Don’t worry about driving in France. With great roads and stunning scenery a drive through France is all part of the holiday, so you don’t have to wait until you get there for your vacance to start! Take your time and have a stop off or two; you have the freedom to choose!
Another benefit to taking the car to get to your get-away-from-it-all glamping holiday, is that once you are there, you still get to sit beside a roaring campfire, toasting marshmallows under a dark starry sky but without having had to stuff your vehicle full of camping gear! This means that there’s room for all the fun things like bikes, paddleboards, kayaks, fishing gear or golf clubs! But even if you are travelling light, it’s so good not to be concerned with baggage allowances!
So, if you haven’t driven in France before or it’s been a while since you have, here’s a guide to ensure a safe and smooth journey.
What to bring When Driving In France
- You need to be 18 or over with a full valid driving licence to drive in France . If you have a UK licence, you do not need the paper counterpart and you do not need an International Driving Permit.
- A current passport for each person travelling (From outside the EU, this must have at least six months left to run)
- For those outside the EU make sure you have the relevant visas for your trip (Only required with a UK passport if your trip will take you over the allowed 90 days in any 180 day period)
- Your motor insurance certificate (you may need to tell your insurance company that you are going to be travelling abroad, so be sure to check with them!).
- If from the UK, your vehicle must have a valid MOT (if it’s over 3 years old) or the equivalent if from mainland Europe.
- The vehicle ownership papers – in the UK this is the V5 log book or a VE103 document for rented/hired vehicles.
- If you don’t have a europlate number plate, you must have a country sticker (for the UK, this is now a UK sticker not GB) to display in the rear windscreen.
Compulsory Safety Items
- Headlight converters are compulsory when driving in France to prevent dazzling drivers coming the other way. This is only applicable for left hand drive cars (for driving on the right) and where headlights cannot be altered.
- A warning triangle (doesn’t apply to motorcycles)
- A reflective jacket each and they must be accessible without getting out of the vehicle. (Without these you risk being fined around €90!)
- Motorcycles must have their daytime running lights
- It is illegal to drive with an important bulb gone so keep a spare bulb kit with you!
If you hire a car in France all relevant, necessary safety items should be with the car.
- Fire Extinguisher
- First aid kit
- If you wear glasses make sure you have a spare pair
- European Breakdown Cover is strongly recommended!
- Sufficient water to drink
- Sufficient insurance
- Daytime running lights
What You Don’t Need When Driving In France
- You no longer need a breathalyser as the requirement was removed in 2020.
- Anything that warns you of the location of speed cameras – it’s illegal so be sure to turn off that function in your sat nav! If you are caught with one, you risk fines of up to €1,500.
- When driving in France from the UK you don’t need a green card
Other Considerations When Driving In France
- If from the UK, your vehicle should be taxed in the UK
- All occupants must wear a seat-belt at all times whilst in the vehicle
- You must not use your mobile telephone whilst driving, even through a hands-free system or Bluetooth headset
- You must not wear headsets or headphones whilst driving (exception are motorcycle helmets with integration)
Rules of the road when Driving In France
- When driving in France the number one important thing to remember, especially when coming from the UK or anywhere else that drive on the left, is that in France, people drive on the right hand side of the road!
- Don’t be intimated by roundabouts. The rules are the same as in the UK except you drive in the opposite direction. When approaching a roundabout, give way to traffic on your left, already on the roundabout. A sat nav really helps you to focus on the right direction of travel, especially at a roundabout. Road positioning and arrows will also make it very obvious!
- “Priorité à Droite” (give priority to traffic coming from the right) is an old rule which may still apply at some junctions (in La Chatre, a nearby town this is very much the case on la route national!). If you see the yellow diamond with a white border sign then Priorité à Droite does not apply to the road ahead. Although many drivers now realise it’s dangerous to pull straight out into a road of oncoming traffic, keep your eyes peeled for vehicles appearing from the right. The rule is usually indicated as you enter or leave an area.
Tolls or Toll Free?
If you drive at or your vehicle does over 97km per hour (60mph) then choosing a route that includes tolls will get you there more quickly. We say that because when we have been driving to and from the UK it has generally been in our trusty van facilitating our move, laden with stuff, so the fast roads were inconsequential to us!
So, if you are towing something, have your kayaks and bicycles strapped to the car or just want to take your time, then select a toll free route option and go the more leisurely scenic route! Undoubtedly the quickest way to travel between regions and cities in France is via motorways.
