Our French Life

How To Get Your French Drivers Licence

Okay I will refrain from my normal joke…oh I can’t I’m sorry….getting a French licence out of a Christmas Cracker. There I’ve said it. Now that’s out of the way we can get down to the actual way you can obtain your driving licence. I’m writing this from my own experience of getting my teenager – Master Normandy – en route to obtaining his driving licence.

It’s all a bit confusing the various abbreviations for different permis de conduire and I do not profess to know them all. Prior to this my son obtained his scooter licence. He was given two road proficiency certificates from his college in 3éme. By all accounts you need to keep these if you then want to get your driving licence. We took these to the driving school which teaches youngsters how to ride a scooter, over a period of 2 days. This costs about, from memory, 240 euros. They spend the first part of the day watching a road safety video and then in the afternoon, learning how to ride the scooter. The following day your teen has a full day of scooting around the Normandy countryside and towns.

My son was 15 when he passed his scooter licence. We did this in the school summer holidays. Prior to this he had had lots of road experience from the many kilometers he amassed riding his bike. So, his road awareness was far better than that, say, of my daughter. Who whilst is now 15, I would freak out if she was on a scooter! This is the same girl, that instead of applying her brakes on her bike to stop whilst going down a little hill, decided to throw herself off said bike straight into the bushes. She also went kamikazing down a hill on her micro scooter and in the same manner of her bike skills – instead of applying the brake at the back – she went flying over the handle bar scrapping all her knees and face in the process. So no. Miss Normandy will not be getting a scooter licence.

I digress.The instructors would drive behind the riders and at the end of the course they get given their scooter licence and away they go. In France you can get your scooter licence from age 14. Yes this is very young, however, many areas are rural and it does give them some freedom to go out independently. They can also drive a car at age 14 without a licence! Yes you did read that right. It’s called a sans permis licence and just like the scooter, it gives them mobility especially in rural areas to get to college/lycée.

The san permis car cannot go more than 30mph. They are also used by people who have been banned from driving. Yes you heard that right too! I cannot account for French logic. I’m sorry but the more you live here, the more you get reconditioned into thinking things that appear to have no logic or sense from your previous world, actually make a lot of sense!

So yes if you’ve been banned for say, dangerous driving eg drunk etc and have your licence taken away, you can merely get back into a slow moving vehicle without a licence. So no real incentive or punishment to make sure you don’t lose your licence. Unless the fact you can’t drive up someone’s arse? Maybe that is punishment enough for a French person – to be forced to drive slowly?! I think it is also to facilitate the person going to and from work but isn’t the incentive not to drive like a dick? That you would lose your job if you lost your licence = think twice before you drink and drive. It is in the UK. Anyhow, in some ways it is nice in others it’s bonkers!

This is the funky electric citroën ami sans permis car. A classic already I think. I love it. A steal at 6,000 euros.

So that was our first dip into the world of getting mobile here in France. Now, from age 15, teenagers here in France can start to learn to drive a real car. The whole process will cost up to approximately 2,000 euros. Although at this stage we’ve paid about 1,500. It goes like this:-

You sign up with your local driving school. We were lucky to have one only 8 minutes away. A lovely little outfit and the husband and wife team were super friendly and welcoming. My son had to sign up for the ‘code’ eg the rules of the highway code. I think there was an initial fee of 250 for this to be registered etc, another 30 to be able to do this at home. They watch a video until they have learnt it all before they sit the test. Now my son took his code after his lessons but by all accounts some will sit this before the lessons. He was learning to drive “accompagned” that is to say once he was proficient enough on the road, he would drive with his parents until he can take his actual test at age 18.

Before he can do this he had to be at a level of competence which can take between 20-25 lessons. I think Master Normandy had about 22 and it went very quickly. The driving school needed to take advantage of any lifting of confinement measures. At various times during confinement, driving schools were not allowed to operate but then restrictions were lifted. Within this window of opportunity, Master Normandy managed to cram in 22 hours of driving from September – January. This is because, unlike in the UK, he had lessons that were 2 hours long and sometimes 3 times a week. Each lesson cost 40 euros. Now I don’t think that’s too excessive. When I learnt to drive er hum..30 years ago… it was £25 an hour and the driving instructor could have you paying that for year or more until he/she decided you could take the test.

