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Taking Your Campervan To France: Your Ultimate Preparation Guide

Updated: Apr 26, 2023

If you're planning to take your campervan from the UK into France, there are several things you should do to prepare.

van life france

Here Are Some Important Steps You Can Take When Taking Your Campervan To France:


Check your vehicle's documentation: Make sure your campervan is registered and insured for travel in France. You may also need to carry a V5C logbook, a valid MOT certificate, and proof of insurance.


Check the driving requirements: In France, you'll need to drive on the right-hand side of the road, and you'll need to be over 18 years of age with a valid UK driving licence. You may also need an International Driving Permit (IDP) if you have a paper driving licence, although this is not always necessary.


Check your campervan's equipment: Ensure that your campervan has all the necessary equipment required for driving in France. This includes items like headlamp beam converters to adjust the headlights, a reflective warning triangle, a high visibility vest, and spare bulbs for your lights.


Check your campervan's emissions: France has strict emission standards, so check that your campervan meets the required standards. If you're unsure, you can check the vehicle emissions rating online.


Check the regulations for travelling with pets: If you're planning to travel with your pets, you'll need to ensure that they meet the entry requirements for France. This may include vaccinations, microchipping, and pet passports.


Plan your route: Familiarize yourself with the roads and routes you'll be taking in France. Consider using a GPS device or map to help you navigate.

The specific items you are legally required to have in your campervan may vary depending on your location and the type of vehicle you have. However, here are some common items that are often required or recommended by law:


Registration and insurance documents: You should always carry your campervan's registration and insurance documents with you when you're driving, this important for several reasons:

Proof of ownership: Your registration documents provide proof that you are the legal owner of the campervan. This can be important in case of any legal disputes or if your vehicle is stolen.

Compliance with the law: In many countries, it's a legal requirement to carry your registration documents when driving your campervan. Failure to do so can result in fines or other legal consequences.

Insurance coverage: Your insurance documents prove that you have the required level of insurance coverage for your campervan. This is important in case of any accidents or damage to your vehicle or other people's property.

Assistance in case of emergency: If you have an accident or breakdown, having your registration and insurance documents with you can help emergency services and other drivers to identify your campervan and its owner. This can speed up the process of getting you and your campervan the necessary assistance.

Driver's license: You need to take your driver's license with you when you're driving your campervan to prove that you're legally allowed to operate the vehicle. In many countries, including the UK, it's a legal requirement to carry a valid driver's license with you when you're driving.

Your driver's license serves as a form of identification, and it provides important information about you as a driver, including your name, address, date of birth, and the categories of vehicle you're licensed to drive.

If you're stopped by the police or involved in an accident, you may be asked to present your driver's license as proof that you're authorized to drive your campervan. Additionally, if you're renting a campervan, the rental company will typically require you to provide a valid driver's license before they will allow you to take possession of the vehicle.


Warning triangle: A warning triangle is a safety device that is designed to alert other road users of a potential hazard or obstruction on the road. It's a legal requirement in many countries to carry a warning triangle in your vehicle, including campervans.

If your campervan breaks down or you have an accident, placing a warning triangle behind your vehicle can help to warn other drivers of the hazard and give them time to slow down and take evasive action. This can help to prevent further accidents or collisions.

The exact regulations for warning triangles may vary by country, but generally, the triangle should be placed at a distance of at least 50 meters from your vehicle, in the direction of oncoming traffic. It should be visible from a distance and placed on a flat surface.

Carrying a warning triangle is an important safety measure to protect yourself and other road users in the event of an emergency on the road.


High visibility vest: You need to take a high visibility vest with you when driving in many countries, including many in Europe, because it is a legal requirement. The reason for this requirement is to increase the visibility of the driver and make them more noticeable to other drivers in the event of an accident or breakdown.

The high visibility vest, also known as a reflective vest, is designed to be worn over your normal clothing and is made of brightly coloured material with reflective strips. This makes it easier for other drivers to see you, particularly in low light conditions, such as at dawn, dusk or in the dark.

If you have to exit your campervan on the side of a road or a motorway, for example, due to a breakdown or an accident, you are required to wear the high visibility vest to increase your visibility and reduce the risk of being hit by passing vehicles.

It's important to note that in some countries, such as France, you may be fined if you don't carry and wear a high visibility vest when required. Therefore, it's essential to ensure that you have a high visibility vest in your campervan and that it is easily accessible when needed.


Spare bulbs and fuses: Taking spare bulbs and fuses in your campervan is recommended for a couple of reasons:

To ensure your safety: If one of your bulbs or fuses blows while you're driving, it can significantly impact your visibility on the road or cause an electrical system failure. By carrying spare bulbs and fuses, you can quickly and easily replace them and restore your visibility or electrical functions, which can help prevent accidents and ensure your safety.

To comply with the law: In some countries, it's a legal requirement to carry spare bulbs for your headlights, taillights, and indicators, and to replace any faulty bulbs as soon as possible. Fuses are also often required by law, and carrying spares can help you avoid potential fines for non-compliance.

