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Caravanning in France: don’t break the law!

If you are heading off to France and are new to driving abroad, the good news is that it is one of the best countries in the European Union for easy driving conditions and touring caravan facilities.

However, just like any individual country, it has its own laws and regulations that need to be complied with.

In what follows, some of the more important of those will be touched on but don’t let this give the impression that driving in France is an obstacle! Most people, even those in the UK, agree that it is an infinitely more pleasurable experience than driving in Britain.

Warning triangles

These must be erected in the road behind your vehicle if it has broken down and is on the hard shoulder.

Note that even if it is off the road and on the hard shoulder, you must still erect your warning triangle behind it to indicate to other approaching drivers that a potential hazard is ahead.

If visibility approaching your stopped vehicle is good, the triangle must be approximately 30 metres behind it and visible to approaching vehicles though not blocking the carriageway. If visibility is obstructed by a bend, you must place your warning triangle on the other side of the bend so that drivers know there may be an obstacle as they go around the corner.

Fluorescent jackets

At the time of writing, you must carry a fluorescent jacket for the driver.

If your vehicle breaks down and is partly or fully off the road, passengers must exit the vehicle and stand a safe distance away from it whilst keeping well back from the road. The driver must wear a fluorescent yellow jacket once they leave the vehicle and it might be highly advisable for the passengers to do likewise.

Evidence of insurance

You may need some evidence on you of appropriate insurance and/or tourer insurance.

The French police are typically charming but also often far less tolerant of “attitude” from people, French or foreign, than their UK counterparts. So, avoid arguing about what is the norm in the UK or whether or not what they’re asking for makes sense.

If they ask to see evidence of your insurance, make sure you have it/show it.

Breathalyser kits

After what even French people will admit was an absolutely chaotic introduction, with the law apparently contradicting itself, the current position is at best unclear.

At the time of writing, it is a requirement that you carry one of these in your vehicle. Given that should you use that one, you will immediately technically be breaking the law, that means in effect you need two.

In practice, the French authorities are not enforcing the law but even so, given that these kits are a trivial price, it might be prudent to make sure you have two with you.

Spare bulbs

You must carry a full set of replacement bulbs for your vehicle. Although once widely ignored, the French police are now much more inclined to pull vehicles up in situations where they appear to have defective lighting.

Your driving documents

By law in France, all drivers must carry their driving licence and what is effectively their registration document, with them at all times.

By contrast, in the UK, the general advice remains not to carry your registration document with you in the car.

For the duration of your trip to France, it might be sensible to make sure that you do have your driving licence and registration certificate with you at all times.

GB plates

There must be some indication on your vehicle as to its country of origin. For the United Kingdom, that is a GB sticker.

Note that however fashionable and politically correct it may be at home, in stressful situations when they’re making a list of faults, the Gendarmes may be intolerant of localised plates such as “Ecosse”, “Cymru” or “Yorkshire” (etc.). They will typically mean nothing to them and your loved origin plate might become another tick in a “not conforming” box – something you could do without.

This is only a subset of the requirements for driving and towing a caravan in France. It will be advisable to research the full details, as they relate to your situation, on a reputable site.