After this, Master Normandy took his code test. This was booked online and was in a hard to find broom cupboard at the back of the post office. He found some questions quite ambiguous so wasn’t entirely confident he had passed. You need to get 45/50 – less than 2 hours of taking the test he received an email to say he had passed – 46/50 phew!

Next up I had to sit in on a 2 hour lesson to see how good a driver my son was. He is actually very sensible if not a bit of a know it all. It is a little unsettling being in the passenger seat but my son has to clock up 3,000 kilometers (which are recorded in his little book) before he can sit his test next January when he turns 18.

Then he will have his licence. If he passes of course! Everytime we go out we have to take the book and also put our little ‘A’ sign up in the window. I always forget to take it back out though. He even drove home from Brittany on motorways etc which, again, is not an overly pleasant experience. In particular, when he said “you can never brake on a motorway” sorry say what?! Yes by all accounts the instructor said you can never do this unless it’s for traffic. So there you have it folks reason number 565 why people are up your arse on the motorway – as they’ve been told not to brake. I mean for the love of god! If this is true of course. We had a nice argument chat about this but I decided best to continue this further when he wasn’t driving at 110kph. A few references to the death rate in the UK v France were mentioned I cannot lie.

Also I have noticed he is too concerned what is going on behind him. I found out that the instructor told him that you cannot brake sharply and to be aware of the driver behind and what they could potentially do. So in effect be concerned about the dick behind you. Again, I told my son that is no concern of yours – you concentrate on what’s in front of you.

It is not up to you to be worried what the driver behind you may or may not react to. It’s their look out. If someone goes into the back of you in the UK, it is always 100% their fault, as they should be at such a safe distance they can react/respond to the driver in front.

For instance, sharp breaking due to a child running out. If the driver goes into the back of me it is their fault as they have not anticipated this scenario. In France it is your fault for not thinking about the person behind you not thinking about what might be going on further up the road. This is madness and is why it is always your fault if someone bangs into you! Please remember, the default setting here is that it is your fault! Even my prang in the car park was because the guy thought I would go down the wrong way in the car park. It was my fault then that he reversed into my stationary car because I hadn’t done what (which was wrong in any event) he thought I would have. I now drive according to this thought process and I suggest you do the same.

So there you have it. This is how the accompagnement permis de conduire works. It should also be noted that, in line with the logic need not apply here in France, both our driving insurances on our respective cars have been reduced by adding our son. Work that one out. Who am I to argue with that?!

Furthermore, Master Normandy can drive my automatic even though is licence is manual and also drive Mr Normady’s manual right hand drive vehicle.

I should also mention that some driving schools offer a 1 euro a day interest free loan of 1500. So it costs your teenager (or you!) 30 euros a month, interest free over a period of 3 years. Ours didn’t, however, Credit Agricole were offering a practically interest free loan for the month of February so we availed of this.

I think there is a lot of help here for young adults to become independent – more so than in the UK. For instance there is also a service called Mobylis based in Vire and probably in other towns around the country. If a person is registered with the pole emploi and seeks mobility they can pay 300 euros to pass their driving licence a fraction of the normal costs. You can also hire a car for 3 euros a day, an electric bike for 1 euro a day and scooters. They can also fix your car for a fraction of the cost of a normal garage and their mechanic will come out and cast his/her eye over a secondhand car you may wish to purchase – free of charge.

So there is lots of help out there to get you mobile if your live in a rural part of Normandy and have little income or do not have a drivers licence. I have provided all relevant links below.

I hope you have found this interesting and when I know more about what is going on with our UK licence I will let you know. But, in the grand scheme of things, I won’t be losing any sleep over driving around with my UK licence as this gal does brake on a motorway to avoid a massive pile up. You’re welcome France!

You have been reading Our Normandy Life!

