caravanning

 

Crossing The Channel  

Prices for a return crossing are wide ranging and depend on season, day and time of travel. Midweek and night times usually attract the lowest fares. When ever you go, it is probably best to book as far ahead as possible to obtain the best price.

Some organisations such as the Caravan Club, Caravan & Camping Club, Camping Cheques and others offer discounted fares and even packages. These are well worth checking and comparing before you book.

The most popular and shortest crossing is Dover to Calais. This is also the cheapest fare. However, it might well be worth looking at the longer crossings which may well be more convenient if you are staying in certain regions of France, to cut down the driving distances and driving costs.

Booking in, getting on and off the ferry (or Eurotunnel train) is easy and driver friendly. Drivers should simply await and follow the instructions from the ferry operator's staff when booking in, boarding and leaving the ferry (or Eurotunnel train).

Very importantly, it is worth noting that LPG powered vehicles are not allowed on board the Eurotunnel trains. LPG bottles for caravans are allowed, as long as they are disconnected and isolated and strapped into the gas locker and well secured.

Service Areas & Rest Areas (Aires)

"Aires" are rest areas of differing and wide ranging facilities. These can be found quite often on both trunk roads and motorways, usually every 10 or 20 kms., or so. Some are fully serviced motorway service areas with fuel, restaurant and WC facilities with picnic and parking for caravans, whilst some are literally glorified lay-byes with just a picnic area.

When driving long distances, it is a good idea to use these areas as a rest stop after every 2 hours of driving or when getting tired so to keep alert and safe on the road. The fully serviced motorway service areas are of a much higher standard than we find in the UK with good quality food and refreshments.

However, an essential caution. Whilst the vast majority of visitors use these "aires" trouble free, it is sensible to be aware of your own well being and security, specially when using the smaller and quieter places for an overnight stop. Although busier places are safer, you might not get much sleep from the noise. Much better to plan an overnight stop at a campsite.
Over Night Stops

As stated before, it is safer and sensible to use a bona fide campsite for an over night stop over. The best ways of doing this are to either pre-book a campsite or just pull into one.

It is useful to know that most towns have a "camping municipal" campsite run and managed by the mayor (council). These are usually well sign posted on the roads into town and pre-booking is usually not necessary, even in peak season.

It is also worth while to start looking for a suitable stop over campsite by 5 pm or earlier in peak season. If you leave it much later, you risk not getting a pitch for the night.

For me, I limit myself to around 250 - 300 miles driving per day, stop for the day by about 3 pm and continue onwards the next day, after a good and safe night's sleep.

ADVICE AND INFORMATION

A Guide To The Basic Essentials Travelling in Europe
By laurie

With the first timer in mind, the following is a guide, for those basic essentials needed to make sure your caravan holiday and driving in France will be as pleasurable, safe and trouble free as possible.

Checklist & Paper Work

Do take the paper work needed just in case a policeman requests it or if needed in case of accident or break down.

V5 Car registration document (photocopy not accepted).
Letters of permission for use abroad (if a company car and / or lease / contract hire car).
MOT certificate (photocopy not accepted).
Car insurance certificate, valid for EU (Green Card may be required in some cases).
Accident report form -(French & English dual versions available from insurers).

European health card (for state medical cover abroad).
Personal travel insurance (include any relevant sports / activity cover).

Car & Caravan break down insurance (valid for the period of stay abroad).

Passports (must be valid for return date to UK).
Money (Euros), ATM cash card, credit card, travellers cheques.
CCI card (useful to use at campsites instead of your passport).
Camping Cheques - paper or Gold Card (if using discounted campsites scheme).
ACSI card (if using discounted campsites scheme).
Channel crossing booking confirmation.
Campsite booking confirmation (booking recommended for peak season).
GB stickers for car and caravan (not required if number plate is of EU type).
Towing mirrors.
Headlight beam deflectors
Sat Nav (pre-programme destination & suitable routes).
Road maps (look up the French road signs and meanings. Back up for Sat Nav).
Directions to camp site / destinations (back up for Sat Nav).
Spare bulb kit for car / caravan.
First aid kit.
Fire extinguisher.
Warning triangle.
High visibility vests (in case of breakdown).
Mobile phone (pre-programme emergencies numbers).
Camp site guide book(s).
Caravan Club Guide to Europe Volume One.
French phrase book.
Caravan hook up leads (2x25 metres as some EHU posts are some distance from the pitch).
Continental To Euro adapter for hook up lead (2 pin to 3 pin).
Reverse polarity plug in tester.
Reverse polarity adapter lead.

Driving & Towing In France

Remember to drive on the right.

Remember to give way to the left on roundabouts.

This seems quite strange at first but becomes quite easy after just a few miles.

