Category Archives: Driving

Driving in France

Driving in France is slightly different to UK, here are some notes to read even if you are only coming here on holiday. But some of them apply to UK driving too!

First of all you drive on the Right in France, in a Left Hand Drive car, the opposite to UK, yes I know this is obvious, but one of my old work colleagues are stumped when he discovered this… his face was a picture when I told him you go around roundabouts the opposite way to UK as well!

  • Roundabouts – A good place to start.. don’t be surprised if no one indicates their intentions on roundabouts… that is just the norm over here. Also people tend to treat roundabouts as only having a single lane not multiple lanes. You get used to it! Oh and yes you go anti-clockwise on roundabouts.
  • Speed limits – On entering a village designated by the sign with a red border normally the speed limit is 50 kph unless there are signs to say other wise. National roads the limit is 90 kph unless signed otherwise. Dual carriageways tend to be 110 kph, but will be signed accordingly. Autoroutes (Motorways) are 130 kph, but during rain or adverse weather conditions the speed is reduced to 110 kph. There are sometimes lower limits for bigger vehicles and for cars with caravans or trailers.
  • Things you must carry:
    • Bulbs – A spare set of bulbs for your car, make sure they are the right type.
    • Hi Vis vest – Preferably one per person, but the drivers one must be available without getting out of the car, so under the seat or in the door pocket is a good place
    • breathalyser – A new addition this summer, carry two so you have one even if you have used one.
    • warning triangle – In case you break down, must be placed in the road to warn other road users.
  • Joining motorways – give way to traffic already on the motorway, don’t barge in, making people slow down to let you in.
  • Overtaking on motorways (indicators) – when people overtake on motorways in France they tend to leave their left hand indicator on all the time they are staying in the outside lane.  It stops people ‘tail-gating’ you. And they will return to the inside lane almost straight away.
  • Hazard lights when slowing because of an obstruction and you suddenly have to brake in France you must put on your four way hazard lights until the vehicle behind does the same and then you can cancel yours.
  • Speed cameras – unlike in UK speed cameras are not easy to spot, and there are plenty of them, with more being installed. Mobile cameras are common too and you can be given an on the spot fine. Vehicles can be impounded too in certain cases. Average speed cameras are starting to be introduced in France as well.
  • Road markings – A single solid white line in the middle of the road is the equivalent of a double white line in UK…. saves on paint I suppose.
  • Stop Signs – Stop and pause, imagine there is someone hiding in the bushes watching you to make sure you have stopped. It’s an on the spot fine if they think you haven’t stopped long enough. I make sure the car has come to a rest and settled on it’s suspension before then moving off if it’s clear or course.
  • Drink Driving – don’t drink and drive, simple. The limit in France is lower than UK so don’t be tempted.
  • Sat Nav and speed cameras – it is now illegal in France to have any device that warns you in advance of speed cameras, this includes Sat Navs, there is a hefty €1500 fine if you are caught too.
  • Lorries and how they overtake – you don’t get lorries having 5 mile drag races blocking the motorways here in France. Why they do it in UK beats me they will drive for mile upon mile with less than a half a mile per hour between them.
  • Head lights – If you are coming from UK don’t forget to put on beam converters on your headlights so you don’t dazzle on coming drivers. Also remember to only use your front and rear fog lights when there is poor visibility. Don’t leave them on because you think it makes the car look good!
  • Mobile phones: it is an offence to hold and use a mobile phone while driving in France. Hands-free use of mobile phones is not illegal. Though many drivers ignore this rule, traffic police are clamping down on drivers holding phones to their ears while driving, and drivers are liable to an on-the-spot fine.
  • Minimum age: The minimum age for driving a car in France is 18; thus no-one under the age of 18 can drive a car in France, even if he or she holds a valid licence in another country.

Overall driving in France is quite an enjoyable experience, the roads are not as crowded and people tend not to drive like there is no tomorrow, so slow down, take your time and enjoy the scenery.

Going Native….

We moved to France last May with a UK right hand drive (RHD) car. Driving it here in France didn’t cause me any real problems as I had driven many miles, or should I say kilometres, here over the years. I’m lucky I can quickly adapt to driving in different situations. I’ve been driving for 35 years this year (eek!) And I’ve driven a variety of vehicles in that time from small cars to 7.5 tonne trucks and things like Land Rovers with big trailers.

Over the years I’ve driven left hand drive (LHD) vehicles, hire cars or vans mainly. Being here full time though has exposed me to more of the hazards of driving a RHD car in France than you would experience in just a holiday.

We are awaiting the delivery of a new LHD car next month, I hope. In the meantime, we have hired a Fiat Punto, which of course is left hand drive. So what is it like swapping over to LHD after years of driving RHD vehicles?

You still do odd things like walking to the passenger side rather than the driver’s side in supermarket car parks! Or going to release the seat belt on the left hand side when you are sat in the driver’s seat rather than the right hand side. But I’ve quickly adapted to driving a LHD car again for longer than a few hours. The other change over for me with the Fiat is that it’s a manual and our previous car which we had for two years was an automatic. So far I’ve only forgotten to use the clutch once when coming to a halt!

One thing I have noticed is how much safer it is sitting on the correct side of the car when you are driving on the right. You have a better view of on coming cars on roundabouts and you can see other vehicles so much better without having to look around the windscreen pillars. Likewise when turning into right hand junctions you have a better view of the road you are turning into.

I have heard people quite concerned about driving on the other side of the road than the one they are used to driving on, but concentrate on your driving, which of course you should be doing anyway, and you won’t have any issues. I use my TomTom SatNav to warn me of speed limits and speed cameras. The French police seem to be pretty active with their mobile speed camera cars in our area, so I suggest you need to stick to the speed limits wherever you are.

Safe and happy driving, which ever side you drive on….