Tips for driving in France(24 Posts)
We are going on holiday in France this year, our firat trip abroad with the kids, and my first time driving abroad (apart from Gibraltar which doesn't count!). We are staying just north of Cognac. The plan is to drive to Folkstone (about a 2 hour drive from home), get the train to Calais, then drive down the A10, doing the whole journey in one day. On the way back we are planning to go via Paris, staying overnight in Versailles and taking the kids into Paris for a few hours. DH doesn't drive so I will have to do the whole lot, planning to stop every couple of hours to stretch legs etc.
Has anyone got any tips for the journey? Particularly thinking about places to stop, advice about the roads, etc.
The quickest routes often have tolls. You can usually pay cash or card for these. The passenger will need to do these as the driver is on the wrong side. You can drive the back routes to avoid these.
Motorway driving is much easier in France. They tend to only have two lanes and if you are not over taking you must pull over. Some drivers leave their indicator on while over taking.
Speed cameras are not as visible over there and there does not have to be a warning sign.
There are two speeds on the motorway depending on if it is dry or wet. Bear in mind the limits are in kph.
Make sure you carry the following: breathalysers, first aid kit, warning triangle, florouescent jackets for all passengers, spare bulbs, spare tyre. You must have GB on the rear of your car, either a detachable one or on your number plate.
Don't forget to check your insurance.
We found a very good sat nav app that downloaded maps before we left. It only went wrong once (kept telling us to join the motorway on a none existent slip road). I can't remember what it was called but worth a search.
If you are caught breaking a driving law you are likely to be fined on the spot so make sure you read up on what's what.
Thanks. Having read another thread I am now panicking about traffic, we are traveling on the first Sat in August. My car doesn't have a spare tyre, is that going to be an issue?
I was going to say "Don't panic" because in general driving in France is much easier then the UK. However you do seem to have chosen an unfortunate weekend! We have done that though and really it's no worse than anything you will encounter here.
I would be a bit wary about driving in to Paris. Understatement. Can you drive nearby and then use public transport?
You will be ok without a tyre.
You do need to read this though www.mirror.co.uk/money/british-drivers-going-france-need-10137174
Forgot you need headlight sticker things too or you will need to adjust your lights as they will dazzle other road users with them driving on the opposite side to us.
If you use a sat nav which shows where speed cameras are this is illegal in France.
You must also carry your v5 and insurance docs.
This page gives good tips for rules of the road
Please don't attempt this on the first weekend in August. That is the mass exodus period for the French beginning their grandes vacances. The main routes are bumper to bumper, tempers flare, queuing at rest stops is hellish, prices soar... As for driving in Paris, forget it. No one needs that much stress.
Just read that you need a sticker stating fuel emissions. Law's just come in. Check it up though as I might be wrong.
I'm definitely not going to drive into Paris!! Plan is to leave the car at a hotel in Versailles and use public transport. No chance of changing the date, accommodation is already booked.
Don't stop to pay at the toll booths on the autoroutes.
Get an automatic payment badge from here and avoid the queues.
The fuel emissions sticker is only in three cities (Paris, Lyon, Grenoble) at the moment. We live in France and haven't got one yet. The first Saturday in August is indeed very difficult. The A28 / A10 will be very busy especially around Tours and other péages so the SANEF badge (see above) will save lots of time. Have to say I think that is ambitious for one day (especily Black Saturday) and would factor in an overnight stop somwhere north of Tours. We regularly drive from Normandy to the Spanish border, but not at holiday times!
Nightmare journey that day. Don't do it all at once, take a break. Remember, there may be delays at Folkestone as well . We have done this journey in the opposite direction and it nearly killed us !! It's 4 hours from Calais to Le Mans, then 2 -3 hours to Poitiers , that's without too much traffic. Not sure I agree about the please badge though as that day the queues will be miles long and there is no dedicated lane until you get very close. We always use the N10 to avoid queues and peages but this has also been busy in recent years. In future try to get a ferry to Caen and you'll have less of a drive, but this year I'd definitely stay in a hotel near Rouen or Le Mans and it will be a lot less stressful.
You'll need an emissions sticker. We're being advised to get one as although it's only three cities at present that could change. Better having one than not.
I also think you need the car kit too (first aid kit cash fire extinguisher breathalyser high biz jackets for every passenger triangle thingy )
Also bring your own loo roll. The bigger service stations are fine but the smaller rest stops often don't have toilet roll.
