driving in france - outkast
Has anyone out there got any tips for driving in france as im about to leave for johnny forigners shores,all advice welcome apart from dont...
driving in france - THe Growler
Toujours à droite.
driving in france - spikeyhead {p}
The only time your likely to go wrong is turning onto a main road and forgetting Growlers advice.
There are two tricks I've used to avoid problems driving away on the wrong side of the road.
Wait for someone to go past so you can follow them, or drive with you next to the curb, rather than in the middle of the road.
Its easier in a left hand drive car to stay on the right side of the road.
Navigating is the other problem, if your away with SHMBO, then I hope she can read a map or domestic bliss may not be a feature of the holiday.

**** I read often, only post occaisionally ****
driving in france - NVH
New for 2004. Fines for use of mobile phone when moving - even a hands free. Best avoid alcohol totally when driving as penalties now effectively doubled when any alcohol is involved.
Make sure you have the essential warning triangle, spare bulbs etc.
You might find an extra wide clip on interior mirror useful.
driving in france - Huw
I'm planning a trip too

FCO says
Drivers in France must be of the age required for the category of licence in question under French law. The minimum age for driving a car in France is 18 years old. 17 year-old British drivers with valid British licences are not permitted to drive a car in France. Anyone who contravenes this law can face a fine of up to 1,500 Euros and the impounding of the vehicle.

If you are driving to France, you should be aware that radar detectors are illegal in France, whether in use or not. If caught, you are liable to a prison sentence, a fine, confiscation of the device and confiscation of the vehicle. You should therefore ensure radar detectors are removed from your vehicle before commencing any journey to France.

www.go2-france.com/transport_drivingfrance.html Says

Keep your driving licence and all car paperwork with you as it must be produced on the spot if requested by the police. The driving licence must be a ?pink? one or pink and green ? not an old green one. A letter giving authority to drive the car must be kept with the paperwork if the car is not yours ? including company cars. Get an international accident declaration form from your insurance broker. It is simple to follow and will help when sorting out any mishaps. Be sure before signing anything in French.

Rules of the Road
A set of spare bulbs is compulsory. A warning triangle is a good idea ? compulsory if you?re towing. Make sure headlights are adjusted to avoid dazzling other drivers or being pulled over by the police. The minimum age of driver is 18. Children under 10 are forbidden to travel in the front seat.

Always stop completely at STOP signs ? or the police can fine you.

Never drink and drive. Tests are random and common. Fines are very heavy and instant.

Never speed. Speeding fines are heavy and must be paid on the spot. The police can impound the car in extreme cases.

Beware of Priorité à droite ? drivers from the right having priority. Still used in town centres and famously at the Arc de Triomphe.

Always pay and display ? clamping is on the increase.

Seatbelts must be worn by all. No children under 10 in the front unless in a specially adapted rear-facing seat.

Motorcyclists must wear crash helmets.

Instant fines exist for illegal of bus lanes.

Speed Limits
130km/h on toll motorways (110 km/h when wet).

110km/h on dual carriageways and non toll motorways (110km/h when wet).

90 km/h on other main roads (80 km/h when wet).

50 km/h in towns and villages ? sometimes slower so watch for signs.

Portable speed cameras can flash from back and front.

Speeding fines are normally charged on the spot.

Which breakdown insurance have you taken? I've gone for www.rescuefrance.co.uk/homepage.html

I see they say adjust headlights but I've always just 'turned them down' on the height adjuster as I believe HJ suggests and not had any probs

driving in france - NVH
outkast. where r u headed ?
driving in france - outkast
Im heading eventually to Martel in the Dordogne(?) but going the scenic route via Auxerre and Macon then a few nights around Paris
driving in france - TrevP
Martel. Very old town. On the N140 between Brive and Fignac.

I stop there every year on my drive to Spain.

