Motorhome Travel In France III – Checklists, Crit’Air & Pet Transport
We’ve finally made it to the last installment of my French Motorhome Travel mini-series!
I covered a lot of ground in my last two posts on finding places to stay and French road rules, so today I’m just going to wrap it up with a few extra items that are important to take note of before you decide to take your motorhome to France, particularly checklist items (items required by law), Crit’Air stickers (and yes, if you don’t have one, you should get one now!) and how to safely & legally travel with your pets on the road. Here we go…
1. Checklist Items
When you travel through France is that there are certain items that you are required by law to have with you at all times inside your motorhome. It’s not a long list, but if you don’t have these items you can be fined, so it’s worth double-checking that you have them all.
The following items are mandatory:
- Passport, driving license, motorhome registration & insurance – this is the magic 4-set of documents that you’ll want to bring with you for all your European road travels. You may be asked to show them if stopped by a policeman, or if you’re in an accident.
For your passport if you are EU just make sure it is valid for the duration of your stay. However if you are non-EU the passport must have at least 6 months validity.
- For your driving license, make sure it is current and valid for the type/size/weight of RV you are driving and for the entire time you plan to be in France. Also if your license is non-EU, consider getting an IDP (International Drivers Permit). This is actually not a legal requirement in France, but it is required in certain other EU countries, so it’s generally a good thing to have on-hand. US drivers can get an IDP for $20 at AAA.
- For your motorhome registration, make sure it is current and valid for the entire period of your travel in France. Also you need to bring the original document (not a copy). For UK drivers this would be your V5, for French drivers this is a “carte grise”.
- For your motorhome insurance make sure your policy covers you in France and any other countries you plan to visit. Ask your agent for a “green card” that proves you have the minimum required level of insurance for all countries you plan to travel through (the card is free to get and well-recognized across EU). If you have a breakdown policy, make sure that covers you in France too.
- Hi-Visibility reflective yellow vests – these are mandatory for all passengers in France and must be worn if you break down on the side of the road. They must also be accessible directly from the drivers seat so make sure to keep them up-front, not in your rear garage.
- Warning triangle – you are required to carry a warning triangle that must be deployed 30 meters behind your vehicle to warn approaching traffic if you break down or or are involved in an accident.
- Spare Bulbs & Fuses – for headlamps, side-indicators etc. Technically you can only be fined if your bulbs are blown/faulty and you do not have spares on-hand to fix them (in other words, you won’t be fined if your bulbs are all OK and you don’t happen to have spares on hand) so this is kind of a strange one, but since the possibility of a fine is there I think it just makes sense to carry them.
- Spare Prescription Glasses (if you wear them) – if you wear prescription glasses you are required to carry a spare pair in the motorhome.
Headlight Beam Deflectors (if not already installed) – this is especially important for UK-registered vehicles where beams are typically deflected to the left (because in UK cars drive on the left), so they shine directly into oncoming traffic when driven in France on the RHS. To prevent this headlight deflectors must be installed to turn the beams away from traffic. And yes, it is law! If your motorhome does not have a manual adjustment there are simple stick-on type deflectors you can buy to do this.
- Country Code Sticker (if you do not have EU plates): You are required to have a country code sticker on the rear of your vehicle unless it has standard EU plates that show the country code in a circle of stars on a blue background. This includes all tow vehicles, such as caravans and trailers.
The following item is not required by law, but highly recommended:
Health/travel insurance – health costs are pretty affordable in France so you can easily go see a doctor if you need one while on holiday (standard price is €25!), but if you have a serious accident then hospital & emergency costs can ramp up quickly, so it’s worth having insurance to cover you! If you’re European all you need to do is get an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) before you travel to France. If you’re non-European check if your current health insurance covers you abroad (perhaps with a top-up policy), or buy stand-alone travel/health insurance that does. Companies like World Nomads, Travelex and Allianz all offer comprehensive WW travel plans.