Wow, just looked at prices for the ferry to Caen - definitely not an option!!
I might look into crossing Fri night and driving a little way into France, but the problem is I won't know until closer to the time what time DH will be finishing work on Fri, so that might be difficult to plan. Do the train prices go up closer to the time?
Thanks for the tip about loo roll, will definitely make sure I do that!!
BBCK there are loads more 30km télépéage lanes on the autoroutes now. They are adding to them all the time, especially at the big bottlenecks like Tours. It really does make a difference.
OP have you looked at Newhaven Dieppe? That cuts quite a bit off and is not as expensive as Portsmouth Caen.
Otherwise I agree that Le Mans as a good place to stop.
There's a relatively cheap BF crossing from Portsmouth to Le Havre that might be worth considering.
And definitely get the Sanef badge, it makes a massive difference. There is a small annual charge but it's so worth it
I you don't need petrol don't stop at the main petrol stations stop at the 'Aires' they have less facilities but on the A10 they are pretty good - clean toilets, picnic tables, space to stretch your legs.
We always pack a picnic bag for the journey as the food in the services is pretty crap, and pricey.
Get a Liber-t tag from SANEF.
Drive on the inside lane unless your are overtaking and when you overtake keep your indicator on keep going until you pull back in.
We do practically the same journey every year - we leave home at 4/5 am, train at 6ish, arrive around 4/5pm depending on stops. We do try to power through apart from toilet breaks though.
We do a similar length journey to the Vendee region each year but we have 5 hours to Folkstone and we do it in one go now. We used to break the journey overnight but now we prefer to do it in one go now. You are 3 hours closer to Folkstone so you should be ok.
1. Set off as early as possible - we used to set off at 4am and cross late morning. You could cross and be in France by 9am.
2. Allow time for a couple of good rest breaks and a couple of short toilet breaks - you do need it when you're the only driver. we like a couple of picnic type breaks (around 45 mins each), it gives you something to look forward to, and also a couple of 5-10 breaks to stretch legs, grab a coffee from machine,etc.
3. Take plenty of food and drink - saves time and money - if it's busy you may want to picnic by the car.
4. If you get tired do stop for a short break straight away, don't take risks. My husband does all the driving and intends to stop every couple of hours but sometimes does over3 hours, sometimes less than an hour - stop if you need to!
Hope this help. If it's your first time doing this and you are worried then do it over 2 days but I think you can do it in one.
On your Paris stopover, we did exactly the same thing one time - on the way back we broke the journey by staying in a cheap hotel near Versailles, having a few hours there then having a few hours in Paris the next day. We actually drove round Paris the next day on the Périphérique (ring road) and parked North of Paris just off the Périphérique near a Metro station. Parking in Paris isn't too bad if you book in advance through the Parking Paris (something like that) website.
If you consider doing this let me know and I'll dig out the details.
We ended up having to travel on that weekend a few years back. I was worried about it, as everyone delighted in telling me it would be hideous.
We took the car ferry to Dunquerque on the Friday and drove down the western side to Versailles via side roads (which are excellent quality) and we barely saw another car! We stayed in an ibis I think, opposite the station and got the train into Paris for the day on Saturday. Easy.
We then travelled on to the French Alps on the Sunday, another supposedly busy day, and it was absolutely fine.
Try and alter your departure times if possible. There's nothing worse than knowing you're headed straight for a long jam. We get stuck every year in February, going skiing and there's absolutely nothing we can do about the timings. We have only one day we can travel and it's the same as the rest of the world. We just have to grit our teeth and allow for it.
We try to travel down any day except a Saturday, we've found Sunday to be fine. Even on a Saturday the traffic moves well on the toll roads but you do get annoying waits to pay at the tolls. The biggest problem we've found on a Saturday when you are heading to a popular resort is when you get to the last part of your journey, everyone is queuing up to get into the town/area and it can easily cost you an hour delay you- you don't get this on other days.
Black Saturday is actually 29th July this year so if you are travelling the following Saturday in August it won't be as bad (though it's always much busier over the summer on the autoroutes esp at weekends).
The main traffic exodus is from Paris south on black Saturday.
Thanks all. I've provisionally booked a hotel in Rouen, with the plan that if it works out with DH's shifts we could get the train Fri night and drive a couple of hours before stopping for the night, then finish the journey on Sat. I haven't paid up front though so could cancel if needed.
Sounds good. If you get an early start on the Saturday you should be fine.
Bon courage. 😊
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