First time touring in France

Nov 26, 2023
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Hi All,

I have tried to do some searching and found some threads but I wanted to just ask on a new thread.

So we are off to France for the first time with the caravan in August, we have a morning crossing from Portsmouth to Cean. Have 1 night 40mins outside of Cean and then a week in Baden. I have driven in Europe multiple times but this is the first time towing and just wanted to check if there is anything I have missed.

Insurance - will be looking at Redpennant
Documents - V5, MOT - do I need anything for the van?
Toll roads - will be using them is it just as easy to pay at the toll?
I have got a French electric hook up adaptor, think the sites are the standard 3 pin but wanted to be covered.
How often do customs stop caravans, not that we plan to have meats and diary just more of wondering. If you have what do they do, just look through the van?
Any other tips or advice you would give?

Plan to drive to Portsmouth the Friday night and stay in the lanes over night to get a few hours sleep. The wife doesnt do well on ferries at night so opted for this option.

Thanks
 
Nov 11, 2009
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Buy the Caravan and MH Club touring guide it gives so much useful info wrt touring in France even if you don’t need the details on sites.
If you have an Alko spare wheel carrier remove wheel and carry in van. It’s safer given you will be driving on the other side of the road.
Red Pennat is excellent coverage. Good choice.
Autiroute tags good if you plan regular visits. Otherwise we never had problems paying by cash or card at tolls. Assuming the navigator is awake as you get to the booth.
 
Nov 26, 2023
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Perfect, ill take a look for the touring guide. The wheel is under the bed already but thats a good point for others that have it under the van.
Ill be making sure the navigator is awake and ready to work lol
 
Nov 16, 2015
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We used Saneff Tolling, for the roll roads, no hassle, you get charged in the UK the following month, more useful for central and right-hand side of France. The West doesn't have so many Paeges.
Municiple sites sometimes just have French two pin plugs and 6 amps / 10 amps. Converters are handy as are phase changers. French electrics are not the best.
It might be worth getting the clean air certificate for your car , less than €10 life time of car. Only needed if you are going into city's.
Other standard things, fluorescent jackets for all passengers, available in the car, not the boot. Warning triangles. Spare bulbs for car and caravan. I suppose LED lights don't need them. I had speed limit stickers but many never bothered.
We were always checked for " extra passengers" on the way home.
Enjoy.
 
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JRT

May 5, 2024
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Last time our caravan was checked inside was the very first time we went back in 1984. Was checked by French customs on the way to Calais, and we were again checked on the UK side in Dover. We must have looked a bit dodgy.

We regularly took the 'van to France but haven't since the year before before the Pandemic (preferring gites) so things may be tighter now.

You didn't mention your car insurance doc., a copy of which you should bring.

I would opt. to use a toll tag but get one from ATMB. Google will help with any email and web site translation . It is cheaper from them.


The french Autoroutes are a bit of a revelation compared to the the set up that we laughingly call a 'motorway system' in the UK but that said they are not cheap to use, but worth every penny IMHO.

(I find towing in France a more enjoyable experience than here).

Be aware if you breakdown on an Autoroute they will arrange for your removal at a cost. I believe Red Pennant will cover this.

Most of all just enjoy, as this is your first time I can virtually guarantee it won't be your last.

(If you haven't already guessed we love the place)... :D :D
 
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JRT

May 5, 2024
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An after thought, speed camera warning devices, are not allowed, either disable on sat Nav, or do not use, if a stand alone.

I've noticed for the last couple of years that Google maps no longer show them in Android Auto in France, disabling them automatically it seems.
 
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Nov 26, 2023
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We used Saneff Tolling, for the roll roads, no hassle, you get charged in the UK the following month, more useful for central and right-hand side of France. The West doesn't have so many Paeges.
Municiple sites sometimes just have French two pin plugs and 6 amps / 10 amps. Converters are handy as are phase changers. French electrics are not the best.
It might be worth getting the clean air certificate for your car , less than €10 life time of car. Only needed if you are going into city's.
Other standard things, fluorescent jackets for all passengers, available in the car, not the boot. Warning triangles. Spare bulbs for car and caravan. I suppose LED lights don't need them. I had speed limit stickers but many never bothered.
We were always checked for " extra passengers" on the way home.
Enjoy.
Extra passengers. thats a good point lol.

