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  #1  
Old 24 Feb 2013
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Uk to France for a Newbie?

Hi guys,
Me and my wife and kids have decided we are going to go on an overland trip at least once a year in our Landrover Discovery and are going to start small and build on our experiences every year.

This will be our first time abroad so any advise is very appreciated.

Our first trip is going to be from Wales in the UK to France and spend time visiting and camping in/close to their beautiful national parks and maybe a few brief visits to more populated places like Paris, Bordoux and Nantes to visit museums and that sort of stuff.

We are looking to spend 10 to 14 days initially so we have time to do lots of stuff, but don't find ourselves staying in the same place too long.

My main questions are:

What documents do we need if any (obviously passport is needed) ......

Is driving the same as this country (give way to the right,etc) apart from driving on the right side of the road and needing a hi-vis vest for every person on board.

Thanks in advance for any replies, and if there are any other things that will be relevant to our trip please feel free to comment.
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  #2  
Old 24 Feb 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daf.vinci View Post

We are looking to spend 10 to 14 days initially so we have time to do lots of stuff, but don't find ourselves staying in the same place too long.

My main questions are:

What documents do we need if any (obviously passport is needed) ......

Is driving the same as this country (give way to the right,etc) apart from driving on the right side of the road and needing a hi-vis vest for every person on board.

Thanks in advance for any replies, and if there are any other things that will be relevant to our trip please feel free to comment.
France is bigger than a lot of people realise on a first trip there, so 10-14 days is very little time and certainly, IMO, not enough to get around all of it.
Check out a michelen map for how far south the country extends.

Apart from that just do it!
You should have the paperwork for the vehicle with you including the insurance for the car, V5c, MOT cert and breakdown cover.

Take a warning triangle and a reflective jacket thingy per person who might step out of the vehicle in the event of a breakdown.

On the personal front, passports for everyone, including the children, an EU medical card (from the NHS per person) and that's about it.

Take a look back through here, "Europe", for all kinds of information about crossing the channel and France also - don't ignore the info about motorcycles because much of it is generic to any mode of travel.
Driving there has changed a lot over the years and there are now lots of roundabouts (having seen a good idea, the French went for them big time).

Optional paperwork, apart from a map, would be guidebook(s) and, maybe, a phrase book if anyone is into parleying the language - well worth while thing to do of course.

Finally, a first trip abroad is always exciting so savour every moment and take lots of pics/vids.
by the way, with your first post.
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  #3  
Old 24 Feb 2013
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Don't forget your driving licence and you wifes also.
You should by law have a spare pair of glasses in the car if you need them.

Do not speed through little villages and small towns. When you see the sign for the name of the town, you are entering a 31 MPH (50 KMPH) speed limit. When you see a similar sign with a diagonal line through it that is the end of the 31Mph limit. BUT in both cases this may be changed into another limit which is like a UK speed limit sign, IE a circular sign with a number in it. Most Brits simply do not react to the town names as it does not register a a speed limit sign. The French can get very unpleasant if you speed by schools especially when there is likely to be traffic to and fro, often shown with a flashing amber triangle sign.

You can park in laybys and rest areas whenever and for as long as you like. France is very much a live and let live society. There is no antagonism between bikers and cagers or anyone else, unlike the UK. It is customary to pull over to let bikes pass or filter. The rider will normally say thank you by sticking his right leg out in front of his bike.

Petrol called essence is usually available 24/7 by using a chip and pin card. Most now accept UK cards. As in UK, supermarkets are usually the cheapest.

If you see lots of trucks parked around a non descript building around 12 noon, this will be a routier. I recommend you go there and eat. It will be a set FRENCH menu with about three choices for 10-12 euros. Usually 4 or 5 courses. including wine and often coffee. This will be real traditional French food and excellent value and bit of an experience.

Most supermarkets have a ready cooked food counter where you can get meals for as many as you like, 1 onwards. The freshly prepared food is usually weighed and put in sealed containers. very easy to put together an evening meal or picnic. France is very camping friendly.

As previously advised, get a free EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) card for each member of your party to obtain "free" medical care whilst outside the UK. search for it on the net, you can get them usually with just a phone call but check on the net. Anything you do have to pay for, keep the receipt and you will usually be able to be reimbursed when you get back to the UK.

