Category Archives: Driving in Europe

What you should know about speeding in France

New driving regulations in France can now impact upon British visitors as the previous waiving of offences by foreign drivers has been rethought. Previously it would be unheard of for a speeding GB car to be chased down for a speeding ticket (or any other traffic violation) once they have returned home but now that has all changed. New “Cross Border Enforcement” rules mean they will chase you for the offence.

With the holiday season approaching and many preparing for a break across the Channel, it’s time to familiarise yourself with what the new rules mean.

France is acting as it suffers disproportionately from driving offences committed by visitors.   Research has shown an average of close to 15% of offences across the EU are committed by people from abroad but in France it’s a massive 25% rising to almost 50% at peak holiday times. It’s not a surprise that given this high rate of offence that the French government has chosen to take action.

Anyone caught breaking speed limits will now face a fine and if the speed is excessive enough, prosecution. The fines are graded in relation to by how far the speed limit has been breached and it tops out at a wallet pounding £640, so is not to be taken lightly or dismissed as a token gesture.

It is worth noting that the highest concentration of traffic cameras in France is around the port of Calais, so British drivers will be particularly at risk of receiving an unwelcome charge in the post if they transgress the new regulations given the volume of travellers that head out that way.

It is natural after a long drive on the British side of the journey and a secondary stage via ferry or train to want to reach your destination and get on with your holiday quickly but it’s clearly wiser to accept the time it’s going to take. Look to be a responsible road user and treat the final leg as just something that needs to be done rather than a mad sprint so you can have a Kronenbourg or a glass of claret with your friends. That could end up being a pretty costly drink, not to mention the safety aspect, especially as many of us are beginning to tire towards the end of a journey.

As mentioned, whilst speeding is the main focus, all other usual traffic offences are covered too. So please, take it steady, put your mobile away, watch the lights and don’t save 2 minutes by nipping down a bus lane. The cost just isn’t worth it, nor is the potential endangerment to other road users or your own passengers.

Finally, always do your research when travelling abroad. France has several requirements that you need to be aware of and you should find out exactly what you need to carry with you and it’s sensible to arrange European Breakdown Cover for your own peace of mind and safety.

There’s no need to be anxious about driving in France, the roads are well maintained, excellently signposted and roadside facilities are numerous but do be wary of the new rules and respect them. Otherwise your trip may end up costing a good deal more than you bargained for.

MOTORBIKE RIDING TRIP TO SWITZERLAND

Europe has many attractive options for a motor biking tour and few are better or more popular than an alpine destination. Switzerland is stunning. It nestles amongst the famous peaks and ethereal lakes like a little diamond enticing you in to take a closer look at its shimmering riches.
There is the added bonus of having the option of biking down the eastern side of France or even the Moselle Valley with their many attractions. We won’t cover those here but they can easily be popped into your schedule as a hors d’oeuvre before the main feast.

Once in Switzerland the real fun begins. You’ll have a mass of winding mountainous roads to enjoy with their clean air and spectacular views to soak in. Switzerland has a myriad of pretty villages to stop at for a break, as well as some of the cleanest and most sophisticated cities in all of Europe.

Depending on the length of time you have at your disposal there is so much to see but do try and experience the lakes, mountains and villages at least while you’re there. The longer you have the more wide ranging this can be of course but do not miss out on the natural attractions.

On a practical level be aware that the Swiss Autobahns can be very busy, especially on approaches to the major cities, so make sure you allow for that if your route demands that you use them. Otherwise the mountain passes and more rural roads are excellent and usually well maintained. However do be cautious on the secondary roads, especially in the mountains as they can be a little more treacherous. Check your routes beforehand and seek local advice or have an online search if you are have any doubts.

Accommodation is not going to be cheap but it doesn’t have to be earth shattering either. Seek out guest houses and chalets rather than larger hotels if you are on a budget. Fuel is mercifully less of an issue and some of the cheapest in middle Europe. Switzerland is not cheap overall but that’s no reason to ignore all it has to offer.

On a practical note there are a few requirements that you need to be aware of when travelling to Switzerland.
Phone number for breakdown service: 140
Phone number for ambulance service: 144
Police emergency telephone number: 117
The alcohol limit is strictly adhered to and tests are common; 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood or 0.5 grams/litre or 0.05%.
Uphill traffic has right of way on narrower mountain roads and buses, police, ambulance and fire engines have right of way at all times.Switch off your engine on railway crossings and at traffic lights to comply with Swiss pollution regulations.

