Your holiday journey may well be the longest car ride of the year, involving many miles of hard driving over unfamiliar roads. Mechanical repairs and replacement parts can be very expensive abroad, and many breakdowns occur because the car was not properly prepared before the journey.
Have your car serviced shortly before you go on holiday and carry out your own checks for any audible or visible defects.
Cars have their headlights adjusted to give maximum light to the side of the road at night, so when you are driving on the left in Europe, your headlights will be giving maximum light to oncoming cars. The headlight converters will ensure you don’t dazzle them.
Hi-Vis Jackets/Warning triangles
For France, in particular, you need a hi-vis jacket (stamped with EN 471 or EN 1150) for every passenger in the car and they should be kept within the car and not in the boot. The idea being that if you breakdown, everyone can get out of the car already wearing a jacket. In case of breaking down, also make sure you carry a warning red triangle (marked E 27 R) so if you do breakdown or have an accident you will need put the triangle 30m away from your car in order to warn approaching drivers.
Please note: If in France and you do have an accident involving another vehicle(s) and all the drivers agree not to call the police, you will be asked to fill in a constat amiable (amiable declaration).
Drinking and Driving/Alcohol Breathalysers
The French drink-driving limit is 0.5mg per ml – significantly lower than in Ireland and the UK (where it’s 0.8mg). You are liable for prosecution if you are over, or just equal to this limit, and even if you refuse to take the breathalyser test.
As of now you need to carry 2 alcohol breathalysers in your car at all times when driving in France. If you are stopped and breathalysed, you will need to use your own and then have a spare to continue your journey. Here is one place you can purchase them – http://www.frenchbreathalyzer.com/ , you can do a search on Google for alternative suppliers or take a risk and purchase them in France as soon as you arrive – but not recommended!
Update: Please note the law came into force on July 1st 2012, with a grace period of 4 months whereby motorists during that time will only be reminded to acquire breathalysers, this period was due to expire on November 1st, but due to a continuing shortage of breathalysers, the grace period now runs until 1 March 2013.
Cars without trailers are as follows unless otherwise indicated: 50 kph or 31 mph in built-up areas, 90 kph or 55 mph outside built-up areas, 110 kph or 68 mph on dual carriageways and most motorways and 130 kph or 80 mph on most toll motorways, if it is not wet, if it is then the speed limit is 110 kph or 68 mph
Toll Roads in France
If you are planning a longer journey in France you will face the choice of using a Route National (RN) or an Autoroute, the latter being mainly toll roads and charged for using them at intervals on your journey. The Autoroute is faster and mostly free of traffic jams, so most people choose it. You will have to stop to pick up a ticket or pay, which can become tiresome. There is an alternative, which I use and that is by signing up to Telepeage.
By signing up to Telepeage via one of the French toll companies, I signed up to APRR, you can pass through toll stations using the reserved lane and you will pay using the bank account you have associated with the toll account. In some toll stations, they now have the new technology, which recognises you from a distance and as long as you stick to the 30kph speed limit on entering the toll area, the barrier will open for you without you needing to stop.
When you sign up, you will need to pay a 10€ deposit (plus 3€ delivery) for the badge, which you must attach to the windscreen of your car. You’ll receive your deposit back via a deduction in your first bill. This is where you sign up.
Inspect all your tyres carefully, including the spare. The legal minimum depth of tread is 1.6mm across the whole width of the tyre, but if you think they are likely to be more than three-quarters worn by the time you get back, replace them before you leave. See that they are inflated to the pressures recommended in the manufacturer?s handbook.
Ensure that you have clear all-round vision. Your car should have outside wing mirrors on both sides ? important if you are driving a right-hand drive car in Europe. Detachable mirrors for use in Europe can be purchased from Halfords or similar stores.
Seat belts and Car stickers
Check that seat belts are properly fixed (their use is also compulsory in Europe) and that your GB/IRE nationality plate is clearly visible on the rear of your car (and trailer if you are towing one).
Carry your passport, driving licence, car registration documents and insurance with you, as spot checks are quite common abroad.
I hope the information helps…. and have a safe journey.
I am Will Goodridge, I founded ISpyCamping.com in 2010, a comparison website for family camping holidays across Europe.
This is my camping blog. My stories from camping trips, either with my family exploring different locations or on my own as I meet the people who own campsites and holiday parks around Europe.
As a dad of two young children, I get to experience the highs and lows of family holidays like everyone else and see at first hand what works and what doesn’t.