Yes, got a couple of the European driving sets with enough high viz's for all passengers. I was thinking about the electric so I will see how it is. One site stated 16amp and the main was 10.
 
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Jul 18, 2017
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Hi All,

I have tried to do some searching and found some threads but I wanted to just ask on a new thread.

So we are off to France for the first time with the caravan in August, we have a morning crossing from Portsmouth to Cean. Have 1 night 40mins outside of Cean and then a week in Baden. I have driven in Europe multiple times but this is the first time towing and just wanted to check if there is anything I have missed.

Insurance - will be looking at Redpennant
Documents - V5, MOT - do I need anything for the van?
Toll roads - will be using them is it just as easy to pay at the toll?
I have got a French electric hook up adaptor, think the sites are the standard 3 pin but wanted to be covered.
How often do customs stop caravans, not that we plan to have meats and diary just more of wondering. If you have what do they do, just look through the van?
Any other tips or advice you would give?

Plan to drive to Portsmouth the Friday night and stay in the lanes over night to get a few hours sleep. The wife doesnt do well on ferries at night so opted for this option.

Thanks
Red Pennant is good and saved our bacon. Only documents we carried were copies of V5 and insurance. The latter is email to us anyway so on our phones. Always used toll roads as we had the scanner thing fitted on front windscreen so you do not need to stop. Never had an issue connecting up, but carried a two prong adapter anyway. Reverse polarity never bothered us.

I am told that customs do sometimes check, but have no interest in food or drink in the caravan. Returning that will go inside the caravan to check.

Why not stay over at the CAMC site enar Portsmouth and get a decent night's sleep instead of being woken up at all hours? You can then freshen up before catching the ferry. We would never consider stopping in the lanes overnight.

We always book a cabin so no need to rush when leaving the caravan site at Portsmouth and you can then freshen up and shower on board plus have a lie down.
 
Oct 8, 2006
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Many notes:
Caen (spelling)
Municipal sites actually have three pin Schuko sockets - that is a two-pin plug on your cable and fixed earth pin on the supplying socket. Good idea to get a 90deg type (try Towsure) as the in-line type may stop the box cover closing - not a good idea in the rain! Best idea is to take your UK orange cable with blue CEE17 connectors with you and make two short cables up: one should have standard blue connectors but ONE END ONLY should have the brown and blue reversed so that you can achieve full protection; the other cable should have a blue socket on one end and a Schuko plug on the other as described above. Make the reverser cable long enough that you can fit it at the van end and push the in-line connection under the van out of the rain. The CEE17 to Schuko cable can be shorter but bear in mind there may be insufficient room to get it inside the connection box. Note also that blue connectors are only IP44 splashproof, so if your cable is exposed in bad weather its a good idea to wrap it in clingfilm.
The idea of a plug tester (use in the caravan) and a power reverser plug/cable is (a) because there is no such thing as 'polarity' in the Schuko system - all supplies have both live and neutral switched/fuses. However some UK caravans have single pole switches on the sockets which could leave something live when it should be off. And (b) the tester will also show if your connection has an earth or not.
I always carry a second cable with me - 1.5mm blue arctic is the best - about 15m long. Supply connections are sometimes in excess of 25m distant. DO NOT do it French style and lay it across a (grass) driveway (as the French and other EU do) as CEE17 connectors are not designed to be run over!
You need to check your headlights. You need to make sure that they don't dazzle oncoming traffic either with stick-ons, or by dipping your headlights fully, or if your vehicle as the facility changing them from right dip to left dip. If your headlights don't have the sign illumination 'pip' (i.e. the pattern when shone on your garage doors is flat topped right across) then dipping the lights will be enough.
Finally, if you don't have such go to Screwfix and buy item 95426 which comprises the plug-in tester described above, a small digital multimeter, and a contactless mains tester. Would never be without mine!
 
Jul 18, 2017
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The first time we went to France we fitted the headlight thingys, but after that never bother with them and none of our cars had facility for changing from left to right. Your choice.
 

JRT

May 5, 2024
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The first time we went to France we fitted the headlight thingys, but after that never bother with them and none of our cars had facility for changing from left to right. Your choice.

We fit them every time we drive on the continent. They cost coppers and are easy to fit. It seems discourteous not to fit them and avoids the potential to cause an accident if you dazzle someone, especially if driving in the rain when the potential to dazzle is much greater.

