France is often the gateway to Europe for anyone in the UK with a Motorhome. All too often we rush past as quickly as possible, keen to get to other locations. But motorhome touring in France is AWESOME! Seriously, there are so many incredible places to see and enjoy on a French road trip, not to mention the wine, cheese, bread and croissants!! Is there anything nicer than freshly baked bread in the morning? I think not. (Unless you're gluten intolerant. Sorry for your loss. )
France is full of beautiful locations, incredible history and they LOVE motorhoming. Which means they provide excellent facilities for motorhomers- like French Aires– and make them easy to find!
If you're contemplating taking a motorhome to France, this post will help you plan your trip- and tell you what you need to bring. If you'd like some help, here's how we plan a European motorhome trip.
Taking a Motorhome to France- video
In the video, we share our experiences with French tolls, campsites and the Gilet Jaune! We also show you around the Menton Lemon Festival and we cross the Millau Viaduct- the tallest bridge in the world!!
Motorhome touring in France- legal requirements
Here's a list of all the paperwork and things you need to carry in your motorhome before you leave for France:
Paperwork to carry
- Driving Licence (card part only)
- International Driver Permit if required
- Green card for the vehicle (if required)
- Insurance for vehicle (ORIGINAL document- not a photocopy)
- V5C logbook (or paperwork confirming you are allowed to take the vehicle to France- original document)
- Pet paperwork
- Travel Insurance/ Health Insurance
Kit needed in Motorhome for France:
- GB sticker
- Warning triangle
- High vis vest- don’t put these on dashboard, (that’s a sign of the Gilet Jaune) but keep easily accessible without leaving the vehicle.
- Headlight converters
- Snowchains (if you’re going into mountains within certain months- full details can be found here)
- First aid kit
- NOTE- breathalysers are NO longer mandatory.
We also carry:
- Toll Pass (EMovis) This thing is brilliant and saves us so much time at the toll booths, especially in the summer when the queues are long. It bills our card directly and sends us a monthly statement- much easier than trying to find change.
- Want to know what else we carry in our Motorhome? Here's our packing list
Motorhome Touring in France- Tolls
Whilst we're on the subject of tolls, they are all along the major motorways in France. Depending on your route and size (height!) of your motorhome, a trip from Northern France to Italy will cost around 70€. If your motorhome is over 3m, you will be charged as a Class 4 vehicle, not class 2, so it could be as much as 100€
Taking a Motorhome to France- Things to Know
France is one hour ahead of the UK, no matter what. Their clocks go forward and back whenever ours does, so they always stay one hour ahead.
France uses Euros. Everywhere. No other currency is accepted.
If you decide to treat yourself to a meal out, most restaurants will include a tip in the bill. Otherwise, 10-15% is standard. Coffee shops and lunchtime eateries often don't include a tip, so check your bill before paying.
France in a campervan routes
There are two routes you can get to France in a campervan or motorhome from the UK- ferry or tunnel. There are pros and cons for both:
Getting to France by Ferry
Ferry routes go from all along the south coast and occasionally up the East Coast too. The two main providers are Brittany Ferries and DFDS Seaways.
We enjoy taking the ferry because it cuts down on driving time- we're travelling whilst we're sleeping. Also, we're often driving from South-West England to west coast of France- so ferry cuts off a lot of that journey. We were reluctant to take the ferry with our puppy, as we didn't want to leave him in the vehicle, but there are now pet-friendly cabins available with Brittany Ferries.
On the cons side, it's MUCH more expensive and the times are less frequent than the tunnel. Also, in bad weather, it can be miserable.
Taking a Motorhome on the Channel Tunnel
The Chunnel is fast, effective and cheap. There are very few downsides, but the biggest is the delays in summer. Sometimes the queues can be HOURS long- and that was before the BREXIT chaos started happening. For that reason, we have chosen to avoid the tunnel at all costs this year- but that's our personal preference and suits our circumstances. In the future, we will most definitely be using the tunnel again- as soon as all the drama calms down!
