- the connoisseur's guide to France
A guide to the roads and
motorways of France
- ► Covid-19 INFORMATION - Summer 2020. France is opening up again for tourism. Most museums and galleries are now open again, as are hotels restaurants, shops tourist attractions and public transport. The wearing of facemasks
is compulsory on public transport throughout the country and in many other
locations, so visitors must come equipped or else be ready to buy
facemasks on arrival.
Tourism levels are significantly down
compared to recent years, meaning that for those tourist sites and
attractions that are operating normally again, there is much less
waiting to get in. For most sites, there are limits on the numbers of
visitors present at any time, and reservations can be made in advance. Social distancing
is obligatory in all public places, with a minimum distance of 1 metre
in queues or lines and in all places open to the public.
French Railways are offering a lot of cheap train tickets to get people travelling by train again.
Since June 15th, France's international borders with neighbouring
countries (except for the UK and Spain) have reopened.
Further relaxations will be announced in due course – or may not be
announced – in function of the way in which the Covid-19 pandemic
- Beyond France : As
from 21st June, France's land borders with neighbouring Schengen area
countries (i.e. all France's land borders) are open again. Travellers
can cross France and enter Spain by road or rail.
- Remember: Covid-19 has not gone away,
it's still active. Travel will increase the risk of contagion, compared
to isolating at home. But any form of travel, even to the local shops,
will increase the risk. With infection rates and deaths higher in the
UK than in France, in can be argued that travel abroad is less of a
risk than staying at home and going to the local shops.
Driving in France : jump
Driving in France is generally a pleasure for anyone used to the heavy
traffic encountered on all roads in much of the south of England or the
Netherlands. Apart from round big cities like Lille, Paris
, and apart
from the country's busiest motorways, the A1 (Paris - Lille)
the A10 (Paris - Bordeaux) the A6, the A7 and the A9 (Paris - Marseille
- Nice - Perpignan), and apart of course from the busiest holiday
Saturdays, traffic is generally free-moving on the main network, and
light to very light on minor routes.
About-France.com helps you pick the best routes,
and avoid the worst bottlenecks and the busiest periods.
JOURNEY...... AVOID THE BUSIEST WEEKENDS
H ere are the days on which to avoid the French motorway system if you
possibly can. Heavy holiday traffic on these days will lead to delays
and tailbacks across the network, most particularly on the following
All holiday periods
- A1 Lille-Paris, A6 Paris-Lyon, A10
out of Paris
Summer months : A7 Lyon Marseilles
A8 Marseille-Nice, A9
, A10 Paris-Bordeaux (in
parts). A63 around Biarritz,
: Alpine motorways in general.
Official traffic density forecasts:
Green : no problems
: delays likely in some places
Red= busy, Black =
saturated : delays certain in busy spots
- Green from
11th May to 28th June except Red Wed 20th and Thur 21st May (Ascension holiday) and Friday 29th May (whitsun)
weekends: orange or
on all routes every Friday and Saturday from 26th June to
Saturdays 2020 : 1st and 8th August on all routes
- Red days on all routes: Sats 11th 18th and 25th July
- Green from
11th May to 28th June except Sunday 24th May (end of Ascension weekend)
on all routes every Friday and Saturday from 10th July to 30th August.
- Weekend 31st July - 1st August: orange everywhere
Red throughout France
- Weekend Fri 14th - Mon 17th August
Red on A7 and A9 (Rhone valley - Languedoc)
- Weekend Fri 21st - Mon 24th August
Friday Sunday & Monday - Orange everywhere
Saturday: red everywhere
- Weekend Fri 28th - Sun 30th August
Friday & Sunday Orange everywhere, Saturday red everywhere
worst weekends for travelling north : the last three weekends of August
MOTORWAYS OR NOT ?
When driving in France, in spite of
the cost, it is generally worthwhile taking motorways (autoroutes
you have time to go at a more leisurely pace. However, there are some
useful tips to help you cut down on the cost of your trip across France.
