Not Quite North's Essential FRANCE travel guide
Our French neighbours bring feelings of warmth and comfort, a love hate relationshop to many! Taking your motorhome to France is just a wonderful experience – especially to those that are new to motorhoming.
France is a fantastic place to travel to in your motorhome. France itself has everything from cosmopolitan cities, historical chataus, the finest cuisene and stunningly beautiful countryside.
But the best thing – France is incredibly motorhome friendly. France is set up to make motorhoming and road trips so easy! From campsites to Aires and availability for low cost waste and grey water disposal as well as filling up your water tank – all for a few euros.
This handy French travel guide will give you all the practical and essential information that you need to know before you go!
Key Facts - Our French Essentials
When to Visit France
All the time! Joking aside – France is so close you can just pop over for a few days (unless you are in Scotland or the north of course!
It has a similar climate to the south of England. Winter can be cold, summer is comfortably warm (or hot in the south) and then of course you have those lovely shoulder seasons – warmer the further you move south.
We would avoid the south of France in the summer months just because of the crowds, but of course, you can always avoid the crowds by going to non-tourist places – France is about 2.5 times the size of the UK – with about the same number of people living in it.
France also has a lot of festivals in the summer which may influence the time you want to go.
France City Breaks
driving in france
Starting with the basics: Drive on the right and overtake on the left. Give way to the right. Compulsory seatbelts for all in the vehicle. Headlights always dipped for motorway driving – even in the daytime. A-frames not legal for towing in France . Crash Helmets compulsory if you take a scooter/moped to ride.
Drink drive limits are lower than the UK – (other than Scotland). 50mg per 100ml of blood. If you are a young driver then the limit is lower (20mg per 100ml of blood) so better to not drink if you are under 25. The fines and penalties are hefty for being over these limits – and if over 80mg per 100ml the fine is 4,500 euros, 6 points, three year ban and possible prison sentence. Be mindful on those wine routes.
Snow Zone roads in the mountains in France require winter tyres from 1st November until 31st March. Snow chains must be fitted to vehicles using snow covered roads. They should be carried and used as dictated by local signs or road conditions.
The driving speed for your motorhome under 3.5 tonnes are:
- Urban – 50km/h (30 mph)
- Minor roads – 80km/h (50mph)
- Major roads – 110km/h (68mph)
- Motorways – 130km/h (80mph)
The driving speed for your motorhome over 3.5 tonnes are:
- Urban – 50km/h (30mph)
- Minor Roads – 80km/h (50mph)
- Major roads – 100km/h (62mph)
- Motorways – 110km/h (68mph)
Essential Driving Requirements for FRANCE
The following items are those which are either legally required (M) or advised (A):
- Current passport (M)
- Valid UK Drivers Licence (M)
- Proof of Insurance (M)
- Registration documents for the motorhome or camper (M)
- Reflective vest (for each person in the motorhome) – and accessible from within the vehicle. (M)
- Warning triangle in case of breakdown or accident (M)
- UK number plate sticker (post Brexit rule) (M)
- Headlight beam converters (already fitted to the motorhome) (M)
- Reflective metal backed board to fix to bikes on the back (A)
- First Aid Kit (M)
- Spare bulbs and fuse box (A)
- Fire Extinguisher (A)
- Breathalyser Kit (NOT NEEDED)
- Snow Tyres/Chains/Socks (M in winter – see ‘Driving in France’)
- Blind Spot Warning Stickers (M for over 3.5 tonnes)
- Crit’Air (M – if driving into some of the bigger cities with a ULEZ type zone)
Not Quite Norths' road trips in FRANCE
FRANCE since Brexit - What's Changed?
Since Brexit, a number of things have changed with regards to travelling to France.
The legal requirements for entry are obviously the biggest one. France is part of the Schengen Region. This is not the same as the EU or Europe! These are common mistakes people make.
Being part of the Schengen means that UK citizens with British passports can only be in the Schengen region for 90 days out of 180 days. It can be difficult to keep track of – but thankfully there are many apps that can help you with that. It is more complicated than it first sounds – and the penalty for this is can be a ban – a pretty significant event, considering there are 27 member countries of the Schengen. Check out our article for ‘The Schengen Shuffle’ to find out how to manage the impact of this for fulltime travellers. Try and keep a few days in your back pocket just in case something goes wrong.
You don’t need a visa as of now, but in 2024 you will need an EITAs – an online registration system that is being introduced.
You will need to apply for a GHIC health insurance card to cover you for basic hospital cover either free or low cost – but you should get yourself a travel policy anyway – that is the advice that Not Quite North give! Not that we are qualified in any way!
As a result of Brexit, your mobile phone roaming fees will likely be affected. So you will need to either pay a daily roaming fee (in most cases) or swap out your sim card for a local card which will give you access to data/calls etc.
Last but not least – the pet passports have changed. Instead of a pet passport, you will need to apply for an Animal Health Certificate (AHC) which confirms that your pet is microchipped and has an up-to-date rabies vaccination. You need to get a new certificate each time you travel within 10 days of your travel date. This will be valid for 4 months.
FRANCE in Pictures
Local Foods In FRANCE
What is there to say about French food? This famous fine dining cuisine can be whatever you want it to be. The number of Michelin starred restaurants offering the most exquisitely presented food can be found all over (630 of them to be precise – as of 2023).
Not Quite North are more practical than that! Whilst we love a good fine dining experience – we are very much more about local and traditional foods to try. Foods of the regions interest us. Every area will have its own speciality -Epernay & Champagne are a match made in heaven for example!
French Onion Soup – a delectable bowl of hearty french onion soup is hard to beat. An 18th century dish, made with onions and beef broth, served with a big chunk of toasted bread on top finished with grated cheese lightly grilled. It was known as ‘Drunkard Broth’ as it masked the smell of alcohol! I have made this before and it took about 3 hours! Went down a storm!
Bouillabaisse – a favourite of my dads and my sons! A soup which is from the south of France – mainly made with fish, shellfish and vegetables in broth. The spices used in it give it the real flavour, although the dish is so old (2,500 years apparently!) it is hard to know what is totally authentic, but if you are around Marseille, this is the originating city.
Croque monsieur – available in cafe’s all over France – the traditional cheese and ham toasted sandwich. Thought to have originated from Parisian cafes in the 1900’s, the croque monsieur is in essence a ham and cheese sandwich with bechamel sauce (both inside and on top) with the top layer having grated gruyere cheese on it, melted under the grill. Yum!
Escargots de Bourgogne – we couldn’t not mention snails could we? For the older people or film fanatics – remember Julia Roberts with her ‘slippery little suckers’ phrase? Escargot de Bourgogne are classic snails in garlic and parsley butter. If you get a chance – look for a snail farm whilst you are in France – get right to the source. Snails with garlic are totally delicious.
Last but not least – the humble Croissants. Can’t get much more classic that this finest of pastries served for breakfast! OK – not unusual these days – but you will surely taste the difference from the fine pastry selections that you can pick up from the local ‘boulangeres’, deliciously buttery and flaky. I always eat twice as many – so bad for the waist line!
We have given you the basics to start planning your road trip to France. Why not check out our blog posts for our French road trips itineraries – and get some inspiration.