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SWMBO and I bought our fist M/Home this year and have enjoyed our few stays at various sites in the UK this year. She now expresses a wish to spread our wings and try abroad next year. Neither of us have ever driven outside this country so it's with some trepidation that I agreed to give it a go. I would therefore appreciate any advice on making our first trip. In the first intance we would like to go somewhere that;s simple to get to considering our lack of experience, not to far and preferbably to a recognised site with hook up.


Any advice will be much appreciated, I know a few people will say don't worry it's dead simple but bear in mind we're both in our seventies and not as daring as we were a few years ago.


Thanks in advance.

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The main priority is to keep safe and I appreciate your anxiety about taking to the other side of the road. The first hurdle is approaching a roundabout for the first time so concentration is needed here. Driving on the right on straight roads is easy - remember you can see the kerb or ditch (and there are many of these - quite deep too!) easily. If approaching traffic comes too close concentrate so that you do not pull to the left.


Be patient at traffic lights as they stay red much longer than in England and there is no orange - they go straight to green. In old towns traffic lights are often high above the road so not necessarily easy to spot. Rely on your co-driver to look for turnings as road signs often look as if you need to turn when in fact you need to go straight on. Many, many years ago we found ourselves back at Calais!


All town names that are in red have restricted speed limits of 50 kh whether there are signs or not, some have lower limits than this but will be signed. If the name sign is in black and white then there is no restriction unless there is a sign to say so. French drivers pay good attention usually to restriction signs as police hide just by the signs so adjust your speed before you get there.


Try to time your arrival in France in daylight, plan your route beforehand, know where you want to stop for the night (not too far the first day), find a good restaurant and enjoy. The next day you will wonder why you worried!


I drive on the right so much now that I have to concentrate really hard when I first arrive back in the UK.

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Pete-B - 2012-11-24 8:50 PM




Any advice will be much appreciated, I know a few people will say don't worry it's dead simple but bear in mind we're both in our seventies and not as daring as we were a few years ago.


Thanks in advance.



I would say just take your time, avoid cities and big towns at first.


Don't go far each day, and when you first get over there just follow the car in front and don't bother about overtaking anyone.


Most of the time you can just ' copy ' everyone else but the only danger I've found is if you come out onto a road where there is no other traffic and you have to think twice about which side of the road you should be on.


I'm sure it won't be as difficult as you think - and - once you've done a few kilometres you'll soon settle down.


Good luck .

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Best bet for the nervous is to stick to France, even a short trip to Picardy will give you a taste for it., plenty of sites to choose from. As for driving, for the novice, it's not only roundabouts you need to be careful of, also pulling out from junctions or from parked up on side of road it's easy to end up on the wrong side of road, once actualy traveling along the road it's no real problem, but it's just something to be aware of not worry to much about.
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Hi Pete, we had our first trip to France on our own last June, we were both nervous, but we found it to be easy. There is less traffic over there compared to the UK. We bought an ACSI book that gave us discounts on campsites plus a copy of "All the Aires" and took our trusty Tom Tom and with trepidation booked our shuttle. We stayed for 4 weeks and we didn't want to come home. We cannot wait to go back next June. We stayed in Abbeville at Port-le-Grand. Nice site and host spoke English of sorts (better than my pigeon French). We then went on to Normandie to visit the WW2 battle beaches and we stayed at Reine Matilde at Etreham, lovely site but you need transport to go anywhere (we had our Smart car on a trailer). From there we went to visit friends who live in Charente and stayed with them for a few days. We then toured around the Doedogne, Aquitane, Limousine, Centre, PicRdie and then home again. The weather was good, bad and Ok, depending upon where we were.


I am sure you will be fine, it's just arming yourself with the right tools. If you want to Pm me I will happily sort out our sites and Aires and send you a comprehensive list.


Happy travels


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We had our first motorhome trip to mainland Europe earlier this year, 17 weeks touring France, Germany, Belgium and Holland.


As has been mentioned already the main thing is just to take your time. France is not known as 'motorhome heaven' for nothing. We found the roads mostly empty (well, compared to UK) and there are loads of places to stay. To avoid undue stress I would not venture into the centre of large cities. We did this a few times and although we managed okay it was certainly the most stressful part of our trip.


