Are you dreaming of a French family holiday but hesitant about taking the car?
Claire from BrightonMums.com urges you to take the plunge, based on recent family motoring trips.
Here she shares her experiences and some tips on planning your holiday journey.
Don’t panic – just drive on the right
Driving on the right is nowhere near as daunting as it seems. Once you’re circulating within the flow of their traffic, everything starts to feel logical. If anything, deserted roundabouts are probably more of a problem, as there’s no other cars to follow!
Read our Driving in France mini-guide for a summary of the main differences between UK and French road rules.
I also found this comprehensive site about what to take and which rules to take note of.
The need for speed
Some parts of the French autoroute (motorway) have a 130mph speed limit (which I secretly LOVE). You may find local drivers go at real speed on the autoroute, they may even flash their headlights to warn you to move from the overtaking lane.
Don’t be intimidated, you haven’t done anything wrong but move over when safe and let them get on with it.
The French autoroute network is no more complicated than the UK to plan around. In fact, I would controversially suggest their signposts are often more logically sited and comprehensive, especially around cities.
France has always had an excellent network of signs for local attractions and landmarks (brown signs with white writing like ours), perfect for tourists.
Invest in an up-to-date road atlas if your GPS won’t work in France or goes wrong for some reason.
Roaming data for phones is mighty expensive too and although some service stations have WiFi it’s not a given.
Hot child in the city
If you fancy driving in Paris, give it a go but plan your route carefully in advance.
During August, when most Parisiennes leave the city, Paris operates a free parking scheme in some central locations. Look for blue dots on the parking ticket machines.
We parked near to Jardin de Luxembourg, a perfect base for exploring the city.
Don’t forget that Paris can get hot and muggy in summer, so when you find the heat gets to you, hop on a Bateaux Mouches along the river Seine to refresh and enjoy the views.
Look at junctions using satellite images to figure out which lane to be in going from one to the next. This will also help you spot roads with bus lanes.
Take a French phrasebook with you that has a good driving section in. However, here are a few regular words you’ll see on signs on the motorway, which may not be so obvious to figure out for English drivers.
Aire – rest stop usually with a picnic area
Autres directions – all other routes
Cedez le passage – give way
Interdit – forbidden eg interdit à toute circulation = no traffic permitted
Péage – toll
Rappel – reminder (of the speed limit usually)
Toutes directions – all routes this way
Sortie – exit
Véhicules lents – slow vehicle lane
Vous n’avez pas la priorité – You don’t have priority (usually at the junction)
Do you feel motivated to book that trip now?
Alors, on y va! That means ‘off you go…’ of course, and we hope you have a great time.