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    Driving in France - Tips for your trip

    If you're headed to France this summer, picking up a car hire isn't just a cost-effective way to travel, it also affords you with maximum flexibility and total control over your holidays. Here are some things you should know in order to make the most of your travels in France.

    First of all, there are three main types of roads in France: autoroutes (indicated by the letter A), national roads (indicated by the letter N) and departmental roads (indicated by the letter D). Generally speaking, regardless of type, the French road network tend to be well maintained.If you have time to spare, we recommend choosing to travel in departmental and national roads instead of autoroutes, since these tend to be more scenic. Furthermore, you'll also save money on tolls. On the other hand, you'll be restricted to lower speed limits, less direct routes, and you will have to drive through most towns and cities instead of around them, resulting in further time loss.If time is a concern or you just want to choose the most efficient route between point A and point B, autoroutes are the best option.

    France has almost 6,000 miles of autoroutes in the country, connecting all major cities. The vast majority of these highways are toll roads, known in French as 'autoroutes à péage'. They are, as mentioned above, identified by the letter A and their respective number, but some famous autoroutes also have a name. Summer travellers will be particularly interested in the autoroute du Solei (A6, A7), which connects northern to southern France, leading to the sunny beach resorts of the French Riviera. Winter travellers, on the other hand, may be more inclined to take advantage of the autoroute blanche (A40), which leads the way to some of the most popular French winter resorts, such as Chamonix.

    There are two types of tolls in French highways. Sometimes there is a flat rate charged for using a road, while other times the fee is distance based. This second option is the most common when travelling long distances. Paying tolls couldn't be simpler. When entering a toll road, you will come across a toll booth where you get a ticket which you must keep for the duration of your journey. When you want to exit the autoroute, you will have to go through another toll booth, where you will hand in the ticket and pay the fee you're due. It's extremely important not to lose the ticket, since if you do you will have to pay for the whole extension of the autoroute, plus extra fees. Accepted payment methods include money and credit cards (attention: Visa Electron and Maestro are usually not accepted).You may notice that there is a fast lane where drivers don't stop at the booths, but you should stay clear of this. This fast lane has an automated payment system called Télépéage and is used by drivers whose cars are equipped with the necessary automatic device. To give you an idea of the cost, the A16 from Calais to Paris will carry a toll of €18.90 (around £16.24) and the A6 between Paris and Lyon will carry a toll of €32.90 (approx. £28.26).

    *If you're travelling in the mountains, note that it is always important to moderate your speed. Mountain roads may not always be as well maintained as other roads in the country, but they are extremely scenic and perfect for a spot of sightseeing. While in the summer travelling in the mountains presents no difficulty out of the ordinary, it's important to remember when travelling in winter that snow chains may be required and that some stretches of road may close due to snow. When it is the case, there will be a sign in the road indicating whether it is open (ouvert) or closed (fermé).Always remember to drive within the speed limit, as there are hefty fines for offenders. Speed cameras are extremely common. Some maps show the location of fixed speed cameras and there are also roadside signs indicating that you are approaching one (usually half a km before). On top of those, there are also mobile speed traps. If you get caught speeding, you will have to pay a fine on the spot.There are two sets of speed limits in France, one for normal conditions and one for wet weather. Unless otherwise specified by existing signs, the speed limits are as follows:

    • Motorways: 130 km/h (dry), 110 km/h (wet)
    • Dual carriageways: 110 km/h (dry), 100 km/h (wet)
    • Main roads: 90 km/h (dry), 80 km/h (wet)
    • Urban areas: 50 km/h

    Driving in French cities is remarkably like driving in British cities, only on the wrong side of the road. Town centres are best avoided, as the amount of traffic tends to be inversely proportional to the width of the streets.In towns and unless otherwise specified by existing signs or road markings, cars coming from the right always have priority (priorité à droite), even if they're entering a main road from a secondary one. Some roads are marked as priority roads by a yellow lozenge sign, in which case priorité à droite does not apply. However, you should exercise caution, since this priority may not extend to the entirety of the road. Therefore, you should keep an eye out for a yellow lozenge sign crossed by a black bar, which signals the end of priority. Cars are usually not allowed to turn right on traffic lights, except when there's a flashing amber arrow indicating otherwise. Even then, you must be careful to yield to any other cars.

    Parking in French cities is strictly regulated and normally paid (indicated by a blue sign with the word Payant). There are ticket machines along the streets where you can pay for parking up to a maximum of 2 hours. You will get a ticket from the machine, which you must display on the dashboard of your car, on the driver's side. Many cities will also have several car parks, which are usually more expensive than street parking, but they are safer and have a higher time limit. Make sure you don't park illegally, since on top of a fine, the car may also get towed, resulting in further expense and inconvenience. We hope you found this article informative! As always, you are welcome to leave your comments or questions in the comments section below, or come pay us a visit on Facebook or Twitter ;)

    *These values are correct in July 2013, as per the AA site.

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