Routes through France to Spain

About France.com  - a thematic guide to France Millau viaduct
About- France for mobiles Home page for full-screens French route maps French travel and tourism

Through France to Spain

  The About-France.com thematic guide to France   - French institutions, society, travel and tourism.

Driving through FRANCE to SPAIN

Choice of routes to Spain French motorway tolls Alternative routes via Bordeaux

When driving through France, don't forget to carry a yellow fluorescent jacket... All vehicles driving on French roads (and in Spain) are obliged to carry a yellow fluorescent jacket, that must be put on if the driver has to get out in an emergency. The jacket must be stored in the car, not in the boot, and be easily accessible. Failure to carry the obligatory jacket may lead to an instant fine of up to 130 Euros, if stopped by police.
► See French rules of the road for full details on French driving regulations.


There are four main routes south through France, and all of them lead to Spain.
They all include long stretches of toll motorway, but three out of four also include long sections of road that are not toll roads.
    While it is of course possible to find a route south through France from Calais to the Spanish border avoiding all tolls, this is generally a pointless exercise except for very slow-moving vehicles, as it would involve hundreds of kilometres on slow road with numerous towns and villages to negotiate.

Routes to Mediterranean Spain:

Destinations : Barcelona, Valencia, the Spanish Costas from the Costa Brava to the Costa del Sol.
The Spanish border crossing is at le Perthus, south of Perpignan
Recommended routes: Distances from Calais to the Spanish border at Le Perthus
  • a) All motorway, avoiding Paris. : Leave Calais on the A 26 following signs for Reims. Then follow down through Reims, Troyes, Dijon, Lyon, Valence, Montpellier and Perpignan, to the Spanish border at Le Perthus.
    Distance:  1238 km      Map, showing motorway hotels - Calais, Reims, Dijon, Lyon route
  • b) All motorway, via Paris. Leave Calais on the A 26 following signs for Reims. Then follow down through Paris, Orleans, Clermont Ferrand, Beziers, Perpignan. Motorway free from Clermont Ferrand to Béziers, except for toll on Millau viaduct.
    Distance: 1174 km   Map, showing motorway hotels - Calais, Rouen, Orleans route
  • c) Mostly motorway, avoiding Paris. Leave Calais on the A 16 following signs for Abbeville. Then follow down through Rouen, Evreux, Chartres, Orleans, Clermont Ferrand, Beziers, Perpignan. Motorways free from Abbeville to Rouen, and Clermont Ferrand to Béziers, except for toll on Millau viaduct.
    Distance: 1172 km   Map with hotels
  • d) The fastest route without any tolls: see To the Mediterranean without tolls  Distance, a little over 1200 km. But it will take about 3 to 4 hours more driving than any of the other routes

Routes to northern and western Spain,

via southwest France.
Destinations : San Sebastian, Bilbao, Madrid, Portugal, Asturias, La Coruña .
The border crossing is at Irun.
Recommended routes
  • a) Fastest route - all motorway or dual carriageway except through Rouen. Leave Calais on the A 16 following signs for Abbeville. Then follow down through Rouen, Alençon, Le Mans, Tours, (or Rouen, Chartres, Orleans, Tours) and the A10 to Bordeaux, Bayonne and the Spanish border. See tolls and details below
      ►  Map, showing motorway hotels on these routes
  • b) The fastest route without any tolls: see Calais to Bayonne / Irun without tolls  Distance, about 1100 km. But it will be over 3 hours more driving than the motorway route
  • c) Alternative good routes -  See tolls and details below
For quiet B&Bs near A10 or A20, check out the B-and-B in France website.
►  For nice places to stay in northern Spain, check Small hotels in Northern Spain

Motorway tolls on routes through France to Spain:  January 2015

(For Car + caravan; add about 50%).
Truck / HGV toll rates (class 4)
: approximately three times the rate for cars.
Calais-Spain motorway toll costs:
a) Eastern route - for Mediterranean destinations, via border crossing at Le Perthus
  • Calais - Le Perthus via Rouen, Chartres & Clermont Ferrand: 57.50 € (cheapest fast route)
  • Calais - Le Perthus via A26,  Reims and Lyon: 101.60 €
  • Calais - Le Perthus via Paris,  Orleans & Clermont-Ferrand: 73.70 €
  • Le Havre - Le Perthus via  Chartres, Orleans & A 71.  54.80 €