If using the Autobahn you will need a sticker, the Autobahn vignette that costs 40 Swiss Francs, even for only a short length of time. Attach the sticker to a non-removable part of your motorbike.Other than that you just need your usual common sense and adherence to speed limits and that should ensure you have no major issues and you can focus on enjoying the chocolate box scenery, the view over the lakes, the scent of the pine forests and most off all, those glorious mountains and hillside meadows.

MOTORBIKE RIDING TRIP TO FRANCE

Few countries offer better facilities for a motorbike trip than France. It has pretty much everything you could ask for, excellent roads, amazing scenery and a wide range of interesting places to visit.

With most people heading out via ferry to the north coast we’ll focus on the area stretching from eastern Brittany across to the Pas de Calais and a few hours to the south and then offer up some of the legal and emergency information.

On any trip the first thing you’ll want to consider is where you are going to go and where to stay. It’s a good idea to check that any Gite complexes or B&B’s you choose are motorbike friendly. If you do find somewhere that regularly caters to bikers then you will not only have somewhere safe to store your bike overnight but also some expert advice on routes and local places of interest too.

France’s great joy is the relatively uncluttered roads when compared to the UK. France has a similar population to the UK but twelve times the space so it’s an absolute dream for motorcyclists, unless for some reason you want to ride around Paris’s Peripherique all day.

For quick coverage of longer distances the peage autoroutes are perfect. They aren’t terribly expensive and places to stop off for refreshment are abundant. Payment can be made with cash or card. The real joy for riders lies in the D and N routes though. They fit in with the UK’s A and B roads and provide a tremendous arena for an exhilarating ride along with fabulous views and sights along the way. The run along the Normandy beaches is especially good. The history of the D-Day landings is still there to see and the roads are speedy and winding.

Places of note (running east to west) include Mont St Michel, Bayeaux, Arromanches, Honfleur, Amiens, Rouen, Deauville and Le Touquet. All have plenty to offer and although we don’t have time for details here a little research will give you an idea if it’s something that will appeal to you. A little further south and you have the Loire Valley and the Champagne region within your compass and both are beautiful spots with superb routes through them for you to savour. Not forgetting any of the local produce of course…..although perhaps wise not to combine it with riding.

There are some legal and general road usage factors to consider too. Riding a motorbike in France for the first time is fine but you will need to be super aware at junctions and crossroads of the different priorities so make sure you double check both sides and remain vigilant at all times. It’s all too easy to think you are back on the left hand side of the road so do remember that traffic will be coming from an unfamiliar direction.

On the legal side of things you will need the following requirements when riding in France:

• Carry a Hi-Viz vest*
• Four reflective stickers for your helmet
• Gloves must be worn while riding

You don’t have to wear the Hi Viz while riding but if you breakdown or are involved in an accident and are at the side of the road then you must put it on. And for all your legal requirements for motorcycling in France and more info on riding in Europe check out the Drive-France web site.

Emergency Services:

112 – European general emergency number
15 – Medical emergency/accidents/ambulance
17 – Police (auto-direct to the nearest station)
18 – Fire brigade

Like anything if you plan well, follow the basic guidelines, meet legal requirements and are prepared to savour the experience of France then there is every opportunity to have an amazing time. It’s all right there in front of you…and of course don’t forget your European Breakdown Cover

Driving in Wet Conditions

As a result of the recent heavy rainfall, wet driving conditions and flooding are something many parts of the country have had to contend with. As well as being severely damaging for the homeowners affected, flooding can also be dangerous to drivers causing all sorts of problems on the roads which can lead to unexpected breakdowns. Below is some advice for how to deal with driving in severely wet conditions:

Heavy Rainfall

In heavy rainfall it’s really important to remember to at least double your stopping distance as road surfaces will be slippy and always use your headlights if visibility is less than 100m as stated in the Highway Code.

If you do breakdown in heavy rain, refrain from opening the bonnet if it’s possible as a significant amount of water on the engine can be damaging. Wait for the experts from Breakdown Direct to arrive before attempting to solve the problem.

