British Motorists Driving in France Could Face Hefty Fines

Published Date: 10th Aug 2023

Car Check Point Sticker

As summer high season approaches, British motorists gearing up for a road trip to France are being given a stern heads-up about potential hefty fines they could face. This cautionary tale revolves around a requirement that might slip under the radar for some unsuspecting travellers.


The Clean Air Sticker Conundrum


As of now, France boasts a dozen major cities that are designated clean air zones. The catch? Every car and motorbike that dares to venture into these zones must sport a clean air sticker, known as a Crit'Air vignette. The primary objective of this system is to regulate emissions within city limits, aiming to curb the environmental impact of vehicles.


The Catch: Fines Await the Uninformed


Here's where it gets interesting, and not in a good way. Should you decide to defy the clean air sticker mandate and enter a city without the requisite vignette, you're potentially setting yourself up for a nasty financial surprise. Fines can escalate to a staggering €180 (that's around £154 for fellow Brits).


A Striking Similarity to UK's Clean Air Zones


The concept might sound reminiscent of the clean air and ultra-low emission zones introduced in the UK. France, however, ups the ante with over a dozen such zones, including the iconic Paris and other popular tourist destinations. The rules are uniform for all vehicles, whether they bear French or foreign license plates.


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Buckle Up for Bureaucracy


Here's the real kicker: these stickers can't be snagged locally. If you plan on motoring into France, you must plan ahead. Before setting wheels on French soil, you must apply for the Crit'Air vignette via the official French government website: This digital hurdle is the key to avoiding that unwelcome dent in your wallet.


Emission Etiquette: Not Just About Stickers


But wait, there's more to this tale. It's not just about adorning your vehicle with a badge of emission responsibility. Be aware that the vehicle's emissions determine your entry privileges into these zones. Depending on the category your car falls into – there are six, ranging from green for the cleanest to dark grey for the dirtiest – you might face time restrictions on entering cities.


Surprising Even the Electric Envoys


And here's a curveball: even if you're zipping around in a 100% electric car, don't assume you're exempt. Even these planet-friendly vehicles need to flaunt the Crit'Air vignette.


Staying informed about the clean air sticker requirements is vital


As the allure of a French summer road trip beckons, staying informed about the clean air sticker requirements is vital. Remember, it's not just a sticker; it's a ticket to city exploration. So, before you embark on your Gallic adventure, make sure you've secured your Crit'Air vignette. It might just save you from a wallet-wrenching pit stop.


Here are the key emergency telephone numbers for British motorists who break down while driving in France:


  • Image of a Vehicle Broken Down in a French Forrest112 - This is the general emergency number that can be dialled. free of charge throughout the European Union, including in France. It will connect you to emergency services like the police, ambulance, or fire brigade.
  • If you're a member of a breakdown service like AA, RAC, Green Flag, etc., call their 24/7 emergency helpline number to get roadside assistance. Have your membership details ready. AA: 0033 177 050 505, RAC: 0033 825 720 000, Green Flag: 0033 172 724 924
  • 80 (or 0800 12 12 80) - This is the breakdown assistance number for Autoroutes in France (the motorway network). Operators speak English.
  • 15 - For a medical emergency if someone is injured or ill. This will connect you to SAMU (emergency medical services).
  • 17 - For the police, in case of crime, accident, or other incidents.
  • 18 - For the fire brigade.
  • 116 116 - Roadside breakdown number in France. Operators may not speak English here.


So, in summary, 112 for any general emergency, your breakdown provider's helpline if you have a membership, or 116 116 for local French roadside assistance. Always have your vehicle registration, location details and, if possible, some basic French phrases ready when calling.


Stay safe, and have a great trip!