Calais-Spain border motorway toll costs:
b) Western route - for northern Spain, central Spain and Portugal  via border crossing at Biriatou / Irun.   (See below for details)
  1. Calais - Irun via Rouen, Alençon, le Mans, and A10 to Bordeaux:  87.30 € fastest  
  2. Calais - Irun via A 26,  Paris, Orleans and A10 to Bordeaux: 90.50 €
  3. Calais - Irun via Rouen, Chartres, then N10 to Tours, and A10 to Poitiers, and N10 to Bordeaux: 37.60 € - shortest, (but Chartres to Tours, 120 km, mostly single carriageway) 
  4. Calais - Irun via Rouen, Orleans, and A10 to Poitiers, then N10 to Bordeaux: 51.60 € (almost all dual carriageway or motorway)  
  5. Calais - Irun via Rouen, Orleans, Vierzon, A20, N141, Angoulême, Bordeaux: 34.50 € - most economical in tolls

TIP : Alternative routes through France to Spain via Bordeaux

Though it is usually easiest and faster to stick to French motorways and pay the toll, this is not necessarily true when driving from Calais to Southwest France and the border crossing to Spain at Irun. The choices come after Rouen or Chartres. Here are more details about the routes from Calais to the Spanish border at Biriatou / Irun. After Bordeaux, there is only one route.
  1. The fastest route (no.1 above - about 10h 50 under normal driving conditons), is almost all motorway via Rouen, Alençon, le Mans, and then from Tours the A10 (toll) as far as  Bordeaux.
  2. Route 2 above is about ten minutes longer on normal days, but could be quite a bit longer than the route via Rouen on busy traffic days, or if you hit the Paris area around rush-hour.
  3. The shortest route (no 3 above), but not the fastest nor the least stressful. About 12h 30.  After Rouen, follow Chartres, then to take the N10 from Chartres to Vendôme and Tours, then join the A10 (toll) as far as Poitiers south, then the N10 again to Bordeaux. The N10 from Chartres to Tours is largely single carriageway.
  4. A faster variant of no. 3, and a bit longer: as above as far as Chartres; then follow Orleans and join the A10 (toll) as far as Poitiers south, then rejoin the N10 (free, dual carriageway) as far as Bordeaux.
  5. The most economical fast route - about 12 hr 50. (Compared to the fastest route, 53 € less in tolls, for about 2 hours more in time. Compared to the shortest route, 20 minutes longer, less single carriageway, 3 € less tolls).
      As route 4 as far as Orleans, but then at Orleans, take the  A71 > A20 in the direction of Toulouse. At Limoges, follow N141 for Angoulême, where you join the N10 as far as Bordeaux. All but about 40 miles of this alternative route to Bordeaux is on motorways or dual carriageway, but there are no tolls after Vierzon.
Map, showing motorway hotels on these routes

Savings on tolls: for cars, 53 € difference between the fastest and the cheapest routes: for camper vans the difference is about 85 €, and for HGVs and trucks, about 170 €. 
NB: The shortest route..... Since the savings on  fuel and on distance make the shortest route an attractive proposition for HGVs (trucks), it is not necessarily a route that is recommended for cars on weekdays. But HGVs are banned from the roads on Sundays in France, and there are far less of them on Saturdays. Routes 3 & 4 are recommended as offering a good balance between speed and toll costs.

► ► Beware of the "cheap ferries" scam
Some internet sites that announce "cheap" ferry prices are actually charging more than the Ferry companies themselves. Avoid dodgy websites; click to book directly with ferry companies

Other useful information

To contact About-France.com, use the form provided

French byway
Find hotels in France

Click for best online rates for hotels near the following towns on the main routes through France.
Bordeaux Clermont-Fd.
Other areas
About-France.com is partnered with Europe's leading hotel booking portal, Booking.com, to bring you the best online prices

Routes through France
Routes through France. Click to enlarge

And for when you get there .....
     Check out Driving in Spain

►► Site guide
Accueil en français
Full site index
About-France.com home page
►► Some useful pages :
The regions of France
Maps of France
Chambres d'hôtes (B&B) in France
Camping in France
Small hotels in France
Rural cottages in Spain

Motorway driving in France is normally quite relaxed...

Related pages: