Routes from CalaisAbout-France.com - More than just a travel guide
Best routes for driving to the south and west of France
Map © Copyright About-France.com
The trunk roads marked in green are all dual carriageways; bear in mind that speed is limited to 110 km/h on dual carriageways, rather than the 130 km/h allowed on motorways.
The routes marked in grey are the main routes from Paris (which are liable to be very busy). Click to check out the busiest weeks for French road and holiday resorts
Through France to Spain
The map above shows the best England-Spain routes avoiding Paris. There are three possible Calais-Spain routes for traffic heading for the Mediterranean coast - Costa Brava, Costa Blanca and Andalucia. The route via Reims and Dijon is recommended for lorries and cars with caravans. The route via Clermont Ferrand, rising three times to over 1100 metres (about 3500 ft), crosses the Millau bridge, but includes some long and steep climbs. The route via Limoges is longer. More information on Routes to Spain
When to avoid ParisIt depends on your driving habits and skills.
If you are not used to driving on the Continent, and not used to driving in heavy motorway traffic, avoid Paris at all times except nights between 10 pm and 6 am Monday to Saturday, and on Sunday morning and Sunday after 11 pm.
If you are happy driving in bumper-to-bumper motorway traffic, know the route and/or are using a reliable Satnav or GPS, then driving through Paris at these times may be no problem. On the other hand, you may well end up in slow-moving traffic. It is not uncommon for drivers to take the best part of an hour to get round half the Paris orbital motorway (the périphérique) instead of the 20 minutes needed if traffic is flowing smoothly.
A 86 Paris orbital motorway.
Since 2011, the missing link in the western side of the A86 Paris orbital motorway has been in service, meaning that drivers can route via Paris without needing to take the infamous "boulevard périphérique" inner ring road. However, be warned: this route is NOT ACCESSIBLE to HGVs, as it has a clearance of 2.50 metres. The route is not terribly easy to find, and includes 10 kilometres of tunnel; there is also a toll of 7 Euros.
From Calais go as far as Paris on the A16 via Amiens; in suburban Paris, follow A115 > A15 to interchange with A 86. The follow A 86 West. After the 10 km of tunnel, leave on Exit 41 to N118 (dual carriageway) towards the A 10 motorway.
At night and on Sundays this route is liable to be faster than the route via Rouen.
REMEMBER: when driving in France, follow Destination signboards rather than road numbers.
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Few things can be worse at the start of a long-awaited holiday, than to find oneself stuck for hours in a monstruous motorway traffic jam, rather than relaxing at one's holiday destination.
When travelling from the UK or from Belgium or Holland to anywhere in France, it is always best to avoid Paris, particularly during summer weekends.
The map opposite shows how all regions of France can be reached by motorway or dual-carriageway (divided highway) trunk road, without going through Paris.
There are two routes south from Calais: the A16 motorway, via Boulogne, Abbeville and Rouen, and the A26 motorway via Arras and Reims (Rheims) .
Routes in brief
► via A16 To central southern & southwest France:
Follow: Abbeville > Rouen > Evreux > Chartres > Orleans...
!! Take care when leaving Calais if you use a Tomtom satnav. Default routes will probably try to send you via Paris rather than via Rouen. So follow motorway signs for Boulogne, then Rouen, then Evreux and Orleans. Follow the roadsigns, not the satnav !
This is mostly on the N 154, which is almost all dual-carriageway as far as Chartres. Join the A10 motorway before Orleans.
Click for detailed A16 - A28 route guide and map
► To southwest France:
Follow: Abbeville > Rouen > Le Mans > Tours...
As above as far as Rouen. After that, follow signs for Caen. Join the A13 motorway, then just west of Rouen branch off onto the A28 for Alençon and Le Mans.
Alternatively, take this route avoiding most or all tolls
► To western Normandy and Brittany
Follow: Abbeville > (Rouen) > Le Havre > Caen > Rennes...
Traffic for northwest France can actually avoid Rouen altogether by following Le Havre, then Caen, on the A 29 motorway that leaves the A 28 before Rouen.
► via A26 To Alsace, Switzerland, Alps, Provence:
Leave Calais on the A 26 motorway, following signs for Arras and Reims. After that, it is plain sailing all the way as far as Lyon or Strasbourg (via A4). Remember to take the A 39 motorway at Dijon, as this motorway is relatively traffic free; if you follow Beaune, you will soon join the very heavy traffic on the A6 Paris to Lyon motorway.
From the A39, you join the A 40, then the A 42. Before reaching Lyon, follow the signs for St Exupéry airport, then follow Marseille or Grenoble depending on your destination
Click for detailed A26 route guide and map .
South from Lyon:
Unfortunately (particularly on peak weekends in summer), there is no fast way of avoiding the A7 Rhone valley motorway if you are heading for Provence or the Riviera. The alternative is to take slow routes through the hills.
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