Hope this helps. You ought to have a really enjoyable trip and not need a 1/4 of this stuff.
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  #4  
Old 24 Feb 2013
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Thanks guys.
I'm really looking forward to the trip now.
So much so that I might go over with my brother before the big trip to get a feel for the place
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  #5  
Old 25 Feb 2013
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I go to France regularly in my Discovery - it's a good vehicle for what you have in mind as the slightly higher driving position will give you a good all round view and it makes things a little easier when you're uncertain of quite how to do this turn or how this junction works.

Others have covered stuff about documents etc so no need to repeat it but below are a few points that might catch you out, at least initially.

It may seem obvious that you'll have to drive on the right but it means that all the road positioning skills and things like that which are second nature in the UK essentially have to be done backwards in France and that can require a bit of concentration until you get the hang of it. For me now I can flip from one system to the other pretty much automatically but it did take a few trips before that was the case and until that happened I had a "give way to everybody", just in case I'd got it wrong approach.

The other main problem with UK cars in France is that the driver is on the kerb side and that causes visibility problems when you want to overtake. OK, you're not going to be overtaking a huge amount in a Discovery but sooner or later you'll be stuck behind a truck or a tractor and unable to see what's coming as you can't pull out far enough. There's no answer to that other than safety first (unless you absolutely trust whoever is in the front passenger seat to act as your eyes), even if it does mean annoying the long queue of locals behind you who can see if the road is clear.

My other piece of advice would be to steer clear of Paris, at least until you're happy with driving in France. Like London, Parisian motorists don't take prisoners and trying to cope with the volume and density of traffic while being uncertain about where you're going (even with sat-nav) and uncertain about "reverse" driving doesn't sound like a holiday to me. Paris is a fabulous city and well worth a visit but find somewhere just outside and come in on the train. Your blood pressure will thank you!
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  #6  
Old 25 Feb 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by backofbeyond View Post
My other piece of advice would be to steer clear of Paris,...
.., Parisian motorists don't take prisoners

Soooo agree with that one..
I've been in France 13 years now and I still avoid Paris like the plague.
As said, go in by train..


Oh and watch out for Roundabout etiquette..
The French don't know how to use their indicators.
And don't take what lane they are in as which direction they intend to go..


Dog
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  #7  
Old 27 Feb 2013
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Beware a red triangular road sign with a black X in it. This can be slightly hidden on busy streets, or out in the open approaching a cross roads where you may have obviously the bigger road, but this means the traffic from the right has right of way so may just come out without a look or slowing down straight into your path. French traffic signs, highway code etc | Visit Normandy-Pays de la Loire

Some of the older folks still drive assuming give way to the right applies everywhere, so will pull onto roundabouts even with you heading for them because 30 years ago you should've given way to them

But France has fab roads, minimal traffic and loads of campsites, lovely place
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  #8  
Old 27 Feb 2013
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I'd agree with all this good advice. And add another item:

It used to be standard advice to take one of these with you:
European Accident Statement
Association of British Insurers - European Accident Statement
I usually did, but luckily never had need to use it.

Is it still something worth taking?

You can download and print one from here:
http://club-cwc-newcomers.web.cern.c...ident_Form.pdf
Although the ones you can get through the post, usually from your insurance Co, will be in triplicate self-carbon-copy, so you can hand out copies of the completed form if need be.

Also, it's a long time since I had small children. In those days the difference in attitude to children in places like cafes, restaurants and campsites, between England and France, was amazing.
They were actually welcomed and had attention paid to them!

Enjoy!
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  #9  
Old 28 Feb 2013
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Driving in France

Quote:
Originally Posted by daf.vinci View Post

My main questions are:

What documents do we need if any (obviously passport is needed) ......

Is driving the same as this country (give way to the right,etc) apart from driving on the right side of the road and needing a hi-vis vest for every person on board.

Thanks in advance for any replies, and if there are any other things that will be relevant to our trip please feel free to comment.
Hi - you'll love driving in France (outside cities). There is far less traffic per mile (or kilometre) of road and they are generally good quality, though smaller local roads have deteriorated over the past decade due to budget squeezes.

What you need, apart from the obvious passports:

  • Insurance documents and registration certificate for your vehicle
  • One hi-viz jacket for the driver accessible from inside the car, not the boot (they are NOT required for passengers)
  • Warning triangle
Recommended:
  • spare bulb set - not legally required, but if the gendarmes stop you with a defective light and you can't change it, they can immobilise your vehicle. But no point having the bulbs if you don't know how to use them!
You won't need a breathalyser - the law introduced in January 2012, with fines supposed to have started in November 2012, is now under review and will probably get knocked on the head as a waste of time and money.