Toll Signs – How To Identify A Toll Motorway And The Toll Gate
- Signs indicating that the motorway ahead is a toll route are usually shown in the overhead destination signposts so under the name of the city eg under Paris it will say “péage”. The sign will also show as you approach the toll motorway, in advance of the last exit to avoid. You will see a sign “péage 400m” for example, indicating that you are approaching the toll gates or péage plaza
What To Expect And How To Pay
- The toll booth is generally unmanned and payment is usually via a machine
- The machines take cash or card payment so whatever the mode of payment you have, be sure to approach the correct toll gate. There will be a sign above to indicate whether cash or card or both is accepted. It’s always handy to carry some Euros just in case!
- The toll payment machine is always situated on the left. If you are in a right hand drive car, this is a job for the passenger!
- If in a right hand drive car, travelling alone, be prepared to hot foot it out and round the vehicle to the payment machine.
- At some toll gates you just take a ticket from the machine and at the next you insert the ticket and then your card, to pay the amount displayed. The amount relates to how far you have travelled.
- At other gates you will just pay a set amount & you won’t previously have taken a ticket.
- Alternatively, you can buy tags to attach to your car which enable you to use the automated lanes. The fee is exactly the same but the fee is taken from you chosen bank account in your home currency. There are, however, various costs involved in setting up the tags but if you are a frequent traveller or are going to be using a lot of toll roads while driving in France, it could be worthwhile.
Speed limits when driving in France
For your safety on the road be aware that speed regulations start at the town name sign and end on leaving the town. Check the examples below for an overview of speed limits on different roads in changing weather conditions
- Urban areas: 50 km/h (30mph)
- Rural areas: 80km/h – 90km/h (50mph – 55pmp)
- Dual carriageways: 100 km/h – 110 km/h (60mph – 68mph)
- Autoroute: 110 km/h – 130 km/h (68mph – 80mph)
Remember, there are heavy fines for breaking the limits. If you are over the speed limit by 30km/h you can lose your licence and your vehicle can be confiscated if you are over the limit by 50 km/h.
Emission Laws in France
These are the only locations requiring UK registered vehicles to have one Paris, Lyon and Grenoble. Unless you are planning a stop off in Paris, when travelling to La Prairie Étoilée you do not need to travel via any of these cities and therefore, do not need an Air Quality Emissions Certificate!
Most service stations are 24 hour with automated payment machines for bank card payment at times when they are unmanned. Like anywhere, prices are often cheaper at supermarket petrol stations so consider when scheduling a stop.
Which Fuel Is the Right Fuel?
These are the likely options and translations!
- Essence (super / super 97) = Petrol
- Sans Plomb (98 & 95) = Unleaded Petrol
- Gazole ou Gasoil = Diesel
In some French towns you may find that parking is allowed on one side of the street for half of the month and then on the other side for the second half of the month. Parking may also alternate weekly or daily. Most towns have car parks. Whether you need to pay or not will differ from place to place. Always check for a payment machine!
Blue Zone Parking
Parking is free on roads with a dotted white line or no markings. Blue zone parking areas allow free parking for a designated time. You’ll need to display a parking disc in your vehicle window showing your arrival time. Look for the parking sign in the area to find out the length of time you’re permitted to stay. You can pick up a new parking disc at newsagents or tobacconists. Failure to display the disc could result in a fine. Blue parking zones are shown with a parking sign with a cryptogram in the corner.
It’s advised that dipped headlights are used at all times outside towns in any weather. Dipped headlights must be used in poor daytime visibility. Motorcycles over 125cc must use dipped headlights during the day at all times.
In France, the alcohol limit is 0.5mg/ml. When driving in France, it is advisable not to drink and drive at all. If you are caught over the limit, the penalties are severe.
La Prairie Étoilée – Getting Here & Best Routes
La Prairie Étoilée is a get away from it all luxury glamping experience deep in the heart of the Berrichon countryside right in the middle of France. With a varied, stunning landscape and a great climate there’s little need to go further south, so driving here is very do-able.
Best Routes – Avoid Paris!
Unless you are heading specifically to the capital, we reccommend that you avoid routes that take you close to or through Paris. Even if it looks like the shortest or quickest route, you will invariably get snarled up in traffic which will add, sometimes considerably, to your journey.
Travelling to La Prairie Étoilée
If travelling to La Prairie Étoilée you can click here for the address, map and directions
We hope you have found this guide to driving in France useful
If you want to fly from the UK and then hire a car, check out our Flights to Limoges from UK blog.
Read another of our How To series of blogs – Tips For Successful Eating Out In Rural France