): don't fill up on the autoroute! Wait
until a major intersection near a town or city, and come off the
autoroute. You will almost certainly find a hypermarket / superstore
within a kilometer or so of the exit, offering cut price fuel. The
saving can be us much as 15 centimes per litre.
intends to do lots of driving in France could find it in their interest
to have a diesel car, particularly a modern fuel-efficient model. Diesel
fuel in France (often called gasoil
, pronounced gaz-warle
used to be about a third cheaper than unleaded, but that is no longer
the case; today diesel retails for about 15 centimes a litre
less than unleaded, but it also goes further. See petrol
prices in France
below for recent updates.
c) Use free autoroutes or dual-carriageways where they exist. See below
See below for ideas on avoiding
► French road signs:
Signs indicating a motorway
route (whether on the motorway or pointing to it) are indicated with
white lettering on a blue background, as in the picture below left.
Signs indicating a non-motorway main route (route nationale or other)
are indicated with white lettering on a green background, as in
French motorways, known as autoroutes, are designated with numbers
preceded by the letter A (for Autoroute). Thus, when driving to the
south of France from Calais
, you can
either take the A16 autoroute towards Amiens and Paris, or (normally an
easier solution) the A26
via Rheims. Most French
autoroutes are toll motorways
, and entrances to them are
marked as such with the word "Péage" (pronounced pay-arje
The normal procedure is to pick up a ticket from a booth as you enter
the autoroute (just press the button); tolls are paid either when you
leave the autoroute, or else when the toll section comes to an end. In
a few places, there are fixed toll points on the autoroute, notably in
urban areas or toll bridges.
Principal signs on French motorway
Three tollgates on a French motorway. Left lane:
vehicles with the drive-through remote payment transponder
- speed limit 30 km/hr
for vehicles with the télépéage
transponder OR pay by credit
all forms of payment - cards and cash
Other signs :
- Red cross: closed -
- Blue CB
rectangle : debit or credit cards only
Many toll-gates are for both card payment (credit card or debit card)
and Telepéage... meaning that if you have a
télépége transponder, you
may still get held up behind people paying by card, if there is a queue.
Cash payment toll-gates
(green arrow or
pictogram of coins) will provide change – even the automatic
Frankly, for occasional French motorway users, subscribing to the
Liber-T system is a waste of money - unless you think that 20
€ a year
is worth paying in order to save perhaps a total of 10 minutes at the
tolls, or are only travelling at very busy periods. On normal days, you
can be through a credit-card payment booth in a minute or less.
The "Liber-T" charging sensor is available in the UK,
French motorway operators' company, charges higher rates for users
applying via its English language website than for applications
its French website - which can only be used by people having a bank
account in France.
2020 Motorway tolls in France
French motorway tolls normally increase more or less in line with
inflation each February. French inflation is low, about 1%. The cost
of motorway travel for a car without caravan or trailer is about 1
for 10 miles. For example, in Jan 2020 motorway tolls on the 1060 km
trip from Calais to Marseille
via Reims, almost all of it on toll motorways, cost 92.20
£80 sterling at Jan 2020 conversion rates. . Here
are the toll
costs for a selection of other common journeys that use toll motorways
over long distances:
selection of motorway tolls : Jan 2020
(For Car + caravan or normal size
motorhome ; add about 50%).
Truck / HGV toll rates (class 4) : approximately three
times the rate for cars.