Standing Water/Flood Water

Never drive through fast moving flood water

It’s always the best option to avoid driving through standing water if possible. However, if you have to go through it, always take it very slowly, drive in a low gear and do not stop until you have got through the water completely. Driving fast can cause water to get into your engine and have costly consequences.

Looking out for gullies or dips in the road where flood water will be deeper is wise and easier to avoid if you know the area. If it’s possible to do so, stop and see how other cars navigate the water before progressing – even if just a small amount of water gets into the engine it can be damaging.

Once through the flood water, always dry out your brakes by testing them gently.

Aquaplaning

Avoid Aquaplaning – where the pressure from the water outweighs the pressure of the tyres on the road surface. Aquaplaning can cause a loss of control when steering, braking or accelerating so can be very dangerous as you can potentially completely lose control of your vehicle. To prevent it, check your tyre pressure regularly, ensure you have sufficient tread depth and go very slowly through standing water. If it does happen and you’re effectively surfing on top of the water, resist the urge to break.

It’s always best to be prepared for all eventualities, and with more heavy rain forecast for the beginning of the year, ensuring you have the best breakdown cover from Breakdown Direct is essential.

What To Do If You Break Down?

Breaking down, whether you’re on the motorway or on the street, can be dangerous, which is why it’s important to know what to do when it happens.

Before You Set Off

Make sure that you have breakdown cover. If you’re going abroad, make sure that your cover extends to the country you’re visiting. Have all the relevant information handy, such as the number for your provider and your policy certificate. Put the number in your phone.

Look after your car. The better maintained your car is, the better it will perform.

Have a reflective jacket and a waterproof in your car, and in the winter, have a rug and some emergency food in the car too.

If You Break Down

If you’re on the motorway and your vehicle develops a problem that you’re concerned about, then you should leave the motorway at the nearest available exit or stop at the nearest service area. If you can’t, then you should pull on to the hard shoulder, ideally next to an emergency telephone.

You shouldn’t use the hard shoulder for using the toilet, using a mobile phone or to check a route or a map.

Once on the Hard Shoulder

Try to leave your vehicle as far to the left as possible and leave by the left hand door. Leave your sidelights on.

The Highway Code recommends that you leave any animals in the vehicle, or if you are confident that you can keep the animal under control, on the verge. Children should be kept well away from the carriageway.

Head to the nearest emergency telephone, following the arrows on the posts. The telephone is free to use and connects directly to the Highways Agency or the Police. Give as much detail as you can, letting them know whether you’re vulnerable, such as disabled or travelling alone.

Call your breakdown cover provider after you’ve talked to the Highways Agency.

Return to your vehicle, away from the hard shoulder on the verge. If you feel vulnerable, then get back in your vehicle and lock all your doors. You should leave your vehicle when you’re happy that the danger has passed.

Don’t try to fix the problem yourself.

If you are disabled and unable to leave the vehicle, then stay in the vehicle, seatbelt on, with hazard warning lights on.

Returning to the Carriageway

Build up speed on the hard shoulder before rejoining the motorway.

On Other Roads

When you realise that you have a problem, find a safe place away from traffic to park your car. Use your red warning triangle to warn any oncoming traffic about your stationary car. Call for assistance and then sit in your car and wait, assuming that your car is safely parked.

Essential Items for a European Breakdown

Nobody wants their car to suffer a breakdown, least of all when travelling around Europe, but unfortunately these things sometimes happen. No matter how much you prepare an accident can occur at any time or an undetected fault cause problems and put a dent in your holiday plans.

European breakdown cover is vital to ensure your vehicle gets up and running as quickly and easily as possible. During the initial stages after breaking down there are a number of items which can make the process more comfortable.

Legal Requirements

Making all the necessary legal preparations will put you in a better position should a breakdown occur. Attaching headlamp beam adaptors and placing a GB sticker on the back are two legalities and there are many other items which will help in such a situation.

Reflective Gear

Reflective jackets or waistcoats are a legal requirement to be carried in vehicles in many European countries. Even in places where they are only recommended one is useful for safely accessing your boot on a busy road.

Reflective warning triangles are also a necessity in many nations and help warn other vehicles that your car has broken down. Breakdown Direct customers receive a 5% discount on reflective vests and other essentials at Drive-France.

