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Driving in France

We have want to provide you with essential facts, advice and tips you need when planning to drive in France.

In this section we have included information on the following:

cover Motorways/Autoroutes
France has more than 8000 kilometres of motorways (freeways) of which most are toll roads — autoroutes des péages. These are split up into eight privately owned networks funded by tolls collected as vehicles enter and leave. Compared to the congestion common in the UK, the French autoroutes are excellently maintained and allow high average travelling speeds. The speed limit is 130km/h (80mph; 110km/h when wet). For more information click here!

Autoroutes Toll Payments
Tickets are issued at the start of each motorway network. Payments are calculated on the distance travelled and are paid when leaving the motorway, or motorway network. Payments at the péages (toll gates) can be made by all major credit cards. A journey from Calais to the south of France will cost around £50, one way. For short journeys it's worth keeping handy plenty of small change for making payments if you don't want to use your credit card. Payments vary depending on the type of vehicle driven, with different price bands for: cars, vans, cars with trailers, lorries and motorbikes. Here's where you'll find a detailed guide to Autoroute tolls.

Route Nationales
If you're on a limited budget and not in too much of a hurry, France has an excellent network of trunk roads, the N-denoted routes nationales.


Rules of the Road
Traffic rules across France are generally the same as Britain, with the key difference being the need to remember to drive on the right and overtake on the left! On-the-spot fines can be demanded for not wearing seat belts (compulsory front and back); drink-driving offences; and driving on a provisional licence.

Speed Limits
130km/h on autoroutes (110km/h when wet); 110km/h on non-toll dual carriageways (both dry and in the wet); 90km/h on other roads (80km/h when wet); and 50km/h in towns. Additional speed restrictions apply to drivers with less than two years experience. Exceed these limits with caution; they're enforced by on-the-spot fines payable in cash only.

Driving with dipped headlights is compulsory in poor visibility, so don't leave the UK without buying a pair of headlight beam adjusters. You should also take a complete kit of spare bulbs and a red hazard warning triangle.

Breakdown and Assistance
Parking and resting zones are situated every 10 to 20km, with 24-hour petrol stations found approximately every 40km. If you do breakdown, pull up on the right hand layby. Make sure you illuminate your hazard warning lights and place a red warning triangle 30m behind your vehicle (this is compulsory for vans and cars with trailers). Free orange emergency telephones are situated every 2km on all motorways. If you do break down and don't want to leave your vehicle, there are regular road patrols on all sections of the motorway.

Petrol Stations

Service Stations
Every 30-50km on each autoroute there's a 24-hour service area (aire), offering a combination of fuel, food and leisure facilities to a standard far beyond anything in the UK. There are two varieties of aire: one with full-scale fuel, catering and shopping facilities; the other type is a picnic area with WC facilities. These are often beautifully landscaped but usually don't provide any toilet paper so be sure to take your own.

Petrol sold at the service stations tends to be as expensive as in the UK. Off-autoroute petrol is some 12% cheaper, meaning that if you're travelling from the UK, enter France with a near-empty tank and fill up at a hypermarché (hypermarket) before you start your autoroute journey in earnest. Savings on diesel can be even greater.

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