Do I Need Winter Tyres or Snow Chains When Driving in France?


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Do I Need Winter Tyres or Snow Chains When Driving in France?

New rules were introduced in winter 2021, requiring snow chains or winter tires to be fitted to all cars, motorhomes, and other vehicles in France’s mountainous regions. ‘Mountain Law’ or Loi Montagne applies to 48 different French departements, and penalties for non-compliance apply. Here’s what you need to know.

What are the rules on snow chains and winter tyres in France?

In an effort to reduce traffic jams and accidents in mountain regions, drivers within the designated ‘snow zones’ are now required by law to fit winter tyres and/or snow chains to their vehicle during the winter period. These rules apply from 1st November through 31st March each year, and they apply to all drivers within the zones – whether you live in the region, arrive on vacation, or are just passing through.

Which French departements require snow chains or winter tyres?

These rules apply to 48 French departments, situated in mountain regions such as the Alps, the Massif Central, and the Pyrenees. There are signs displayed at the entrance (B58 sign) and exit (B59 sign) of each snow tyre zone to clearly signal the need for winter tyres and/or snow chains.

The 48 departements affected are: Ain, Allier, Alpes de Haute Provence, Hautes Alpes, Alpes Maritimes, Ardèche, Ariège, Aude, Aveyron, Cantal, Corrèze, Côte d’Or, Creuse, Doubs, Drôme, Gard, Haute Garonne, Hérault, Isère, Jura, Loire, Haute Loire, Lot, Lozère, Meurthe et Moselle, Moselle, Nièvre, Puy de Dôme, Pyrénées Atlantiques, Hautes Pyrénées, Pyrénées Orientales, Bas Rhin, Haut Rhin, Rhône, Haute Saône, Saône et Loire, Savoie, Haute Savoie, Tarn, Tarn et Garonne, Var, Vaucluse, Haute Vienne, Vosges, Yonne, Territoire de Belfort, Corse du Sud et Haute Corse.

You can find the full list here or consult your local Mairie for details of local zones.

France’s Mountain Law: rules and regulations

The rules require all vehicles to have winter or 4-season tyres and/or to have non-slip snow chains or ‘socks’ mounted on the vehicle (or at minimum present in the vehicle) when driving in the above-mentioned departements during the winter season.

Cars with studded tyres do not need winter tyres.

Buses, Heavy Goods Vehicles without trailers and coaches must have chains or winter tyres and are subject to more stringent measures. For example, HGVs having a trailer must have snow chains on a minimum of two driving wheels, even if they have winter tyres.

What exactly is a ‘winter’ tyre?

Winter tyres are defined as those with the universal standard ‘M+S’ (Mud and Snow) marking. From winter (November 1st) 2024, the tyres must also be marked ‘3PMSF’, which means 3 Peak Mountain Snowflake or Alpin. Any all-season tyres must have all the above markings too.

Find the official requirements here.

What are the consequences of non-compliance?

The penalty for non-compliance is a €135 fine and the immobilisation of your vehicle.

Driving in France

Whether you own a car in France, travel to France in your UK or EU-registered car, or hire a rental car – FrenchEntrée has all the need-to-know info about driving in France. Our Essential Reading articles will take you through buying, registering, and insuring your car, as well as offering tips and advice on driving and car ownership in France.

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Carol, a teacher from Hurworth in Darlington, lives in Charente in South-West France, where she runs La Grue Gites with her family.

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  •  Steve heseltine
    2023-12-17 01:08:58
    Steve heseltine
    I am informed that traveling to the Costa brava down the west side of France, via Bordeaux ,San Sebastian this is an area that snow socks/ chains are not a legal requirement, would this be your understanding


  •  Milos
    2023-03-02 01:19:42
    Hello! Thank you for nice info. I am just little bit confused with "and/or" in some sentences. If I have winter tires, does it mean I have to keep chains in my car or not? "to fit winter tyres and/or snow chains to their vehicle..." I would really appreciate explanation. Thanks in advance. Milos


    • Zoë Smith
      2023-03-02 13:29:16
      Zoë Smith
      Hi Milos, Your tyres must be either be suitable winter tyres or fitted with snow chains when driving through the applicable regions - it is not a requirement to have both, although you may choose to also have snow chains if driving in heavy snow. However, if you don't have winter tyres, you must have snow chains. Hope that helps clarify it! Zoe


  • Judith King
    2022-12-27 12:39:04
    Judith King
    Does this apply to 4 wheel drive cars with a snow setting?


    • Zoë Smith
      2023-01-03 07:47:39
      Zoë Smith
      Hi Judith, As far as I am aware, it applies to all vehicles as it concerns the tyres that are fitted on your vehicle. So even with a snow setting, you would need to have the right tyres fitted and/or snow chains. Hope that helps! Zoe


  •  Mick Ralph
    2022-11-01 08:15:47
    Mick Ralph
    The information given here is NOT CORRECT, The departements of Correze, Creuse and Haute Vienne (at least) have all issued an Arrete that no commune in their departement has a requirement for snow tyres or chains, despite being on the peripohery of the mountainous areas.


    • Zoë Smith
      2022-11-02 14:49:12
      Zoë Smith
      Hi Mick, Thanks for your comment - our list is based on the government website and may be subject to local amendments as you have outlined in the three departments above. We suggest that readers keep an eye on the full list using the links here as local laws are always subject to change. Best regards, Zoe


      • Carl Pointon
        2022-12-18 08:08:00
        Carl Pointon
        Hi - do the snow socks / snow chains have to have an certification? I’m driving to La Plagne and don’t want to be fined.


        • Zoë Smith
          2022-12-19 06:40:10
          Zoë Smith
          Hi Carl, There doesn't seem to be any further details of this in the official requirements - it simply says (translated from French) "have metal snow chains or snow socks in their trunk to fit at least two drive wheels". I would suggest asking at your local garage or wherever you are buying the snow chains from - I bet they would know if there are any EU specifications/restrictions - but from what it says, I imagine that as long as they are fit for purpose, they should be fine. Hope this helps and enjoy your winter break! Zoe