A Guide to Driving in France
Self-drive ski holidays are an ever popular holiday option for those looking to add flexibility to their next ski trip. Driving your own car provides you with the option to plan a more relaxing travel schedule and there are no limits on how much you can pack - as long as it all fits in your vehicle!
France is one of the most popular self-drive ski destinations for UK holiday makers. It's easy to reach French shores in a vehicle - you can choose to travel via a Ferry crossing or by using the Eurotunnel. French ski resorts are also some of the most diverse and popular in the world.
Here at Erna Low we know driving in a foreign country can be scary, especially if it's your first time. We've put together the below list of top tips and things to consider before you embark of your next self-drive ski holiday to France...
SPEED CAMERAS & SATNAVS
France has banned the use of SatNavs and any devices which detect speed cameras – breaking this law can lead to a €3,000 fine! If you have a SatNav capable of displaying French road/speed cameras, you must disable this function. Take a look at your SatNav manufacturer’s website or speak to the store where you purchased the device for more details.
If your vehicle has a built-in satnav, talk to the manufacturer or dealership. For more information, take a look at the AA’s recommendations.
TRAVEL INSURANCE & BREAKDOWN COVER
Driving in France requires car insurance which covers European travel. You will need to check you have this cover before you set off on your self-drive holiday. It’s good to check all details with your car insurance provider – some policies automatically default to 'third party only' cover when you cross the border.
We recommend you consider European breakdown cover – being stranded on the side of a road with no-one to call for help can be scary! If you already have breakdown cover speak to your provider first, they may be able to add to your existing policy. If not, look around; you can find great deals on comparison websites.
In most of France, speed limits are referred to in kilometres per hour (km/h) not miles per hour (mph). Most cars display both options, but if not, it good practice to check all speed limit conversions before you drive. There’s a big difference between 130 mph and 130 km/h – stay safe and always double check your speedometer.
In France, speed limits can also differ according to weather. For example in good, dry weather the speed limit might be 130 km/h but in the rain, it could be 80 km/h. Familiarise yourself with speed and road law signs before your French ski holiday.
When driving in France, you are required to bring the car/driver documents listed below.
- A full, valid driving license
- Proof of insurance (third party or above)
- Proof of ID (Passport)
- Evidence of vehicle ownership (V5C Certificate)
Make sure you find the documents a few weeks before your holiday. There is nothing more stressful than trying to find the documents 24 hours before you're due to set off!
VEHICLE MUST HAVES
There are some items you require before you drive in France. Not having the below items can result in on-the-spot fines!
- Reflective jacket (one per each occupant, must kept in the vehicle, in easy reach)
- Warning triangle
- Headlamp beam deflectors (depending on your car, stickers or adjustment required)
- Breathalyser/Alcohol test
- A GB sticker (or euro plates featuring GB initials)
You can buy European driving packs from most service stations, some petrol stations and the RAC, the AA and Halfords. They often include everything you need to avoid breaking laws. Always check what you require well in advance of your trip.
Most of France has toll roads. Along these roads, you will find toll booths which collect fees from drivers using the road. Before you embark on your self-drive ski holiday, it’s worth checking to see how many you will drive through on your way to your destination.
By knowing this information you can make sure you have enough change (in the right currency) to pay for each toll. Most machines now take debit or credit cards, but it’s worth taking change just in case.
If you travel to France a couple of times a year, or just want the most hassle-free journey possible, it may be worth considering the option to pre-pay your tolls.
Many people love to self-drive to ski holidays in the Alps. The views can be beautiful, and driving can provide better comfort and more flexibility. The right planning and preparation can turn a long journey into a fun, unforgettable road trip. So make plans and be prepared, so you have the best holiday possible.
Driving and road laws can change regularly so we recommend you check more than one source for information. The AA provides excellent driving guides and offers information for most European countries.