Photo's Of French Road Signs And Their Meanings
Bonjour! or is it Bonsoir! (from one o'clock onwards). The first time i ventured out onto the french roads i noticed how their road signs were very similar to our own road signs here in England, but with slight differences (they're more stylish). So i thought i would put together a collection of some of the more typical french road signs you are likely to see, and cover some of the driving equipment you must have with you, by french law, on your drive through France.
J'adore France, i have visited France by car quite a bit over the last few years. Its a beautiful place. Although I have heard stories from people about how awful the french are, as yet i have never had a problem. They're always polite and helpful. Even when its been so painfully obvious that my french vocabulary is pretty much non existent, i found that a simple pardon or excusez moi (sorry or excuse me) and merci or merci beaucoup (thank you and thank you very much) goes along way.
But what i love the most about France is this.......
long straight picturesque roads with very few cars, traffic lights, speed traps, road bumps or police on them. Parfait (perfect) if you like to drive.
Drive On The Right
The first thing to remember when you debark onto the roads of France or anywhere in Europe, is that they drive on the right. You can get some handy windscreen stickers which will remind you of this, but you're probably not going to bother with those, so think of it like this, the middle of the road should always be on your left, and the pavement/side of the road should always be on your immediate right. At roundabouts remember to exit round to the right. I just remind myself to drive on the wrong side of the road which works for me. Watch out though as its quite easy to forget, particularly at service stations and when pulling out of small country roads.
One maneuver i don't like making when driving on the right is turning left. It feels very unnatural, as you have to pull over to the left of the road and then enter the road opposite on the right. Even when written this feels wrong but in Europe its what you do.
They have some quirky road markings too, at some junctions they have stop lines in the middle road on some of the left and right turns which you're supposed to stop at, do so, but if you see its all clear, go for it before its too late (just be cautious) or you might find yourself sat in the middle of the road with traffic coming at you from all directions, and some angry French driver shaking his baguette at you out of the window of his car (ok its an exaggeration, but you never know!).
French traffic lights, i'll have some. The lights are just regular traffic lights except the french, for the drivers convenience (i think), put some little lights halfway down the post below the larger lights, so if you can't see the ones above you can see the ones below. Brilliant! No more crooked neck when sat at traffic lights.
The Equipment And Documemts You Need For Driving In France
So now i've had a moan about left turns and a rave over french traffic lights, here are some of the bits and bobs you will need for your road trip through France.
The documents your are required by french law to have with you when driving:
- driving license paper counterpart
- v5 vehicle registration document
- insurance document
These documents must be the originals not copies. Always make sure you know at all times where these documents are and keep them safe.
If you don't have EU UK plates, then to comply with international law you must display a GB sticker on the rear of your car.
Headlight beam adaptors are also a must as you don't want to be dazzling french drivers late at night, and if you get stopped and they are not in place then you could receive an on the spot fine.
You can also get an on the spot fine for non working lights on your car, hence take a spare bulb kit with you. You can pick these up from Halfords or get them from eBay.
Get yourself a warning triangle as this and a high visibility vest are required to be carried by every vehicle in France in case of breakdown. I haven't broken down in France yet, but Steve Roots on his blog gives an amusing account of what to expect if you do.
You are also required by French Law to carry 2 NF (Norme française - French Standard) approved breathalysers. So there is no excuse! French alcohol limits for driving are 0.5mg per litre of blood which would be the equivalent of 1 small glass of beer. Best not drink and drive at all!
You will also need to have in the car at all times a first aid kit, and a fire extinguisher as you are required by law to stop any fire from escalating (presumably thats a car fire and not some full on bush fire you might, hopefully not, come across).
Quite a list!
Speed Cameras In France And The Sat Nav Law
When i am in France i always set my Sat Nav to avoid motorways and toll roads, and off i go. It really is the best way to discover France. By traveling the N and D routes which are the same as our A and B routes you get to see the real France. Much of which is pretty rural, and allows you to stop off in the little french villages and have a bite to eat or a coffee and practice some of your french. Thanks Sat Nav!
There is however a new French law which bans the use of Sat Navs which can detect speed cameras. Not good, as most UK Sat Navs do, and in france you can get a fine of €1500 for having this feature. However the Police have to suspect that your device has a speed camera detection system in place to be able to inspect it. So just stick to the speed limits and the old sat nav will be ok. The alternative is, if possible switch the feature off or check if there is a firmware update to disable the feature, or buy a new Sat Nav (not likely, my old Sat Nav does a great job). Personally, the french police seem alright. Im fairly sure that as long as you're not being an ass hole then they would probably just let it go. He'd have to be mean monsieur to prey on a family of campers enjoying their holiday and abiding by the law, just to pull them over and insist on checking their sat nav!
