10 things you need to know when tavelling in France by car.

Lucy Pitts By Lucy Pitts, 21st May 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>Tips>Driving

10 tips for driving in France including legal requirements for your vehicle, your pet and your children. Reminders about drink drive and speed limits and a check list of things you should take.

You're off.

We’ve all done it. Packed the bags, un-switched the electrics and whisked the cat off to the cattery and then half way to the ferry or train, your other half turns to you and says, “Have you packed the car insurance?”

So to save you that (I hope momentary) heart stopping panic and to make your life a little bit easier to boot, here’s a list of “must haves” as well as some reminders of things you need to know and do when driving in France:

1. legal requirements.

There are certain things that you must have as required by law:

- High visibility vests (which must be kept inside the car not the boot).
- A warning triangle.
- A spare light set and GB sticker (unless GB appears on your registration plate).
- A breathalyser kit (although at present this law cannot be enforced by way of a fine and may be abandoned).
- It’s a good idea to also have a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit.

2. Things you must pack.

Do not forget that if you’re stopped by police, you have to be able to produce if asked, a driving licence, vehicle registration document and car insurance certificate. And if you've got children under 10 with you, remember that they must travel in the back unless you are in a van.

3. In the event of a breakdown.

In my opinion having broken down in France on many occasions, another whopping must do is to make sure you have good European breakdown cover and check that your car insurance provides more than just the minimum third party cover. If not apply to your insurer for a green card. It's fairly easy, not that expensive and could save you a lot of money.

4. Health insurance is a must.

If you’re are travelling with your family and they are anything like as prone to accident, injury or illness as mine, apply in advance for your free European Health Insurance Card and check your travel insurance details – oh how happy you’ll be in that hospital ward room as they bandage that fractured leg, if you’ve done so. You can apply online at www.nhs-e111-ehic.org.uk.

5. Emergency numbers.

The emergency number in France should you need it is 112. In additon you can dial 15 in a medical emergency, 17 in the event of fire, 18 for the police and 144 if you are deaf or hard of hearing.

6. Beware Sat Navs.

I know most of us have abandoned maps in favour of satellite navigation systems but please bear in mind, it is illegal to have a sat nav which indicates where speed cameras are and you can be fined E1,500 even if it’s not in use.

7. A map?

And on the subject of directions, I really can’t recommend enough having a good old fashion map for when your Sat Nav goes into meltdown at the sight of a dreaded “deviation”.

8. If you are taking a pet.

Are you taking the dog? Well don’t forget to check his vaccinations are up to date, his passport is in order and pack some water. If you haven’t complied with the legal requirements, they will not let your pet back into the UK so don’t forget to make sure you know what they are for your animal and visit a vet before you leave. You can find out all the details at www.defra.gov.uk/widelife-pets/pets/travel/pets.

9. Speeding.

French police have been known to take an enthusiastic approach to speeding so it's well worth while taking the trouble to check the speed limits before you go. If you're caught speeding you can be fined, have your car confiscated or lose your licence on the spot depending on how fast you are going.

You'll find lots of useful information at www.safetravel.co.uk/frenchspeedlimits.html but as a rough rule of thumb the basic speed limits are:

- In a built up area 31 mph (50kph).
- On a non built up road 55 mph (90 kph) and in the wet 49 mph (80 kph).
- On a non toll motorway or dual carriage way 68 mph (110 kph) and in the wet 62 mph (100 kph).
- On a toll motorway 80 mph (130 kph) and in the wet 68 mph (110 kph).
- On the Paris ring road 49 mph (80 kph).

Don't forget that speed linits reduce in the rain and there are still hidden speed cameras particularly where you see a sign flashing your speed at you. You have been warned.

10. Drinking.

And finally despite popular myth, the French drink drive limit is lower than that in the UK and the police take a robust approach to enforcement. The limit is 0.5 mg of alcohol in a ml of blood which is the equivalent to one small beer and sentences for drinking drive include substantial fines, prison and driving bans, so that breathalyser kit might be useful after all.

More information.

There are lots of useful websites out there if you need further information but the above should certainly be a fairly comprehensive list of what you need to know and do to ensure your trip to France runs smoothly and without hiccup. So it only remains to wish you bonne route, bonnes vacances and don't forget to pack this list.


Driving In France, French Requirements For Drivers, Holidaying In France, Tips On Driving In France

Meet the author

author avatar Lucy Pitts
Freelance copywriter and writer. Writing about the Vendée, France, parenting, running a small business, books, Leonbergers and more

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author avatar Rose*
18th Dec 2013 (#)

Great list of tips. Also don't forget the French drive on a different side of the road to the British :-)

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