Driving on French Autoroutes

June 18, 2014

French Autoroute Toll

If you’re planning on driving any distance in France you’ll need to tackle the Autoroute.

Unlike UK motorways the majority of Autoroutes in France are toll roads.

Autoroute Tolls

Péage - Autoroute Toll Road SignAutoroutes with tolls will be indicated with a blue sign with white letters and the word péage.  This means ‘toll’ and should be pronounced ‘pay-arje’.

When you enter the autoroute you take a ticket (press a button at the barrier). The ticket is used to track your distance.  You then pay for that distance when you leave the autoroute. (Sometimes there are also toll booths when a section of autoroute finishes).

Many French drivers have an automatic system for paying called a Telepeage.  You can get these in the UK (at a slight premium), but to be honest, most holiday makers won’t need these.

Instead you can pay by cash or credit card (the easiest) at the toll booth.

As you approach the toll booth lanes will be open (green arrow) or closed (red cross).  For paying by credit card find lane with the blue credit card picture.

If you see cars slowing and driving straight through they will be using a lane with an orange ‘T’.  That lane is for vehicles with the automated Telepeage system.

Toll Costs & Route Planning

You should budget into your holiday the cost of the toll roads.

You can get a complete route plan and cost breakdown at autoroutes.fr.

The example below shows calculating a route from the port of Dieppe to Camping Les Fontaines in the French Alps.

Autoroute Trip Planning

Autoroute Costs and Route Calculated

In this example, when I ran the costs the autoroute toll charges were 50 EUR for a car and 75 EUR for a car with caravan.

The website also calculates fuel costs and the map highlights hazards.

Non-Toll Option

Of course you could travel through France and avoid the tolls.

For some routes, this may make sense and an opportunity to take in the scenery.  However, take into account the cost of fuel, and you’ll find yourself saving money by taking the toll road if you are travelling any distance in France.

Avoiding the Traffic

France is not as populated as the UK and the autoroutes are generally quieter than most UK motorways.  However, there are some areas to avoid.

Traffic around Paris will generally always be heavy.

If travelling to the South of France you can avoid Paris by taking the A26 motorway via Reims if travelling from Calais.

The height of summer and traffic travelling to and from the South will also be busier, especially so on Saturdays.

Rest Stops and Fuel

On the Autoroutes the services alternate between full services with fuel and restaurants and just rest stops with some toilets.

Some toilets may not have toilet paper or decent hand wash facilities, so recommend you take some loo roll and sanitiser gel.

And just the same as the UK: fuel at motorway services will be expensive.

Use your Sat Nav and locate a supermarket petrol station.  Most of these will have pumps that you can pay with a credit card directly at the pump… so you can practice speaking French at some other opportunity 😉

French Driving Law

The law in France is different to the UK and you need to become familiar with it and the speed limits.

There’s also something that may come as a surprise: you now have to carry disposable breathaliser kits.

These aren’t that expensive.  You can find out about driving in Europe, speed limits, and things you might need here.

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Gav Grayston
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Gav Grayston Contributor

Father to 3 kids, who loves getting out and about (hiking, running, camping, cycling, canoeing...) Co-founded Get Out With The Kids to help other parents enjoy the outdoors with their family.

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  1. péage is only pronounced‘pay-arje’ if you have a London area accent ! 😉 and even then I suspect it wont be pronounced correctly ! If you can say age in French then its pay – and then the age is just like you know already with the softly pronounced g. But thanks for the article. The other thing we found is how the SatNav is excellent for estimating distances – sometimes what looks the same on the map can be hours of difference in reality – the motorways have been very good we have found but we are not usually travelling in the peak season.

    • Good points.
      I’ve been caught out too when looking at the map. What looks like a good route takes forever. Sat Navs are great when they send you the right way of course 😉

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