The RYA would be pleased to receive reports of your experiences by email to cruising@rya.org.uk.

IMPORTANT:

The information below is intended to provide answers to questions that come up regularly. It is not intended as a comprehensive guide and it has limited applicability. Please read the countries introduction to ensure that it is appropriate to you. The standard documentation a UK flagged pleasure vessel operating outside UK Territorial Waters should carry is detailed on the paperwork page.

UK Government travel advice

FCDO advice including information on permitted duration of stay and visas for France: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/france

Application of French Law to foreign-flagged vessels

It is not unusual for the French legislature to adopt legislation that the courts cannot or will not enforce because it is unconstitutional. Reading French legislation in isolation does not, therefore, necessarily give the full legal picture. To the extent that these French laws purport to apply rules regarding the manning or equipment of visiting foreign small recreational boats, they may be at odds with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982. As a result, it may well be that the French courts would decline to enforce the French domestic equipment and manning rules against foreign-flagged vessels. There is no guarantee, however, that every French court would take this approach in every case so it is recommended that UK recreational boaters visiting French waters endeavour to comply with the French domestic rules relevant to their area of operation.

RYA members can see Visiting France - a constitutional conundrum for a more detailed explanation and information about equipment.

French Government information on recreational boating and watersports - the information is in French but some internet browsers will provide a translation. 

Evidence of competence

For overview information on the validity of RYA certificates abroad see Evidence of Competence Abroad.

L5241-1-1 of the French Transport Code extends the requirements for evidence of competence to foreign-flagged boats owned or used by people residing in France only.  Visitors to France on foreign flagged boats are only required to have the licence required by the vessel's flag state.

Under French law a licence is only required for a motorised pleasure boat of 6 HP or more. The decision for skippers of UK flagged pleasure vessels for which a licence would be required under French law is whether or not to risk no evidence of competence, where evidence of competence is not required under UK law.

Coastal Waters: It is recommended (particularly in the Mediterranean) that you carry any certificates you have with you, as we very occasionally hear rumours that a certificate has been requested.

Inland Waters: The ICC is recommended for a UK flagged boat as an ICC with the inland category validated demonstrates that the holder has sufficient knowledge of the traffic regulations applicable on inland waters, which implement CEVNI.

The ICC may not be sufficient for vessels over 20m in length.

French translations of many RYA certificates and their related course syllabus are available from the RYA website www.rya.org.uk/go/translations.

The use of CEVNI signage is an indicator that waters are classified as inland.  The first obstacle to navigation for seagoing ships is often where inland waters begin. This can be a lock, a bridge or a tidal barrage. On smaller rivers however, the limit of the inland waters is taken to be the mouth. There are of course exceptions so if in doubt check with the local Harbour Master.

RYA members can see Visiting France - a constitutional conundrum for a more detailed explanation of the application of French Law to foreign-flagged vessels.

Standard entry and exit formalities

EU member state (part of the customs territory of the EU (which includes territorial waters)).  Further information is provided on the Entry & Exit Formalities page under Customs - EU Member States.

Part of the Schengen area.

As part of the customs territory of the EU (which includes territorial waters) and the Schengen area customs and immigration checks may not always be required on arrival and departure. Formalities must be followed when arriving from a non-Schengen country (for immigration) or non-EU country (for customs) purposes.

It should not be assumed that having visited the marina office all necessary formalities have been completed. The marina office may be able to provide you with directions to the necessary office(s) to complete your arrival formalities with immigration and customs.

Having cleared immigration on arrival it is essential you also clear immigration on departure. 

The many regional variations make it difficult to provide simple guidance on the formalities when entering France. Different expectations and procedures may be encountered at different points of entry and departure. 

Immigration when arriving from a non-Schengen country

On arrival in France directly from the UK (or another third country) you will need to clear immigration. Although the Schengen Border Code provides a derogation which allows a pleasure boat coming from a third country to exceptionally, enter a port which is not a recognised sea border crossing point, you will still need to clear immigration on arrival which may involve everyone onboard travelling overland to the immigration office (Police aux Frontières - PAF) at the nearest sea border crossing point. It is therefore recommended that you plan to enter France from the UK, the Channel Islands or another third country at a recognised Schengen sea border crossing point (port of entry). For a list of French sea border crossing points see 'Arriving in / departing from the Schengen Area' under Entry & Exit Formalities.

In practice, how you complete the necessary formalities on arrival in France isn’t standardised. Sometime a form called a Préavis Police aux Frontières must be submitted in advance of arrival. The préavis are port specific. Useful information about the purpose of these form can be found in this Special Brexit newsletter summer 2021 published by CCI des Côtes d'Armor. Reports from other boaters suggest that having a copy of the préavis with you when visiting the PAF is worthwhile. Submitting the préavis may result in you being given an appointment to clear immigration or you may need to find the PAF yourself on arrival. It is worth investigating this in advance in case there are limited opening hours or the PAF are located somewhere it is difficult to get to. 