I stay at the Auberge de L'ille in Creysse.
driving in france - outkast
Thanks ,i was unaware that speed limits vary when wet.
Do i need to take an mot cert?
driving in france - Nsar
That's a fine answer Huw which I applaud, but in order to drive like a local....

aggressive overtaking is the norm esp on mountain roads
get back in lane after overtaking on the autoroute or be prepared to be able to count the flies on the windscreen of the car in your mirror.
Don't ever wait more than a nanosecond before setting off after the lights have gone green (no sissy amber before green either)
Window open, arm hanging down (never along the sill) unless raining
After exiting the pay booth on the autoroute go into GumballRally mode as multiple lanes channel into 3 lanes (I counted over 20 booths open Sth of Avignon on Sat all funelling into 3 lanes within half a mile - hysterical)

It's brilliant and if you dive with some determination,it's a pleasure.

driving in france - Cheeky
Agree with the aggressive overtaking comment- however, our Gallic friends' lane discipline is far more widely remembered than here in the UK. Very few lane hoggers oblivious to what's going on. They often indicate to overtake, move out and leave the indicator flashing as an additional 'Get outta the way'...

Be prepared to put your foot down when on acceleration lanes leaving services etc. Flow of traffic is quick and the lanes tend to be short!!
driving in france - Humpy
I think the message is, look after yourself and your family first, everything else later on. Especially if the peripherique around Paris is on your itinerary.
driving in france - Nsar
Amen to that, but I was struck by how many middle lane hoggers I encountered in a 300km run from Avignon to Nice in very heavy traffic on the first day of the French holidays.These weren't tourists ie they were old shape cars with French plates.
driving in france - Huw
I don't think you need an MOT but proof of service might be handy if you are claiming onbreakdown insurance.

Zebra crossings are 'different' too in as much as they seem to mean nothing and it seems fair game for drivers to treat pedestrians with the same disregard there as anywhere else. I stopped for an old woman to cross once and rather than getting thanks I got a real scowl. It seems it is an insult or something.
driving in france - CM
One thing that can really get you in trouble is that in some towns vehicles on roundabouts have to give way to those joining. They are being phased out but they still exist.

Also if in a town and a bus is indicating to pull out of a bus stop it is best to let it go otherwise you might find yourself being T boned.

Again in town, the priority system can all be a bit funny. I once came up to a junction and stopped because a car was on the road I wanted to turn on to and he stopped to give me right of way.
Driving in France - robZilla
Cheeky's right about the lane hoggers - lane discipline in France seems to be much better observed than over here. I have one thing to add: If you're in the outside lane on an autoroute, don't be offended if the vehicle behind you flashes it's headlights at you. This means you are going too slow and he wants you to move out of his way. I know it would be considered rude and aggressive over here but in France this is normal and accepted practice.
driving in france - wemyss
Personally I find driving in France more relaxing than in the UK. Less aggression despite what some people say, perhaps because there is less traffic on most roads.
The best tip I could give is to put a little sticker on the dashboard saying ?think right? cause its so easy to forget particularly after a stop, or overnight, or if there?s no other traffic around you. The wife also reminds me by saying this to me whenever we get back in the car.
I find driving on the right becomes quite normal whilst actually driving but stop for an hour in a service area and its easy to be back in the left mode whilst still on the service roads.
Remember petrol is labelled essence (I think) and Diesel, which I use, is gasoil.
Traffic lights in towns are on gantries over the top of the road.
A couple of times I recall not being sure if I was clear to go with the lights, but a pip from behind to say its OK is the norm.
A great country to travel in with no problems.
Incidentally in Portugal I have never quite understood the traffic lights in some situations.
On some rural roads where there is a road coming in from the side, the traffic on the main road sometimes goes against the red and I simply follow them wondering if its in order.
Could it be that if there is no traffic waiting to come out of the junction its OK?.
driving in france - robZilla
"Essence" *is* French for petrol but you will see unleaded (95)labelled "sans-plomb", super unleaded (98) as "super", LPG is called "GPL" and diesel is indeed called "gazole".
driving in france - LHM
I'd wholeheartedly agree with Alvin's points above - I've also found driving in France far less stressful than in the UK, though maybe that's been due in part to 'holiday mode'.

I don't think 'aggressive' ('assertive'??) overtaking is aimed only at GB-platers, it's just the nature of the beast. Overtaking on single-carriageway roads in a RHD car can be a little daunting, and you need great faith in any passenger attempting to 'assist' you. Unless confronted by very slow moving farm machinery, I tend to hold back and admire the scenery until a 'cast iron' opportunity presents itself.

