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Information about autoroutes, tips on driving in France, garages, distances between towns and Insurance for French travel, in France – Day-tripper.net the web magazine for visitors to France.
For English drivers France can sometimes be a daunting prospect. If you are nervous, why not put a sticker on your dashboard simply saying "KEEP RIGHT"? Before you go, read the advice we have on this page which we update frequently.
July 1st 2012 – New rules concerning alcohol testing commence. From 1st July drivers (including motorcyclists and holidaymakers) will be required to have a one off alcohol breathalyser kit in their cars. The French Police advise motorists to have two kits available. The fine for non compliance is 11 euro, although it a warning will be issued for the first few months of the law. From 1st November 2012 however fines will be imposed. The idea is that drivers should test themselves if they are unsure about their capability to drive. They only cost between 50 cents and 1.50 euro in France. They should carry the NF (Norme Francaise) logo and should be changed every two years.
January 4th 2012 – Satnav no longer showing speed cameras. Satnavs and other technical equipment are no longer allowed to show the position of speed cameras or warn drivers. The ban was introduced on January 4th 2012. Drivers face a fine of up to 1,500 euro if caught. My TomTom (on iPhone) has just updated (April) with all the speed camera warning removed. However TomTom say they now offer a "warnings zone" download.
TomTom Satnav. www.tomtom.com
British visitors to France often make the mistake of ending up arriving or driving through France at very busy times. Schools do not always start and finish at the same time, and Public Holidays can have a very bad affect on your journey times. The worst weekend in France throughout the year is one week before the late summer Bank Holiday (late August – U.K.). The crossover of the "juilletistes and aoutiens" (July and August holidaymakers) in late July sees millions of people moving across the country over the weekend with travellers either starting their holiday or returning home. Saturday is usually the only day of the year when traffic monitor Bison Fute issues its highest level of alert – black – meaning more than 600km of jams are forecast.
Diesel is cheaper in France and Belgium (less so). If you are visiting or passing through Luxembourg it has some of the lowest prices in Europe. With a bit of planning you can save quite a bit. I personally aim to arrive in France on empty, and fill up at a Calais Hypermarket. Unleaded is more expensive though.
TOP TIP – Radar detectors illegal in France – they will be confiscated even if switched off, and you will be fined.
July 2011 – The E.U. Parliament has now passed the law which will see driver penalised for speeding and other offences in other countries from 2013. Offences included in the directive include speeding, drink-driving, failing to wear a seatbelt and failing to stop at a red traffic light. Also covered are driving under the influence of drugs, illegal use of an emergency lane, using a mobile phone while driving, or failing to wear a safety helmet on a motorbike or scooter. Apparently foreign drivers are three times more likely to commit an offence when away from home.
September 2009 – New rules will see foreign drivers having to pay fines incurred in other E.U. countries.
July 2008 – Fluorescent jackets. They are now a legal requirement and must be kept in the passenger part of the car and NOT the boot. Don't forget a warning triangle and headlight converters (do it yourself). In Belgium you should also have a fire extinguisher.
– Buy a fluorescent jacket at Argos or a local DIY store where they are very cheap. You must wear it even if you stop to assist someone else who has broken down. Remember to keep it under the drivers seat or hang it over the back of the seat – it must be within reach of the driver.
Steer Clear Campaign – Foreign and Commonwealth Office campaign for English drivers going abroad.
Speed cameras – they are slowly being introduced in France. In Calais there is one on the way to Cite Europe (coming from the port), if going to Adinkerke, watch out for the one at the entrance to Dunkirk, and on the way back soon after the 110 km per hour limits starts. Speed limits around towns are usually 110 km per hour.
– From Bison Futé (French travel advice and news). Tel: 0033 892 687 888.
Bison futé is a government funded advice agency for travellers in France, with the objective of reducing traffic congestion by giving useful tips and advice. Giving useful advice and tips – maps can be obtained from the French Tourist Office in Piccadilly. Suggested alternative routes (BIS) help you avoid jams (green signs). There are 59 centres dotted throughout France where you can stop for help and advice on toll charges. Between 15th June and 31st August the centres are open daily as this is the busiest time of the year. Busy autoroutes include; A6 north of Lyon, A7 along the Rhone, A10 south of Paris, autoroutes along the Mediterranean, and the main routes in Normandy and Brittany.
Free telephone calls for travel information can be made from the orange call boxes situated every 4km on main roads, 2km on motorways.