- Abbeville (- Rouen). 8.40 €
Calais - Paris, via A 16: 21.30 €
Calais-Marseilles, via Reims: 92.20 €uros
Calais-Bordeaux, via Rouen Chartres &
Calais-Bordeaux, via Rouen & Le Mans
Calais-Toulouse, via Paris 58.70 €
Calais-Toulouse via Rouen, Dreux: 39.50 €
- Perpignan via Rouen, Chartres & A 71:
via Reims, Dijon & A39:
via Reims, Dijon, A39: 77.80 €
Le Havre :
Le Havre - Montpellier via Chartres & A 71: 48.80 €
Le Havre - Bordeaux, via Alençon: 66.90 €
Le Havre - Bordeaux, via Paris: 68.40 €
- Toulouse via Bordeaux: 45.90 €
- Nice via Beaune 78.30 €
Paris - Bordeaux via A10:
Paris - Bordeaux via A10 to Poitiers then N10 via Angoulême:
Bruxelles Brussels - Marseilles,
via Valenciennes and Reims: 82.00 €
Strasbourg - le Perthus (Spanish
border): 75.30 €
Freiburg im Breisgau / Mulhouse - Le Perthus:
Freiburg / Mulhouse - Montpellier, via Lyon: 58.90 €
Freiburg im Breisgau - Bayonne, via Châlon sur
Saône, N79, Montmarault A71 > A89 and
The average cost per kilometre depends on what proportion of the
journey involves free motorways or other roads. Drivers wanting to
avoid French the tolls should remember that it is not necessarily the
best solution, particularly in fairly populated areas.
Using other roads, with their traffic lights, speed
restrictions and roundabouts will mean longer journey times, more fuel
consumption and more
stress. ... even if you have a satnav to help you along...
check out this low-tolls
or no-tolls route
to Southwest France and the Spanish border.
► TIP : Ways to
save on motorway tolls when driving to southwest France
Though it is usually easiest and in the end worth it to take direct
motorways and pay the tolls, there is one journey where you can make an
appreciable saving for just a few extra kilometres.
If driving from Paris
and southwest France, do not follow the A 10 motorway
all the way. Leave the A10 at Orleans, following A71 > A20
Toulouse. At Limoges, follow N141 > Angoulême. At
follow the N10 for Bordeaux. All but about 60 km. of this alternative
route to Bordeaux is on autoroutes or dual carriageway, but after
Vierzon, it's all free. Saving
about 36 €uros less in tolls, for a distance of about 15 miles
extra.... and cheaper off-motorway petrol if you need it.
, check this low-tolls or no-tolls
to Southwest France and the Spanish border.
Click here for a zoomable detailed
road map of France
For more information on French motorway tolls, follow this link to the French
motorway network website
in English: this site provides a
form to fill in, to calculate the cost of a motorway trip through
For a detailed route, use the route-finder
map and distance calculator
page on About-France.com.
motorways and routes avoiding tolls
There are a few free motorways
in France, and some long-distance dual carriageways that are up to
motorway standard. It is even possible to drive
right through France
avoiding all tolls - though this is not
necessarily the best nor the most economical solution. The two links
below show our recommended routes to the South of France avoiding most
tolls - and alternatives avoiding all tolls.
Click map to enlarge
Among free motorways
► Major dual-carriageway routes
- two thirds of the section on the A16 - A28 route
between Calais and Rouen
- the A 84 from Caen to Rennes
- 275 km of the A20 from Vierzon to just south of
Gaillarde (the longest stretch of free motorway in France,
and the main Paris-Toulouse route).
- the A75 motorway between Clermont Ferrand and Beziers - an
alternate route for people driving to Languedoc and the
Spanish border. Note however the Millau
viaduct has a toll (Toll
prices). Mountain motorway not recommended for caravans or in
- the motorway between Dunkerque and Lille.
- Most urban and suburban autoroutes in France
are also free; and even when they are not, it makes more sense to pay
the toll and avoid miles of traffic lights and congestion.
For other dual carriageways, check on a detailed map of France
TRUNK ROADS :
These in France are still popularly known as "routes nationales
However, in the framework of "regionalisation", responsibility for most
roads has been devolved to local authorities, and the concept of
"routes nationales" has largely disappeared. The only "N" roads that
now survive are ones that - in the absence of an "autoroute", form part
of the strategic national road network, such as the N21 from Limoges
to Tarbes, or
the N13 from Cherbourg
as far as Caen
numbering in France
roads, such as A71, are motorways, or A
roads are strategic trunk routes - the N
roads are roads whose upkeep is paid for by the local D
or county. They can be anything from busy local routes or former
National routes now downgraded, to the quietest of country backroads.
