Driving in France: Everything You Need to Know

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If you’re thinking of heading off on a foreign excursion, then France is the ideal location. The perfect holiday destination for many due to its proximity to the UK, France has much to offer, from the hustle and bustle of Paris to the tranquillity of Brittany.

It’s easy to argue that the best way to see France is by car, as it allows you to experience all of its wonders that are off the beaten track. However, if you’re opting for this approach, then you have to ensure that you fully understand the rules and regulations that are involved when you’re driving in France.

To help you out, we’ve put together this guide. It’s by no means exhaustive, but it should give you a vital starting point.

Satellite Navigation Systems and Speed Cameras

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While driving in France, you must be aware that laws prohibit the use of a satellite navigation system (or any other device) that alerts you to the presence of speed cameras. This is a blanket ban, and as a result it covers any GPS system that alerts you to speed cameras or labels them as points of interest. You can still use a sat nav, but only if the warnings are disabled.

Of course, primarily, the police are on the lookout for satellite navigation systems attached to the windows of vehicles. However, you must remember that, if you’re planning to ditch this and use a map instead, that you should ensure that this doesn’t also show their locations. It is less likely that they will check this, but you certainly shouldn’t rule it out completely.

To make these speed cameras harder to spot, the French government has also installed an additional 400+ speed cameras which are fixed and unsigned. To coincide with this, signs showing the locations of existing cameras have also been taken down.

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To make the task of spotting these new cameras even trickier, the Government has also ensured that they do not look like what we consider to be traditional speed cameras. Whereas ours here in the UK are marked and bright yellow, these are designed to look like lamp posts and they blend in almost seamlessly with their surroundings, so watch out!

If you own a portable satellite navigation device then ensure that you disable camera alerts before you travel. If you want to remove them from certain locations permanently, then contact your manufacturer as an update to reflect the change of regulations might be available. If you have one that is built into your car then contact the vehicle manufacturer before you try anything else.

If you either fail to do this or get caught by a speed camera, then the authorities will be informed and you’ll be marched to the nearest possible cashpoint in order to pay a hefty fine. It really isn’t worth the risk, so ensure you stick to the speed limit.

Variable Speed Limits in Wet Weather

One other quirk of the French motoring system is that speed limits are reduced in wet weather. This is something to be particularly wary of because it appears in direct contrast with UK legislation, and it is simple to forget.

Unless you’re informed otherwise by signposts, the speed limits on dry roads are:

  • 130 km/h (80 mph) on motorways with a toll
  • 110 km/h (68 mph) on dual carriageways and motorways without a toll
  • 90 km/h (56 mph) on other roads
  • 50 km/h (31 mph) in towns. The presence of the town name on a sign starts the limit, while a bar through the town name signifies the end of the limit)

And on wet roads these limits are reduced to:

  • 110 km/h (68 mph) on motorways with a toll
  • 100 km/h (62 mph) on dual carriageways and motorways without a toll
  • 80 km/h (50 mph) on other roads

There are a number of other restrictions on speed, too. So ensure you check these before you travel.

So, there we have it, your guide to driving in France. The rules may seem complex, but if you apply yourself then you’ll soon get used to them and your trip should be stress free. Bon voyage

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