French Drivers Test. Gimme A Break!

As much as I’d love to write a blog post this week, I’m too busy stressing! The French drivers’ code test is on tap for February 16th. 

Finally! there’s a date for the first part of my French Drivers License – the code test. I promise it’s one of the most agonizing things I’ve had to do living in France. Studying a poorly translated manual is bad enough. Paying for an online tutorial that’s translated even worse is the crowning blow.

Then there are the driving lessons, in French, and driving test if/when I pass the code test.

It all adds insult to injury.

So … hang on. I’ll be back to blogging soon. Meanwhile …

More about getting a French Drivers License  …  from the post:  “Buying a Car in France” 

What I’m going to tell you now is a good example of “do what I say, not what I do.” This is especially meant for Americans relocating to Francebut it could apply to more.

Get your French drivers license your first year.

From my understanding,  Americans have two ways to get a French driver’s license: the “easy” way, or the stressful, hard, complicated and frustrating way. To take advantage of the easy way, you have to move here from a state that has reciprocity with France, or a “reciprocal” state. Check here for your state.

If your state is listed, you’re one of the lucky ones. You “simply” exchange your US license for a French one. I notate “simply” because there’s nothing’s simple in France, especially dealing with French bureaucracy. The simple exchange took eight months for one friend.

For those of us without reciprocity, we must earn our driver’s license the hard way. That means, we must study the French driver’s code, take a test; then pass a practical driving test with a dual-control car … and a French instructor. Did I mention the code test is in French? And it’s administered only one day each month in my department, the Gard. The good news is that people my age can pay for a translator for the code test. The whole process takes months. First example: I ordered a copy of the driver’s codebook translated to English. It took 2 weeks to arrive.

Believe me, you’ll be hearing more about the driver’s license.

20 replies »

  1. I just read this post through the link on your 10 year retro-spective. Did you manage to get your license? I come from one of the reciprocity states. I thought I’d turn in my US license when it was getting close to expiration. What a surprise to find out that I was supposed to turn it in within a year of arriving in France. So now I need to go through the whole deal of getting a license. I’m also thinking of moving somewhere that I don’t need to drive as I’ve heard such awful things about the process of obtaining one in France.

    • Krista, I wish I could say something nice about the whole driver’s license saga, but it was torture! The rule is that you have to swap out your license within one year of getting your Carte de Sejour, not arriving in France. Hopefully, that’s a loophole for you. If you’re not keen on driving, there are lots of places in France that you can get around by train, bus, and walking. Don’t be discouraged. Thanks for your note. I’ll be glad to advise anytime.

  2. ok..Move FIRST to one of the 4 States that have a driver’s license exchange agreement with France ??? Uh..NO. and Drink MORE and stay Calm?? uh, NO again.. I am glad you’re walking..LOL!

    • Yes, yes, and yes! I may have to get used to walking. Stay tuned … and drink more wine. Thanks for the lol!

  3. I’m on the edge of my seat. I can’t wait for the outcome. And your story about it, of course. Good luck!!

    • Lol! It’s always a crap shoot, isn’t it? Especially since there’s always a tale to tell. Stay tuned!

  4. We completed the driving license exchange in November 2020 after starting the process in January 2019.
    Pennsylvania has a reciprocal agreement with France so we were lucky. Dossiers were compiled – copies of the license, translations of driving license, driving records (and translations), attestation of the right to drive from the state(also translated), pictures, CERFA forms, copies of passports. All was sent off to ANTS in Nantes(typing that always brings a smile – a rueful smile, but still). And we waited. And waited. And waited some more.
    And then suddenly, in the midst of the pandemic, the paper dossiers were returned to us. With a letter. And the letter said we had to submit everything again. But this time on line. Along with the letter.
    So we did. And we waited some more. But not as long as before. Suddenly we received notification that we should send our original (Now expired) PA licenses to ANTS, Avis Recommande. And shortly after we did, the coveted French Permis de Conduire, complete with ugly picture, arrived via La Poste.
    Now we can throw all those cautious habits we had away because we were driving on foreign licenses. We can drive like the French – texting, speeding, eating while driving, shouting at other drivers, tailgating, and smoking, which sounds pretty much like Philadelphia drivers, but hey ho.

    • Love this story! I hope it’s not a tale of more agony to come. I’ll keep you posted. Glad you’re done and joining all the fun on the road. I can’t wait!

  5. Wishing you all the best!! I have every confidence that you can do it!! Will keep positive thoughts for you!

    • I’ll need all the positivity I can get. If I have to listen to these online quizzes much longer, I’ll be totally nuts! Will keep you posted.

  6. I just checked and my state is not included in the “easy” way. Uber? Bike? My 2 feet? I’d have to find an alternative to driving. I’d still rather live in Provence one day. Good luck to you.

    • Oh dear! No easy way! There’s not even Uber here. I’ve started walking, but that has its limits! Stay tuned…

  7. The French simply love to establish their self perceived superiority by insisting upon being pig-headedly bureaucratic in all their dealings with anybody that they consider “foreigners “.
    Essentially, they are desperate for your money but will treat you like dirt.

    • I’m going to take that as all tongue in cheek… as I intended the post. It’s a privilege to live in France. If a drivers license and CDS are the worst, I’ll take it.

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