4 Jun 2019

The Winns Guide to Driving Abroad: France

Summer is here, and that means that more than a few of us will be packing our cases and heading across the water to the warmer climates of Europe, like migratory birds with straw hats, bumbags, and not enough factor 50.

Whilst some may be happy to be taken to a resort and chill for the duration, there are also plenty of people who will be either driving as part of their trip or renting a car when they arrive to better explore the area. For those intrepid international motorists, we at Winns have decided to give you the essentials that you need to know when hitting the road abroad. This time, we're looking at France. Allons-y!

Do I need to carry anything in my car when driving in France?

France is fairly well known for having strict rules over what the authorities want to see in your car if you're stopped, but do you know exactly what you need in the boot?

For a start, you need to have a hi-viz, yellow safety jacket within reach, as well as a safety triangle to warn other motorists and keep you safe should you break down. You should also have a set of snow chains with you, as they are compulsory in some areas (mainly in winter) and must be used in accordance with instructions presented on road signs.

What are the speed limits in France?

If you're going to be driving in France, then you should have an idea about the speeds that you are legally allowed to travel at. France uses kilometres rather than miles, so we've translated the speed limits for those taking their own car over the Channel.

  • Motorways – 81mph (130km/h)
  • Urban motorways/ dual carriageways – 68mph (110km/h)
  • Outskirts of built-up areas – 50mph (80km/h) 
  • Built-up areas – 31mph (50km/h)

Road signs will be in place to let you know the limit in any area, and most odometers have a smaller section showing km/h, so you should be able to drive with confidence in your speed.

Are there any low emission zones and penalties?

France is leaning heavily into the idea of low emission zones, with more and more cities signing up all the time. To drive through such an area, you will need to display a 'Crit'Air vignette', or air quality sticker, on your windscreen. However, this is where it gets complicated, as there are six different types of sticker, and the one you need will be dictated by the emissions standard that your car meets. That means that older cars will be allowed through some areas, but not others, so be sure to plan your routes in advance.

Stickers cost €4.21 (around £3.65) from the French environment ministry website and are valid for as long as you own the car. If you get caught driving through a low emission zone without a sticker then you will be hit with a fixed penalty charge of €68 (£60).

 That's it, everything that you need to know before setting off and driving in France! Have a great time, sample the local food, and don't forget that they drive on the right-hand side of the road.

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