Overall, carrying spare bulbs and fuses in your campervan is a simple and inexpensive way to ensure your safety and compliance with the law.


First aid kit: Taking a first aid kit with you when traveling in a campervan is a wise decision for several reasons. Here are some of the main reasons why a first aid kit is important:

Accidents and injuries: When you're on the road, accidents and injuries can happen. Having a first aid kit on hand can help you to quickly treat any minor injuries or illnesses that may occur.

Remote locations: When traveling in a campervan, you may find yourself in remote locations where medical assistance may not be readily available. In such situations, a well-stocked first aid kit can help you to manage any injuries or illnesses until you can reach proper medical help.

Quick response: In an emergency, a first aid kit can provide you with the tools and supplies you need to respond quickly and effectively. This can be especially important when dealing with injuries that require immediate attention, such as bleeding or burns.

Personal health conditions: If you or anyone traveling with you has a pre-existing medical condition, having a first aid kit on hand can help you to manage any symptoms or emergencies that may arise.

Overall, a first aid kit is an essential item to have in your campervan, as it can help you to quickly and effectively respond to any medical emergencies or injuries that may occur while on the road.


Fire extinguisher: Taking a fire extinguisher in your campervan is recommended for safety reasons. If a fire breaks out in your campervan, having a fire extinguisher readily available can help you to quickly extinguish the fire and prevent it from spreading. This can be particularly important when camping in remote areas where emergency services may take longer to arrive.

Campervans contain various flammable materials, such as fuel, gas, and electrical components, which can be a fire hazard if they're not used or maintained correctly. A fire can start accidentally due to a malfunctioning appliance, electrical wiring issues, or other causes. Having a fire extinguisher on board can help you to quickly respond to a fire and prevent significant damage or injury.

In some countries, taking a fire extinguisher in your campervan may be a legal requirement. Therefore, it's essential to check the specific regulations for the countries you'll be traveling through and ensure you have the necessary safety equipment on board.


Headlamp beam deflectors: Headlamp beam deflectors, also known as headlamp converters, are required for UK drivers traveling on the continent because they ensure that your headlights don't dazzle other drivers.

In the UK, cars are designed with headlights that are angled to illuminate the left side of the road. However, in countries that drive on the right-hand side of the road, this means that the headlights will be angled in a way that can dazzle oncoming drivers.

To prevent this, headlamp beam deflectors are required to adjust the angle of the headlights so that they point downward and to the left. This ensures that they won't dazzle oncoming drivers and helps to ensure that you can see the road ahead clearly while driving on the continent.

Failing to use headlamp beam deflectors when required can result in a fine or penalty, so it's important to make sure you have them installed and adjusted properly before driving in a country where they are required.


Breathalyser: In some countries, including France, it is a legal requirement to carry a breathalyser in your vehicle. The purpose of this requirement is to encourage responsible driving and to reduce the number of alcohol-related accidents on the roads.

The Breathalyser is used to measure the alcohol level in your breath, and can help you to determine whether you are safe to drive. If you have consumed alcohol and are found to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit, you may face fines, penalties, or even criminal charges.

Carrying a breathalyser in your campervan is important because it allows you to test your BAC before you get behind the wheel. This can help you to make responsible decisions about whether or not to drive, and can help to prevent accidents and keep you and others safe on the road.

It's worth noting that while carrying a breathalyser is a legal requirement in some countries, it is always important to exercise caution and avoid driving if you have consumed alcohol. Even if your BAC is below the legal limit, you may still be impaired and at a higher risk of causing an accident.


Tips For Driving On The Right-Hand Side Of The Road:

Driving on the right-hand side of the road can be a new and challenging experience if you're used to driving on the left. Here are some tips to help you adjust to driving on the right-hand side of the road:

Familiarise yourself with the traffic rules and signs: Take time to study the traffic rules and signs of the country you're driving in, as they may differ from what you're used to.


Practice in a safe environment: If possible, practice driving on the right-hand side of the road in a quiet and safe area before you head out onto busy roads.


Position yourself correctly: Make sure you're positioned correctly in the lane when driving. Drive in the right-hand lane, and position your vehicle closer to the right-hand side of the lane.


Stay alert and focused: Pay extra attention to your driving and be aware of your surroundings. Keep your eyes on the road and avoid distractions.


Use your mirrors and indicators: Use your mirrors and indicators to communicate with other drivers and ensure that you're aware of your surroundings.


Take it slow: Take your time and drive at a slower speed than usual, especially when you're first adjusting to driving on the right-hand side of the road.


Get a GPS or navigation system: A GPS or navigation system can help you navigate unfamiliar roads and ensure that you stay on the correct side of the road.


Have a passenger act as a co-pilot: If possible, have a passenger sit in the front seat and act as a co-pilot to help you stay focused and alert.


By following these tips and taking your time, you can adjust to driving on the right-hand side of the road and enjoy your travels safely.