There is a Bison Futé office on the A16 near Boulogne. For drivers going via Dunkirk and following the A25, A1, A26 route east and south, there is an office on the A1 just south of Lille. For people coming from Calais, short of a detour the first office is on the A6 just south of Beaune.
Bison Futé. www.bison-fute.equipement.gouv.fr
Practical Advice – car checklist
1 – Prepare your car. A priority are your tyres – don't forget the spare. If using a roof rack, make sure your luggage is firmly attached. Don't overload
2 – Choose a good day to depart. Bison Futé recommends Sunday as the best weekend day. Expect delays on the A25 (Dunkirk – Lille) between 6.00 and 9.00pm.
3 – Prepare your itinerary. Prepare your route before you go. Use the autoroute for long stretches of the journey. Use your plan and stop for rests where suggested every two hours (route planners).
4 – Leave prepared. You should know where you will be resting, before your leave. An early morning or late afternoon start is better. Avoid driving at night unless you had a sleep beforehand. Being prepared for your journey also means avoiding all alcohol, taking medication which may affect you, large meals and anything which will contribute to reducing your attention on the road.
5 – Stop and rest during the journey. Keep your plans and itinerary in the glove box. Listen to the radio for warnings and advice (107.7 FM). Stop often, after about 2 hours driving maximum. This is a good time to check your plans or change drivers.
6 – Remember French time is one hour ahead. Always allow for reasonable delays as you may find yourself arriving at your hotel in the early hours otherwise.
7 – Check the weather forecast. Driving in heavy rain or snow is tiring, slow and a time when there are many accidents. You may wish to delay or bring foreward your journey depending on the weather.
From Eurorap. Setting internationally recognised standards for governments, consumers or engineers to measure the safety of the roads we use every day. www.eurorap.org
Traffic and jams – Bison Futé is the French Government organisation which helps motorists plan their journeys, avoid blackspots and get there safely. www.bison-fute.equipement.gouv.fr
On the autoroutes. www.autoroutes.fr
– France 2 is the largest French public television network and has a page offering traffic information and planning. www.france2.fr
For information on road conditions, consult regional information centres before you set off. The telephone numbers are;
Ile-de-France/Centre – 0033 1 48 99 33 33.
North – 0033 320 47 33 33.
East – 0033 387 63 33 33.
West – 0033 299 32 33 33.
South-West – 0033 556 96 33 33.
Rhone-Alpes/Auvergne – 0033 472 81 57 33.
Mediterranean – 0033 491 78 78 78.
For motorway conditions throughout France: Autoroute information – 0033 1 47 05 90 01.
Road conditions in the North of France (in French)
– In Belgium. www.touring.be
North France – A19 around Lille, A31 Luxembourg to Dijon, A13 Pont l'Evêque – Dozulé (on the way to Caen after Pont de Normandie)
Western France – connection between N175 and A84 Pont Farcy – Ste Pience (route from Caen to Mont St. Michel), A81 Péage de la Gravelle, around Rennes, N165 between Lorient and Vannes, around Angers, the region around Nantes, A83 Oulmes and N148 Benet.
Central France – A20 Limoges, N20 Souillac – Cahors.
Eastern France – A7 Lyon – Orange.
Southern France – around Bordeaux, South Aquitaine, N20 Foix – Andorre, N9 Millau, A9 Orange – Narbonne, A8 Salon de Provence – Nice.
Bison Futé traffic conditions in France. They suggest you avoid driving between 8.00am and 4.00pm on Saturdays during peak times.
January to December 2015 (pdf). www.bison-fute.equipement.gouv.fr
Note – If passing through a city, expect jams from 7.00 to 9.00am, and from 5.00 to 7.00pm weekdays throughout the year.
14th July (Saturday) – Bastille Day, many people returning home from visits to family and other attractions.
Every weekend in July and August is busy on the roads in France. The first and second weekends in July see the cities empty. The last two weekends of August are especially busy with returning holidaymakers. The second weekend of July and the last/first weekend of July/August are to be avoided if at all possible.
The second weekend in August (Assumption) also sees many people visiting friends and family.
October holiday week (Tuissant) – 27th (Saturday) and 31st October and 1st November 2011 (Thursday and Friday).
Weekend before Christmas – 22nd and 23rd December 2012.
Christmas weekend – 29th to 30th December 2012.
Useful link (realtime map). www.infotrafic.com
Avoid sharing the roads with lorries over 7.5 tons. In France vehcles over 7.5 tons are banned from all roads from Saturday at 10.00pm until Sunday 10.00pm, and the day prior public holidays from 10.00pm to 10.00pm the next day.