The following is NO longer required by law:
- Breathalyser – several years ago a law was introduced requiring everyone to carry a breathalyser in their vehicle in France. However just a short time later another law was introduced making it a non-fineable offense. So basically it’s a requirement to have one, but you won’t get in trouble for not having one (confusing, right?). Bottom line is that you don’t need one anymore, but if you decide buy one anyway, get one that shows the French certification mark NF.
2/ Environmental Controls & Crit’Air Sticker
One thing you should definitely to get before you travel with your motorhome to France is something called a Crit’Air sticker. It only costs €3.11 (plus postage) to get and it’s valid for the lifetime of your vehicle, so just go ahead and order one!
Crit’Air stickers are stickers that classify the level of air pollutant emissions of your vehicle. They range from level 0 (green/electric vehicles) to level 5 (industrial-type equipment) and are specific to your vehicle and the type of engine you have (your license plate number will be printed on it). Our new Carthago motorhome has a Euro 6 diesel engine, so it was rated level 2.
Since 2016 Crit’Air stickers have been mandatory in larger French towns with permanent low-emission zones (e.g. Paris, Lyon & Grenoble) and can be activated (=certain numbers restricted) in up to 28 other areas of France during times of high pollution (e.g. during heat waves). In smaller towns the stickers are not required so if you only travel in rural areas you may never need it. However since the sticker is so cheap and easy to get, I just recommend buying one and slapping it on your motorhome*. More and more French cities are joining the program, and the minimum fine for not displaying the sticker is €68, so IMO it’s inexpensive insurance for the future.
Useful Website Links:
- Crit’Air is the place to order your sticker
- Green-Zones has detailed info on environmental controls across all of EU
- The French Transportation Ministry has info on all current French regulations regarding Crit’Air stickers. In addition this real-time map is a good place to check if pollution controls are currently in force that might cause Crit’Air circulation restrictions.
*Placement -> the sticker must be displayed on the right-hand lower corner (looking from inside of your motorhome) of your windshield.
3. Pet Restraint & Travel Rules
There’s quite a bit of confusion on various motorhome forums on what exactly is the legally requirement when transporting pets in your vehicle in France, and to be honest the French driving core (code de la route) is not exactly clear. There are very firm rules about passengers, but nothing specifically written about pets (= animaux de compagnie). However if you read through the details there are two rules which are highly applicable:
- Rule R 412-6 -> nothing must obstruct the vision of the driver.
- Rule R 412-1 -> all passengers must be secured by a seat-belt (unless their “morphology” prohibits it).
The first one is easy. Your pet cannot and must not ever get in the way of the driver’s field of vision. The second one is more complicated. Are pets considered passengers and so must wear seat-belts? Or is their “morphology” not adapted to seat-belt use (hmmm)?
Well, to be honest it doesn’t really matter. The first rule makes it clear enough. Your pets should be secured while traveling so that they do not ever get in the way of your driving. However the second rule implies that the way you secure your pet is up to you. It can be in a cage or crate, using a pet seat-belt, with a leash, using a physical barrier, or by some other restraint. As long as he/she cannot accidentally get loose and in the way of the driver, you should be good to go.
For motorhome travelers I think a pet seat-belt harness is a really good investment for dogs, while collapsible travel bags/crates are really good investments for cats. For Polly we have the Kurgo Crash-Tested Harness and really like it whereas for the cats we’ve always liked the Sherpa Travel Bags.
Oh, and remember that your pet must have a pet passport with valid rabies vax with them at all times. It’s a legal requirement for cross-border travel and some campgrounds in France will ask to see it.
That wraps up my French motorhome travel mini-series and just in time too!! We are headed to the French Atlantic Coast for a multi-week tour and plan to use ALL the gems of knowledge that we’ve shared with you, and perhaps pick up a few new ones along the way too. Either way you are all coming along for the ride, so we’ll stay tuned and we’ll see you on the beach….SPONSORED LINK:
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