We usually fit them whilst queuing for the shuttle or the ferry.
 
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Jul 18, 2017
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We fit them every time we drive on the continent. They cost coppers and are easy to fit. It seems discourteous not to fit them and avoids the potential to cause an accident if you dazzle someone, especially if driving in the rain when the potential to dazzle is much greater.
We don't drive at night so no issue there plus the car has self levelling.
 

JRT

May 5, 2024
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We don't drive at night so no issue there plus the car has self levelling.

I've heard that cited many times as a reason not to fit them :rolleyes:

However it doesn't just rain at night.

It's also an offence to dazzle other users.

I'm also not sure how self levelling suspension alters the headlight beam pattern, which is the issue that causes dazzling to other drivers.
 
Jul 18, 2017
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I've heard that cited many times as a reason not to fit them :rolleyes:

However it doesn't just rain at night.

It's also an offence to dazzle other users.

I'm also not sure how self levelling suspension alters the headlight beam pattern, which is the issue that causes dazzling to other drivers.
Either way it is not a legal requirement to fit them, but same as in the UK it is an offence to dazzle other drivers.
 

JRT

May 5, 2024
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Either way it is not a legal requirement to fit them, but same as in the UK it is an offence to dazzle other drivers.

So if you are involved in an accident which you caused by dazzling somebody your defence will be....

'they weren't a legal requirement......':ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO:

Surely spending a fiver and ten minutes fitting them avoids all that potential hassle and is worth it?
 
Nov 6, 2005
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I've heard that cited many times as a reason not to fit them :rolleyes:

However it doesn't just rain at night.

It's also an offence to dazzle other users.

I'm also not sure how self levelling suspension alters the headlight beam pattern, which is the issue that causes dazzling to other drivers.
Cars visiting mainland Europe from the UK are usually heavily loaded - without self-levelling suspension this can make the dazzling of oncoming drivers worse.

Older cars had a headlight pattern which sloped up above the horizontal to the nearside (left on RHD cars) but most modern cars have a Z-beam where no part of the beam is above the horizontal - some cars with the latter don't need any adjustment for continental use, nor indeed do the equivalent cars used by foreign tourists need adjustment in the UK.
 
Mar 14, 2005
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Headlight deflectors are known to actually cause dazzle rather than prevent it because they can reflect light back into the headlamp unit. If no other means are provided, you are better off simply adjusting the beam to the lowest possible position. As RogerL says, many modern cars dip vertically down anyway rather than slightly to the left. In that case dazzle shouldn't be an issue.
 
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JRT

May 5, 2024
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Headlight deflectors are known to actually cause dazzle rather than prevent it because they can reflect light back into the headlamp unit. If no other means are provided, you are better off simply adjusting the beam to the lowest possible position.

Interesting.

Do you have a link with evidence to support?

I've never previously heard of this.
 
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JRT

May 5, 2024
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Cars visiting mainland Europe from the UK are usually heavily loaded - without self-levelling suspension this can make the dazzling of oncoming drivers worse.

Older cars had a headlight pattern which sloped up above the horizontal to the nearside (left on RHD cars) but most modern cars have a Z-beam where no part of the beam is above the horizontal - some cars with the latter don't need any adjustment for continental use, nor indeed do the equivalent cars used by foreign tourists need adjustment in the UK.

Indeed, some cars.
 
Jul 18, 2017
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So if you are involved in an accident which you caused by dazzling somebody your defence will be....

'they weren't a legal requirement......':ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO:

Surely spending a fiver and ten minutes fitting them avoids all that potential hassle and is worth it?
Still not bothered, but as I said in my post it is the choice of the individual.

Headlight deflectors are known to actually cause dazzle rather than prevent it because they can reflect light back into the headlamp unit. If no other means are provided, you are better off simply adjusting the beam to the lowest possible position. As RogerL says, many modern cars dip vertically down anyway rather than slightly to the left. In that case dazzle shouldn't be an issue.
Thanks for clarifying it as I suspected as much. (y) :D
 

JRT

May 5, 2024
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I can’t remember where I read it, but the reason given seems plausible to me, too.

Well I googled it and the only reference I could find was someone with the same user name as you saying the same thing on the caravan club forum in 2016.....
 
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