DRIVING around the Dordogne can be a real pleasure. You will find quiet roads with views across the countryside, very few vehicles to get stuck behind and lovely villages where you can stop for a break.
But there are some rules of the road that are worth considering if driving around the Dordogne, because despite the area appearing to be a driver's paradise there were 24 deaths and 199 accidents on the roads of the département in 2019.
General rules of the road in France
You must be over 18 to drive in France and do not use a mobile phone behind the wheel, police officers are keen to put a halt to this habit and can issue heavy fines.
A key piece of equipment is the high visibility jacket, and you should have one each for all the passengers in your vehicle.
Also ensure you are carrying them in the main compartment of the car, not in the boot, as should you have to leave your car then you can quickly and easily put the jackets on and then move away from the vehicle.
Another important piece of equipment is a warning triangle that you can place about 50 paces behind your vehicle to warn oncoming vehicles that your car is at the side of the road.
Speed limits are clearly signposted at the roadside and they are:
· Built-up areas 50kph (possibly even 30kph)
· Ordinary roads 80kph
· Dual carriageways 90kph
· Toll autoroutes 130kph
Driving the countryside roads of the Dordogne
Many of the countryside roads in the Dordogne will be a little worse for wear and have patches of repair work and soft roadside verges.
Be aware that after periods of rain many of the roads will have a sheen of damp across them that sometimes brings vehicle fuel and oil to the surface.
Also look out for 'GASOIL' signs at the side of the roads, this will signify that fuel or oil has been spilt onto the road, often from farm machinery, that if not noticed by the vehicle operator could have been dripping on to the road for a few kilometres.
Slow down and take extra care around bends and downhill because any spills can be very difficult to see on the surface of the road.
Speeding on the Dordogne roads
Remember at the start of this piece I mentioned the number of deaths on the Dordogne roads, one of the major causes is speeding and it is a problem across France.
Long sweeping roads can make driving a real pleasure, but some of the Dordogne roads are twisty and tight, often going in and out of wooded areas with bright sunlight, so if can be difficult to stay on the road and with soft roadside verges you can easily lose control.
You are very close to nature in the Dordogne with deer and sanglier, or wild boar, often spotted in the fields and woods, but they also cover large distances and regularly cross roads.
Hitting any animal on the road is sad enough, but deer and sanglier can cause great damage to your vehicle and can be catapulted up into your windscreen.
So be on the look out for any animals early in the morning or around dusk as this is normally when they are on the move.
Deer can suddenly appear out of the woods at the side of the road, and if one passes in front of you be on the look out for others following swiftly behind.
Cyclists on the Dordogne roads
If the quiet roads of the Dordogne are an appeal to drivers, they also have a real attraction to cyclists.
France is a paradise for amateur cyclists and they are often given a wide berth by passing drivers, so give yourself plenty of time and space to get past individuals or groups.
Be aware of farm vehicles
Agriculture is an important part of the Dordogne economy so you will often see tractors and trailers piled high with straw, crops and fruit.
Again give yourself plenty of time to pass these vehicles, don't be tempted to speed past them when heading uphill unless the road is completely clear and sharp bends can soon be on top of you and you will not know what is coming around them.
Stay right at all times
This is for UK drivers, but sadly almost every year there will be an accident on the roads of France due to a vehicle being driven on the wrong side of the road.
In the Dordogne this can be a real problem because many of the smaller roads have no central road markings so you can easily drift across and not be aware of your road position.
Stickers can be placed on your windscreen to ensure you stay right, like these on Amazon, and they are particularly useful at roundabouts.
But if you have been out all day and you are hot and tired, then just be aware of where you are on the road and remember to drive 'with your bum in the gutter' if you are driving a UK, right hand drive vehicle.
Petrol prices in the Dordogne
Some smaller villages will have a petrol station, or a self-service station on the edge of the village, but you will often pay as much as 0.20 euros a litre extra in comparison to a larger town.
So if you know you are set to be driving a long distance, or filling up before heading back to the UK, head towards supermarket petrol stations where you will usually find the best prices.
Emergency telephone numbers
If the worst comes to the worst and you need to call for emergency assistance here are the numbers to use:
112 - European Emergency Number, available in English, for fire services, an ambulance or the police
18 - For the fire brigade, or Sapeurs Pompiers, who are often based out of larger villages in the Dordogne and can deal with medical problems and have the necessary equipment for road accidents
17 - Police and gendarmes if you are the victim of a crime such as robbery or assault
15 - Samu for non-urgent medical issues