I too have been caught out by overhead-strung traffic lights at junctions! It's very easy to miss them in bright sunlight, particularly when they're on red :-(

Huw's comments regarding 'zebra' crossings are very valid - I've never understood the 'etiquette' regarding their use, and neither, I suspect, have the French :-)

Other things which may prove useful:

The long lunch break is still very much a part of rural French life, allowing good progress to be made on virtually deserted roads between 12.00 noon and about 2.00 pm. Beware the rush around noon, though, as baguette-laden folk rush home to their nearest and dearest. Sounds like stereotyping, but it happens!

French signposts can often prove confusing - what appears to be a left- or right-pointing sign often means 'straight ahead'. The upward-pointing arrow is not that common, particularly in provincial towns.

Keep an eye on the fuel gauge at the weekend. Most petrol stations - even those at supermarkets - still close on Sundays, and many of the card-operated pumps only accept French-issued cards.

Don't under-estimate travelling times - France is quite a big country, so allow a generous margin of error - particularly for catching the ferry home!

Above all, though, enjoy the country and its people! The French are, despite some preconceptions, a warm and friendly bunch, who respond to even the most faltering use of schoolboy 'franglais'. After all, would you expect a petrol station attendant in Walsall to speak fluent French??!

Bonnes vacances!
driving in france - terryb
I was struck this year at how much French road manners have improved. Stopping for pedestrians on crossings is now "normal" and everyone was much more courteous than previously.

Evidently in the spring they had a "be nice to other roadusers" day as part of the drive to reduce the horrific accident rate over there and it worked. Due to be repeated in October, I think.

I'm not sure about the old green licence not being acceptable over there (I know it isn't accepted everywhere) - I've still got one and have used it for 20 years now - mind you so far I've never had cause to present it to an official!

Bonne Route!

driving in france - PR {P}
French motorways have their own website. It seems quite useful, with things like prices between places and a traffic forecaster, its www.autoroutes.fr
driving in france - paul45

Lots of good advice so far. Here's a few more tips.

Tolls on Autoroutes, the first time you encounter a toll booth on the autoroutes you will get a ticket, first time SWMBO and me came across this we had no idea of the process, you only pay on leaving the autoroute or at certain toll booths along the way, (labelled "peage" - I think). So don't panic when you come across the first one. Just remember to get close enough to the ticket machine if SWMBO is of a petite disposition.

Secondly some of the service areas on the autoroutes are no more than picnic areas with questionable plumbing facilities for the old comfort breaks. Most do not have fuelling facilities either, although the ones that do are always labelled (with the price of fuel as well). On the good side though there are plenty of them, usually every 10-15 kms (called "aire" - I think).

Finally if you are touring around and using hotels / B&Bs etc, the local tourist info offices - which are generally well labelled, can usually ring up places for you to check if there is any accommodation. We have travelled through most of France in the peak months of August and have always been able to get decent accommodation for less than the price in this country (not difficult I know).

Enjoy your vacances - France is a pleasure to drive through if you follow most of the advice in this thread.
driving in france - Mike H
Tolls on Autoroutes, the first time you encounter a toll booth
on the autoroutes you will get a ticket, first time SWMBO
and me came across this we had no idea of the
process, you only pay on leaving the autoroute or at certain
toll booths along the way, (labelled "peage" - I think).
So don't panic when you come across the first one. Just
remember to get close enough to the ticket machine if SWMBO
is of a petite disposition.

Not quite accurate. Unfortunately, the toll system varies even on the same motorway. Sometimes you get a ticket when you start a section, then pay when you finish it - so don't lose the ticket - but on other occasions (seems to be more the norm), you just pay at certain points with no ticket required. We found this out the hard way, as the first time we encountered the "take a ticket" system, we spent some minutes trying to stuff the credir card in the ticket-issuing orifice! Having come back from France earlier this week, I did notice that things are getting clearer as to which system is in use - I commented to my wife on this very point when we passed a sign a few hundred metres before the toll booths which said Prenez un billet (take a ticket).

Other than that, you'll find french motorwys in general less crowded - I gather the french hate to pay the tolls - and certainly the driving is no worse than in the UK.
driving in france - terryb
Oh, one more thing to look out for in towns is old "priorité á droite" junctions where traffic turning onto the main road has priority. A yellow diamond sign indicates you have priority on the road, one with a line through it means look out for the relics of earlier motoring days. You only get caught out once by them!