Links are provided here for the préavis that we are aware of. * indicates that the location is a Schengen sea border crossing point but as far as we are aware there is no form for it at present. 
Dunkerque*
Calais - form understood to be available from the marina on request
Boulogne - formalities must be completed in Calais
Dieppe* - a member was told by the port that they would not let yachtsmen in the ferry port to have passports stamped
Le Havre
Rouen*
Honfleur*
Caen-Ouistreham*
Douvres*
Cherbourg  - and see advice from Port Chantereyne on arriving in Cherbourg
Carteret and Granville
Saint-Malo - link is to a third party website
Saint-Brieuc - from 1 June to 31 September 2022 entry is also permitted at the Brittany ports of Saint-Quay and Saint-Cast (in accordance with the published procedure) 
Roscoff

Some other ports are being made unofficial border crossing points. Such unofficial arrangements should be used with caution if you are intending to travel more widely in the Schengen area. Port Dielette has provided a préavis for Diélette and Portbail and a document outlining the procedure for entry at those locations, which we have been told is valid for summer 2022.

We are not aware of any préavis for the Schengen sea border crossing points on the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts of France. 

If you have information or links you think might be useful to other recreational boaters please send it to cruising@rya.org.uk.

Customs formalities when arriving from outside the customs territory of the EU

At present it appears that it is not necessary to seek clearance to enter the country from French customs if you are entering France under Temporary Admission (this is explained on the Entry & Exit Formalities page under Customs - EU Member States). However, if you are in any doubt about the customs status of your boat or you need to declare it or any items onboard you should contact French customs on arrival.

Documentation

It is essential to have the original registration document (not a photocopy) for your boat on board.  If you are unable to present the original document if it is requested, you can expect to receive a fine of hundreds of Euros.

RYA members can see further information about the legal basis for this requirement.

Inland

When navigating the French waterways on boats over 20m it is mandatory to carry on board a copy of the general regulations of police inland navigation (RGPNI) and police special regulations (RPP) applicable to the waterway sector you are navigating. These documents can be stored electronically provided they can be consulted at any time.

The RGPNI can be downloaded from the following link: http://www.vnf.fr/vnf/content.vnf?action=content&occ_id=37793&son_id=37846

The main RPP, the network managed by Waterways of France (VNF), can be downloaded from: http://www.vnf.fr/vnf/content.vnf?action=content&occ_id=37793

For smaller vessels, it is recommended you carry a copy of the French regulations or CEVNI, for reference.

Signatory to the Regional Arrangement Concerning the Radiotelephone Service on Inland Waterways (RAINWAT). Where a VHF is required or is to be used on the inland waterways of RAINWAT signatory countries, the set must be ATIS enabled and vessels must comply with the requirements of the RAINWAT.  

VNF waterways: Details of closures on the French Canals and the cost of the Vignette (the recreational licence required by boats navigating the French VNF waterways) can be found on the VNF website.

Holding tanks

See holding tanks for information on the discharge of waste water. 

Buying diesel

It is unlawful in France to buy or use marked 'red' diesel for propelling a private pleasure craft. See Red Diesel Abroad for further information.

Keeping a boat in France

The name of the 'droit annuel de francisation et de navigation' has been changed to ‘la taxe annuelle sur les engins maritimes à usage personnel’.

The tax is payable, irrespective of the nationality of the owner and the flag state (country of registration) of the boat by persons who have a main residence* in France (article L. 5112 -1-18 of the transport code). Information about ‘la taxe annuelle sur les engins maritimes à usage personnel’, including the types and sizes of boats and watercraft it applies to and how to pay is available at https://www.mer.gouv.fr/la-taxe-annuelle-sur-les-engins-maritimes-usage-personnel. The information is in French but some internet browsers will provide a translation.

* this information is taken from an automatic translation and is provided for indicative purposes only - the original text in French is available at the link above.  

Credit cards at fuel pumps in France

Members have previously reported problems they have encountered when trying to obtain fuel in France using a credit card.

The most common difficulty is in trying to get fuel at unattended, automatic fuel pumps, where UK credit cards don't always work. This is a retailer-related problem that affects all UK credit cards used in France; indeed, many such fuel pumps only take the carte bleu card, available to French residents only.

Feedback about your experiences of using a credit card to purchase boat fuel when visiting France is welcomed and can be sent to cruising@rya.org.uk

Websites

A visa may be required for longer stays in France. Check at France-Visas.

Meteo France: http://www.meteofrance.fr/publications/nos-collections/guides-pratiques/guide-marine

Voies navigables de France (VNF): https://www.vnf.fr/vnf/

Purchasing a recreational licence for the VNF waterways: https://www.vnf.fr/vignettesVNF/accueil.do

Water levels on French waterways: https://www.vigicrues.gouv.fr/

Guide du Port: https://www.guide-du-port.com/

Travelling to France with pets: https://agriculture.gouv.fr/file/versionanglaisemouvementsnoncommerciauxue-france29-12-14encle069756pdf

Localisation Des Aires Marines Protégées: https://ofb.gouv.fr/