in.

South Africa: a French driving licence is recognised if it is certified and translated by the consulate for visa-backed stays of between four months and five years.

Japan: An international driving permit issued in France is not recognised in Japan. French visitors can drive with a French licence, as long as it is accompanied by a Japanese translation provided by the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF).

New Zealand: you can drive for up to a year on a French driving licence in New Zealand, as long as it is accompanied by a certified translation. A list of approved translators can be found on the NZ Transport Agency website.

Province of Quebec (Canada): you can drive with a French licence for six months.

Switzerland: A French licence is accepted for temporary visits, but anyone who settles in Switzerland should request the exchange of their French licence for a Swiss permit within one year of their arrival.

Turkey: A French driving licence is accepted by the police authorities for temporary residents, up to 6 months after the date of entry into Turkish territory.

The advice, then - as always - is to contact the consular services of the country or countries you intend to visit, before your departure, and follow their advice. And, an international driving permit, which is free to French licence holders and lasts three years, is rarely a bad thing to have.



The Local 2023/02/27 10:54

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