Motorhome route planner France
France is amazing as a destination in its own right, but many of us sweep through it as quick as possible to get to countries on the other side. If you are planning to explore France, here are some of our favourite places:
- Bordeaux and the Dune de Pilat- make sure you allow time to visit some of the incredible vineyards in the area!
- Mont Blanc– there's an incredible aire right at the foot of Mont Blanc- next to the cable car so you can go up the mountain!
- To be fair, anywhere in the French Alps is magical. We love motorhoming around that area
- Lake Annecy – do NOT make the mistakes we made!!
- We love the Chateaux in the Loire Valley, and also the aires and small villages in the centre of France. We love the laid-back lifestyle and walking to the shop for our morning baguette.
- Prefer city life? Here are 10 of the top cities in France (besides Paris!)
- Want to see places like Mont St Michel or the Somme? Here are 7 of the most historical places in France.
In our opinion, keep your motorhome well away from Paris- traffic and parking are tough! There are plenty of incredible places to see around the Paris area without going into the city itself and we would always suggest getting the train in, instead of driving!
Wild camping in France for Motorhomes
We love wild camping in a motorhome– and there are some INCREDIBLE places in France to stop for a night. Our wild camping in France post details some of our favourite places to stay overnight.
Wild camping spots offer a lot of freedom- you can turn up and leave as you like, although we only ever advise using a wild camping spot for a night; otherwise, the locals might think you're moving in!
You need to be very respectful when wild camping- it's not a right, it's a privilege so take away all waste, don't play loud music and don't park too close to someone's house. If a sign says it's private, either ask the owner for permission or move on. Don't forget many farmers and landowners carry guns in France- you don't want to get on the wrong side of that!
Motorhome stopovers in France – Aires
After wild camping, French Aires are our favourite way to enjoy motorhome touring in France. They are designed for motorhomes and campervans (not caravans sadly). You find them on a map (for free using this link) or you can get a book before you go (see below). You can't book an aire in advance, and they all have different services available. Some have electric hookup and waste disposal, others are literally an approved motorhome parking place for the evening. You can often stay in an aire for 2 or 3 days. Some are paid and will have a sign somewhere telling you what to do to pay; some are free.
To use an aire, you turn up and see if there's a free space! It's that simple. Most aires cater up to about 8m. We're longer than that with our trailer, so we have to be very careful which ones we choose! There are no arrival or departure times, so there's a lot more freedom. Bear in mind that there is often no security at these places, so like wild camping I wouldn't leave the motorhome unattended for long periods.
Best Motorhome campsites in France
We do occasionally use campsites in France. This is normally when we want to ride our motorbikes for the day and don't want to leave the van unattended all day. Campsite prices vary from around 20€/ night to over 50€! There are some gorgeous campsites, right by beaches and lakes, with swimming pools, evening entertainment and kids clubs. If you want a relaxing holiday for a week whilst staying in your own motorhome and enjoying the sunshine, this might be a great option for you!
Because we never really plan a route through France, and therefore we never know where we're going to be when, we book campsites at the last minute. This isn't always easy (especially in August or between October-March when many campsites shut) but there always seems to be something around which works for us. If you're more organised, you can find some of the best motorhome campsites in France here.
Expect campsites to ask for your passport and often they will keep it for the duration of your stay with them. This is often at the places where you haven't paid in advance- I always try to pay in advance and keep my passport where I know it's safe!
Also, the facilities at cheaper campsites might not be what you are used to in the UK, especially the toilets.
Taking a Motorhome to France- books to help plan your road trip
We don't use books to find campsites or aires, but I know many people prefer it. Here are some excellent ones which will help you plan your travels. They also make excellent gifts!
So, are you feeling inspired? Ready to take your motorhome to France? Will you explore Normandy and the history there, or venture further south, to the Dordogne, Cirque de Gavarnie in the Pyrenees or Lake Annecy in the Alps.
Choosing where to go might be the hardest decision of the lot!
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