Boating in France is a truly rich experience. Most people choose self-drive barges or boats in different styles and specifications. These boats are safe and easy to handle and you do not need to have any kind of special qualifications or license to rent these boats and to sail the rivers and canals. All the companies offering such craft will give the novice a detailed explanation and introduction to boat handling. Other choose to go on a hotel barge, which is typically a working barge converted to luxury small floating hotel offering full service and gourmet catering on board. A hotel barge normally only has 6 to 12 passengers.
France offers an enormous choice of regions for boating. In Western France is Brittany with picturesque villages and granite castles bordering the waterways. In Eastern France, the canals of Alsace Lorraine passes through medieval fortified towns set against spectacular scenery of mountains, woodlands and rolling hills. In the South of France, the ancient Canal du Midi - listed as a World Heritage Site - links Toulouse to Agde.
The Canal du Rhone a Sete and the Canal de la Robine open up the magic of the Camargue with its pink flamingos and wild horses. The canals of Nivernais, Loire and Bourgogne go through the heartland of France, a region rich in history and culture and a region with superb food and wine.
The speed limit is 8 km per hour on the canals and 10 km per hour on the rivers. In most cases one should plan on cruising an average 5 hours a day to have plenty of time to stop for sight seeing or just relaxing. Going through the locks is part of the ritual of being on the water in France. It normally takes about 20 minutes to go through a lock. Talking to the lock keeper, chatting to people on other boats and sampling local specialties make it a pleasant break in the trip. There is no charge for going through locks in France. There is complete freedom to stop the boat at any time. In addition to the numerous harbors with amenities that are dotted along the French waterways, you can moor your canal boat virtually anywhere. In many cases you can stop very near a town or village and visit the local market to stock up with delicious local produce for your meals and drinks on board.