Options For Crossing The Channel With Your Campervan:

There are a few ways to get from the UK to France in a campervan, depending on your preference and budget. Here are some of the most popular ways:

Ferry:

Using a ferry with a campervan is relatively straightforward, but there are some things you should keep in mind to ensure a smooth and stress-free experience. Here are the steps to take when using a ferry with a campervan:

Book your ferry tickets in advance: It's recommended to book your ferry tickets in advance, especially during peak travel times. You can book your tickets online or by phone.

Check the ferry's height and weight restrictions: Before you book your tickets, make sure to check the ferry's height and weight restrictions to ensure that your campervan is allowed on board.

Arrive at the port early: Arrive at the port at least 90 minutes before your scheduled departure time to allow enough time for check-in and boarding.

Follow the signage and instructions: Follow the signage and instructions given by the port staff to board the ferry. In most cases, you'll be directed to a lane specifically for campervans and other larger vehicles.

Secure your campervan: Once on board, park your campervan in the designated area and make sure to apply the handbrake and turn off the engine. It's also a good idea to secure any loose items inside your campervan to prevent damage during the journey.

Enjoy the journey: Once you're on board, you can relax and enjoy the journey. Most ferries have restaurants, shops, and other facilities to keep you entertained during the journey.

Prepare to disembark: As the ferry approaches the port, follow the instructions given by the crew to disembark. Be sure to turn on your engine and prepare to drive off the ferry.


By following these steps and being prepared, you can use a ferry with your campervan and enjoy a hassle-free journey across the sea.


Eurotunnel:

Using the Eurotunnel with a campervan is relatively straightforward. Here are the steps to follow:

Book your Eurotunnel journey: You can book your Eurotunnel journey online or over the phone. Make sure to select the "campervan" option when booking.

Arrive at the Eurotunnel terminal: Arrive at the Eurotunnel terminal at least 45 minutes before your scheduled departure time.

Check in: Follow the signs to the check-in area and present your booking confirmation to the staff. They will provide you with a ticket and direct you to the correct boarding lane.

Board the train: Follow the instructions of the staff and board the train when directed. Make sure to park your campervan in the designated area.

Travel through the Channel Tunnel: The journey through the Channel Tunnel takes approximately 35 minutes. During this time, you must remain in your campervan.

Disembark the train: Follow the instructions of the staff and disembark the train when directed. You will then exit the terminal and proceed to your destination in France.


It's important to note that your campervan must comply with the Eurotunnel's size and weight restrictions. The maximum height for campervans is 4.2m, and the maximum length is 18.75m. You will also need to ensure that your campervan is fitted with headlamp beam deflectors if you're driving in France.


By following these steps and complying with the Eurotunnel's regulations, you can use the Eurotunnel with your campervan and enjoy a convenient and efficient journey from the UK to France.


Fly-drive:

If you prefer to fly, you can book a fly-drive holiday that includes a rental campervan in France. Many major airports in the UK have flights to French cities such as Paris, Nice, and Lyon.


Some Final Tips:

Driving a campervan around France for the first time can be an exciting adventure, but it's important to take some precautions to ensure your safety and enjoyment. Here are some precautions to consider:

Familiarise yourself with the rules of the road: The rules of the road in France may differ from those in your home country. Make sure to familiarize yourself with French road rules, including speed limits, road signs, and regulations for driving a campervan.


Plan your route: Before setting out, plan your route in advance and use a GPS or navigation system to ensure that you stay on the right track. Avoid busy city centres during peak traffic hours, and stick to well-lit roads whenever possible.


Take your time: Driving a campervan in a new country can be stressful, so take your time and drive at a comfortable pace. Avoid rushing or making sudden turns, and be patient with other drivers on the road.


Be aware of your surroundings: Stay alert and aware of your surroundings at all times. Keep an eye out for other vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians, and be prepared to make sudden stops if necessary.


Park in designated areas: When parking your campervan, make sure to use designated parking areas and avoid parking on the side of the road or in unauthorized areas.


Keep your documents handy: Make sure to keep your driver's license, vehicle registration, and insurance documents handy at all times, in case you're stopped by the police.


Consider taking a driving course: If you're feeling unsure about driving a campervan in France, consider taking a driving course to help you feel more confident and prepared.


By following these precautions and taking your time, you can enjoy a safe and enjoyable experience driving your campervan around France.

In conclusion:

Van life in France can be an incredible experience, offering a sense of freedom and adventure that's hard to match. Whether you're driving your campervan through the French countryside or exploring the bustling streets of Paris, there's no shortage of sights and experiences to be had. However, it's important to take the necessary precautions to ensure your safety and enjoyment while on the road. By familiarizing yourself with French road rules, planning your route in advance, taking your time, and staying aware of your surroundings, you can make the most of your van life experience in France. So pack your bags, hit the road, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure! And remember, for more tips and information on van life, check out our other articles on this topic.

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