Talking of relics, look out for the old squatting "turque" toilets on motorway service areas. SWMBO always uses the one in the caravan for preference.

driving in france - THe Growler
Ah, what we used to call the "Persian Version" from my overland days. Actually more hygienic, just have shoes with plenty of tread.
driving in france - Peter
From bitter experience it also wiser to ensure your wallet is not in your back pocket!!!!!
driving in france - THe Growler
driving in france - Nsar
But did you end up wiser and poorer or just wiser (yeucchh)
driving in france - mike hannon
all the above seems like good advice to me (i'd avoid the paris peripherique and the etoile and arc de triomphe junctions altogether!) but i think the most important advice is regarding the 'priority to the right' situation. if you see a yellow and white diamond on your side of a main road then you have priority over people at junctions on the right. if there's a yellow and white diamond with a line through it you DON'T. its mad and bl**dy dangerous but you don't. in towns, in car parks and on country roads its best to assume that the other person is going to pull out. on country roads in many departments minor road junctions on the right-hand side have twin white posts with red bands so you can spot them in plenty of time. remember, even if the minor road has a line across it at the junction it doesn't mean the other driver has to stop! and even if there's a 'stop' sign it doesn't mean they will. you will see that french drivers are almost always wary when driving on main roads and approaching right-side junctions - except when they are either on your back bumper or screaming past on 100m straight bits.
my advice also is to buy some good maps - even the aa and readers digest books are not bad - and use 'D' roads. they are the (more or less) equivalent of A roads in the uk but often very straight and usually quiet. you will make better progress than using N roads, which are packed with trucks that don't use the autoroutes, and you see more nice countryside, towns and villages.
oh, and ps: the douanes (customs) can now stop vehicles anywhere within about 50km of a port of entry or exit to France, which means (because of airports) virtually anywhere, and they like stopping brits. they will want ALL your car paperwork, probably turn out your boot to look for drugs or bootleg baccy, and they aren't very friendly.
keep your wits about you and enjoy!

driving in france - TrevP
Agree with the sentiment - but it's RN roads you want.

"D" roads are the equiv. of our "B".
driving in france - LHM
"D" roads are the equiv. of our "B"

I'd have to say that many a French 'D' road would put some of our so-called 'A' roads to shame............ :-)
driving in france - mike hannon
Believe me (a resident), you don't want 'RN' roads - they are full of trucks and any reasonable distance will take you much longer than you think it will. You won't find them listed as 'RN' either these days, they are just 'N'. The vast majority of D roads are, indeed, better than British A roads and progress can be surprisingly rapid particularly, as someone mentioned above, if you travel between 12 noon and 2pm (French lunchtime). Unless, of course, you succumb to the temptation of an excellent meal for not much money! If you do, the tip is to use somewhere where there are lots of lorries parked outside. It won't be like a transport cafe and the truckers know all about the best places to eat.
Re pedestrian crossings - the law about using them changed fairly recently: i think i'm right in saying that you now have to give way if someone is on or about to step onto the crossing. If that sounds stupid, the situation before was something like 'if you hit someone using a crossing it's their fault...'
driving in france - budu
Get a copy of the French highway code, the "Code Rousseau". There are loads of clear diagrams and it is easy to understand, even if you don't speak French. (I feel it is a good idea to display it on the dash, to pacify police if pulled over.) The normal town speed limit is 50kh, less past schools, otherwise there are three sets of speed limits; normal, in rain or "other precipitaion" and when visibilty is less than 50 metres. In the latter case, it is 50 km everywhere. On autoroutes the other limits are 130 and 110km, on dual carriageways 110 and 100 and "others" 90 and 80. There are lots of new dual carriageways and they are better than some UK motorways. Bon voyage!
driving in france - outkast
Thanks for all your advice,i'll let you know how it went when I get back.
driving in france - googolplex
Sorry if I missed it. Do you still need a GB sticker? If so, does the number plate version (with GB logo)do the job?
driving in france - Nsar
Yes to both
driving in france - googolplex
Thanks for the prompt reply! Just to clear this one up because I'm a bit slow today:

do you mean that I still must have a GB sticker as well as number plate one or will the number plate one do on its own?

driving in france - robZilla
Number plate on it's own is fine.
Driving in France - robZilla
The DVLA says...

