Before any trip, it is always advised to ensure you have all the required equipment to keep you safe, and your vehicle to be in a good working condition.
Checks to carry out on the vehicle
We would always advise to check your water for the radiator, engine oil, and window washer fluid before any trip, to ensure your vehicle is topped up. It is always a good idea to do this a couple of days before the trip, and if the vehicle is low on water or oil, this gives you the chance to refill before you travel. It also helps to identify if you have any problems with the vehicle before you leave and get this resolved. To keep your vehicle in a good condition it is always an idea to do regular checks. Make sure all lights and indicators are working before the trip, you may need to ask a friend to help.
We will always check our vehicle over before any long distance travel, especially before we drove to France, but we will often check over our vehicle every couple of months.
Items require in your vehicle
- Reflective/high visibility jacket (this can be sleeveless) – It is a requirement to ensure you have a reflective jacket inside your vehicle, in the event of breakdown or emergency. It aids in your visibility to other road users, and helps to prevent any further accidents or incidents. It is also required that all occupants of the vehicle to have a reflective jacket each, and it must be within easy reach.
- EU Driving Licence – A full driving licence is required to be carried with you whilst driving, along with proof of insurance (the minimum in France is third party cover or above). It would also be advise to take some form of ID such as a passport, and your vehicle registration document (V5). We didn’t take the V5 with us, but did have our passports and insurance documentation printed to present in the event of an accident.
- Country sticker – You will require the country of origin sticker to be displayed on your vehicle. The latest vehicles will normally have this on their number plates. Our vehicle has the GB on our number plate before our registration, but if your vehicle does not have this, you will need to buy a sticker to apply to the rear of the vehicle.
- Warning Triangle – A warning triangle must be kept inside your vehicle, and in an event of a breakdown or emergency then this must be displayed on the road a short distance from your vehicle.
- Headlamp Beam Deflectors – You must apply before travelling to France the headlamp beam deflectors, on the front lights to prevent dazzling of other drivers. It was easy to apply the deflectors to our vehicle, but found it very difficult to know where to place them on the light. We had the manual but it seemed more guess work on where to apply them on the lights.
- Breathalyser Alcohol Test Kit – It is a must to have a breathalyser or alcohol test kit with you or inside of your vehicle.
- Spare bulb kit – It would also be advisable to take with you a spare bulb kit as it is heard that the authorities stop vehicles and may require the bulb to be changed.
- Fire extinguisher
- First aid kit
Driving in France
In France and much of Europe, vehicles drive on the right hand side of the road, this in turn means travelling around a roundabout anticlockwise. This was a little unusual for us, as driving in the UK is on the left, and travel around the roundabout is in a clockwise direction. At any intersection, you must give way to the right. If you are driving with a Satnav and it has the speed camera alert, then this must be switched off when driving in France. If the authorities stop you, and it is found that the speed camera alert is switched on, then you will get a fine, and maybe worst confiscation of the device or vehicle.
Breakdown and car insurance
It is advisable to obtain breakdown cover prior to leaving although it is not a legal requirement. It is however a requirement to have car insurance, at a minimum cover of third party. I work in car insurance and understand the necessity to have it, and would recommend breakdown cover too. In the event that you breakdown in France, then you would be liable for the costs to get you back on the road and started again. It isn’t a lot of money for breakdown or car insurance, so we would highly advise paying a smaller % on the relevant cover than having a possible hefty bill.
We took out foreign breakdown and insurance cover with my current car insurer. All we had to do was add this on our current insurance policy, and would be covered for our trip. The cost of the insurance was very cheap with about an additional £6-£7 per month and this included the breakdown cover. We were lucky and didn’t need it, so on our return we just cancelled it from our policy without a problem, and now pay a reduced premium again.