Information on the 1 euro a day loan https://www.securite-routiere.gouv.fr/passer-son-permis-de-conduire/financement-du-permis-de-conduire/permis-1-eu-par-jour/definition-du

Accompanied driving https://www.securite-routiere.gouv.fr/passer-son-permis-de-conduire/conduite-accompagnee

Mobylis https://mobylis.org/

https://www.facebook.com/mobylis

Information regarding the code https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F33694

More details on the sans permis classic in the making Citroen Ami in English:

https://uk-media.citroen.com/en-gb/new-citro%C3%ABn-ami-100-%C3%ABlectric-wins-disruptor-award-bbc-top-gear-magazine-electric-awards-2020

9 thoughts on “How To Get Your French Drivers Licence”

  1. Interesting, it would seem that you are forced to have driving lessons with a driving school at first, you say 20-25. Then after some testing, a licenced drive can accompany them around until they are 18. Here in Australia there is a theory test, and then a licenced person can accompany them, or you can take lessons, or a combination until they turn 17, when they go for their actual driving test. We did 2 or 3 lessons with a driving school at the end only of their learning period (100 hours minimum), just before the test with our boys.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I suppose – I don’t know if when you are 18 here you could just learn to drive with your parents? That sounds very civilised in Australia. In my day you didn’t have to pass a code test but the examiner would test you on 3 questions from the highway code – the book you had to read back to front before your test. I can’t remember how many lessons I had just that I passed first time which I was mighty chuffed about and it also was at 17! It is a year later here. Thanks for your comment Catherine – it’s interesting to here about the way in which other countries manage the driving test etc.

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  2. Brilliant!!! I moved to live and work in Roma many years ago and some of my experiences have been similar when my 2 kids started driving. And Italian logic has alot of that French flair too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Another brilliant post! I see a very funny book in your future! Having learned to drive in Canada, including on the 26 lane super highway going through Toronto and then moving to the UK and driving on the other side of the road, and now living in France, I can say, the French driving license motto is: “Who Dares, Wins” especially at roundabouts and with motor scooters and motorcycles driving the centre line. Keep up the great work! Ciao!, Tom

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m not gonna lie but I do love a comment like this! Thank you for your love and if you know of anyone publishers I would love to write a book as I have lots of future content! More of which will come to light later on in the year. OMG 26 lanes – I thought driving in Paris was bad enough. Yes it really is dog eat dog on the roads here – I know I drive faster than I used to. Me bad! Thanks again Tom!

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  3. just wanted to tell you that I love your blog and read it the whole way thru over the course of a few weeks! I hope you start updating again, i love hearing about your life in france!

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    1. Hi Jeanne, thank you so much for taking the time to read all the blog!!!! I am currently going through a divorce French style which I will, of course, write about but it is taking up too much of my time at the moment. I do post more on instagram and also have a fb page of the same name. Thanks again!

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  4. Hi, I enjoyed reading your post and Iwanted to make some explanations about what you said. As a french driver myself who lived and drove in the UK for 1 years, I wanted to correct some things you said. We need to be cautious about what’s happening behind us while driving because it’s best to avoid any stupid accident but it’s the same as in the UK, if someone hit your car from behind, it’s their fault because as you said they should’ve kept their security distance. However, it doesn’t apply while driving in a parking, it’s always 50/50. ( I know it’s stupid). I do agree on the motorway, we try to brake as less as possible because it’s dangerous, everyone driving really fast, around 130km/h so it’s faster than the British motorway where it’s limited at 70mph ( about 110 km/h). I hated driving in the British motorway because I find it less fluid , drivers often change lane without paying attention to the car coming really fast, which can be dangerous for the car coming and then of course you have to use your brake, which made me fume as a french. Nevertheless , I find British drivers more ” civilized” on the road, for exemple when entering a roundabout, everyone’s waiting their turn to enter it as in France we just rushed in it even if there’s a car already in. We are less patient which I think can cause more accident. Sorry for the long reply ( and for my English as well if I made some mistakes)

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