Download PDF. www.bison-fute.equipement.gouv.fr
– that one driver in two that passes over the Spanish border at Biriatou has already driven more than 1,600km, for more than 10 hours, and not stopped for 5 hours on average.
– In the last decade over 60,000 people have lost their lives on French roads.
– Death rates on French roads compare with those in the United Kingdom 15 years ago (they are about 50% higher in France).
– 10% of accidents involving Dutch people happen outside the Netherlands.
– that in summer accidents are less frequent but more serious and with more victims
– that motorcyclists represent 30% of all fatalities in the summer, and 10% annually
– that young or new drivers are more susceptible to fatigue than older more experienced drivers
– that the drivers capacity to react quickly can save lives. If you feel your driver is getting tired make him / her stop and rest.
– that 80% of driving activity is visual – it is important to keep your eyes on the road at all times.
– that over weekends 50% of cars have two occupants, 17% three, and 16% four or more.
– that in July the occupants in 1 in 6 vehicles are from neighbouring countries, and in the period from the end of July through the first week of August, on the North to South roads, 1 in 2 are foreigners.
A recent survey shows that year on year, fuel prices rise. Where you can stop off at the supermarkets, often close to the autoroute junctions in the main towns, we suggest you fill up there.
Use the orange SOS phones which are situated every 2km on motorways and every 4km on dual carriageways and other major roads. Each one has a number. You will be expected to give your identity, your position, the type, colour and size of your vehicle, as well as the registration number. Motorists can only call the police or the official breakdown service operating in that area, and cannot request assistance from their own company if they break down on a motorway.
Warning triangles or hazard warning lights are mandatory in the event of an accident or break down in France. If you have an accident, it must be placed at least 30 metres from the vehicle. You must use your hazard lights.
Breakdowns come more often than you may wish on a long journey.
If you need an ambulance use the orange SOS phones, or dial 15 at a normal phone. You must also call the police (dial 17). Do not call the Police unless there is an injury or dispute (such as the other driver refusing to co-operate and fill out the forms).
If a vehicle is damaged you should fill out "European Accident Statement" form (constat à l'amiable), which comes with your green card. Get it signed by the other driver. If you do not have a form, swap personal and insurance details with the other party (always keep the blue "constat à l'amiable" in the car).
If you have hired or rented a vehicle you must also fill out a damage assessment form (you will find them in the glove compartment of your rental car). It must be signed by the other party, and in the event of a dispute or a refusal to complete the form, you should immediately obtain a constat d'huissier (this is a written report from a bailiff or huissier). Also notify your car hire office as soon as possible.
The French Fire service is trained to give first aid. Don't call an ambulance unless it is an emergency.
72% of travellers have a picnic on the way. There are many "aires" where you can stop in comfort in scenic locations. Plan your journey and reach your destination safely.
Make sure you have: Insurance documents (check that it is up to date before you travel), Green Card and a "European Accident Statement" form, original Log Book or car registration documents (Carte Grise), MOT certificate, up to date Driving Licence (preferably the new euro photo licence), Red warning triangle, fluorescent jacket, spare bulbs, first aid kit, spare cash for speeding fines (credit cards not accepted), display GB sticker (at least 6.9in by 4.5in – we suggest you make sure you buy a number plate with "GB" on it, when buying a new car or changing your number plates).
In Belgium you must have a fire extinguisher as well. As a courtesy please use beam converters so that you don't dazzle oncoming drivers. We suggest you notify your United Kingdom insurer before you travel. If the vehicle is not yours, take a letter from the owner authorising you to use it.
TIP; Beam deflectors – don't waste money buying stick-on deflectors. Most head lamps mark off the area to black out – check your car manual for more details.
Keep copies of all documentation as a precaution, and a list of relevant telephone numbers in case of an emergency. European legislation now means you are covered in Europe (the old green card), but bear in mind it is only for third party insurance and not comprehensive. If you have an accident, try and take some photographs. Always check with your insurer just what your insurance covers. We suggest you notify your United Kingdom insurer before you travel. If the vehicle is not yours, take a letter from the owner authorizing you to use it.
Green Card – All European car insurance policies provide a minimum level of cover in order to drive a car on mainland Europe. It is worth asking for a copy when taking out a policy or renewing it, as you should have it with you when driving abroad. bear in mind that some companies are now charging for this.
From 1 July 2008, motorists must carry a yellow fluorescent jacket and warning triangle while driving in France. During the introductory period, drivers will be cautioned about the requirement if stopped, but eventually drivers will face a fine. Additionally you have to keep the jacket in the occupied part of the car not the boot.