"Since 1st September 2001 there has been an optional provision for the display of a Euro-plate for vehicles registered in the UK. The Euro-plate is a number plate that incorporates the symbol of the European Union (a circle of 12 stars on a blue background) with the national identification letters of the member states below. This symbol is located on the far left-hand side of the number plate.

"Vehicles displaying this symbol no longer have to use the traditional oval shaped national identifier (GB) sticker when travelling within the European Union. All vehicles registered in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have, by international convention, the distinguishing sign GB.

"The Government announced on 28 December 2001 the intention to permit the display of national flags and national identifiers on vehicle number plates. The Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulations 2001 are in the process of being amended. They will provide for the voluntary display of the Union flag, Scottish Saltire, Cross of St George and Red Dragon. Football team crests etc are not allowed."
Driving in France - googolplex
Ah Rob has cleared this one up nicely. Thanks, all.
I'm off this w/e...
driving in france,the return!!! - outkast
Hello to all who posted replies to my question a few weeks ago.I would like to thank you all for the advice,it put me in good stead for the 2000+ miles I was to drive.I found on the whole the French drivers to be quite good on the piages but round towns and cities it seems to be every man for himself!!!
Took your advice and didnt drive in Paris but had a few smiles at near misses and arguments around the arc de triomphe.
Once again thanks a lot
driving in france,the return!!! - NitroBurner
Hi outkast;

Glad 2 hear U had a good time in France
Ow did the GSi perform? Get good mpg?
driving in france,the return!!! - wemyss
Glad you enjoyed it outkast. My daughter and family have just returned from holiday in the south of France.
Not quite motoring but feel that prospective visitors should be aware of the following.
They took Barclays visa Stirling travellers cheques and some Euros for spending money.
When they had exhausted the Euros they went into town to cash some travellers cheques.
No bank would exchange them.
Frantic calls to Barclays who maintained they must but still no success.
Barclays acted admirably and did their best and advised they should now go into a French post office as they had an agreement with them to exchange them.
In to la poste who simply said no?. more calls to Barclays and still they refused.
Back in for the third time with mobile connected to a French speaking Barclays official, and they wouldn?t even speak to them and escorted her out of the post office.
Temperatures at over 40c with the children thirsty and hungry and no money.
Barclays then said they would cancel the travellers cheques and transfer money by telegraphic transfer through western union.
This they did and instructed her to keep the phone connected until they had money in their hands.
They have calculated telephone calls of approx £300.00 speaking to Barclays and hope to be able to claim this back. This was not Barclays fault as they asked her to give them her mobile number for them to ring her, but unfortunately she didn?t know her own number and in any case was more concerned about their predicament to worry about telephone charges.
The story is much longer than this, but during this saga a man they met back at the static caravan site kindly said he would go and get some money for them if all else failed.
Afterwards when all was settled and they were thanking the man he said he was the deputy editor for a British national paper and asked if they would contact him to enable him to write up this story.
My daughter worked for Barclays for many years and is obviously very familiar with banking practises and has literature to show that these travellers cheques are legitimate in France.
I post this as a note of caution that we shouldn?t assume because agreement has been reached at national level, that it will necessarily work at point of usage.
driving in france,the return!!! - HisHonour {P}
A sorry tale. Useful to remember that if you have the cirrus or maestro logo on your cashcard it will work in any French cash machine.
driving in france,the return!!! - Aprilia
Stirling cheques are not much liked in the quieter parts of Germany either. I also take Euro travellers cheques, never had a problem with those.
driving in france,the return!!! - T Lucas
Sorry if i've missed the point but why would anyone bother with travellers cheques these days?I can't think of one advantage over cards in Europe,if you go further afield i guess there may be a case for Amex Dollar travellers cheques,there must be quite high charges as well.
driving in france,the return!!! - terryb
I've never bothered with travellers' cheques in over 20 years visiting France. Eurocheques in the early days buy now just plastic and holes in the wall does it for me. You get a better exchange rate even allowing for the cash advance fee charged.