We used the satnav all the time on our trip and came to rely on it totally but it did send us down some very narrow roads so you have to watch out for this.


Also when driving in France you have to watch out for drivers pulling out of some side roads on the right without stopping. I am still not 100% sure what the rules and road signs are regarding 'priority from the right' so you might like to do some research on this.


We used mostly aires in France but also stayed on farms a couple of times (via France Passion scheme). We would highly recommend the excellent aires guides etc produced by Vicarious Books (www.vicariousbooks.co.uk).


Enjoy your trip




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Once over the water I set my tomtom to kilometers and use it to keep an eye on my speed the main thing to remember is keep to the speed limits and always STOP at a stop sign. Although I had driven throughout Europe for work on out 1st trip in the motorhome to France I pulled out of the campsite turned right crossing the road ( like you do in the UK ) and found myself driving along the wrong side of the road , what you may call a " senior moment ". Like everyone else has stated France is for motorhomes think ahead relax and enjoy it . We have done 5 trips there a year for the last 6 years and still cannot wait to go back again.

No doubt you are aware you will need

Travel / Health Insurance

E111 Card

Both driving licences


All Vehicle Docs

2 High Vis Vests

Spare Bulb Pack

1st Aid Kit

Inform your Credit Card Co you are travelling abroad

Spare Glasses ( not the drinking kind )

A good road map as well as a Sat Nav

No doubt someone will think of other things I have overlooked.

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You will find a lot of roundabouts in France! They are relatively recent, and increasing, and are used more as an aid to traffic calming than to aid traffic flow. Often very attractive and/or entertaining as well! Relatively few are mini-roundabouts. French drivers have suffered three versions of roundabout instruction, before latterly being taught to signal as we do. The result is that the signals from other vehicles can be misleading, and many do not signal at all. In almost all cases traffic on the roundabout has priority over traffic entering.


Priority on the right has been mentioned. It remains the general rule throughout France. This means that, unless stated otherwise, any wheeled traffic approaching from your right has priority over you. On main roads, and in most towns/villages, the priority is cancelled by stop/give way signs on side roads, easiest spotted when driving by looking for the dotted white line across the side road. If there is no such line, expect priority on the right to persist. In a few places none of the junctions have been marked, and the priority applies throughout. Out of town, junctions will generally be indicated by a triangular white sign with a red border carrying either of two signs. This link will explain better than any number of words, and more beside: http://tinyurl.com/clgk7a


Another useful site, on speed limits, here: http://tinyurl.com/6gnkem2


I'd say initially avoid motorways/dual carriageways and main roads, and try to use "D" roads. They are generally quiet, well surfaced, and well signposted, so pressure will be minimal. If you get the Michelin road atlas, which is generally the best driving map of France, the roads you are looking for will be yellow. At first, avoid the white ones! Very minor. Carriageway width is indicated by the width of the road as mapped, so the "friendly ones" are easy to spot. These are the best roads to get the feel of driving in France. Once familiarised, use whatever roads meet your preference.


Remember there are one or two particular dangers. First, at any T junction, where you may find yourself instinctively turning onto the left hand side of the road. Useful mantra, "turn left on the right", "turn right on the right"! Anywhere you stop for a while (including overnight), when in the absence of other traffic, on proceeding, you may be prone to take to the left side. The second and third day, when you can become over-relaxed, and forget just where you are! Finally, if you miss a turning, and turn to go back. That bit of extra fluster can wipe your memory of which side to adopt!

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We have been going over the water for the last 6 years, like you we are no spring chickens :-D but you do have a long experience of driving, and your not likely to be charging about breaking speed limits.


For use a SAT NAV is a must have, they come into their own when abroad especially on motorways telling you in good time when you need to keep into the left lane or right when the road splits and making sure you are in the right one for your exit. Your O.H will need to keep reminding you coming out of supermarkets etc;

to KEEP RIGHT :-D also when joining motorways keeping her eye on HER mirror when it is safe for you to get in, dont worry it soon comes second nature and we find that the traffic will move over for you when they see you joining as you will also BUT dont take it for granted its just the same as here!! my O.H enjoys driving on the right ! I have to remind him when we come home to keep left (lol)


Like everything you find it easier once you are doing something than thinking about it before hand, so try to relax and enjoy it and Im sure you will.


