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Driving in France


Anderzander
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I wondered what people's thoughts are on taking a Defender through France - wether to go on the toll roads or take the A or D roads.

The toll roads are certainly quicker - but I won't be sitting at 80mph in the Defender to take advantage of it. I'm more likely to be sitting at 60.

Any suggestions from anyone else's experience ?

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It rather depends on where you are heading...

Some routes are best done on the Route Nationale (RN) roads - for instance, dropping from Le Havre to Le Mans is simple and quick without touching the autoroute.

If you are heading onto the autoroutes, it really is worth getting a toll tag for the peage as it saves getting your passenger to fight with payment machines - the thing just goes 'bing', the barrier lifts and the fees get taken from your bank account the following month.

Get one at www.aprr.fr - note, if you do so, just enter your address into their form as best you can and enter 00000 (five zeros, not O's) in the section for area code. It'll turn up within a week and Bob's yer Mother's Brother...

Not really sure this helps with the decision between Autoroute and RN butgood luck...

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I have done a few miles in France in Defenders. The autoroutes are fast, even if, like me, you stick to around 60, they are also direct. You will also get unheard of fuel economy too, but it can be dull. Driving standards and lane discipline are much better than on UK motorways, though overtake too slowly and you will have a Peugeot with his LH indicator going (I want to pass you, Rosbif!) driving about 300mm from your back bumper. Fuel prices are much better than on UK motorways - they have to display fuel prices 50odd km before the services so there is some competition between stations. You can pay tolls manually if alone; I get out and walk round to the machine/booth, or it is dead easy with a passenger. It is usually possible to use a credit card, no PIN needed. There are also long toll free sections of motorway.

N roads or even D roads can make sense in some cases, but only when there are not loads of villages and if the road is pretty straight. Avoid Paris and it's perifierique at all costs - imagine the M25 on steroids with Frenchmen! There are ways round and they are much nicer - even if they look slower on the map. It can be nice to make a few hours progress on the autoroute and then slip off onto some nice D roads for a break/change of scene.

Remember to drive on the wrong side of the road.

Chris

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I have done a lot of miles in France in minis, morgans and my 110.

Using the Autoroute or not is usually down to how far you have to go that day. For the Tunnel to Le Mans, I'd suggest the N roads. For the Tunnel to Disneyland Paris, I'd suggest the Autoroute to Senlis, then N and D roads, to get the trip down to a sensible number of hours.

France is a big country, so unless the drive is a big part of the holiday, use the Autoroute and stop regularly. Diesel is comparatively cheap, the automated pumps take UK cards these days and most drivers are OK to good. Don't speed as LeFlicks are very happy to take your money, (and that can just be a down-payment!).

Beware on country roads of old boys who still believe in "priority a doite", as they will just pull out on you, (well they did when I was driving a Morgan; they seem less keen with a 2 tonne Defender), road priorities are marked but you do have to pay attention.

IMHO the Belgique are the worst drivers in Europe, I'm sure their red number plates are a warning to all.

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You will be fine,a very dear friend of mine set off this evening for a skiing trip to Austria in his tax exempt RRC.He used to do once or twice yearly trips to the south of France in his 1950 S1 with a 2 1/4 diesel,often with a trailer.

You just need to drive in the vehicles comfort zone and make sure its up together.

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And for goodness sakes remember the following!

GB sticker unless you have the little emblem on the number plate.

Headlight beam reflector thinggys.

Hi-viz vest for "ALL" vehicle occupants.

First aid kit.

Spare bulb and fuse kit.

Breathalizers(rules say minimum one but it was interpreted by froggy gaurde at 3 in the morning thats one per person).

I preffered all back roads, not being tight, just have time to kill and more scenic, plus french diversity in agriculture fascinates me as does there architecture!!!

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There are very few peages (tolls) where you can pay cash now. Credit card is used everywhere.

The breathalyser is a joke but still legal. I do not know anyone here who has one that is not out of date , if they have one! If it is frozen ( left in the car overnight ) it is not reliable nor if subjected to over 50°C (left in the sun). It was a political thing by a minister to help one of his friends who had a near monopoly on the manufacture of the devices!!

French driving has become much more restrained in the last 15 years and particularly speed limits are much more respected now ( the government needs money , speeding fines are an easy source). Mobile cameras are used often , hiding in the bushes with the hand- held camera , camera on a tripod and the car parked down the lane out of sight or parked on the side of the road something like a Ford Focus estate (black /blue/ white) with a 6in square lens in the bottom LH corner of the tailgate.

Apart from the big cities and major routes driving is much more pleasant here , the roads are less crowded.

Enjoy it , but do try to speak some french , the effort is usually appreciated.

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I went down to the Alps in my Gaz 66 at half term and avoided the tolls entirely yet kept a good average going by going out from Calais into Belgium, down through Luxembourg than straight south through Metz, Nancy and Epinal to Besancon. Total toll 6.5 Euro and all on autoroutes. If I try and go as the crow flies from Calais I get hit with about 100 Euros of tolls each way (Cat 3)

The RN are great if you aren't in too much of a hurry and like roundabouts and speed humps

Nice thing about Belgium and Luxembourg is that the LPG is only 49 cents a litre whereas the robbing French want 88-91 cents a litre! When you are doing 7mpg on gas that is a big saving

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Be aware of the comment re old codgers I believe it relates to the right of way to join the road?

When I drove in France some years a go I got caught out in Bayeux during rush hour as a car pulled out on to the dual carrageway in front of me without concern for traffic (told later he had right of way?), my mate found it hilarious from behind as the S1 swerved under braking (luckily the right way!) even though it was his LR I was driving!