First Aid Kit

Hopefully you’ll never have to open this but first aid kits are compulsory in Austria and Croatia, though one should be in your car all the time. It should be fully stocked with bandages, cleansing wipes, painkillers and much more to help deal with minor injuries.

Breathalyser

Breathalysers are now legally compulsory to have in your vehicle when driving in France. This can help protect you from any blame. Check the driving laws of each country you intend to drive through and stock up to stay safe.

Helpful Equipment

There are plenty of other items it’s useful to have on board in the event of a breakdown which aren’t legal necessities.

Warm Clothing

Depending on the time of year, weather and location when you breakdown it could get pretty chilly quickly, especially if your heater breaks. Have a spare blanket or two in your boot all the time and extra clothing, notably if you’re travelling through deserted areas and during cold periods.

Provisions

Having enough food and drink in your car is vital for long journeys, especially with young children in the back. Many breakdown response times can be quick but there still might be a wait before you get off the road and pass a shop. Even just a few packets of sweets can keep everyone going.

Entertainment

Books, travel games and more are essential for keeping children occupied during long road trips. They can prove a lifesaver if you breakdown as it helps keep them calm and their mind off what is going on, even if it’s just a short wait. All these items should make any unfortunate breakdown bearable.

Summer Drives: What the UK Can Offer You

Now we’re entering the summer months we get to enjoy warmer weather and sunshine. More to the point though, it’s the perfect time for going for a drive and enjoying the sights and sounds on offer on our shores. The UK has a wealth of great routes to take which are made all the better by the summer weather; particularly if you have a convertible. So to give you some ideas, here are a few of the best from the British Isles.

The North – The A59, North Yorkshire

The best section of this road takes you from the very west of North Yorkshire through to the city of York in the heart of the county. The already impressive North Yorkshire Moors are accentuated by blooming summer flowers and the mixture of winding country and Roman roads take you through some quaint towns and villages along the way. Harrogate and Knaresborough are well worth a visit.

The South – The A272, West Sussex

The A272 is another stunning summer drive in the country which crosses the beautiful South Downs National Park. There’s also a wealth of stops along the way including some quintessentially English towns like Petersfield and Midhurst. Both of which are home to lots of historical sites and welcoming local attractions.

The East – The B1153, Norfolk

A great option for car lovers, this road takes you through the Norfolk broads and passes the HQ of motoring company Lotus on the way. It’s the road itself which really makes this a top trip as it’s basically one long picturesque country view, complete with easy corners and straights. Be aware though that as a B road, you’re likely to encounter farm traffic.

The West – The Black Mountain Pass, Wales

This road is considered to be one of the best in Wales and as its name suggests it passes over the Black Mountain range of the Brecon Beacons. As you would expect there are some breath-taking views, particularly from the higher altitudes; the road’s peak point being 1,617 feet.

So providing your car is in full working order and you’re covered for any eventualities, all you need to do is choose a route and enjoy a drive in the beautiful English summertime.

Advice for Safe Driving on Country Roads

If you’re planning on making the most of the Great British countryside, you first face the task of driving to your chosen destination. Some of the most beautiful landscapes in the UK such as the Lake District and the Yorkshire Moors are also some of the most remote. This means that in order to reach them, you might need to tackle some tricky country roads.

To ensure you get to enjoy the idyllic outdoors, what follows is some useful advice specifically for driving on country roads and lanes.

Research the Roads

First of all, plan your route but do some research into what the roads are like on it. Remember that some of these can be very old and in some cases not as well-maintained as urban and city roads. Equally, on the most part they will be single lane and can feature very sharp bends and steep inclines that wind through the fields and hillsides. What’s more there may be potholes or loose sections of track which can damage your vehicle if you don’t drive over them appropriately.

Drive with more Caution

With the above then comes the recommendation that you simply drive with more caution. While the National Speed Limits will apply, this doesn’t mean you can do a flat 60mph. Slow down and give yourself more time to break to handle the bends, surfaces and hills. For added security you should also have breakdown cover in place, should you encounter any issues.

Be Careful of Wildlife

Another factor to consider is the wildlife that might find its way onto the roads. There will be road signs to indicate if there might be animals or livestock in the area, but there’s the risk smaller creatures may run out in front of you. Again, driving more cautiously helps but try your best not to swerve too drastically as this poses a danger to other cars.

