Driving in France – our top tips

Many of us now go on an annual European holiday by car and the most popular destination is our closest neighbour, France. There are some major benefits from driving to France, especially if you have a few passengers: it can be the cheapest mode of transport, it can reduce stress, and you may still have boot space to bring home some of your favourite regional produce. Driving also gives you maximum freedom to explore this diverse country which receives more tourist visits than any other.

Here are our top tips to ensure a smooth journey to your destination.

  1. Check your car is suitably prepared for the journey. Make sure your car has had a recent service, check the tires (including the spare tire), check the coolant, clean out the car, buy a road atlas and pack the car evenly.
  2. Before driving in France, make sure you know the French driving laws. You can find information on all the requirements here. It has just become illegal to carry any sort of speed camera monitoring system, including a Sat Nav device with speed camera warnings. In July 2012, it became compulsory to carry your own breathalyser.
  3. When travelling with friends, you can probably add them to the car insurance for a small cost.
  4. If you’re crossing the Channel at the shortest point, consider whether you want to take a cheaper ferry or a speedier Eurotunnel.
    The cost of a return ferry for a car with 4 people in tends to be around £50 – 80, depending on the time of day and number of people. The crossing from Dover to Calais will take about 2.5 hours including the time needed for check-in, sailing, and disembarking. A Eurotunnel crossing from Folkestone to Calais will cost at least £100, and at peak times considerably more, but the total time needed is only just over an hour. Remember, clocks go forward 1 hour when you disembark. If you’re travelling late at night or at the crack of dawn, the time saved may well be a god send. Oh, and the Eurotunnel is obviously the best option if you get seasick!
  5. We’d definitely recommend that you take the toll roads. Do not try and save money by taking the National Routes, unless the plan is to meander around France, exploring as you go. As a guide, the toll roads from Calais to the South of France will cost you about 160 € return and will save you many hours.
  6. If you agree with the above, you may want to consider getting a Sanef Toll Tag. This enables you to go through the automatic toll gates and charge your UK bank account automatically in £. It also means no more leaning out the window, waiting in long queues, hunting for loose cents, losing toll cards, and probably saves at least two arguments per journey!
  7. When stopping for petrol, get everyone to go to the loo. When stopping for a toilet break, fill up with petrol!
  8. If you’re taking children, make sure you have plenty of in car entertainment. Car colour counting is a good game, especially with two children so you don’t have to play! The number plate phrase game works a treat for older children, while the range of I-Spy books such as I-Spy On a Car Journey in France can keep them amused for hours. DVD players and games consoles may be expensive but worth their weight in gold on a long journey.
  9. If you have time, an overnight stay en route will make the journey far more enjoyable and mean you can see a few more places along the way. There are plenty of hotels right off motorways, or head into the small towns for a proper French experience. One of the simplest options is to use the Accor Hotel group. They own a range of hotel chains at different budget points. Choose from Mercure (prices around 70 € a night for a double room), Ibis (around 55 €), Ibis Budget (around 40 €) or Formula 1 (around 30 €). For something a bit more individual, try the Logis de France website.

That’s about it. The main thing to remember when driving in France is to stay safe: stick to the speed limits and don’t drive when tired.

Find a great selection of European Road Atlases to help you find your way when driving in France and the I-Spy books range for the children. Plus take advantage of the 20% discount off all European titles on the A-Z website available now.

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