Driving in France

As the summer holidays march toward us no doubt you will be planning your routes to get to the sun in the quickest and of course most stress free time.

Some of you maybe driving to France this year on holiday so here is a little guide of do’s and don’t so you can fully enjoy the beautiful country.

There are three main types of roads in France with the following speed limits:

Firstly, the speed limits.

In France, there are different limits depending on the conditions and the type of road you’re on:

Toll Motorway – 130kph (80mph) in dry weather, 110kph (68mph) in the wet

Dual Carriageway – 110kph (68mph) in dry weather, 100kph (62mph) in the wet

Other roads – 90kph (56mph) in dry weather, 80 kph (50mph) in the wet

Built up areas – 50kph (31mph) in dry or weather

Motorway tolls range from €3.30 to a whooping €78.80. Pay the péage with cash or credit/debit cards but have a variety of payments to hand just in case, as some cards work on some routes and not on others.

French law prohibits speed camera detectors including warnings on GPS systems. Remove radar detectors before you get to France and adjust your satnav accordingly.

By law you must:

  • Be at least 18 and have a full driver’s licence, (sorry learners).
  • Carry vehicle registration and insurance documents (originals, not copies).
  • Have a warning triangle and high-vis vest in your car. The vest must be within reach of the driver.
  • Display GB sticker if the car isn’t on European plates.
  • Adjust headlights so as not to dazzle oncoming drivers. If the lights are not manually adjustable, buy some headlamp beam convertors.
  • Carry snow chains if you are driving in mountainous regions during the winter.
  • As in the UK you cannot use your mobile phone while driving except using a hands free kit.
  • Buckle up! Seatbelts for everyone at all times.
  • Seat all children under ten years old in the back. If the child is under nine months old and weighs less than nine kilos, then the law permits a rear-facing baby seat in the front as along as the airbag is disabled.
  • Keep a single use NF-approved breathalyser in your vehicle calibrated to the 0.05% French alcohol limit. If breathalysed and you are over the limit you will be fined on the spot and held until fit to drive. If you are over 0.8g/litre, you face a hefty fine, possible jail time and a three-year ban from driving in France.

Route ready, checklist checked, time to travel!

Firstly of course they drive on the wrong side of the road! But don’t worry, when driving on the left the slow lane is still on the inside and overtaking is still done on the outside lane. At roundabouts, traffic already on the roundabout has right of way, but traffic flows anti-clockwise. If in doubt, just do what everyone else does !!

I’ve avoided driving in Paris… You should too.

With such efficient public transport and congested, archaic streets, why would anyone even consider driving in the capital of France?

To get into Paris you have to tackle Boulevard Peripherique ring road, one of the busiest roads in Europe. When travelling at the 70km/h limit it takes 30 minutes to do one lap. Holidays where parents try to navigate around this spring to mind and comments like “Is that the Eiffel Tower again Dad” still ring alarm bells. But don’t worry; there are nearly 200 emergency telephones along the road. Reassuring, right?

Once in Paris, parking is so limited that drivers practice ‘bumping’, nudging stationary cars to fit into a space, if they can find one that is. Because of this bumping, you won’t see many fancy cars on the streets but will see many with dings and dints. Bear in mind that rental companies charge for car damage, which will cost more than taking public transport into the city.

Stopping on the Autoroutes for refreshment is actually not a bad experience at all. Generally the food is well priced and tastes considerably better than the poor fare we have to deal with in Motorway Service Stations.

There is usually plenty of places to park and sit to enjoy your lunch, but do of course be wary of when the French holidays are because getting your timings wrong could add hours to your journey time.

Enjoy your holiday and above all enjoy your drive.