Real Life: Working as private hire car driver in Dordogne


Real life stories

Real Life: Working as private hire car driver in Dordogne

The pandemic set the wheels in motion for a new and exciting venture in Dordogne for Mark Whaymand…

People make the move to France full of hopes and aspirations as varied as their new home’s landscapes, wines or even cheeses. For some it is the attraction of a slower pace of life, the less-crowded roads, the rural traditions and the more relaxing lifestyle that suits retirement or semi-retirement. Others, myself included, came to France well before retirement age for that change of life you only get from establishing your own business, in which you can make your own decisions and manage your own destiny. And, while FPN readers are well aware of the process of searching and purchasing their dream French home, the question of what to do once settled is one that many buyers put off until later.

For many (certainly as far as the TV programmes suggest) the dream is to renovate a large house or even a château with the intention of letting space to holidaymakers. The house- with-gîtes model remains hugely popular. But, there are other options.

Photo: Mark Whaymand


Mark and paul maison belmont, Photo: Mark Whaymand

For myself and my husband Paul, being sociable people, with many years of holidaying in France as the backdrop to our choice, we almost inevitably ended up in hospitality, owning our own small chambres d’hôtes/B&B business in St- Antonin-Noble-Val and then in 2019, in Eymet. It is now three years since we opened Maison Belmont Eymet, catering to the needs of a wide range of visitors drawn to the warm and welcoming south of Dordogne. Our passion for interiors and mid-century design enabled us to create a unique setting for guests.

The B&B provides us with a steady income and an enjoyable lifestyle. Neither of us had a background in hospitality (I was an interiors buyer for top-end retailers in the UK and Paul was an assistant headteacher with 25 years’ experience in urban comprehensive schools). But we both possess the skills required to make the best of our B&B business. We enjoy working with and for other people, we can multi-task and are tech-savvy and have a positive attitude, making our guests always feel at ease and relaxed when they are in our home. Located in Eymet, one of the most vibrant and visitor-friendly towns in southwest France, we are kept very busy looking after our guests and networking with other businesses to enhance their experience.

With nearby wedding venues (who only provide limited accommodation) kept busy all summer long, their guests naturally became ours while the lure of that dream home in southwest France keeps the househunters visiting and booking to stay with us throughout the season. We love the contact with people from all over the world, and all walks of life. On arrival at Maison Belmont a chilled glass of rosé and a welcome from our black Labrador ‘Toby starts the process of turning guests into friends.

Paul and Mark’s B&B Maison Belmont Eymet, with its quirky mid-century decor, Photo: Mark Whaymand


However, along with everyone in hospitality, we struggled during the pandemic. Although it wouldn’t recoup our losses, it soon became clear that another income stream would give us the financial security we needed going forward. But what was this new business to be? Was there a market related to tourism that was yet to be tapped? Where were the gaps in services provided to the kinds of people who stayed with us year after year? What would I enjoy doing?

The answer became clear when I was reflecting on my own skills and interests. My love of cars and driving led my thoughts in one direction: to become a private hire driver and set up my own business providing transportation services, to our guests and those of other venues. There was clearly a need. Rural France is often poorly served by public transport, and properly licenced and registered drivers are not in huge supply, although they are in big demand.

My next question became not what, but how. One thing was certain: I was going to set up the business legitimately. Ever since we opened Maison Belmont in St-Antonin, we have been properly registered for tax purposes. I wasn’t going down the ‘under the radar’ route with all its accompanying risks and complications. I needed to do some research. This paid off. Luckily the French state encourages the establishment of small businesses and I discovered that I could access training funds to support the required learning and assessment for registration as a VTC (voiture de tourisme avec chauffeur) driver.
All the learning was done online with seven different modules covered through a combination of videos, PowerPoint presentations and practical exams. After three months I was ready to apply to the Chambre des Métiers in Perigueux to take the final assessment. After seven written exams and a rather challenging driving assessment in Bordeaux, I received my VTC licence. My new business (Eymet Private Driver) was now fully registered with the French government and I was insured for driving paying passengers.

My car needed to meet strict criteria as well. It had to be under six years old, of a minimum size and power, and seat at least four passengers. It needs an annual Contrôle Technique (MOT) and professional insurance, which is only valid with the VTC licence. Once these administrative hurdles had been cleared, the business was set up and I could crack on with creating a website and launching Eymet Private Driver as a fully registered and licenced operation.


Mark’s hire car, Photo: Mark Whaymand

In June 2022 I began driving our guests, a combination of airport and station transfers, journeys to local wedding venues and the many quality out-of-town restaurants that Dordogne is rightly famous for.
Word spread and I was soon driving guests from other B&Bs and gîtes as well as locals keen to make use of a new much-needed service. I have established relationships with partners in the wedding and hospitality business from château owners to wedding planners, top-end accommodation providers and restaurants. I see my driving business as a cog in the wheel of a much bigger operation. It is a service supporting many different businesses with important connections made with key stakeholders.
Change is happening all over France with expat enterprises emerging in fields that are new and exciting. Gîte businesses are branching out to become micro wedding venues; owners of big character properties are opening as venues for art workshops and retreats as well as the more familiar cookery and wine appreciation experiences; micro-breweries and vineyards are taking on the locals at their own game; mindfulness, yoga and other wellbeing practitioners can be found all over the country.
In France, being designated as a micro-entrepreneur provides some great opportunities and is a tax- efficient way to establish additional income streams.

There is no doubt about it. Coming to France and buying that dream property could be the start of a new and exciting career and business development, not just a glorious retirement. It took the shock of the pandemic to make me realise the need to diversify. But it also showed me how, with a little bit of inspiration and a lot of hard work, you can make your move to France really begin to pay off.


  • Do a self-audit of your own skills, strengths and interests as a way of identifying options for your possible business.
  • Investigate what businesses are needed and what gaps exist in the local market.
  • Contact your local Chambre des Métiers (Chamber of Commerce) to obtain the most up-to-date information on what qualifications are needed to carry out the activity you plan to do.
  • Once your business is set up use social media and network like you’ve never done before to get your business noticed.
  • Make a business plan to calculate turnover, profit and any likely costs or unforeseen expenditure.
  • Work on your language skills with a focus on work-related French vocabulary

The unique mix of legal, financial and tax advice along with in-depth location guides, inspiring real life stories, the best properties on the market, entertaining regular pages and the latest property news and market reports makes French Property News magazine a must-buy publication for anyone serious about buying and owning a property in France.

Lead photo credit : Eymet in the Dordogne is popular with locals and expats, Photo: Mark Whaymand

Share to:  Facebook  Twitter   LinkedIn   Email

More in dordogne, Nouvelle Aquitaine, real life, running a business

Previous Article When & How to Exchange Your US Driver’s License in France
Next Article Buying property off-plan in France

Related Articles

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *