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Driving in France
Driving to your destination in France is easy, convenient and a great way to see more of the country.
Many holiday makers choose to drive through France to their holiday destination. You can usually take more luggage than on an airline, and enjoy some of the scenery and culture of France along the way.
Roads in France are generally of high quality with little congestion outside big cities so driving can be a real pleasure. The excellent network of motorways or autoroutes are identified as A roads. Most are toll roads with fees payable by cash or credit card, or you can save time and money by getting a Liber-T Autoroute tag before you leave - click here to order online.
If you're taking your car to France from the UK, it's very easy to get across the channel. There are a range of crossings and carriers to choose from at competitive prices in our ferry guide or you can book a crossing on Eurotunnel Le Shuttle. If you want to break your journey overnight, you can get a great deal on hotel rooms across France.
Tips for Driving in France
Driving in France needn't be as stressful as a long journey in the UK. Follow our tips to planning a swift and comfortable journey:
- On Autoroutes, or A roads, there are numerous attractive rest areas or Aires, ranging from picnic/toilet/petrol stops to full-scale service stations with restaurants and shops selling local produce. If you won't be arriving at your holiday property until the evening, when local shops are likely to be closed, services are a good place to purchase something for supper.
- Main non-motorway routes or routes nationales are identified as N roads. A good choice if you want a break from motorway driving or to see more small towns, villages and scenery. Road numbering can be confusing so best to follow destination signs.
- Avoid seasonal congestion at the beginning and end of August when most French people holiday en masse. Also avoid if possible the week around July 14th and around August 15th, both big national holidays. HGV's are banned from the roads on Sundays all year round so motorways are quieter on this day outside seasonal peaks.
- Direction signs starting with 'Bis' indicate bison futé, a holiday route avoiding crowded roads. Worth taking at busy times like summer Saturdays. Maps showing these alternative routes are available free from garages.
- If your holiday property is situated in the west of France, you could save hours of driving time by taking the ferry to Cherbourg or Le Havre rather than the shorter Dover to Calais route. You'll spend more of your journey sat comfortable on the boat and less of it behind the wheel.
- If you have a long drive in the UK to reach the channel ports, break your journey and save money on your crossing by staying the night in the UK, then catch a lower priced ferry early the next morning. We've a wide choice of accommodation near to UK channel ports including Dover, Folkestone (for the Channel Tunnel), Portsmouth, Poole, and Newhaven.
Driving in France – Useful Products and Services
Save money when driving to France and enjoy a more comfortable journey with our range of recommended products and services:
- Visit the Halfords online store where there's up to one third off a wide range of touring and motoring products including breakdown and safety products, plus also more of the fun stuff to keep the kids amused on a long journey. They also sell a handy Motoring Abroad Kit.
- Tout droit, à gauche ou à droite? Don’t get lost driving through France and avoid the need to ask directions in French! It’s possible to pick up a European Sat Nav system for less than £100 with full European street level mapping.
- European Breakdown cover is an essential ingredient of any motoring journey to France. A vehicle breakdown situation can be very stressful at the best of times, but a breakdown abroad could be a nightmare. With European breakdown insurance from Breakdown Direct, situations like this don’t have to become a crisis. When you call their European motoring assistance helpline, you can be sure their staff have the experience, expertise and ability to save your holiday with the minimum of hassle.
- Save money on your channel crossing with French Connections. Book cheap ferry tickets on all the cross channel routes including Calais, Cherbourg and Le Havre. If you want a faster crossing then you can also book Eurotunnel Le Shuttle fares for the Channel Tunnel.
- Don't want to take your own car abroad? Maybe you want to hire a newer or larger vehicle, or fly to the sun and rent a car locally. We compare the prices of 550 car hire agents at 25,000 locations worldwide to find you the cheapest deal.
- If you have a long journey or visit France often then get yourself a Liber-T autoroute tag. It sits on your windscreen and kets you sail through a priority lane at tolls, then the toll charges are taken from your bank account after you return.
Driving Laws in France
From July 2008 the laws about driving in France changed, and apply to French nationals and tourists alike. On-the-spot fines of between 90 and 135 euros became enforceable on 1st October 2008. The new and existing laws mean that:
- It is now compulsory to have at least one high visibility vest in the car, to be worn in the event of a breakdown. Reflective vests are available to buy from many places including online at Halfords.
- It also compulsory to carry a warning triangle in your car, to placed near your vehicle if you have to pull over. Once again, Halfords warning triangles can be purchased online.
- Seatbelts are compulsory for all passengers. Children up to the age of ten must sit in the rear of the car and must be protected by the use of car cots for small babies, and baby or child seats for toddlers and young children. Crash helmets must be worn for all forms of motorbike travel.
- You must carry your insurance, car log book - original not a photocopy, (or a letter from the car hire company if it is a company car), and your driving license with you at all times whilst driving. It is an offence not to do so.
- Unless otherwise indicated, the speed limit is 50 kph in built up areas, 90 kph on other roads, (80 in the rain) and 130 kph on autoroutes (110 in the rain).
- It is an offence to drive with levels of alcohol above 0.5 g per litre of blood (about two glasses of wine). Penalties are severe, so it is safest not to drink and drive at all when in France. From July 2012 drivers should also carry a self breathalyser kit in their car when driving in France, which you can get before you travel from stores like Halfords or at ferry and tunnel terminals.