Most of France uses the internationally recognised road signs that are similar as those in the UK. The essential difference is that the explanation will be in French. Most good French road maps show these signs and their meanings, so it would be well worth learning them.

Driving rules are roughly the same as in the UK, so common sense is the essential requirement for safe driving. However, be aware of the sign post that reads "Priorite Au Droite". It means give way to the traffic entering the road from the right, even if it is a roundabout, a slip road or a minor road. This is an old rule that, although being slowly phased out, still exists in some places, usually though in towns and villages that are off the beaten track.

The speed limit for driving in built up areas such as towns and villages are usually 50 kph. If different then the speed limit will be displayed. Be aware that the town speed limit usually starts at the rectangular sign post displaying the town name and finishes when you leave the town and pass the rectangular sign post with a red slash across the town name.

For trunk roads, the speed limit is usually 110 kph. If different, then the speed limit will be displayed.

For motorway toll roads, the speed limit is usually 130 kph in dry conditions and 110 kph in wet conditions. Again, if different, then the speed limit will be displayed.

Surprisingly, motorway towing speed limits are the same as cars, but this is far too fast for me personally. At the higher speeds on the motorway toll roads, extra care and vigilance is needed to be aware of the unstabilising effect of the air wash when being overtaken or when overtaking high sided vehicles.

Before you enter onto the motorway toll road, you drive up to the booth to obtain a ticket. When exiting the toll road, the toll can be paid in cash or by credit card. There are dedicated lanes for auto booths that accept credit cards only but these are well sign posted.

Perhaps, use the drive through France as a part of your holiday. By keeping off the toll roads and staying on the trunk roads, you may well get to see more of rural France and the countryside that you may well have missed whilst on the motorway.

Make sure your car and caravan is covered with a good comprehensive European break down insurance which should include things like holiday continuation cover, repatriation of car, caravan, driver and all passengers, as well as the usual repair works, should the worse happen.


Laurie.

Driving & Towing In France

Remember to drive on the right.

Remember to give way to the left on roundabouts.

This seems quite strange at first but becomes quite easy after just a few miles.

Most of France uses the internationally recognised road signs that are similar as those in the UK. The essential difference is that the explanation will be in French. Most good French road maps show these signs and their meanings, so it would be well worth learning them.

Driving rules are roughly the same as in the UK, so common sense is the essential requirement for safe driving. However, be aware of the sign post that reads "Priorite Au Droite". It means give way to the traffic entering the road from the right, even if it is a roundabout, a slip road or a minor road. This is an old rule that, although being slowly phased out, still exists in some places, usually though in towns and villages that are off the beaten track.

The speed limit for driving in built up areas such as towns and villages are usually 50 kph. If different then the speed limit will be displayed. Be aware that the town speed limit usually starts at the rectangular sign post displaying the town name and finishes when you leave the town and pass the rectangular sign post with a red slash across the town name.

For trunk roads, the speed limit is usually 110 kph. If different, then the speed limit will be displayed.

For motorway toll roads, the speed limit is usually 130 kph in dry conditions and 110 kph in wet conditions. Again, if different, then the speed limit will be displayed.

Surprisingly, motorway towing speed limits are the same as cars, but this is far too fast for me personally. At the higher speeds on the motorway toll roads, extra care and vigilance is needed to be aware of the unstabilising effect of the air wash when being overtaken or when overtaking high sided vehicles.

Before you enter onto the motorway toll road, you drive up to the booth to obtain a ticket. When exiting the toll road, the toll can be paid in cash or by credit card. There are dedicated lanes for auto booths that accept credit cards only but these are well sign posted.

Perhaps, use the drive through France as a part of your holiday. By keeping off the toll roads and staying on the trunk roads, you may well get to see more of rural France and the countryside that you may well have missed whilst on the motorway.

Fuel Prices

Although petrol and diesel are both widely available on motorways, in the service areas, fuel is generally a lot cheaper in the towns and cities and cheaper still from supermarkets. Most major credit and debit cards are accepted but it may be prudent to have more payment options, just in case.

Insurance Cover

It is essential to take out or ensure you have adequate insurance cover for the trip to ensure the holiday does not turn into a disaster, should the worse happen and, of course, for peace of mind.

Essentially, even if your car insurance company says you are covered for the EU, make sure your car insurance certificate actually states cover for EU. If it doesn't then you will need a "Green Card" to be legal in France.

Make sure your caravan insurance policy covers you for the period of stay abroad.

You still must use your normal caravan security devices or you may find that the policy is void if you don't.

Although the health card will give you basic state medical attention in France, a personal or family travel / holiday insurance is essential to receive comprehensive cover in event of an incident, accident or you become ill. Remember though, if you take part in any special activity or sports then make sure that your policy fully covers you for this.