By Charlotte Day

To quote Audrey Hepburn, “Paris is always a good idea”; the capital is a magnificent metropolis which oozes French charm and class. France is currently one of the most popular destinations for British travellers, with around 17 million Brits visiting the country each year. Although most visits to l’hexagone are trouble-free for Brits, it is essential to note that some laws and customs of France differ significantly from UK legislation.

To avoid unnecessary trouble and hassle whilst abroad, listed below are 5 French laws which you may not be familiar with:

  1. It is a legal requirement to carry a breathalyser, a warning triangle and a Hi-Vis jacket whilst driving in France.

Since 2008, it has been illegal to drive in France without carrying a warning triangle and a Hi-Vis jacket. If stopped by the French police without either of these items, you may be faced with a hefty fine (up to €270). In more recent years, French law-makers have added a breathalyser to the list of items which a driver must carry. Nonetheless, non-compliance with this does not currently carry a fine, despite it being a legal requirement to have a breathalyser.

  1. Concealing your face in public areas is against the law.

La loi interdistant la dissimulation du visage dans l’espace public (law prohibiting concealment of the face in public areas) was passed in 2010 and bans the wearing of face-covering headgear. It is now common knowledge that this legislation prohibits wearing a burqa. However, other items such as face-covering helmets, masks, balaclavas and veils are now also prohibited by this law – unless for specific circumstances. The motive behind this law is to ensure that all individuals are clearly identifiable, which aids security and allows facial recognition to avoid social hindrance. Failure to comply with this law may result in a $150 fine. So, if you are riding a motorbike or scooter in France, make sure you do not forget to take off your helmet whilst walking around a town!

  1. Failure to assist someone in danger is deemed illegal by French law.

Whereas English criminal law does not impose a general duty on an individual to act to save another person from harm, the French Penal Code does just that. If you witness somebody in danger and you can save them without risk to yourself (for example, a small child drowning in a swimming pool), you are legally obliged to do so. Failure to act makes you accountable before French courts. Evidently this is a rather obscure French law, but a lack of awareness of its existence could result in a huge fine and even imprisonment.

  1. You must be able to prove your identity within 4 hours.

The French order forces have the authority to stop any individual and ask them to prove their identity within 4 hours. Documents which can be used to evidence your identity include a valid driving license or passport. Hence it is imperative that you always carry a form of identification when travelling in France. If you are unable to provide a form of ID within 4 hours, you will be detained at the local police station whilst the police carry out a lengthy process of verifying your right to be in the country.

  1. It is a legal offence to deny the Nazis’ crimes against humanity.

The Gayssot Act of 1990 makes it illegal to question the existence or size of the crimes against humanity carried out by the Nazis (as defined in the London Charter 1945). Anyone who public disputes or denies the Holocaust as a crime against humanity may be faced with a prison sentence of up to one year, as well as a maximum fine of €45,000.

France is a first-rate country; it accommodates for an array of interests and is just a stone’s throw away from the UK. To make the most out of your trip, keep these laws in mind and check out the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Travel Aware website to stay up-to-date with the latest travel advice.