Port de Nice
Driving a car through any country gives you an opportunity to travel at your own pace, stopping where and when you want. Each country has its pros and cons when it comes to driving, whether you are a resident or not. Armed with your home country driver’s license, proof of car ownership, proof of insurance, GPS and map, you are ready for your road trip.
Here are some tips for driving through France.
When to Go:
As in any place, the traffic will be heavier during weekends and vacations. Either avoid these periods, or build in some extra travel time to deal with the increased volume of vehicles.
There are several public holidays across France, where not only does the traffic increase but most shops are closed. Visit this website for a current list of public holidays.
How to Get Around:
France has a network of motorways (autoroutes) throughout the country. Some of the larger cities like Lille, Paris, Lyon, Marseilles or Toulouse have roads that go through the outskirts or around the outside of the city, but are still quite busy.
Most French motorways are toll roads. These are indicated on maps and GPS systems with an A in front of the the number i.e A8. Signage varies per country, so a good GPS system as well as a map for Plan B, are essential. Make sure the GPS system can be changed to your own language if you are using a rental car.
Tolls can be expensive. When entering a toll road, you will be required to get a card from the toll booth. Once you leave the toll section of the road or come to the end of the toll road, you will then submit payment. Frequent users usually have a transponder and dedicated lanes. All other users insert their card in the machine and pay the listed amount by either cash, debit or credit card. Overhead signs indicate the lanes and how you can pay. You need to press the receipt button if you want a copy as they are not automatically given. Tolls are determined by the distance you have travelled. Visit this website for a toll route calculator.
You can avoid toll roads but this means you are adding time and distance to your road trip. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you have the time. There are many wonderful towns and villages that are not on the main toll routes. Be aware of a plethora of roundabouts across France, as well as different placement of traffic lights.
The speed limit on the motorways is 130km per hour in dry weather and 110 km in wet conditions. Drivers stick to these speed limits as there is no tolerance for speeding. The fines are hefty. Traffic seems to flow extremely well. If you understand French, listening to radio station 107.7 FM throughout France, will keep you entertained and updated on the traffic situation.
There are both full service areas (aire de service) and rest areas (aire de repos) on the major motorways. It is less expensive to have a diesel vehicle because of the price of fuel. As an added saving, if you have time, venture off the motorway to a town or city to fuel up on petrol (gasoline) or gasoil (diesel fuel).
The full-service rest stops have fuel and food available. They often have a bank of hot and cold drink vending machines that offer everything from American coffee, espresso and lattes, to a variety of teas. Rest stops usually have picnic tables. It isn’t unheard of to look at a nearby field and see a vineyard or two.
There is no charge to use the bathrooms at either of these types of stops. But, those found off the main motorways may not be free. $.50 is generally the cost to use them. Also, be aware, that there are often no toilet seats, so hover position it is!
A little preparation for your road trip across France or any other country can make a good trip a great trip! Get out there and explore.
Lori is a freelance travel writer and travel photographer based in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. She has had a life-long passion for travel and for learning about other cultures, while travelling on and off the beaten path. Taking detours along the way has enriched her experiences immeasurably. Lori enjoys writing and photography, so it was a natural fit to combine this with her love of travel.
Lori was in education for 30 years. She was able to combine that with 14 years of part-time work as a Tour Director for a travel company that provides motor coach trips across North America. Upon retirement from teaching, she moved into the tour company office as a tour planner. She now spends her time working on other interests. She has kept a travel journal for over 30 years!
Lori has taken online and live travel writing and photography workshops and is a member of the International Travel Writers and Photographers Alliance (ITWPA).