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

Covid -19

There are various sources for information on the latest restrictions in force due to the Coronavirus pandemic:

RYA Covid-19 hub - https://www.rya.org.uk/coronavirus including advice and information for recreational boaters at https://www.rya.org.uk/coronavirus/advice-for-boaters.

Information on entry requirements can be found at https://www.gov.uk/uk-border-control?priority-taxon=774cee22-d896-44c1-a611-e3109cce8eae

Noonsite - https://www.noonsite.com/place/france-2/

Re-open EU – https://reopen.europa.eu/en

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 details about equipment.

Evidence of competence

For 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 (non-Covid)

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.

On arrival in France directly from the UK (or another third country) you will need follow the requirements of the Schengen Border Code. It is not yet clear whether entry and departure must be through a port of entry and whether a form must be submitted in advance of arrival. 

The forms that we are aware have been published are port specific for example Le Havre. 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 which manages the marinas of Saint-Cast Le Guildo and Saint-Brieuc Le Légué. CCI des Côtes d'Armor manages the marinas of Saint-Cast Le Guildo and Saint-Brieuc Le Légué has published a form at https://www.cotesdarmor.cci.fr/infrastructures-et-equipements/activites-portuaires/ports-de-plaisance/saint-brieuc-le-legue. There are further forms published at https://ports-manche.com/declaration-navire-de-plaisance-arrivant-hors-espace-schengen

This page will be updated as we learn more.

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

As detailed in Article 237 of the Code des douanes, if you are resident in France, you must have a document issued by customs onboard (un passeport délivré par le service de douanes) and in accordance with Article 238, you are required to pay a fee (le Droit de Passeport). Article 237 of the Code des douanes specifically applies this requirement to boats which are not French flagged irrespective of the nationality of the boat's owner, if the owner has their main residence in France.   

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. 

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/