Public transport might get you from A to B - but there's nothing quite like travelling the length and breadth of France in your own pair of wheels. If you're planning on hiring a car for your dream French holiday, here are a few pointers to get you started.
The best piece of advice we can give is to try and avoid hiring a car out of a kiosk the second you touch down on French soil. These are very often the worst type of deals, and a lot of them are aimed at tourists in a hurry, whose inexperience with the language and unfamiliarity with foreign rules is easily taken advantage of. As soon as you are sure about your trip you may search for special offers so you can hire a nice car for a cheaper price per day.
Car hire packages often come with very low upfront fees but can have hidden expenses lurking in the small print. This can include stuff like higher rates if you require a sat nav (and chances are, you probably will), or even a car-seat for your child. You also might get billed at a higher amount if you're a younger driver. Again, it speaks to the fact it's much better to book in advance from the comfort of your living room (and a translation tool to hand).
If you're hiring a car anywhere in Europe (including France) you need to shop with a company which is a part of the European car rental conciliation service scheme. This will ensure you're protected in the event you run into a skirmish out on the road, or if your company tries to raise extortionate penalties against you.
Speaking of which, more diligent drivers are now taking the step of photogaphing their rented car before they've even touched it. That way they can ensure any damage they're billed for is down to them and no-one else.
Hiring a car as a UK citizen - both at home and abroad - changed a little as the government no longer issue paper counterparts with UK driving licenses. This means some hiring companies may ask you for a unique code, which you can request from the DVLA, that allows them to look your motoring history for vetting purposes. Whilst not all companies will ask for this code, it's worth bearing in mind - particularly if you are going to risk a last minute deal.
Instead of blindly checking out rental companies with the most advertising space, it's a good idea to use independent third party search tools where possible - this will allow you to compare deals ahead of time and find a pick up and drop off point that works for you and your budget.
One website that comes highly recommended is www.autoeurope.com - this company are geared specifically to deal with English speaking travellers in mainland Europe, and even operate a free telephone line in case you want to speak directly to a specialist.
It's difficult to fully get to grips with another country's traffic rules until you're out on the road, but you should try to familiarise yourself as much as possible before you go. One thing to bear in mind is that there are a lot of speed cameras in France, and limits are strictly enforced. Over-taking is also common-place on French motorways, so make sure you take your foot off the gas at the right moment. If you're travelling from UK to France with rental car be informed about which companies will allow you to use a ferries and how much do they charge for that.