Here's a little list of tips we've compiled for living on the road in France.
France's national language is French.
France uses the Euro. Credit and debit card are widely accepted. Be prepared to pay with cash in rural areas and at some fuel stations.
You can get free water from any tap at any cemetery, ideal to fill up your water tank but not necessarily drinking water. Depending on your religious standpoint, they're also great places to wash your hair. "Eau potable" means the water is safe to drink. For a comprehensive list of drinking points check out our map here. Alternatively check out www.cimetieres-de-france.fr
You can get packages delivered anywhere in France by addressing them to a post office with Poste Restante written on them. Addresses can be found online on laposte.fr and you will be charged a small fee upon collection. ID is required.
Post office branch name
Road name and number
The surname must be written before the first name and in capital letters.
Petrol: 95, 98 Octane
In many cases, if you have less in your account than the maximum fuel spend limit shown at the station, your card will be declined. It's advisable to have more than 120 euros available in your account when using a card to pay for fuel. We also had a station remove the maximum amount from our account as a deposit for 3 days, despite only spending 40 euros. So be careful!
You can check local fuel prices of anywhere in France using Prix Carburants, a government website which regularly updates with current fuel prices.
Gas barrels are sold at every petrol station in France.
220g camping gas bottles are expensive here, usually selling for around 4 euros per can. A chain of supermarkets called Action, appear to be the cheapest retailing at around 1.22 euro per can.
Waste sites known as dechetteries are abundant and usually good for dumping rubbish and recycling but a surprising number don't recycle plastic. Areas near campsites or beaches tend to have large recycling zones.
Speed limits in France are determined by location, vehicle type and weather.
· Built-up areas 31 mph (50 km/h)
· Outside built-up areas 55 mph (90 km/h)
· Urban motorways and dual carriageways separated by a central reservation 68 mph (110 km/h)
· Motorways 80 mph (130 km/h)
CAUTION: In wet weather or if you’ve had a licence for less than three years, lower limits apply:
· Outside built-up areas 49 mph (80 km/h)
· Dual carriageways 62 mph (100 km/h)
· Motorways 68 mph (110 km/h)
If you see a yellow diamond with a cross through it, you must be aware of vehicles pulling out on you from right hand side junctions. These junctions are usually marked with “priorité a droite” and a red sign with a black cross going through it. These zones end when a yellow diamond without a cross through it appears.
When entering a roundabout that has the message "Vous n'avez pas la priorité" or the message "Cédez le passage", the priority is given to traffic on the roundabout. Where these signs aren't, the priority goes to traffic entering the roundabout.
Toll roads in France can be very costly. If you want to avoid paying, avoid routes marked with 'Péage'.
Compulsory items to carry in your vehicle always:
· Warning triangle
· Snow chains - you must fit snow chains when driving on snow-covered roads in accordance with local road signs.
· Reflective jacket - to be worn when attending your car at the roadside if broken down or in emergency.
France is often seen as a great country for motorhomes and camper vans owing to most towns having Aires. However, many coastal car parks have height restricted entrances and signs restricting access.
Wild camping in France - as in many countries - is a legal grey area. As a general rule if you are out of the way, not on private property or in densely populated tourist areas you will be okay to stay in your van overnight. Just look out for signs and restrictions. Police tend to look differently at the situation if you have chairs out and awning up etc., so just keep it discreet and move on regularly and you should be fine.
France is an enormous country with an incredibly varied landscape, and tons to see. From the sunny South to the beautiful beaches of the 800km long West Coast, to the Pyrenees, the Alps and the mountains bordering Germany, and everything in between. While the North Coast has a climate more similar to the UK, the temperatures further South skyrocket in the summer. You're more likely to see snow here than in the UK though, and not just on Mont Blanc.
The general consensus is that the people, while not totally unfriendly, are much friendlier if you can actually speak French. They will be pleased if you make the effort to speak their language, but even if you're a fluent speaker they'll still find ways to correct you. They often deny that they can speak English, even if they can.
We spent two months travelling down the West coast in summer 2016, exploring vast pine forests and hidden beaches (most often populated by nudists). While the beaches are beautiful, the beach car parks are often very anti-camper, with height and even width barriers and No Overnight Parking signs designed to herd you into one of the thousands of campsites that litter the coast. Though in the rest of rural France you won't have any issue trying to find somewhere to park for the night.
The Dune Pyla is one sight you won't want to miss in France, the biggest sand dune in Europe standing at 110m tall and 2.7km long. Verdon Gorge is also a must-visit, also called the Grand Canyon of France, an incredibly deep ravine with surreal blue waters flowing through it, equally as beautiful in winter as in summer. And if you get a chance, the French free parties such as FrenchTek are legendary. No one parties quite as hard as the French.
Avoid the Île de Ré, it promises far more than it can deliver to tourists and the cost of the bridge to get there alone is enough to put anyone on a budget off (€16 as of 2016).
It's pretty obvious that in France you'll be eating baguette, but it's fresher, tastier and cheaper than anywhere else in Europe, trust us. Warm pain au chocolat and tarte au citron from the boulangerie are French breakfast classics, although you may not have heard of grenadine syrup, usually used in cocktails in England but delicious with lemonade or water (like you would make a squash). These are just a few personal favourites having grown up in France.