Driving to France from the UK is the cheapest, and I think easiest, way for a family to travel. It means that we do not have to worry about luggage restrictions, delayed flights, carrying things in the airport and so on. You can have the choice of travelling by Ferry from a number of ports or using the Eurotunnel (there is also the option to FlyDrive but this is not the budget option I am talking about). It also gives you a greater flexibility over what time you intend to travel. However, there are certain things you need to consider when driving in France.
Driving in France – The Car
Apart from the obvious needing your car to have tax, MOT (and be up to the drive) and you having insurance, there are other things required. First of all make sure you take ALL your driving documents with you – the photo and paper part of your driving licence (make sure you are covered, for example under 18s cannot drive with their UK licence in France), your insurance certificate (make sure that you are covered for Europe), your MOT certificate, the log book (V5C certificate), breakdown cover (for UK and Europe). You must also carry proof of ID (a UK passport) with you. Breathalysers should be carried but there is no longer a fine in place if one cannot be produced. In theory you should carry two in case one is used, but they are only valid for 12 months.
Other things to consider for the car when driving in France are taking spare keys, spare glasses (if you require them), spare bulbs kit, a torch, reflective jackets (for the whole family must be kept in the vehicle within easy reach), a hazard triangle, a fire extinguisher, blanket, first aid kit, seat belt cutter/hammer, directions, knowledge of the toll roads, plenty of change, an extra mirror for the wing of the car (we have never required it), and beam benders for the headlights (little plastic sticky discs you have to accurately place on your headlamp cover. Our normal headlights dip down and also aim slightly to the left so that they do not dazzle approaching drivers. The benders change the beam to aim to the right).
The correct child seats – which in France are not determined by height but by weight. This is Group 0 (up to 10kg), Group 0+ (up to 13kg), Group 1 (9-18 kg), Group 2 (this is where it changes to a booster seat with adult seatbelt) (15-25kg), Group 3 (22-36kg).
Know the Speed Limits when driving in France
Normal traffic conditions: Motoways 80 mph (130 km/h); Urban motorway or dual carriageway with a central reservation: 68 mph (110 km/h); Other Roads 55 mph (90 km/h); Built up areas 31 mph (50 km/h)
Raining: Motorways 68 mph (110 km/h); Urban motorway or dual carriageway with a central reservation 62 mph (100 km/h); Other Roads 49 mph (80 km/h); Built up areas 31 mph (50 km/h)
Visibility less than 50m: All roads 31 mph (50 km/h)
There are many rules and regulations of the road when driving in France that you may want to print out and keep in your vehicle to reference:
- If you breakdown on a motorway/toll road then use the orange phones.
- Drive on the right and overtake on the left:
- Vehicles may overtake on the right when in lanes and there are slower moving lanes
- Overtake trams in motion on the right – apart from in one way streets if there is not enough space on the right
- Give way to vehicles travelling uphill on a steep gradient when you are travelling downhill
- Give way to vehicles on the right unless otherwise signposted.
- Flashing of lights are used to warn people. The horn is only to be used when absolutely necessary.
- Towing (except in the case of a breakdown) and carrying people in a moving caravan are forbidden.
- Park only on the right hand side when there are 2 lanes of traffic and both sides on a single lane if the road is wide enough. Those with disabilities can obtain a “blue zone” parking disc from police stations, tourist offices and selected shops.
- Know your road signs (I would print out this sheet). Parking restrictions may be indicated by signs or yellow lines on the kerb – a continuous yellow line indicates that stopping and parking are prohibited; a broken one that parking is prohibited.
- Know some phrases and keep with you a phrase book – “stationnement à la carte” indicates that you can pay with debit/credit card.
- The legal limit for driving after consuming alcohol is 0.05% (bus drivers are 0.02%) – best not to drink and drive.
- Traffic lights – there is no amber light after the red light; flashing amber light means to slow down, but to proceed but give way to vehicles coming from the right; flashing red means no entry; Yellow arrow and a red light means keep moving in the direction of the arrow but to give way to traffic already in the flow and pedestrians.