Expect Slow Moving Vehicles

There can also be a number of slow moving vehicles on country roads. Farm traffic (tractors and combine harvesters) and caravans are common examples you might encounter. Whatever the situation though, be patient and don’t perform any dangerous overtaking manoeuvres.

Look at the Weather Forecast

This is something you should check before any car journey but the weather on higher country roadways in particular can be extreme. When you combine these conditions with the above factors, the sensible option is to travel when the weather is clear and dry.

So with all of this advice in mind, you can get ready to hit the roads and safely travel to your beautiful, scenic UK destination.

Tips for Cutting Costs on Your European Road Trip

Now we’re into the spring months, you might be looking ahead to your summer holiday plans and are considering a European road trip. Such holidays are a great idea if you’re looking to experience a variety of different sights and sounds. More to the point, it can be a much more affordable option when it comes to travel costs.

Instead of paying large amounts of money for flights you can simply travel from your home to your destination for a lot less. Better still, there are a few ways and means you can cut costs even more. Here’s a few to consider:

Avoid the Tolls

Many of the main roads on the European continent have toll sections on them, which despite their convenience can add up in terms of expense on those longer journeys. Plan your route in advance to avoid these toll sections and opt for the more scenic roads. The added benefit is you’re likely to see even more incredible views by traveling through the countryside.

Another easy alternative is to invest in a Satnav which you can program to avoid the toll roads.

Lighten the Load

It’s no secret that the heavier the load the less fuel efficient your car is. The simple solution is to be a little more conservative with your packing. Ask yourself whether or not you really need those extra t-shirts or shoes and only take what you will actually wear.

Check your Car

Giving your car a once over before you set off will not only make sure you and your passengers are safer but can improve your MPG. Check all of your fluid levels including oil, brake fluid and washer fluid and top these up if necessary. The condition of your tyres should be checked too; make sure they’re properly inflated to deal with your load and they’re in line with legal requirements.

Get Covered

Another tip is to make sure you’re properly covered should you breakdown abroad. If you don’t have the right policy in place you could face significant expenses in the recovery and repair of your vehicle. Furthermore, there’s the issue of having to tackle the language barrier when dealing with this in different nations.

So be sure to bear all of this in mind before setting off on your journey. You can save yourself even more money this way, which you can then put back into enjoying your holidays even more.

UK’s Best Road Trip Destinations

With summer approaching, many of us are already planning our holidays. However, if you are looking for something that is considerably cheaper than a two week holiday abroad, why not venture out of your comfort zone and take a road-trip around the UK? You will be surprised as to how many stunning landscapes you can discover whilst driving around the roads of our own fair countryside.

While it is good to explore the roads of our own land, being careful on the roads is also a vital aspect of careful planning for any road trip. Here are but a few of the best (and safest) road trip destinations in the UK:

The Lake District

Considered one of UK’s most idyllic destinations, The Lake District is situated in the North West of England. You will no doubt marvel at the stunning scenery such as Scafell Pike, which is the highest mountain in England. Plus, as the Lake District is a National Park, it contains clearly mapped out roads that are safe to travel on. So you can visit Ambleside, Keswick and Windermere safely.

Northern Ireland

The country roads of Northern Ireland are simply made for exploring due to their exquisite beauty. Northern Ireland is known for its road safety standards, and they ensure that all roads are as safe as they possibly can be, leaving you able to enjoy your journey without any hassle at all.

For example, if you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you can explore the Dark Hedges in Ballymoney, which represent the King’s Road in the television series. This avenue of beech trees was planted in the 18th century, and looks magnificent today. If Game of Thrones isn’t your thing, then Ballymoney isn’t your only option, and the drive between Newtonabbey and Cushendall provides great views of the sea.

 

Cumbria

The A686 between Penrith and Haydon Bridge is widely regarded as being among Britain’s best driving roads – and for good reason. It is known to be especially scenic during the summer months and is situated close to Northumberland’s National Park, offering those who are lucky enough to be travelling along it a spectacular backdrop and plenty of opportunity to break from their journey and take in the truly inspiring views.

These aren’t the only available UK road trips, but hopefully they will whet your appetite. This type of miniature holiday is perfect for those who like their trips to be cost-effective. With the sun shining as you’re gazing out of the window whilst driving along winding roads, this is sure to be a holiday of not only self-discovery, but also one of great enjoyment.