What is driving in France like?

Rainbow on the A28

Stopping distance? No problem!

This year we’ve been asked more than ever for advice on driving in France for the first time. We’ve driven in Poland, Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom within the last 12 months and have always felt a sense of relief to be back on French roads again.

The plus points

Uncrowded motorways with good surfaces which make for less stressful driving.

A compulsory reduction in speed during wet weather.

Roadsides which are generally clean, without drinks cans and polystyrene decorating the verge and polythene which looks as if it grows on the roadside trees.

Well maintained roads even in the smaller villages. Pot holes are rare.

Most lorries over 7.5 tonnes are banned from the roads and motorways at the weekends from 10.pm Saturday to 10 pm Sunday and also on public holidays. From early July to mid August the ban starts earlier – 7 am on the Saturday.

As well as Service Areas on the motorways there is a plentiful number of rest areas which often have children’s play areas, trees or artificial shade and picnic benches.

Cheaper fuel. Petrol tends to be very similar to UK prices (depending on the exchange rate) but diesel is 20% less. The Carrefour website at Calais has a ready conversion of their prices to the current exchange rate.  Link

Minus points

Motorway tolls –  an extra expense, but no constant changing of speed which saves fuel.

Directions tend to be posted at the last minute.

A new law – you must stop for anyone indicating they wish to cross the road!  This does not apply if they are within 50 m of a zebra crossing.  However, stopping for a pedestrian still causes some strange reactions.

The reputation of French drivers!

Driving in Style

This post is based on our own experiences, but you may have a different comment, a useful tip, an  interesting experience or amusing tale about driving in France to share?

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13 responses to “What is driving in France like?

  1. Well said! I feel so much happier on French roads than in UK, and a few years ago we crossed into Italy – couldn’t wait to get back over the Alps, the state of the roads was awful.

  2. I love driving in France. Yes the roads are so deserted.

  3. I agree about the road tax – tolls are cheaper to collect and no police time wasted looking for out of date licence discs. And the roads are better maintained.
    But the minus point is a 21% increase in fatalities on the road last year – terrifying.
    Odd how polite the French are UNTIL they get behind the wheel – quite mad and they seem not to notice the bunches of flowers on the trees – “it can’t be me” they seem to think but……………

    • Very true about french drivers. We have noticed a change in attitude towards drink driving and perhaps it will eventually have an effect. It would be interesting what percentage of accidents are caused by this. Germany had some very powerful posters on the road side to make people think.

  4. Many may disagree but, whilst French drivers may have a bad reputation, my feeling is that driving standards (and courtesy) have much improved in France over the last 20 years. I can go for months in France without seeing any bad or aggressive driving manoeuvres, whereas back in the UK, you can almost count on a few ‘I don’t believe it moments’ before even reaching the M25.

  5. I love driving on French roads it feels like complete freedom and if you use the peage frequently its worth buying the little gadget that automatically opens the barrier and is paid for straight from your bank account. No queuing any more.

  6. Personally I love France and find it relaxing to drive there rather than when I’m at home in the “rat race”.

    It’s a state of mind IMO, as some people are on edge whilst driving there and don’t relax and enjoy it.

  7. Pingback: What is driving like in France – update | Frenchholiday's Blog

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