River holidays

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River holidays

What is more pleasant than gliding along the water between hills and forests? River tourism is accessible to everyone and is an original way to discover France’s heritage. But before casting off towards your first lock, here is some advice to ensure a successful cruise.


  • As operating a lock requires at least two people, solo boating is not an option. You therefore need to choose people to accompany you – ideally you will be at least three or four adults. In that way, expenses will also be shared.
  • France’s geography offers an endless choice of destinations, with river tourism available in almost every region: Midi, Centre, Burgundy, Brittany, Pays de la Loire, Alsace, Lorraine, Picardy and the Paris area. The choice of canal will depend on your personal preferences and the season.
  • Get hold of the boating guidebooks and maps for your chosen region so you can prepare your route well. Plan your stopovers and where to fill up on petrol, drinking water and food. Choose a one-way rather than a return journey, as the way back would be boring.
  • The busiest time of year is of course the summer holidays. Rental charges are therefore more attractive mid-season, but weather conditions can also be less favourable.
  • Forecast your budget, taking into account the duration of your holiday, the number of people and activities planned. Do not forget to include outings, fuel, tourist taxes and electricity during stopovers.
  • If you do not own a boat, you can hire a pleasure barge (coche de plaisance), a motorised boat that measures under 15 metres. They can accommodate up to a dozen people and are fully equipped (small lounge, cabins, kitchen, bathroom, etc). You do not need to hold a boat licence. Piloting the boat is very simple and can be explained easily by the boat rental company.
  • To make refuelling and electricity recharging easier, make sure you have an extension cable at least 50 metres long, and a water hose extension with a standard nozzle.
  • Make sure you have all the necessary administrative documents for navigation.
  • Do not forget to take personal equipment with you, in particular:
  • Clothes for all weather
  • Antislip shoes
  • Thick plastic gloves for handling wet ropes
  • A hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen lotion
  • A small first aid kit
  • A multitool and pocket knife
  • A waterproof lamp
  • A barometer
  • A lighter, corkscrew, and can opener


  • Check the weather report before leaving, because it is unsafe to navigate when river levels are high.
  • Follow France’s navigation rules, which are similar to the highway code: keep right, overtake on the left etc. When boats pass each other, the downstream boat has priority over the upstream boat.
  • Always give priority to cargo boats.
  • Reduce your speed near smaller boats to create less wake.
  • Respect the speed limits (6 to 15 kph depending on the canal).
  • When you come to a lock, keep your distance if the gates are closed and give priority to boats coming out. Move forward only when the gates are wide open and the signal is given.
  • Respect navigation timetables and most importantly do not navigate at night. Switch on your boat’s cruising lights at night and in the fog.
  • Go through bridges’ navigable arches to protect yourself from current and wake.
  • Only park your boat in designated places, and do not block other boats’ way. Moor the boat using the stakes provided rather than to a tree.
  • In order not to pollute the canal, only use designated places to dump waste water and rubbish.

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