Summer has finally arrived which means the holiday season is well underway. While many people pack their bags and jet-off somewhere exotic for a couple of weeks, some of us prefer hopping across the channel with our beloved bikes and exploring some of the sights Europe has to offer instead.
Whichever country you’re planning on travelling to this summer there will be a number of different rules and regulations you’ll need to get your head around before you leave. No matter what, if you’re planning to leave England you need to carry your VC5 along with your MOT and insurance documentation. You will also need your European Health Insurance Card and an International Driving Permit, which you can pick up from your local Post Office. This permit will include your entitlements in a number of different languages, which can really come in handy if you’re venturing to a foreign country.
What’s more, you must ensure you’ve got adequate breakdown cover before you leave. Some policies – including ours – have breakdown cover built in, but some may not offer it so double check before you leave.
Once you’ve got all of the above sorted, below are some additional tips when travelling around France.
- While you’re riding around France you’re likely to come across one or two ‘peages’, or toll roads. The rates for these roads are calculated by the distance between each point of entry. You purchase a ticket at entry and hand it over at the exit. You can pay using cash or a credit card, just make sure they are stored somewhere where they can be accessed easily. You can avoid tolls by taking the more scenic D and N routes, which are the equivalent to England’s A and B roads, but Peages are often faster and clearer if you are travelling larger distances.
- You cannot legally ride in the country until you are 18 years old and own a full Category A motorcycle license.
- Generally speaking, speed limits are 130kph on motorways (reduced to 110kph in rain), 90kph on most of the secondary rural roads, and 110kpm on express highways. The speed limit in most of the towns will be 50kph, though it can be lower in certain areas and sometimes the limit is reduced for two-wheeled vehicles.
- If you wear glasses you must carry a spare pair with you. If you don’t and get stopped you may get fined.
- Here in the UK we’re used to seeing speed limits clearly displayed but in France this is not always the case. You may only see a sign with the name of a village on it, which will mean you need to slow down even though it’s not explicitly stated. Thus, it’s important to have your wits about you when you ride into new areas.
- Expect plenty of mobile and static speed cameras when you’re in France. As well as this, there are plenty of unmarked police vans ready to catch out unsuspecting speeders. Radar detectors are illegal in the country; even if you carry one that’s switched off you will face heavy fines and court, and your motorcycle may even be confiscated. If you are caught speeding, on-the-spot fines are not uncommon and if you don’t have enough money you will be expected to go to the nearest cash point to withdraw some. Anyone caught travelling 40kph or more above the limit may have their license confiscated.
- France is particularly strict about drink driving and limits are lower than here in the UK. Our advice would be: don’t drink one drop of alcohol on days you plan to be on the road. You should also remember that alcohol stays in the blood, so if you’ve had a heavy night you may still be over the limit the following morning. Carrying a breathalyser is a great way to monitor the levels of alcohol in your blood. If you’re stopped and found to be over the limit you will be fined and will face court.
- If you break down park on the emergency lane if possible and call 112 on your mobile if there’s not a phone nearby.
- If you have a collision with a French vehicle you will be presented with an ‘amiable declaration’ form to fill out. It’s important you ring your insurance firm to get their advice before filling this out, especially if you don’t speak or understand fluent French. If someone is injured you must stay at the scene until the police arrive.
- In built up areas make sure you give way to traffic coming from the right.
- If you’re approaching a roundabout and see a sign that says ‘Vous n’avez pas la prioritié’ or ‘Cedez le passage’ then the traffic on the right has priority. If there are no signs visible then the traffic approaching the roundabout has priority.
- You should use your dipped headlights during the day.
- You should carry a full set of replacement bulbs for your bike.
- To clarify some rules that have come and gone in the last couple of years regarding riding in France:
- Although there is currently no fine for not carrying one, French rules do require that a breathalyser is carried on your bike. Single use breathalysers have a validity date of around 12 months so bear this in mind if your touring kit was last used over a year ago.
- The rule that was introduced in January 2013 that required reflective clothing to be worn by every motorcyclist riding a bike over 125cc has since been abolished.