With over 7,000km of roadway, driving is the best way to see the land of cheese and wine. From the highest through road in Europe (Col de la Bonette) to rugged coastline, dense forests and volcanic corridors, driving in France offers something for everyone.
With the 2016 Euros being held in France, there’s bound to be more tourists than ever driving through France, therefore it pays to prepared and know some tips and tricks to keep you safe. So, without further ado here are a few things to know about driving in France to ensure a tres bon road trip!
On your marks:
There are three main types of roads in France with the following speed limits:
|Type of road||Dry weather||Wet 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. C’est la vie!
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 an ‘IRL’ 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. C’est facile.
- Carry snow chains if you are driving in mountainous regions during the winter.
- Use a hands free kit if using your mobile phone and do not touch or program a device unless parked in a safe place.
- 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 stopped and you have no breathalyser the Gendarmerie (the French traffic police) will, em, well, they won’t actually do anything as there is no penalty for not having one. However, 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!
France uses the same traffic light system and road markings as Ireland; however, unlike Ireland, it is illegal to undertake and an offence not to move over to the slow lane if safe to do so. Oh and 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 and bonne chance…
Notice we have avoided 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. Fancy tackling that while your partner tries to read a map and find the right exit? We all know that won’t end well! 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.
- The motorway from Clermont-Ferrand to Montpellier cuts through spectacular scenery and is a good alternative to the busy A6/A7 Rhone Valley route south. What’s more, it is toll free.
- The 150km Route Napoléon follows Napoléon’s 1815 march from Elba to Grenoble. The roads are smooth and the many cambered corners make this a thrilling drive.
- The iconic 200km road running along the French Riviera takes you through glam seaside towns scattered along the coastline. This truly is la joie de vivre.
If you’re driving in France, especially with the whole family on-board, space may well be at a premium. A good set of Roof Bars and a Roof Box may be the ideal solution if extra carrying capacity is needed – especially handy if you have young children in the car and bulky items such as Buggies and travel cots have to be brought along. Why not check out our Roof Rack buying guide or take a look at our Top 10 Do’s & Don’ts When Using a Roof Rack
If you’re planning on making the most of the good weather, you might want to bring bikes or watersport gear with you. If that’s the case, you’ll need a suitable solution for transporting them. We have a huge range of products in our Travel Equipment section which might be worth checking out.
One last point worth mentioning, and some would argue it’s one of the most important…don’t forget to leave space in the boot to stock up on duty free booze! (90ltr per person allowed, sparkling 60ltr, spirits 10ltr)!
Bon Voyage!! 🙂