A road trip in Provence is one to put on your adventure bucket list. By driving in Provence you’ll have the flexibility to get from aqua trekking in the Gorge du Verdon to kayaking the Calanques without too much fuss. There is plenty to see and do whether you have 5 days or 3 weeks.
On my 2-week road trip in Provence, I discovered a number of little quirks which made the trip that much more enjoyable. Here are 9 things you need to know before setting off on your road trip around Provence.
You’ll Want To Pull Off Everywhere
I have never seen so many hand-drawn signs for honey, or ‘miel‘, as I have in Provence. Add into the mix goats cheese, ‘fromage de chèvre’ and of course lavender and you’ve got yourself a party. Get ready to pull off and stock up at every corner.
The Views Are Sensational
You will need to prepare yourself and your camera for the panoramic views. From the mountains in the Luberon to the crystal blue seas of the Cote d’Azur, there is so much for your eyes to take in!
The Roads In Provence Will Make You Squeal
If you grew up in the countryside you’ll no doubt be used to the winding and narrow country roads. Driving in Provence is exactly the same, except on a cliff edge. It will seriously make your arm hairs stand on edge. My advice is to take it slow and make sure you take regular rest breaks. The mountain roads can be treacherous so it’s important to have your wits about you.
You Will Get Overtaken A Lot, Embrace It
Is it safe to say the French have a reputation for being a smidge on the reckless side when it comes to driving? Mix this smidge in with local knowledge of the best places to overtake on a 100m stretch of Provencal cliff edge road and you’ll really need to fine-tune your breathing exercises. You will frequently be overtaken by cars on your Provence road trip. Many of these cars will be Citroens acting like F1 cars. Breath in for 5 seconds, breath out for 5 seconds.
The Flashing Blinker Technique
Whilst driving in Provence you might notice some unusual car light activity. If someone wants to overtake you they will drive up behind you and switch on their right car blinker. This is their way of ‘politely’ asking you to move over. An acceptable alternative to a honk? I think so.
Read More: 13 Useful Trips For Visiting Provence
Parking Can Be Expensive And Hard To Come By
Whilst travelling through Provence we would often tuck into the first available parking spot we saw regardless of how near it was to the town we were visiting. There are parking spaces in town but they go as quickly as the fresh baguettes. You can make your life easier by doing some parking research and getting to your destination early! A lot of the car parks accept card payments which is extremely helpful.
I don’t own a motorcycle license but I’m almost certain there are no French laws that allow motorcyclists to jump between lanes and overtake cars at reckless speeds. This, however, doesn’t seem to stop them. I have no doubts that you’re a careful driver but my goodness you really need to pay attention to the motorcyclists, especially on the motorway.
Other Side Of The Road, Other Side Of The Car
One you’re probably already aware of is that in France they drive on the right-hand side of the road. If you’re driving over from the UK there are a few handy signs but if you’re fresh off a plane and picking up a rental it’s one to remember at all costs. Your french rental car will also have the steering wheel on the right-hand side of the car which can take some getting used to. If you’re in a GB car you’ll be on the right-hand side of the car but the left-hand side of the road. Which makes things interesting when you get to road tolls…
Remember The Road Tolls
There are over 90 toll roads in France so whilst you’re driving in Provence you are likely to come across a few. Although they’re not necessarily expensive, there are a few things you should be aware of:
- French citizens can purchase a pre-paid toll box which they attach to their front windscreen. This allows them to whizz through the barriers. The lanes which are marked with a ‘t’ indicate that a driver can use their box on that lane.
- If you’re travelling from the UK you probably won’t have one of the pre-paid boxes. You will need to arrive in a lane that is marked with the card or cash symbol overhead. Often there are lanes with a ‘t’, card and a cash symbol. If there’s two of you in an English car you won’t have any trouble with these lanes as your passenger can pay at the booth which sits on the left-hand side. However…
- If you’re travelling on your own in an English car you will need to get out of the car to pay the charge. I found that the lanes marked with cash or card only and on the far right side of the motorway were usually less busy. This meant that the quick trip you need to take out of the car won’t result in honking cars and disgruntled hand gestures.
- Keep your card or cash close to hand in the car so that you can easily access them when you pull up. They can come around quickly. If you’re simply picking up a ticket make sure to store this somewhere easily accessible.