One tip. Always take at least 2 different credit cards and if you and your other half have 2 cards on one account, each person should carry both cards. Then if one gets mugged/stolen/lost you still have access to cash on the other account.

Off back over La Manche meself next week, top up on the old Cotes du Rhone Villages....

driving in france,the return!!! - CM
Driving in Spain a few years back and came to pay the toll with my card and found that they didn't accept it. I think it was VISA but it could have been Master Card (or vice versa).

Also best not to rely on you Amex in Europe as these are often not accepted.
driving in france,the return!!! - Bromptonaut
Relied on cards for a while, SWMBO and I taking combinations as above. Now take Euro travellers cheques as well after a fright when an isolated ATM refused all our cards. In my view the banks are negligent in offering sterling travellers cheques these days unless the customer is insistent. Stories such as this have been coming out of the US for years.

Just once I have had a UK CC rejected for lack of kit to read the magnetic stripe. There is however a scam in chain restaurants where they tell you the machine is "en panne" for the purpose of getting you to pay cash which does not go through the till!!.
driving in france,the return!!! - budu
If you visit France a lot, open a French bank account. This will work out a lot cheaper in the end, so long as you transfer fairly large sums at a time, since charges seem to be per transfer rather than pro rata. Credit Agricole Indosuez in London can fix it all up and, if you wish, can open your new account with its English-speaking outfit, Britline, in Caen. The only British bank with branches in France seems to be Barclays, and then only in Paris.
driving in france,the return!!! - jeds
I travel fairly often for holidays and business in Europe (just got back from Switzerland and France 2 days ago) and always use plastic. I have never had a problem getting cash or using credit cards although I would agree with the advice of having more than one card and not keeping them in the same wallet just in case.
driving in france - Rebecca {P}
remember that flashing your lights as a gesture of 'after you' or 'please cross the road' is not recognised in France. You will confuse a lot of people if you try!

The only time you see it is when oncoming traffic is warning you that the Police/Gendarmes are further ahead.
driving in france - smokie
Rebecca, that reminds me of my run down to Le Mans earlier this year. We'd just hit Alencon and moved to the left lane to filter left at some lights when an MPV came alongside (right hand side), lady driving gesturing frantically and passenger screaming out of the window at us and pointing to the left then backwards. I thought they were mad, they were that volatile (especially when I called Do you speak English?)

So, thinking either I'd carved them up or there was something offensive to them on the back of the van, I politely let them carve me up (i.e. turn left across the front of me, which is what I guessed they wanted to do).

As they were going past, the problem became obvious - third woman in the back (also gesturing at us) holding a screaming kid who I'd guess had broken or burnt his arm, and they were heading for the hospital...

driving in france - patpending
I'm sure many of our number have now gone of on their journeys to France but there are a number of interesting points raised here! Just having been shopping in France an hour or two ago here are some of my observations:

One common sight used to be underpowered cars (think Ami 6) which would slow to a crawl on uphill stretches and then divebomb down the other side. It's still true of some Renault Clios so beware.

Priority: yes, when you see the yellow diamond you have priority. Being cautious as you approach intersections includes a check to see if you can see a Give Way triangle on the road to your right. If not (e.g. it has rusted and fallen down, crashed into by Tour de France rider or there never was one) be prepared for a slow Renault pulling out into your path.

If you look at the guides to French road signs a thick arrow pointing upwards with thin bars means a crossroads where you have priority. In the old days a cross in the form of an "X" with the additional words "PASSAGE PROTÉGÉ" meant the same. An "X" with NO EXTRA WORDS means you MUST be prepared to stop at the junction!

At a STOP sign (these are rare in Britain) I believe the police can pull you if the car does not come to a complete stop at the junction. I am mercifully no expert on the subject (read your Voltaire on this, sorry code Rousseau!) but I always come to a halt and pull the handbrake at these. Always depending on who is behind me and the state of their brakes of course.

In towns priorité à droite is on the increase as it slows traffic down (think children playing etc).

D-roads can be a dream with their beautiful scenery. Always be prepared to see a tractor round the next bend, or a slow Renault overtaking one coming the other way.

When you enter a town the only warning you will get that you should be doing 50kph is the sign in black letters on a white background with a red outside....


Value my car