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If you’re planning a road trip across to Europe then the chances are that you’ll be spending some time driving in France and someone has probably told you that you’ll need a Crit Air Sticker, otherwise known as a Crit’ Air Vignette.
This probably brings up a bunch of follow up questions: What is a Crit Air Sticker? Do I need one? Where can I buy a Crit Air Sticker? How much do they cost? How does this tie in with French Clean Air Zones?
We’ve got all your Crit Air Sticker questions answered right here.
What Are Crit Air Stickers?
Crit Air (Clean Air Certificate) Stickers are part of the Clean Air Scheme that France have introduced to try and curb air pollution caused by vehicle emissions.
They range from E (lowest polluting vehicles) through 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 (highest polluting vehicles). When buying your sticker your vehicle be automatically assigned a band based on it’s registration, or make, model and age.
Any vehicle driving through a clean air zone needs to have a Crit Air Sticker clearly visible in their windscreen. And dependent upon your vehicles emissions band you may not be able to enter the zone at all.
This is because rules governing which Crit Air band is allowed within the zone change according to what pollution level a city or area is experiencing at any given time.
And to complicate matters further, access to clean air zones isn’t static, it changes depending on that days pollution levels. So you may be able to enter on day 1, but not on day 2.
Or perhaps you can travel through at off peak times on certain days, but at busy or heavy pollution times you will be banned.
Usually the areas affected are at a higher level of air pollution in the summer as pollution is compounded by the number of vehicles on the road coupled with higher levels of heat.
So, all in all a very simple system… Right..?
Do I need a Crit Air Sticker?
In short, if you are travelling in France, even if you don’t plan on entering the clean air zones, it’s best to have one just in case.
It’s not law or required at all times outside of zones, but we’d advise for simplicity to ensure you have one regardless.
This is because there are a huge number of areas that require them, some permanently, some temporarily dependent upon pollution levels. Some of these areas are smaller urban areas and some are large swatches of rural countryside.
A diversion or taking a wrong turn could easily cause you to inadvertently enter a clean air zone.
That said, certain vehicles don’t qualify and won’t be able to travel through marked zones at all, or at certain times (peak pollution)
Vehicles that can't get a Crit Air Sticker
- Cars and vans registered before January 1997
- Motorbikes registered before June 2000
Crit Air Stickers & Low Emission Zones in France
There are 3 permanent clean air zones (ZCRs) and over 25 temporary clean air zones (ZPAs).
Permanent Clean Air Zones (ZCR)
- Central Paris Only vehicles in the E, 1, 2, & 3 bands can enter between 8:00am and 8:00pm, Monday – Friday.
- Greater Paris Only vehicles in the E, 1, 2, 3 & 4 bands can enter between 8:00am and 8:00pm, Monday – Friday.
- Strasbourg Affects commercial vehicles only
- Grenoble Affects commercial vehicles only
Temporary Clean Air Zones (ZPA)
There are over 30 ZPAs in France, and they do change over time so we are not going to list them all here, maintaining a list like that is beyond what we have time for.
However we have put some useful links from official sources for checking real time air zone information at the bottom of this post.
Crit Air Sticker FAQs
How much do Crit Air Stickers Cost?
A flat rate of 4.51 Euros including postage to the UK as of March 2021.
Where can I buy a Crit Air Sticker?
Only buy a crit air sticker from the official website of the French Environment Agency. There have been reports of stickers being sold online at vastly inflated prices so make sure you are on the official website to be safe.
Can I get one if I'm already in France?
No – make sure you have bought one before you leave the UK and in plenty of time for delivery.
What happens if I'm caught without a Crit Air Sticker?
On the spot fines, typically between £60 & £120 dependent upon vehicle and exchange rate.
How Long Does a Crit Air Sticker last?
The lifetime of your vehicle. They are not transferable to new vehicles but are valid for the next owner of your vehicle if you sell it. If you buy a vehicle with a sticker in place it remains valid.
Crit Air Sticker Position
Lower right hand side of the windscreen as you are sat in the vehicle, or front left as you stand in front of the vehicle looking back at it.
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Checking Clean Air Zones in real time
There are a number of websites and apps available to check the real time information of Clean Air Zones and whether your vehicle emissions band allows you entry.
However we’ve found the most reliable and up to date information is available at UrbanAcesssRegulations.eu
Crit Air Stickers conclusions
Far from a simple, or static, system we feel that while its cause is good, it is unduly complicated.
The best way to avoid fines, regardless of whether you plan to enter a clean air zone, is to ensure you buy your Crit Air Sticker well in advance and it is placed correctly.
Check whether your vehicles band is currently allowed to transit and park everywhere on your journey each day before setting off.
Before long it will become as second nature as setting up the satnav.
So that’s it.
Hopefully you’ve found this useful – let us know your thoughts on the Crit Air Sticker Scheme in the comments below.
Go Explore! In France!