If you’re considering take a trip over the Channel this summer, whether for a booze cruise, week away in the sun, or en route to another European destination, then you’re not alone.
Thousands of Brits take their own vehicle over to France each year, but, as you probably know, driving is a little different once you get onto French soil. Obviously there’s the issue of driving on the right, but there are a number of other differences compared to driving in the UK.
There are also a few particular issues to bear in mind for this summer that you might not have considered.
If you’re a football fan, then you’ll be counting down the days to the European Championships, which kick off on 10th June and running for a month. However, if you’re not a football fan and happen to be driving through certain areas of France during that time, then you’ll likely find a significant increase in the amount of traffic.
Most of big cities in France are hosting matches, including Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Lille, Toulouse, Nice and Bordeaux. You can see the full list of stadiums and fixtures here, so you can plan your journey appropriately.
Last summer, the UK news was dominated by the escalating migrant crisis in Calais, which left thousands of tourists stuck in their cars waiting to cross over the Channel.
Whilst the problem has not been resolved and there are still camps of migrants around Calais, there is now much less disruption. Should things stay as they are then you shouldn’t have too many issues travelling over to France. However, it goes without saying that you should check the news regularly and be mindful of the problem when travelling.
Probably a larger concern than the migrant crisis right now is the fuel shortages that are spreading across France.
Proposed labour reforms by the French Government have seen thousands of workers protest and strike, which has included blockading oil refineries, meaning fuel can’t reach petrol stations.
Some petrol stations have run out of certain types of fuel, whilst purchasing restrictions have been put in place across several areas, meaning you more than likely cannot fill up jerry cans. There could be a nationwide rationing at some point in the future.
Should this put you off driving in France? Not necessarily. You just have to be wary of the areas with the biggest shortages and plan accordingly. The Mon-essence.fr website has a map listing how affected each part of the country is, whilst the Carbeo site has more information on fuel availability.
The best advice is to fill up as much as you can before you travel. If you’re in the north of France and aren’t doing too much travelling then you may not be hampered too much, but if you’re driving to the south of the country you may run into problems, so don’t leave it too late before finding fuel.
You may be tempted to take jerry cans of fuel with you, but the RAC advises against this. Authorities only permit taking 10 litres of fuel into France, which isn’t going to make much difference, whilst some ferry companies don’t allow you to take any fuel in cans on board.
As well as the above, there are a various motoring laws in France that differ from those over here. For example, there are a number of items you are required to have in your vehicle by law, including:
You’ll also need all of your travel documents, as well as GB stickers if you don’t have Euro plates. The legislation for carrying a breathalyser in your vehicle was passed in 2012, and although there is no official punishment for not carrying one, you need to have one just in case.
It’s also illegal to use any equipment that can detect speed cameras. Many sat navs can do this, so if you’re using one of these, you need to disable this feature before you use it. You’re also not allowed to wear any kind of earphones or headsets whilst driving, and be careful parking on single yellow lines as this could see your car being towed away.
There are a number of other French-specific laws, which you can see in this article from Ignitionline, as well as information about speed limits and drink-drive laws.