Driving With A Caravan In France

Driving in France is basically the same as driving in the UK. But there are some very obvious differences. Firstly, the most obvious one is that for some inexplicable reason they drive on the other side of the road. If this comes as a shock to you I’m sorry to have been the one that had to tell you. Maybe a better question to ask is why the UK drive on the left?
I’ve read that the reason we drive on the left is because way back when people rode horses, most people held a sword in their right hand. Therefore it was better to have people pass on the right so you could more easily impale someone should they try anything funny whilst passing you. Remember, they were more violent times. There’s me thinking it was because everyone disliked the British and just wanted to do something different.

What You’ll Need When Driving In France

Whilst driving in France there are a number of things you need to carry to remain legal. On the spot fines are available for those who choose not to carry :-

Equipment

  • Breathalyser (check the dates if you have them) You don’t really need them, as there is not a fine associated with not having them, French have basically ignored the law since it was introduced. However, we always take them because a) they’re quite cheap and b) you might get an awkward officers, better safe than sorry.
    French Breathalyzer - Certified French Breathalyzers*
    • Beware of products without the Official NF Logo which despite their claims they may not be legal for use in France
    • A minimum of 2 approved disposable breathalysers must be carried in your car at any time while in France.
    • NF breathalyser standards, Please note you will receive 2 x single breathalysers
    • When you pass the red line you are over the French drink drive limit.
    • All Current stock has a long expiry date May 2019
    AlcoDigital Ltd Triple Pack French NF Approved Breathalyzer Kit, Set of 3*
    • Genuine NF Approved Breathalyser - complies with French law
    • Supplied by the largest breathalyser manufacturer in France

Documents

You’ll need to be sure you take these with you. It’s not advisable to leave them in the car, or caravan though, so exactly where you’re meant to keep them…..
  • Insurance ( Check European cover default is 3rd party – see notes on Insurance)
  • V5C (logbook)
  • CRIS Document for the Caravan
  • Driving Licence
  • GB Sticker (if not on number plate) We changed our number plate to one with GB on it, I don’t like the idea of sticking a zonking great GB sticker on the car and the caravan.

General Driving Advice

Roundabouts

I find going around a roundabout the “wrong” way the strangest thing to get used to. Exiting on the right takes some getting used to. I have, on a couple of occasions some out of a T-Junction and driven on the left. It’s so natural to do that it’s sometimes scary. Only once was it a real problem and I didn’t notice until a car was driving towards me. My instinct was to think “What’s the nutter doing?” Which was exactly what the French guy was thinking about me no doubt. Realising my error I corrected it quickly and all ended well. (Apart from some hand gesturing from the said French driver. Maybe he was waving?)

Traffic lights

These do work differently. There’s no amber light after red. A flashing amber is like a caution (beware).

Fuel

Unleaded – sans plomb
Diesel is Gazole or gasole (gaz warle) or deisel
Generally you can pay at pump or mostly pay at the cashier. I’ve got away with just saying a number and please. One of the first times I went to France, I realised that I didn’t actually know that many numbers in French. I did German at school! So, I had to avoid certain pump numbers. More specifically I new 1,2,3,4,5,6 and 9. Which is a good start, I went to pump 13 once and I have no idea, even now what 13 is in French. In the end I resorted to “Noir Audi” (black Audi) I was driving a black Audi, it seemed to work. So my advice when getting fuel. Go to a pump number you know OR now your car colour in French!

Insurance

Check with your insurance. I had to tell my car insurance I was driving in France. You don’t actually get a green card, but they give you a reference number.. I had an interesting conversation when I asked if I was insured to drive in France. The reply was yes. To which I said “Oh that’s good I had to pay extra with my previous company”. They went on to explain I was insured, but 3rd party. As that was the minimum required in France. I paid extra to get fully comprehensive cover in France. Be careful of that little gotcha.
When I first drove in France, traffic on a roundabout had to give way to traffic entering the roundabout (exactly the opposite to the UK) this has slowly changed, now most work the same as in the UK. Obviously the traffic travels anti clockwise.
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General Hints and Tips

Avoid Paris

By mistake we ended up being far too near the centre of Paris on one trip. I had to change lanes and as I pulled out into the other lane, the car behind me accelerated up the side of the caravan, so I stopped. Each time I moved, he went further up the side of the Caravan. It was as if he was letting the tow car in, but not the caravan?
I had absolutely no choice but to stop the car leap out, run around the other side and literally scream obscenities, in English, at the driver of the car. He did have a shocked look on his face. I honestly think he though the caravan was a van driving behind me.
We now take a detour around Paris which adds maybe an hour to the journey.

Take Care if Using SatNav

General driving in my car I use Waze SatNav, this is a community based SatNav where you can report traffic jams, police cars, obstacles etc. However, it will tend to take you down narrow roads, which isn’t good with a caravan. I also tried ViaMichellin app. It was working fine until at one point it took us off a main road and tried to direct us into a school, which was absolutely bizarre, after that I somewhat lost confidence in it. Finally I stuck with CoPilot App with has a setting for entering caravan height and width and is meant to avoid roads that are “too narrow”. Unfortunately it’s definition if narrow is slightly different to mine. However, it’s the best of a bad bunch. Always best to plan route using a map and maybe use Sat Nav as an assistant.

Using Toll Roads

We use toll roads where ever possible. Ok, they obviously cost money, but for us, the roads are better, less traffic and more stop over points (Aires). I’d advise looking into getting a tag which you attach to your car windscreen and there’s no need to stop at toll booths and pay. We’ve found that getting the car near enough to a toll booth and reaching across was becoming an issue. Once I even grounded the caravan on a concrete block leading up to the booth!
These are available from Emovis-Tag webiste if you get them via the Caravan and Motorhome Club you save 10 euro
You pay for the tolls you use at the end of the next month.

BREXIT?

* There’s no specific BREXIT advice here, however, from what I know you may need two things
1) An Internaltional Driving Permit (IDP) available from the Post Office
2) A GB sticker
This may change as we get nearer to the BREXIT date.

See Also

Caravan Touring In France

CaravanVlogger YouTube French Adventure Playlist

*Last update on 2020-01-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API