Less funny was the UK Customs humour re thier threat to disassemble the S1 including cutting up the chassis to look for drugs!

They had the right to do so and not repair afterwards?

The final concern was that all the petrol stations in the Middle of France where we were travelling through closed on Sunday don't know if that still happens?

Marc

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The Belgiques are very definitely the worst drivers in Europe - watch out for the them and treat them as social pariahs and complete psychopaths that should be avoided at all costs.

Lane discipline (in France) is generally excellent but if using the RN's then watch for speed traps when the limit changes at entrances to towns, hamlets or other such locations.

For mapping, try dropping your route into www.viamichelin.com as you can enter both port of choice (or, indeed, your home addy) and the destination - this will then tell you fuel costs and potential toll costs for the journey. You can drag the route to alternative options to judge the travel times, cost differences and savings on tolls - it's a really useful website.

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Good point by Mike, and one I intended to make; A landrover is a class 1 (cheapest) vehicle on the autoroute. Sometimes you will get classed as a class 2 by the automatic machine. Just press the assistance button and they will help, often in English. A French phrase which works is 'Je suis class un', translates as 'I am class one' - schoolboy stuff!

You still cannot buy fuel on a Sunday, though most fuel stations have card operated pumps so you can. EVERYTHING (almost, assume it will) closes for lunch except MOST restaurants. Supermarkets do not stay open late. Never mind 'Priorite a droite', in rural (and often not so rural areas) a lot of Ricard and wine will be consumed with food, so watch out after lunch and evenings!

Chris

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Wow thanks everyone - tons of good info here !

Is it definitely a hi vis per occupant ? Everything I've read seems to be saying carry 'one' ?

I've bought LRM to see what info is in their article.

I've also spent a bit of time fiddling with the Michelin route planner. What makes the route planning difficult though is two things :

* I think when it estimates journey time it uses the maximum speed limit. So when using Auto Routes it's thinking I'll be doing 80 ....... So I can't get a clear comparison to how much longer the smaller roads would take.

*when picking where to deviate from the auto routes into the RN's I don't know which are the most scenic areas to do so on.

If I was on my own I'd be less fussed about planning it so accurately - but I'll have my 3 year old girl in the back so I need to factor breaks and length of journey in for her.

It's all very helpful - thank you. I'm less daunted and more excited now.

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In terms of hi-viz, yes it's definitely one per occupant with the added complication that they need to be in reach.

It's no good having them in a box in the back - the old Gendarmes want to know that you can put them on before leaving the vehicle. I stuff ours into door pockets but, to be fair, I can see the sense in this idea having had to bail out on a couple of occasions to help others - you feel kinda vulnerable / invisible in fast moving traffic! Not something that I make a habit out of but having a hi-vix to hand makes sense...

The Viamichelin site is useful in giving distance travelled, allowing you to determine range you can cover in a day / morning etc.

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You dont need a breathalyzer, that law was suspended. But you do need a yellow vest in the passenger cabin.

Priority to the right is not a myth, watch out for the sign with the cross. Its used in almost all european countries except the UK

60px-Gefahrenzeichen_3.svg.png

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_European_road_signs

Often in towns, it means the side road has priority to turn onto the main, even though theres no road marking

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I saw a few shunts in Prague where cars would not stop coming out of side roads onto the main (right of way). This was locals on locals who have experience of the rules as well. We were bumped at a pedestrian crossing by a car who decided that because the person had not stepped into the road (onto zebra) we shouldn't be stopping (so neither would they).

Also got waved in by police for not having lights on in the day :blink: and they were going to fine us till they found out we were Englischers, at which point they mutters something and let us off after telling us about lights. :rtfm:

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+1 with 'HoSS', I can't get the quote thingy to work, but the breath testers are dead, and it pays to be nervous of vehicles on your right. If I were travelling with a youngster in need of stops etc. I would definitely consider the N roads as there is more 'entertainment'. Also bear in mind Sat and Sun less risk of being stuck behind a wagon.

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  • 2 weeks later...

another plus about the N roads is the Cafes , can be very good food and quite good value for money , I have a favourite , called "the ferme" ( Farm) , its on D1044 just before D516 south of Laon . will be visiting again in april . enroute Prague and Warsaw

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What day are you going across ? If its your first visit you will find lots of scenic places, but like anywhere the autoroutes allow you to miss lots of the little things that make different countries so refreshing . The first thing to decide is trip priority , either the journey or the destination , they are not mutually exclusive , but then only you can decide that , then once you have your priority you can build a schedule that gives you the best experience . If you are camping (or caravan) you can try and plan your schedule to give you a point and see what is in the area , particularly if considering driving time, and passenger boredom thresholds.

You can also save money on fuel depending on tank capacity and route requirements , eg buying in luxembourg saves 14c per ltr. over France . I fill in Lux, and that gets me to Poland which saves having to buy in Germany :) France is 40c cheaper than UK

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i've travelled through France on quite a few occasions in my 90TD5 both with and without the big trailer on the back.

Be aware that on their toll-roads they log your registration when you go through each toll-point - and if you clock in at one then arrive 'early' at the next one they ticket you for a fistful-of-Euros in speeding-fines.

Despite this, I prefer to stick to the toll-roads - they're generally less-populated with weaving Eastern European trucks and random local *crapauds* in lopsided/overloaded Renaults and Peugeots. I've always managed to claim back my 'too-fast' penalties from the same people who're paying my Diesel-bills.

Taking a couple of jerricans of Diesel is a good idea too - specially if you find yourself running low on a Sinday and Monday's designated as St. Gonad's Day so nothing's open.

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