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Driving - Crossing Borders

Renting a car in Paris, driving to Flanders Field in Waregem, Belgium and back to Paris. Is there anything I need to know about crossing borders into Belgium and back to France?

Posted by
2029 posts

Have done that many times and as far as I know not aware of specific things you need to know crossing the border.

Posted by
10344 posts

What, they still have a border?
Nobody ever tells me these things.

Posted by
5385 posts

Crossing into Belgium you will pass a sign saying 'Belgique' .
Crossing back into France you will pass a sign saying 'France'.

Posted by
33338 posts

130 kph default on dry autoroutes in France, 110 in the rain, or as posted.

120 kph default on motorways in Belgium, rain or shine.

Watch out for the speed cameras all around Lille - but don't worry you won't see them until too late so don't speed.

The Peripherique has special rules, and they are enforced. Beware really really short or non existent entry ramps onto and off the Peripherique.

Each driver in France needs the mandatory (for North Americans) IDP. Get it at the AAA.

Keep right unless overtaking.

Belgians, look away now. (and Tom). OK, I'll go on. Belgian drivers are nuts. No, really they are. It wasn't until fairly recently that they had to take a test to drive. It shows. Most Belgians either don't know what the turn indicator is or they think it is a decoration for the steering wheel and move it randomly as the whim takes them.

Last week I had a TRUCK move right from the fast lane (what was he doing there anyway) FIVE lanes to exit near Namur with his left turn indicator on all the time - straight across clearly not looking..... bah.

Belgian drivers often tailgate so close it is like your tailpipe is at the gynecologist.

It is unlikely that you will come across many drivers from Luxembourg as far west as Lille because they tend to commute between the three centres of the EU, which are Luxembourg, Brussels and Strasbourg, but if you do get one come up behind you they will be there in a flash and want to drive straight over you. They tend to drive big SUVs and drive at the driving speeds of Germans with the techniques (?!?) of Belgians. Watch out.

Also worth knowing is that drivers in and around Lille (surrounded as they are by Belgium) drive like they are Belgians.

OK, Belgians look back.

I drive defensively (but don't waste any time) and in years of driving in France and Belgium I've never had an accident of any sort.

French Autoroutes come with expensive tolls, including the one from Paris to Lille, and smooooooth roads. Belgian highways do not have tolls but make up for it in potholes. You know it as soon as you cross the border.

BIG generality here, but generally roads in Wallonie are nowhere as good as Flemish ones.

Get used to the different spellings of placenames in French and Flemish. Lille in French is Rijsel in Flemish and going back to Paris you will see that. And Paris is Parijs.

Don't try to drive back into Paris in a Sunday afternoon.

Try and spend the night near Flanders Fields. Go to "The Last Post" sounded every evening at 8pm at the Menin Gate in Ypres (in French and English (known as "Wipers" in WWI by the British) and Ieper in Flemish). You won't be the same afterwards.

Posted by
246 posts

Thanks all...appreciate the humor and tips. Thanks Nigel for all the details. We are renting car from CDG and returning to CDG--so think we will miss the Peripherique - thank goodness-only have done that once. I didn't think IDP was needed? We head are stopping at Vimy and then on to Flanders (on a Friday); we'll spend the night at Hotel St. Janshof. I'll look into "The Last Post" and see if we can time to see. We return to CDG on Saturday. I know to expect the high tolls. Debated this whole route doing via train, but seemed to make sense to rent a car. Any other thoughts? Thanks again.

Posted by
2029 posts

The cemetery of Waregem is named “Flanders Fields American Cemetery” , but the area around Ieper, actually more specific for the Flemish the “Westhoek” is better known as Flanders Fields, a bit confusing though.

As I see there seems to happen more crossing the border that I am aware off, very funny Nigel. Well it is good to know that drivers can be very unpredictable in Belgium and a number is much focussed just on their own interests and see rules more as obstacles instead of a way how to deal efficient and safe with each other in traffic. For them fellow road users apparently don’t exist, good to take this into account.

Crossing the border large signs show the various default speed limits.

Posted by
246 posts

Thanks Keith and Wil for additional responses. Keith, yes...that might make more sense -- get early start out of CDG head to Vimy...but then go directly to Waregem, visit American Cemetery and work my way back to Ypres, hit any sites and the Last Post Friday night. Spend the night there. Saturday morning hit maybe the museum, Essex Farm/Sanctuary Wood...if we didn't on Friday.

Posted by
14580 posts

Since the topic is one dealing with Belgian drivers, they don't enjoy a very good reputation in Northern France either and are easy to spot out between Lille and Arras.

Posted by
4684 posts

While Belgian drivers may be aggressive towards other motorists, in my experience they are much more considerate than the average French driver towards pedestrians - they will actually stop for you at zebra crossings, for instance.

Posted by
5385 posts

Belgium didn't require passing a practical driving test for a licence until 1977; before that it was a written one only and before the early 1960s none at all. The two "characteristics" of Belgium drivers are a unwavering adherence to “priorité de droite" without any checking, and one of the highest rate of drivers who believe they can drink and drive if they are careful (according to a Social Attitudes to Road Traffic Risk in Europe survey).