Driving in France Checklist
We aim to give you some pointers on the items you legally need to take with you and also some additional suggestions you may find useful when packing for your trip. The best thing to do is make a list and stick to it.
With that in mind let’s deal with the “Checklist 10 Commandments” before moving on to the optional extras. The first ten items on the lists are “must haves” as failure to carry them can either result in you losing money via an on-the-spot fine or at the very least cause you an enormous amount of grief if you suffer a breakdown or worse get involved in an accident.
10 Commandments: Must Haves
1. Passport, 2. Driving Licence, 3. Insurance Documents, 4. Vehicle Registration Documents and M.O.T. Certificate, 5. Breathalysers 6. Spare Bulbs and Fuses Kit, 7. GB Sticker for the car (and any caravan or trailer), 8. Hi Viz Vest or Hi Viz Jacket, 9. Warning Triangle, 10. Headlamp Converters.
Where to Buy the Items you Need
I recommend that you buy all your items before you leave for France. The last thing you want to be doing is purchasing the items on the ferry. The ferry companies know you are in panic mode at that point and can therefore be a little more cavalier with their prices.
On-line is the place as the prices charged my Car Accessory Supermarkets is well above our online prices.
If you purchased these items individually, this European Travel Pack could cost as much as £60.65 however it is currently on sale at here at a massive saving.
This Full All In One Travel Kit for France includes:
Breathalysers (2 required)
Warning Triangle - Case Dimensions: 430x60x35mm.
Reflective Vest - One Size Fits All.
Headlamp Beam Converters - For right hand drive vehicles when driving in Europe.
GB Sticker, White Background.
Spare Bulb & Fuse Kit, contains: 3 different headlight bulbs and a variety of brake light, indicator bulbs and side light bulbs. Plus a selection of standard fuses.
If you are looking to drive around France I hope you have found this list useful and if you want to read some more "Tips" for French driving Click Here.
A word on the Hi Viz Vest(s) firstly you should have one for each occupant of the car, not just the driver, and secondly having them stored in the boot or trailer is not going to save you from a fine. The idea is if you have to get out of the car on the hard shoulder for any reason you have to be wearing a Hi Viz. As you walk round to the boot to get it out, technically you would be breaking the law. French police do issue fines to drivers who have gone to the trouble of buying them but then without realizing have them in the boot or roof box. The fine for not having a high visibility vest is 90 euros.
Passport and Driving Licence, are fairly obvious but an awful lot of people who drive in Europe forget that they may need MOT's, log books and insurance documents as well. Heaven forbid you are in an accident but you really will need to show these to the police if you are. In any event if the police stop you for any reason they will almost certainly ask to see them.
Spare bulbs and fuses are in our driving in France checklist as it's the law in France and most other European countries. You don't need to get a replacement for each and every bulb and fuse but a standard spare bulb kit will cover 95% of all you'll ever likely to need. As long as you have them to show the police you will be fine. Talking of fines it's 80 euros if you don't have them.
General Packing Tips
It’s often said that there are two kinds of travellers in the world. “Those who packed light and those who wish they had”. This is certainly the case if you are considering either driving to France or doing a fly drive trip. If you are considering driving to France and then all the way to the south of France it is an awfully long drive.
It may not be a problem if you cannot see out of the back window and the kids have stuff on their laps if you are just popping to your local shop to get a newspaper but a drive of 500 miles or more is no fun for anyone in cramped conditions. So often less is more.
Remember if you have to brake really suddenly in an emergency stop situation, then items of luggage are likely to become very dangerous projectiles aiming for the back of your head.
With that in mind pack heavy items at the bottom of the boot and wedge them tight up against the back seats. Do not pack anything above the line of the back seats that you wouldn't like to be smacked in the back of the head with.
Even if you don’t get decapitated by your luggage it can still cause dangerous problems if it is reducing your ability to use the rear view mirror. You can buy luggage nets and straps to reduce movement and I would advise them.
Talking about possible injury a first aid kit is a useful thing to have with you. They are not legally required unlike the items in the list above but well worth taking. We sell the soft pouch ones here which are better as it enables you to store additional items of your own in them such as;
Aspirin, ibuprofen, Anti-bacterial gel for hand washing without water, antiseptic ointment, insect repellent, sun block, ointment for insect bites, antihistamine, anti-diarrhoea medication, and so on.
