9 Things You Need to Know About Catching the Ferry and Camping in France
So you want to go camping in France, that is great. There are several are a few additional things you need to consider.
The easiest way of getting to France is via the Ferry, the alternative is the channel tunnel, but that kind of restricts you on where to camp unless you want a really long drive when you get off the train.
Finding your campsite
The first thing you need to do is also the easiest is to find a decent campsite, there is two option – search the web to find your ideal campsite which meets all your requirements or look at the best campsites to visit in France.
Booking the Ferry
Once you have found your campsite, then you need to book the ferry. The reason I suggest finding your campsite first is simple – while Dover to Calais might be the shortest and quickest route to France, it could be quite some distance from your campsite. Once you have found where you are going to be camping, try finding the nearest Ferry terminal to your campsite and see which is the best route for you. I personally like to use Direct Ferries for this. Sometimes it can suggest a ferry port you wouldn’t normally think of which means a lot less driving for you and more time having fun.
Now you have booked the ferry and the campsite all you need to do is pack the car like a camping trip in the UK and go, right?
Wrong – there is quite a bit more to take into account when going camping in France.
Most people these days rely upon sat nav’s to get them from A to B, actually, I rely upon Google maps on my phone, my sat nav died a few years ago and my iPhone does just a good job if not better, so I never replaced it. However, for driving to France, I did invest in a new sat nav. Most UK sat nav’s don’t cover European roads so you may need to buy a new sat nav, check yours out, they aren’t that expensive to purchase.
The reason I purchased a sat nav instead of using my phone abroad, data costs, Google maps does use some data and I didn’t want to come back off holiday to a huge phone bill, yes I know you can download the local google maps to your phone before you travel to get around this, but then you don’t get traffic updates.
Don’t just expect to wake up on the morning of your trip, type in the postcode and off you go. Do some research first, know roughly which way you are heading, what large cities you will pass (is good to know in case your sat nav breaks), are you going to be driving on any toll roads etc.
Most people will get their holiday money before they go, which is great – but have you noticed they always give you large notes and even if you ask for some smaller ones you never get coins, which could be a problem if the road you are driving is a Toll road and requires coins.
Two simple ways of getting hold of some coins – purchase something on the ferry with euro’s and make sure you get your change in Euro’s. However we both know that Ferry shops aren’t always the cheapest, the other way and what I tend to do is wait till you get into France, but the first store/supermarket you come across, pop in and purchase some much-needed supplies and get the change this way. Either way, if you know your trip takes you along toll road be prepared.
As well as making sure your car insurance and breakdown cover you for a little trip to Europe (most policies do, but worth checking, might be a small additional add-on you may need to pay) but its quite simple. Best advice is to phone your insurance company up.
Its health insurance most people forget about, they think about their cars but not about themselves or it could be we are used to the NHS in the UK and don’t need to really think about health insurance. You can get yourself an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) by completing to this simple application form.
I would however also recommend you read this NHS article about what to do in an emergency, if you call out an Ambulance in France and its not needed, you foot the bill – take 5 minutes of our your day and read it.
If you are unsure of what insurance you need, read this useful article on camping and caravan insurance.
Right items in your car
Do you know its against the law to drive in France without certain items in your car? If you are pulled over by the police you can expect to get anything from points on your licence all way up to your car being towed away.
The essential items you need:
- Reflective jackets (one for each occupant, these must be kept inside the vehicle within easy reach)
- Warning triangle (compulsory in every vehicle with 4 wheels or more)
- Headlamp beam deflectors (depending on your car, you will either need deflector stickers or have to adjust the beam manually)
- A GB sticker (or euro plates featuring the GB initials)
- First Aid Kit
You can buy the full set from Amazon for less than £20, well worth the investment. It only comes with one high vis jacket so all you need to do is buy enough so everyone in the car has one. The breathalyser isn’t included in the kit from Amazon so will need to be ordered separately.
You will need to have with you the following items of paperwork to take your car into France:
- Full and valid driving licence
- Proof of insurance
- Proof of Ownership (V5C certificate)
If you are heading to Paris from 31st March 2017 then you need to have a emissions sticker. These are relatively cheap to purchase, however, the fine for not having one is a fine up to €135. for more information and to buy a sticker visit here.
The RAC has a great article on what paperwork you need when driving to France.
Yes seems obvious you are going outside of the UK and need your passport. It’s so easy to forget especially when you’re just jumping in the car to go on holiday, but you will need this to board the ferry so please don’t forget it.
And that’s about it, obviously, you need all the camping gear you would normally take but if you have all the above, there is no reason why using the ferry to go camping in France shouldn’t be an enjoyable family holiday.
France has a lot to offer, from the history and remembrance in Normandy to Paris with the romance and Disneyland, to warm south coast and the Alps in the Southeast of the country you have a lot to chose from. This year we are trying something a little different and it’s probably not something I would recommend for your first trip, but definitely something to consider for the future.
So we are heading down Dover and across to Calais and driving down to Disneyland for a few days and letting the kids enjoy the magic that is Disney. Then after a few days, we heading a bit further south and staying at a different campsite for a few days before heading to the coast before we travel back up to Calais.
In total we are staying at 5 different campsites all across France – yes there is quite a bit of driving for me to do, but it’s every couple of days, it’s more taking down and putting up the tent every which I am not looking forward too – but it’s a great way for us to explore the whole of France in one holiday and to let the kids experience Disneyland.
Whichever campsite you decided to stay at we hope you have a nice camping trip. Why not share in the comments below your best tips for travelling to France camping.