You don't need a First Aid kit - only required for HGV or PSV drivers. However, a good idea anyway in the UK as well as France if you know what to do with it.

I'll be happy to explain or offer other info, I do know the regulations here and there is a lot of misinformation about.

Phil
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  #10  
Old 28 Feb 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cassis View Post

  • Insurance documents and registration certificate for your vehicle
  • One hi-viz jacket for the driver accessible from inside the car, not the boot (they are NOT required for passengers)
  • Warning triangle
Recommended:
  • spare bulb set - not legally required, but if the gendarmes stop you with a defective light and you can't change it, they can immobilise your vehicle. But no point having the bulbs if you don't know how to use them!
You won't need a breathalyser - the law introduced in January 2012, with fines supposed to have started in November 2012, is now under review and will probably get knocked on the head as a waste of time and money.


You don't need a First Aid kit - only required for HGV or PSV drivers. However, a good idea anyway in the UK as well as France if you know what to do with it.

I'll be happy to explain or offer other info, I do know the regulations here and there is a lot of misinformation about.

Phil
The reason that I think a hi-viz vest should be available to every person who steps out of a vehicle in the event of an incident is because once these are expected to be in use by the motoring public then anyone not wearing one in a "dangerous" situation is more likely not to be seen. e.g. in fog.

For what it's worth, the UK roads are in a much worse state than those in France; rather than repair potholes, a substitute here is to just mark them with yellow spray-on paint.
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  #11  
Old 28 Feb 2013
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European driving advice | AA

Not much to add to the good advice above, except for the above site that I use when I'm looking to ride in new countries.

Enjoy the travel!
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  #12  
Old 1 Mar 2013
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Thanks ever so much guys. Very valuable information to make our trips a lot easier and therefore much more enjoyable.

Roll on holidays
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  #13  
Old 2 Mar 2013
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Not likely to be much of a problem in a discovery but the French are now absolutely draconian in punishing speeders, but you could get caught out when you come into a town as the road may look nice and clear but, as above, once you pass the town sign your in a 50kph limit. There will often be no speed limit sign to back this up.

I always use the channel tunnel now for crossing. It's a lot more flexible, missing your time or arriving early is rarely a problem except at the busiest times, they'll just put you on the next available. It's only a little more expensive but speed and the benefit in flexibility and the corresponding reduced stress are well worth it, also saves having the kids vomit over you!

all that said, for your first trip, little beats the excitement of leaving on a ferry!

Watch out for the yellow diamond signs at the side of the road, they denote you are on the primary route and have right of way.

Check with one of the big motoring organisations as to the current regs and what you need to carry but it's pretty much as above, but other european countries vary so when you travel further afield make sure you are covered for all the countries you may go through.
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  #14  
Old 2 Mar 2013
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Pricing?

Quote:
Originally Posted by moggy 1968 View Post
I always use the channel tunnel now for crossing. It's a lot more flexible, missing your time or arriving early is rarely a problem except at the busiest times, they'll just put you on the next available. It's only a little more expensive but speed and the benefit in flexibility and the corresponding reduced stress are well worth it, also saves having the kids vomit over you!

all that said, for your first trip, little beats the excitement of leaving on a ferry!
I like the ferry anyway - as above, it feels like "real" travelling and it is more of a break in the driving after arriving at "the seaside".

But, where are you getting quotes for the tunnel? I've just booked to cross next week to Calais with 4 wheels and it is £39 one way with P&O. Eurotunnel came up with a price of £92 for the same journey, same vehicle, similar time of day.

ps DFDS offered Dover - Dunkirk for £26.

pps the boats are equally flexible about which boat sailing is used, when it is quiet at the port.

ppps I miss the days of hovercraft and hydroplanes - now that was travelling with a vehicle!!
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Last edited by Walkabout; 3 Mar 2013 at 00:27.
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  #15  
Old 2 Mar 2013
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yeh, the hovercraft was quite an experience!
100 quid extra return isn't much! usually, when I am heading trough Europe I am on my way to Eastern Europe. A trip I do 2-4 times a year so the 50 quid and faster crossing is well worth it to me. Not only is the crossing faster but you don't have to book in so far in advance, saving even more time. It means I can easilly make Poland on day 1 which makes overnight accomodation much cheaper. the trip back to the UK means usually crossing western Europe in a one'er, whichmeans the flexibility of booking in times is way better than catching a ferry. trains leave every half hour or so, ferries definately don't! less stress and I don't have to plan to arrive in ridiculously good time for a ferry. If I miss the train I just jump on a later one!
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