Driving in France

Travelling by car in France is generally a more pleasant experience than travelling on UK roads. France is approximately two and a half times the size of the UK but with roughly the same population. Consequently the roads are generally less congested outside of the main cities.

Essential Items

Checklist

 

  • Full Driving license
  • Proof of vehicle ownership (V5C document) or hire
  • Certificate of motor insurance
  • Headlamp beam deflector
  • Spare set of bulbs
  • Hazard warning triangle
  • Spare set of car keys
  • High-visibility waistcoat / jacket
  • Breathalyzer kit
  • Vehicle condition
  • French Toll Roads

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French Toll Roads (Autoroutes)

 

Whilst it is possible to travel around France avoiding the toll roads (particularly in Brittany west of Rennes where there aren't any), for longer journeys autoroutes are the best way of getting around by car. Unlike the UK, toll roads in France are a way of life and have been for many years.

Sanef now offers their Liber-t tag to UK customers. This makes travelling on Toll roads much simpler as the tag allows you to drive through the tolls without having to pay every time. Instead the electronic tag is placed in your car by the rear-view mirror, this is then scanned at the toll points and the payment is then taken from your bank account via direct debit a few weeks later.

 

 

Helpful Tips and Advice

There are some things that you can do to make driving in France a bit less stressful

  • DRINKING: Although many of the service stations in France will serve wine you need to be aware that the drinking limit in France is 0.5mg as opposed to the 0.8 mg in the UK. Of course the very best advice is to be completely safe and not drink at all.
  • AUTOROUTES can be stressful if you need to keep finding the money to pass through. However you can make this easier by investing in a Liber-t tag. This is an electronic device that fixes to your car which lets you pass easily through the tolls without having to pay there and then. Then around fifteen days later the payment is taken from your bank via direct debit. For more information about the Liber-t tag visit our guide: https://www.saneftolling.co.uk/what-is-liber-t
  • Something else to bear in mind is purchasing PETROL. Petrol on the autoroutes will be more expensive than if you stock up at a local supermarket.
  • Another point regarding the purchase of petrol is that you need to remember to look out for the following words rather than the word “Petrol”:
  • Essence = Petrol
    • Sans Plomb = Unleaded Petrol
    • Gazole = Diesel
  • Be sure to brush up on your driving etiquette and remember that what is accepted in the UK is not necessarily the same in France. For example the flashing of lights to an oncoming vehicle in the UK is widely accepted as a signal that the car is letting you through. In France however, the same signal is generally their way of saying they are going through and you should wait.
  • Always make sure that you are well prepared for long journeys, make sure you take plenty of food and drink to keep well hydrated.

Travelling With Children

Children under 10 are only allowed in the front seats if:

  • there are no rear seats; or
  • the rear seats are already fully occupied by children under 10; or
  • there are no seat belts

If a child must travel in the front under the above circumstances then they cannot be placed in the front seats with their back to the direction of travel if the vehicle is fitted with a passenger airbag unless it is deactivated. They must travel in an approved child seat or restraint adapted to their size. In the rear they must use a proper restraint system appropriate to their weight, which means a child seat if they weigh between 9 and 15 kg. Over this weight they can use seat belts with a booster cushion.

Speed Limits in France

It is important to note that when driving in wet conditions in France, the speed limits are lower.

Category Motorways Open Road Dual Carriageway Town
Vehicles towing trailers with GVW > 3.5t 90 km/h 80 km/h 90 km/h 50 km/h
Visiting Motorists holding a license for less than 2 years 110 km/h 80 km/h 100 km/h 50 km/h
All Other Vehicles 130 km/h (110 when wet) 90 km/h (80 when wet) 110 km/h (100 when wet) 50 km/h

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