French speed cameras are not as easy to spot as they are here in the UK, they are not very visible, although they do have a warning stripe around the edges of the camera. They have fixed cameras like in the UK, but typically of the French they get creative with the way they are placed on the road. They have forward facing cameras as well as rear facing cameras.
Once i was on a stretch of road that had both, one after the other, which caught me out, as i went through them "whoof" the flashes went off lighting me up from the front and rear, for a minute i thought i'd been transported through time (just kidding), but beware the camera positioning was true.
I have also come round a bend on a dual carriageway to find one pointing at me from the front (tricky). Most of the cameras are like the ones in the photos, but there is a new kid on the block which i couldn't get a photo of. Its a fixed rear facing camera that looks like a post about 5 feet tall and dark grey. The french also have mobile speed traps, and use the speed gun. Still, as mentioned earlier, there is not many of them. France has a few thousand speed cameras whereas the UK which is 1/5 of its size has over 6000 speed cameras. But then who wants to speed anyway, you would miss all the beautiful scenery, like the endless fields of corn and wheat, that on a warm evening is just dreamy (unless you suffer from hay fever that is).
French Speed Limits, Urban, Dual Carriageways And Autoroute
Speed limits! After the above, i think you should pay attention! Speed limits are clearly marked on the roads in France with GREAT BIG EASY TO SEE signs. If you're traveling the N and D routes you will soon become accustomed to the 90km an hour speed limit on two way roads which is reduce to 50km an hour as you travel through the villages and urban areas (unless otherwise stated). The dual carriageways have a speed limit of between 90 and 110km an hour and motorways may vary between 110 and 130km an hour depending on the weather.
What did catch my attention when i first started driving in France was (as in the photo above), at the turn offs from the dual carriageways and motorways you will see a speed limit usually around 70km an hour. This speed limit refers to those taking the exit. Silly really, but for a minute i was not sure who it was meant for. You just carry on at 130 km an hour!
- 130 kmph / 80mph
- 110 kmph / 68mph
- 90 kmph / 55mph
- 70 kmph / 43mph
- 50 kmph / 31mph
Personally i change the sat nav speed to kmph from mph, as i find it easier to follow.
Common French Road Signs
Undoubtedly though at some point on your journey you will travel on the motorways and dual carriageways, so here are some of the most common french road signs you will see, and what they mean.
This first sign reminds you (rappel - remember) which speed you should be traveling at, and the diamond shaped yellow sign means that you have priority over traffic joining the road. If the Yellow diamond shaped sign has a black line through it, then it means this priority has come to an end.
Pour votre sécurité contrôles automatiques (which means - for your safety automatic controls ie speed cameras) although the french are removing these signs gradually and just because you don't see one doesn't mean there isn't a camera there!
These no immediate right or left turn signs (image below), I noticed were used near entrances onto the dual carriageways where there was a short slip road.
Véhicules lents, mean slow moving vehicles and is an indication for any slow vehicles to keep right.
Autres-dangers (other dangers) self explanatory warning sign beware of hazards. This one has flashing lights on (i'm such a Ralph).
You see plenty of these on the dual carriageways and motorways Aire du / de followed by a name (location). These are rest stops usually with a picnic area and toilets.
These signs depict an area of interest, beauty or landmark. As in the example below, which informs us that there is a big frog waiting in the reeds to jump out and eat a man in a boat. If you stop here be wary the frog doesn't eat you first!
Some other hazards on the roads you might want to watch out for in France are tractors, Peugeot Vogue's and worst of all, old people out for a drive in their 2cv Citroen's.
There are tons of road signs and i couldn't possibly go through them all, but they are very similar in look and meaning as here in England, so you will be just fine.
I have put together some useful websites below which have even more road signs and their explanations. www.code-route.org is brilliant just run it through Google translate.
Of Course there is one road sign of such great importance for us english, but sadly it is one that the french often try to hide away in the long grass and bushes along the side of the road. So if you can't speak much french, have trouble reading french menus, no worries a McDonalds is a McDonalds wherever you are.
Au revoir et Bon voyage!