If the Worst Happens
Hope for the best, but it’s best to plan for the worst. You really should consider the fact that your car, even if it’s virtually brand new, can breakdown and it can be in an accident. Remember the “Golden Hour” it is proven that the highest number of accidents in hire cars happen within the first hour of you driving it. This is especially so when not only in a car you are not used to but also driving on the opposite side of the road to normal and going what feels like the wrong way round roundabouts.
Get in touch with your insurance company before you go and ask a few things. Firstly “Am I covered?” Secondly do they have a local French phone number you should call in the event of you having an accident or you have your car stolen while in France?
European breakdown cover is certainly worth looking into also. If you are already a member of the AA, RAC, Green Flag or similar in the UK then ring them and ask if you are covered while on holiday in France. You may be able to get the cover added for a small additional fee. If you are covered for European breakdown or you take it out especially for the trip then make sure you take the phone number with you.
By using a packing checklist it stops you from getting worked up at the last minute, and can be very useful if you lose or have anything stolen on the trip. To save the number of clothes you need to take try and pack clothes that have more than one purpose and coordinate well with each other.
Regarding expensive jewellery, it’s probably best not to take it with you. If you can try to pack your cases backwards so what you need first will be on the top. Also if you have medicines and any other important items make sure they are at the top of the case or preferably in a small hand luggage size bag in the car with you rather than at the bottom of a suitcase in the boot or trailer.
I always take a cushion for the passengers to use if they want a nap. Another big consideration on a long drive is “entertaining” the passengers. This obviously will vary based on age but books, electronic games, colouring books, etc. A box of tissues and wipes is always an important thing to have in the car especially with younger passengers. Having a child’s favourite cuddly toy or a blanket can often help keep then more at ease. In France by the way it is illegal to have any child under 10 years old in the front of the car, although babies in child seats are OK.
Planning you route before you leave can save a lot of worry and arguments along the way so have your Sat Nav, maps and car chargers for and electrical items you’ll need in the car.
Getting a snack at the service stations in France is not cheap so to reduce costs and eat something that you are more comfortable with it will be a good idea to take some food and drinks with you. I have a small cool box that I take to keep bottled water in and a few sandwiches.
Make sure your car has been serviced recently if you are planning on doing something approaching a thousand mile round trip. If the car does not need a service then at least make sure you check the oil and water in the washer bottle? If your vehicle has power steering fluid and brake fluid levels that you can easily check then it would be wise to do so.
One thing that you really should do is carefully check you tyres before you go. Make sure they are all at the correct tyre pressure especially as you will have a fully loaded car. You will find the correct tyre pressures in the handbook or there will be a sticker on the driver's or passenger’s door that will have all the information you need. Having the correct tyre pressure can save money by increasing your Miles per Gallon (MPG) and also increase the life of the tyre as uneven wear can make them wear out a lot quicker.
Something a lot of people forget is to check the spare tyre. The likelihood of a puncture may be small but in the event of a flat it would be terrible to only then discover that your spare tyre is no good.
Headlamp Beam Adjustment
Headlamp beams for UK cars will be pointing the wrong way in France that’s why it is illegal to drive without the headlamp bean deflectors on mentioned above in the “10 Commandments”.
Apart from the beam pointing the wrong way also remember that the extra load you will be carrying from all the luggage in the boot will lift the front up, raising the trajectory of your headlights considerably. Whenever you have your lights on it means you will dazzle cars driving towards you. Most cars have settings that allow you to lower the beam down to compensate for this.
Some modern cars have suspension that automatically adjusts it's ride height to prevent this from happening but you should still double check it if you are not sure. Park in front of a shop window if possible so you can see if the headlights beam looks too high.
Spare Set of Keys
How many times have you locked yourself out of your car? Well I did it just the once and it was a total nightmare. I was in the middle of nowhere and my phone was in the car. Give the spare set to one of the passengers to keep on them just in case.
Are we there yet?
Children get bored quickly on long drives so unless you feel like leaving them home alone I suggest you do pack some items to keep them entertained. One trick is to surprise them with a new toy just prior to setting off.
Soft Sports Bags not Suitcases
I find that leaving the suitcases at home is a really good idea when traveling by car. Whenever possible, pack everything you can into soft sports type bags. These are far easier to carry, and so much better when it comes to packing the car. They can be wedged into smaller nooks and crannies so no space is wasted.
Try and remember your on holiday, and therefore try and make the trip a fun part of the holiday rather than a chore that has to be endured. Pack the essentials and as little else as you can.