Driving to France and to Brittany (Bretagne)
France has a very good road network and driving to your destination can be a pleasant alternative to other means of transport. Driving to the Brittany region is not exception. You may wish to go for the quickest route with the excellent motorways system or explore the country on the way with the national roads to stop-over in beautiful villages and enjoy the culture and the local gastronomy. Whatever you decide, ensure you read our essential travel information below before you set off.
- Documents and Essential Facts
- Key Highway Code Facts
- Traffic Forecast
- Route Planner
- Check the current fuel price in France
- Hire a car
To drive in France, you must be of a minimum age of 18 years old with a full valid driving licence. The driver and the passengers must wear their seat belts at all time and children under 10 years are forbidden to seat at the front. You drive on the right hand side of the road contrary to the UK and speed limits are in km/hour so read our guide on Highways Code to get the mile/hr equivalence and learn as well about France's strict alcohol limits.
You are expected to produce the following documents and items or you can be fined on the spot if checked by a member of the police force. In the worst case scenario, your vehicle can be taken away for failure to comply.
- your passport
- your full valid driving licence - make sure your licence is valid to drive in France
- your car insurance document especially your certificate, a Green card is if issued
- the car registration document - if the car is not yours, make sure to obtain a written permission from the owner.
- a reflective fluoroscent safety jacket which is recommended to keep within the car for easy access. You must also keep a warning triangle in the car. In use, make sure it is positioned on the road, minimum 30 metres from the vehicle or the obstacle.
- headlamps covers if you are normally driving on the opposite side of the road
- a sticker of your country (GB for Breat Britain) on the back of the car unless it is on your number plate.
- a crash helmet when riding a motorbike
Additional recommendations, although not complusory, include breakdown cover, a spare key of your vehicle, first aid kit, spare bulbs, a fire extinguisher and a map of France.
In the unfortunate event you are involved in a car accident, you will be required by the French driver to fill in and sign in a "constat", a form which records the event and who is at fault. Contact your insurer at once, take photographs and take full details of the other party including insurance details and number plate.
In some instances, the French Highways Code differs from other countries especially the UK. For a start, the speed limits are given in km/hr and vary in dry/wet conditions:
|ROAD TYPE||DRY CONDITION||WET CONDITION|
|Motorways||130km/hr (81m/hr)||110km/hr (68m/hr)|
|Dual Carriages||110km/hr (68m/hr)||100km/hr (62m/hr)|
|National Roads||90km/hr (56m/hr)||80km/hr (50m/hr)|
|In towns/built-up Areas||usually 50km/hr (31m/hr) but where there are expections which are indicated with roadsigns||50km/hr|
|In the event, the visibility is reduced to less than 50m, the whole road network speed limit is reduced to 50km/hr (31m/hr) including motorways.|
Mobile radars are widely used and if caught overspeeding, you will be fine on the spot. In the event, you are well over the limit, your vehicle can potentially be impounded with your licence. This applies also for not complying with the alcohol limit of 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 per millilitres of blood. Beware that in-car radar detectors are strictly forbidden and again if caught you are liable to be fined and/or to lose your licence and your car.
Remember that you enter a round-about on the right handside so check your left. France also has some roadsigns you may not have come across before. The most peculiar and hazardous of all, in our views, is the priority given to certain roads on your right handside (roadsign as pictured). It is still found in towns and villages. When you come across this roadsign, you must let in any vehicles coming from the oncoming righthand side junction so adjust your speed accordingly just in case. Do take extra care, French drivers will enforce their right of way.
French drivers might not always be as courteous as their anglosaxones ones (and we should know, we are French !). For instance, at a busy junction with the traffic stopped, do not expect the French driver to let you in if you do not have priority of way. Beware that flashing your lights at someone in France, can usually mean two things: the driver is unhappy with whatever manoeuvers you are doing or they want to warn you of a mobile police camera in the area (although not allowed but still in practice). Also beware when joining a dual carriage way or motorway, the French will not necessary move lane to let you in, they will keep their right of way so adjust your speed.
Before departing, it is advised to consult France National Traffic Centre for a live forecast of the traffic across the whole French route network. It is all colour-coded ranging from green for flowing traffic to black for extremely heavy and difficult traffic.
Week-ends of summer holidays are extremely busy and best avoided if possible. For the coming new year, the worst 2 week-ends are the 10-11 July 2010 and, 31st July and 1st August 2010. It is recommended to check the weather situation as well before setting off.
Brittany is very accessible by motorways if you are arriving from different parts of France. It also holds a very good road network of dualcarriage ways and A roads. If you are arriving at a ferry port in Calais or Boulogne, expect to pay some toll fees on the northern coastline motorway between Calais and Le Havre in Normandy. The rest of the motorway journey is free. If you are arriving from Paris or from the South of France for instance, you will also meet with chargeable motorway tolls.
From Dunkerque, Calais or Boulogne
Basically, you follow the north coastline motorway all the way taking you through Normandy to Brittany. From your arrival port, join the motorway A16 direction Paris Abbeville. From Abbeville, follow the direction to Le Havre, motorway A29 which will lead you to follow the A13 motorway towards Caen. From Caen, follow the A84 motorway towards Avranches. At this point you have arrived at the border with Brittany region where motorways will fade away to dualcarriage ways and A roads. You can either follow Brest national N12 if you are going on the north coast of Brittany, or continue on the A84 for Rennes, the main artery for central and west Brittany. For the very south in Loire-Altantique, follow Rennes with the A84 and then Nantes with the dual carriageway N137.
From Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Germany
If you are coming from the north coast, you would follow the route above. If you are more central, you would take the main motorways towards Paris, then take the A10 to become the A11 motorway towards Le Mans. From there, you would then follow the A81 towards Rennes or continue on the A11 towards Nantes for the Loire-Altantique department.
If you are hiring a car from Paris to travel to Brittany, join the Paris ringroad (Périphérique) and take the A10 to become the A11 motorway towards Le Mans. From there, you would then follow the A81 towards Rennes or continue on the A11 towards Nantes for the Loire-Altantique department.
If you want to check the current fuel price of the town you will be arriving or staying, go to the official French government site http://www.prix-carburants.gouv.fr. Although in French language only, it is very easy to use. On the home page, go to "Prix des carburants", enter the name of a town ("commune") or its department ("département") and choose the fuel required. You are then given a full price list of the chosen fuel in all the petrol stations in your chosen area.
To hire a car, check our recommended comparative websites.
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