As others have said the roads can be VERY quiet and driving is a much more enjoyable experience than over here!! I hate coming back!! and driving on our busy motorways.


Make sure you have a good Camping site book also Aires book is very handy and for us the Bord Atlas of Stalplatz (German Aires) as we tend to stay in a mix of both.


We never stay longer than 3 nights in one place or very rarely as we like to see as much as possible in our 6 weeks over there, also we find Supermarkets to stock up each time we move (mostly) as having two dogs we tend to eat in or outside van unless were out site seeing then we will eat in an outdoor cafe .


Enjoy the experience I know you will love it we do.

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Lots of good advice coming, to Kelly B list add 2 warning triangles, Beam deflectors and if your in Belgium a Fire Extinguisher. As has been said just take your time, and enjoy, its a great place, still after 30 years of driving in France my co driver says to me just before we move off, "Your nearest the Pavie." Which I'm very glad of. If you want to let us know PM where your crossing from, and what you like to do, we maybe can recomend some sites.



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You are now advised to also carry a couple of disposable breathalysers. The French police aren't fining peaple yet, but it is the sort of thing they can choose to be picky about with an English vehicle. If they stop you, don't forget to be ever so polite - some of them are armed!
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I made up some cards which fit in the flap on the back of the sun viser. They have the speed limits for diffirent types of roads and towns etc for each country. It also has my height, width weight etc on each one. I also have a conversion chart for metric to imperial etc. Quick flip down of the sun viser if I am in any doubt.

Watch out in France on local roads. The Police regularly stop anyone anytime to check documents and sometimes like to see what you have onboard.


Have fun, good luck B-)

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As a fairly inexperienced "European" driver myself I'd just add to the above that.....


Speed camera warning devises are illegal so if incorporated in your Sat-nav disable it.


I also found that my speedo KPH dial was too small to read at a quick glance so adapted to converting the rev counter readings into KPH.


Safe driving and enjoy it. After all, that's what it's all about.

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My advice:- Shop at Aldi or Lidle, buy fuel from supermarkets, stay at "Aires de Camping Car", if you drink don't drive, if in doubt about anything ask at the Information or Town Hall, they know everything. Do not eat snails, the cheaper the wine the bigger the headache, take tea bags to last the holiday, French ones are just not the same.

Take coffee granules, Marmite, Worcestershire sauce a good supply of pain killers and other first aid stuff.


I take:-

Emergency dentistry kit

Plasters and Antiseptic

Jungle Formula mosquito liqiud

Anti histamine cream (for when the above doesn't work)

Plenty of your prescribed pills

Cheddar cheese

Needle and thread


Electrical test meter

Hand tools (Spanners etc)

Important phone numbers (Card cancelling etc)

Photo copies of your important documents

Baseball bat and ball (for under your pillow, it helps you sleep soundly)

A good torch

Plenty of toilet blue ( you can get green over there)

A watering can or water containers (to fill your tank when the tap is hard to reach)

A selection of tap connectors

Some books or Kindle

A long electric hook up cable or two

Bikes (there are lots of proper bike tracks all over)

Fishing rod ( you don't actually have to fish, you just sit and pretend, very relaxing)



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What a great response from you folk, lots of appreciated advice and information, this is how a club should work!


I'm starting to feel quite excited about the prospect of leaving theses shores and I kinow the duchess want's to go, she's just a bit worried about crimes you hear happening to motorists over there but I tell her you can't let the odd occurance stop you from doing things.


I will certainly be in touch with some of you again for advice on sites etc. For our first trip we don't mind spending a bit extra for a couple of good sites with hook up etc and be a bit more adventurous in future.


Thanks again.


Peter and Jean.

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Just read through the thread, and not much to add.

That "priorité" thing doesn't apply if the road you're on has yellow "diamond" signs with a white border. It kicks back in when you see one"crossed out," usually as you enter a town or village.

If you stop in a layby for a break, find one on the right. Highest risk of driving on the wrong side is when you set off from a LH layby.

Finally, I completely understand your decision to stick to recognised sites for this first trip, but at least check the website for France Passion, you're sure of a welcome with their members.

Enjoy yourselves!

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