David Motton

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Love to visit France? Before you hitch up, here's our must-read blog about the country's new 'clean air' stickers – make sure you don't get fined!

Thinking of taking your caravan to France this year? You could be fined up to €135 (around £117) if you don't have a 'clean air' sticker on display when driving through certain French cities.

It's not some kind of revenge for Brexit, but a new regulation that applies to cars of all nationalities (so the locals have to pay, too).

So if you enjoy taking caravan holidays in France, which cities are affected?

Well, for now, the scheme applies in Paris, Lyon and Grenoble. But it's understood that more than 20 other French towns have expressed an interest in following suit over the next few years.

What does it mean?

The 'clean air' stickers categorise cars according to the emissions standard they meet. The stickers are colour-coded. Green stickers are for the 'greenest' cars, with black for the heaviest polluters.

Usually, all cars displaying one of the stickers will be able to drive in the three cities where the initiative applies. However, on days when levels of pollution are high, the local authorities may ban cars with very high emissions.

So the 'greener' your tow car, the better your chances of being able to drive through the city centre, even on days when air quality is low.

How do I make sure I am covered?

According to the RAC, British drivers can expect a period of grace until the end of March, during which the need for the stickers (also called vignettes) won't be enforced. So if you're about to jump on a ferry and haven't bought a vignette for your car, there's no need to panic.

However, an English-language version of the government website is live now, so it's already possible for UK drivers to buy the stickers.

You'll need to know the emissions standard of your car. Thumb through the owner's handbook to check, or take a look at the table on this page on the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders website.

Stickers cost around £3.50, so making sure you abide by the rules is more of a mild inconvenience than a major expense.

However, just be aware that there are third party websites selling the stickers at a higher price. Don't be duped – only by them from the official government site.

Don't get caught out!

Besides, for now the Crit'Air initiative only applies in Paris, Lyon and Grenoble, so if you don't want to pay, avoid driving through these cities. I'd certainly rather tow down the A26 than brave the Périphérique.

That said, given the enthusiasm other French towns and cities are apparently showing for Crit'Air, it could be a lot harder to avoid the need for a Crit'Air sticker in a few years.

And while leniency will be shown between now and the end of March, beyond that date, driving a car without a sticker in Paris, Lyon and Grenoble will make you liable for a fine. You'll be stung for at least €68 (roughly £59), but the fine could be as high as €135 (around £117).

You have been warned!

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