We suggest you switch off your mobile phone before starting your journey. Drivers answering a mobile phone whilst driving are a major cause of accidents, especially on motorways.
A service, whether or not it is due is always advisable. Breaking down half way to your destination is always inconvenient with or without breakdown insurance or specialist cover.
Carry out the usual checks before you go. Check the;
1 – Fluid levels (Brake, Oil and Coolants)
2 – Tyre condition and pressure. Ensure that your car tyres have at least 1.6 millimetres of tread, the AA recommend a minimum of 2mm.
3 – Brakes. Never start a long journey without having your brakes checked.
4 – Lights. All car lamps, lenses and reflectors must be working. You must also have spare bulbs available.
5 – Deflector strips for your headlights are good manners and required on the continent.
6 – GB sticker if you don't have European number plates.
7 – A warning triangle, fluorescent jacket, and a first aid kit are now a legal requirement.
8 – A good selection of maps (large and small scale) is always helpful – remember it is easy to get lost abroad.
Free on roads with a dotted white line or no markings at all.
Orange dotted lines – pay at meter (horodateur).
You may not park your vehicle for more than 24 hours unless it is in a long term car parking area.
Do not park against kerbs painted yellow.
Parking is forbidden in the centre of many major Many towns have a 'Zone Bleu' parking area, which requires a blue disc windscreen sticker which can be bought from the local tobacconist or garage.
Pay-parking meters are operated by a parking card. These can be bought at a Tabac.
Cars parked in disabled spaces must display a GIG – GIC blue disabled person's parking badge in the window.
Arriving early or very late? Many people use the Elf garage off exit 3 on the A26 as you leave the port. There is also a garage soon after you leave Eurotunnel. Both can be expensive however. If you have a credit card the supermarkets garages all operate out of hours now. The closest supermarket garage near the port is at Carrefour, which is off exit 3 on the A26 autoroute. The closest to Eurotunnel is at Cite Europe. We have found that the Total Elf garage just off the roundabout on the way to Auchan can be reasonably cheap as well.
Sundays – Intermarche Supermarket is open until 11.30am on Sundays.
In general, triangular signs are warning signs, rectangular signs give information and circular signs prohibit you from doing something.
– Give way to right.
– Give way to left and right.
– You have priority.
– You have priority (yellow lozenge sign).
– Your right to priority ends. Priority must be given to cars from the right (usually in rural areas).
Autres Directions = other directions, Cédez le passage = give way, Chaussée deformer = uneven road/ temporary surface, Déviation = Diversion, Gravillons = loose chippings, Passage protégé = your right of way, Péage = Toll, Priorité piétons = give way to pedestrians, Rappel = reminder, Nids de poules = potholes, Sortie = exit, Toutes Directions = All directions, Vous n'avez pas la priorité = Give way.
Winter – Pas de salage – Road not salted, Pas de salage sur la bretelle – not salted on the slip road, slippery surface, usually accompanied by the word "Verglas", meaning black ice.
Priorité – the "priorité à droite" rule still applies at unmarked crossroads in the countryside, in small villages, and for minor streets in cities, unless a sign with a yellow lozenge (see above) tells you otherwise. Another sign indicating that you should give way is the red border triangle with a black cross in the middle of it.
Basically this means that in built up areas you must give way to anyone coming out of a side turning on the right. Older drivers should remember that the old priorité rule on roundabouts has been rescinded. All roads of any significance have right of way called "passage protégé". Pay particular attention to any signs displaying a large flashing 'X indicating you do not have priority (even if it appears that you have right of way).
Flashing your lights – confusingly, if a French driver does this, he is letting you know he has right of way. On the motorway however, it often means a police mobile patrol is further down the road.
Continental drivers – Drivers on the continent often react differently or in an unexpected way. Allow extra space and time just in case.
CB radios – equipment operating in the band 26,960 to 27,410 may be used by visitors holding a British Telecom Licence, providing it bears their agreement number, power does not exceed 4 watts and the maximum number of channels is 40.
Seat Belts – You must wear seat belts whether you are sitting in the back or front of the vehicle. No children under 10 in front seats, unless the child is in a specially approved fitted seat facing backwards.
Stop every two hours – Experts recommend you stop for 15 minutes after every two hours of driving, if you want to maintain high levels of concentration.
Emergency numbers: Fire 18, Police/Gendarmerie 17, Ambulance 15, Operator 13, Directory enquiries 12
17 years old? No drivers under 18 even with United Kingdom licence. You may not drive in France with a United Kingdom provisional licence.
