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I just want to share my information on obtaining a french driving license. I am an american with a California license, which does not exchange, so I needed to get a french license. I was successful and although a long process ended up being quite easy. I signed up with a driving school nearby (I am in the Languedoc in a small village) who had previous experience with getting americans through the process. The owner/instructor speaks no english, but my french was good enough (although quite bad) to get by. I went to the Code de la Route classes at the school, but what really helped was on line practice tests which are available both free and for a price. I can read french well enough to understand simple sentences, and if you are doing it on line you can just translate in google if there is something you don't understand. The sample questions are very detailed and difficult, but the actual test seemed very simple and straightforward and I passed -- they don't say how many you missed. What I figured out partway through the process is that it is geared toward young people learning to drive, and they want to scare them very badly about drinking, speeding, etc., so there are many detailed questions in the sample tests about the penalties and dangers of drinking and driving. After passing the Code, I drove with the instructor several times in hopes of correcting some of my 50+ years of bad driving habits, so that I would be able to pass the driving test. I then took the driving test, which I passed the first time in spite of feeling like I didn't drive all that well. I got 27 out of a possible 31 points. I feel that the whole process, while very long and sometimes frustrating, made me a much better driver here in France. I think everyone should have to take the code test even if they are exchanging a license, as the rules are very different than my home country. The dreaded Priorite a Droite being the most obvious, as now I understand why grandpa in his renault 4 shoots out into the main road in front of me without looking! There was no medical test or even an eye test, and I think some of this is because the examiners and the auto school owners know each other well, and the school is the "gatekeeper" -- if the instructor brings you, he expects you to pass and in fact it would not be good for him if many of his students failed. It cost around $900 total, and I would have been happy to bribe someone with thousands if I could have avoided it. However, at the end, all said and done, it was not a bad experience and I learned a lot.
bonnie in Roquebrun
 

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this is encouraging...I am also from CA and have been dreading even getting started with the process. Thanks for your advice!
Judy
 

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Could you share any of the test links? I've tried finding some sample tests before but cant see to find them.
Thanks.
 

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Thanks Pavot !

Does anybody know if there are links to see which countries licenses are exchangeable in france? I'm from ontario and I'd like to know if there is anyway to find out ahead of time if I'll have to go through the entire process from scratch in France.
 

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Thanks Pavot !

Does anybody know if there are links to see which countries licenses are exchangeable in france? I'm from ontario and I'd like to know if there is anyway to find out ahead of time if I'll have to go through the entire process from scratch in France.
Bottom para (Liste des pays avec lesquels il existe une pratique d'échange réciproque des permis avec la France) here:
Permis de conduire français - Echange à l'étranger :)
 

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Pavot,
Spot on. I'm from Georgia and dreaded having to "earn" my permis de conduire. I thought the same about the written test (epreuve theoretique). The practice tests were much harder and more ambiguous than the actual test. It was possible to get a translator for the written, but after scoring well on the practice tests, my monitor recommended going without one. And like you, I passed on the first try.

Like you, I checked out two auto-ecoles in town. One of them had an english speaking instructor. I also researched the schools online. I found a site that listed the pass rates for the auto-ecoles in my department (49), as well as the number of students they sent to test in the last year. Thankfully, the school with the english speaking instructor had the highest initial pass rate, about 80% for about 200 students/yr. So I went with them. I think they're a franchise available throughout France. The name is ECF. I too learned a lot of good things for driving in France, priority a droit, round abouts, priority in general, road signs, lighting rules, speed limits (i.e. when entering a ville) and even how to expertly parallel park (en creneau), as well as the French courtesy for driving. As well as the french names for car parts and systems which will help with maintenance and getting repairs later on. I thought it was a very worthwhile exercise, although frustrating a couple times, because I had to break bad habits from driving in the US for 35 yrs.

It took me 5 weeks to finish the written, mainly because it took 4 weeks for my dossier to come back from the Prefecture, which is a prerequisite for sitting for the written. Then I tested the following week. I've been working my driving lessons for the last month, with normally one lesson a week. For the driving portion, my monitor evaluated me on the first lesson -- which I didn't do so well with, 35 yrs of bad habits. Then 4 more lessons and she put me in for the practical test, which was 4 weeks out, and will culminate this Thurs, with a bit of luck. The school did all the paperwork and scheduling. I understand it's possible to go as "candidate libre", or without an auto-ecole, but I can't imagine doing that -- plus, the car you use for the test must have dual controls, so you need an auto-ecole car anyway. I feel very well prepared, perhaps a bit over-prepared, but it's doable. Plus, my monitor is allowed to ride in the car with me during the practical test and can translate for the examiner, if needed. However, the practical test is only 35 minutes long, of which 25 minutes are required for driving, 10 minutes are used to get situated in the car, and to answer 2 questions. The questions come from a bank of 100, which are known to the auto-ecole -- so there shouldn't be any surprises of what the examiner will ask. In fact, the examiner asks for the last 2 digits of the odometer and that is the questions you're asked.

All in all, not bad. It will end up costing me a little more than yours did, around 800euros, but that includes private english tutoring for 4 hours on the written, and all the paperwork. Plus, since my driving instruction was in English, they couldn't put any other French students in the car with me, so I had private lessons in the car (a new Renault Clio). If I was fluent in French, it would have easily cost me half as much. But, c'est la vie. The normal course cost for a new student driver is around 1450euros. As for the online questions, I understand each school has them, but you need to sign up with a school to get the passwords. I chalked it up as a cost for living in a wonderful place.
 

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Thanks Pavot !

Does anybody know if there are links to see which countries licenses are exchangeable in france? I'm from ontario and I'd like to know if there is anyway to find out ahead of time if I'll have to go through the entire process from scratch in France.
Hi, if you go to govt France site google ]Échanger un permis de conduire non européen - you can find out which countries are able to exchange with France, good luck, Dan sorry, I tried to post the direct link but it is not accepted
 

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Thanks Pavot !

Does anybody know if there are links to see which countries licenses are exchangeable in france? I'm from ontario and I'd like to know if there is anyway to find out ahead of time if I'll have to go through the entire process from scratch in France.
there is an exchange program between Canada and France, consult the Govt of France site by searching on google Échanger un permis de conduire non européen, you will find details, good luck, Dan
 
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