European Health Insurance Card (formerly E111) for emergency medical treatment (0800 555 777). More
Radio; – Radio France. www.radiofrance.fr
French Highway Code; www.alpharoute.info (in French)
United Kingdom Motorways;
Royal Automobile Club. www.rac.co.uk
Driving Licences (UK); www.dft.gov.uk
Check your photo licence now. Many of those issued when they were introduced had an end date that was not the licence end date. This is because the photo needing replacing every ten years). Notifications are not always sent out. Check "4b" on your licence, otherwise you will have issues when hiring a car or if you are stopped abroad. Always carry your paper licence as well and store a photocopy in case of emergencies.
Advice from the DVLA for United Kingdom.
Drivers Hiring a car for the summer holiday? Make sure you've updated your driving licence.
As plans for the big summer getaway begin, DVLA is urging motorists to check that their driving licence is up to date if they are planning on hiring a car during their holiday.
An estimated 1 million people will hire a car this summer and the driving licence will be the first form of identification car rental companies will ask for. Yet one in four drivers hold an inaccurate, out of date driving licence and DVLA is today advising drivers to check your paperwork and update your driving licence before you go.
Information held on your photocard licence and paper counterpart is used to verify entitlement, proof of name and address when hiring a car. Considerable time is wasted if this information does not correlate with the details held on other forms of identification, like utility bills. Inconsistencies in the information provided will raise concerns over your identity and rental car companies are unlikely to rent a car to you if they cannot confirm your identification.
Linda Weaver, DVLA's Accuracy Co-ordination Group Manager said: "Many people will be thinking about the all things that need to be arranged for their summer break. They'll book time off work, arrange the accommodation and even buy clothes especially for the holiday, yet they won't think about some of the more practical details like updating your driving licence. Don't be stuck on holiday without the identification needed to hire your car.
It is a legal requirement to hold an accurate, up to date driving licence and motorists who fail to notify DVLA of a change in name and/or address could face a £1000 fine if they fail to update their details.
Notifying DVLA of changes in name and address is free of charge and simple to do.
For further information on how to update your driving licence and/or vehicle registration document/certificates go to your local Post Office or log on to www.dft.gov.uk
Launching its Steer Clear campaign, the FCO has commissioned research that shows that we prepare very poorly for trips overseas involving cars.
A spokesman said: "Crime can be a real issue, with a growing number of British motorists, particularly those towing caravans, being targeted by ‘highway pirates’ and losing their valuables in a ‘motorway mugging’.
"With its research showing that the over 55s are the holidaymakers most likely to drive a car abroad, the FCO is urging them to prepare before they set off.
"Over half of those who drive their own car abroad don't take their driving license and car registration documents and nearly two thirds don't carry details of their breakdown policy.
"Almost three quarters of over 55s wouldn't be prepared in an emergency as they don't carry telephone numbers for local emergency services, breakdown services or the local British Consulate."
Foreign and Commonwealth Office. www.gov.uk
Foreign and Commonwealth Office travelling tips. www.gov.uk
Foreign and Commonwealth Office travelling tips for driving in France. www.gov.uk
The law relating to drink driving are stricter in France compared with the United Kingdom. Maximum blood-alcohol levels are 0.5 mg/ml compared with the U.K.'s 0.8 mg/ml.
Drunk drivers caught with a reading up to 0.8 mg/ml face a 135 euro fine and the loss of three licence points.
Above 0.8 mg/ml, you have to go to Court where the fine is up to 4,500 euro. Additionally you may lose your licence and face a maximum two-year prison term.
Random breath tests are frequent.
July 2012 – New law relating to breathalyser kits. From July 2012, motorists (including foreigners) must have a tetsing kit in their car. It is adviseable to carry two. You should use one if you are unsure about your fitness to drive. Failure to carry one will result in a fine (11 euro) after November 2012. However, alcohol takes a while (about 40 minutes) to show up in your bloodstream, so don't be tempted to have a "last one" before you hit the road.
Etes-vous une femme ? un homme? – Are you a woman? a man?
Votre poids? kg – Your weight? kg
Votre taille? cm – Your height? cm
Admettons que vous avez commencé de boire il y a __ heure (s) – Since you started to drink it has been __ hour/s
et que vous avez consommé – and you have consumed;
__ verre de bière (3 dl) – glass of beer (3dl)
__ apéritif (3 dl) – aperitif (3 dl)
__ verre de vin (1 dl) – glass of wine (1 dl)
__ digestif (0.4 dl) – digestive (0.4 dl)
calculer – to calculate.
tout effacer – erase all