When driving in France, it is always best to follow destinations
than road numbers. Following the regionalisation of responsibility for
many roads, the result - if you want to travel by following road
numbers - is a classic state of confusion; Drivers following the N13
south from Cherbourg lose it at Caen, as it becomes the D 613
thereafter! From Evreux to Mantes the "N 13" signs reappear, but after
that it's the D 113....For another example, anyone wanting to avoid the
toll motorway by driving along the old "route nationale" to the
southwest corner of France, from Chartres
to Biarritz, will follow three disconnected sections of main road known
as "N 10"; but in areas where the old N10 is now close to a parallel
motorway, the road is now signed as "D 910" or the "D 1010". Some old
"N" roads now blithely change their number each time they pass from one
department to another !!
This is all very confusing for foreign visitors driving in France, but
not so much for the French, since with the exception of
motorways, they follow a destination
rather than a road number. Destinations via main trunk routes are
indicated by the names of towns in white letters on a bright green
background, as shown above.
Note that France also displays European
route numbers where
appropriate; these are marked with a white number on a green
background, and are in addition to the French road number. For example
motorway from Paris to Lyon is also marked as
- E15 being a European route running from
Inverness to Algeciras.
In the motorway sign on the right, the A43 autoroute is also indicated
as being the E70; the main towns it leads towards are indicated in
normal lettering; other destinations, such as airports, are indicated
in italics. The word "Péage" at the bottom indicates that
this is a
Click for information on Traffic
accidents in France
main roads in France
"Bison Futé" and driving on the byways of
In bygone times many
great "alignements de platanes" - or avenues of
plane trees - were planted to give shade to travellers on French roads,
specially in the south of France. Though the plane-lined road remains
one of the iconic images of France today, few remain, except for short
sections on country roads, such as here in Languedoc.
Sometimes you may see direction signs starting with the word Bis
in italics. These are the equivalent of the British "HR" (holiday
route) itineraries, using less crowded main roads. Thus a sign saying
"bis Lyon" is an alternative route avoiding the main roads, and
generally with less lorry traffic. Bis, in French, means second (as in
the prefix bi-).
The "Bison futé" (in English the cunning bison) is the
does not follow the crowd, but seeks out less crowded easier roads, the
"routes bis", thus the "bis-on". If you see a bison futé
sign, it will
be directing you either to alternative routes
themselves or to an information point. On summer Saturdays, being a
cunning bison is often well worth it, unless you love driving in heavy
traffic or sitting in traffic jams.
Driving on the backroads
requires a good map - or a Satnav
that allows you to wander off the beaten track; but in many places, it
can still make driving a pleasure, rather than a chore
This is a good idea on most days. When driving from Calais to the south
of France, use the A26
motorway via Reims, Troyes and Dijon.
If driving to south western and central France, avoid Paris going via
Rouen, Evreux, Chartres and Orleans. There is no motorway between
Evreux and Orleans, but the road over this section is currently being
upgraded to dual carriageway, and over half of it is now complete. Avoiding
Paris- click for details and route map
Avoiding peak periods
If you can avoid travelling on Saturdays between July 10th and August
30th, this is very advisable. On these days, many French autoroutes -
and in particular all the main arteries to the south - are liable to
reach saturation. The worst bottlenecks are in the Rhone valley south
along the south coast, and around Bordeaux.
In January and February, Alpine motorways can get hyper-snarled up with
Check out the busy holiday
However, outside these periods, Saturday and Sunday are the best days
for driving in France, on motorways and arterial roads. Indeed, on
these days, HGV's - lorries or trucks - are banned, meaning that unless
you get stuck behind caravans or camper vans, combine harvesters or
other various slowdowns, driving is relatively hassle-free.
driving in France
Driving between the hours of 8 p.m and 6 a.m. can be a good way to
avoid the traffic. Motorway driving can be considerably easier at night
during peak holiday travel periods. Leaving Calais at 6 p.m.,
you can be almost half way down France by midnight. Depending on the
route you take, you can book a hotel near the motorway near Tours (A10 route
or Bourges (A71
) or Dijon (A26
However it is vital to ensure that you
have had sufficiient rest or sleep in the day before setting out on an
overnight journey. Cars from the UK and Ireland must
dip deflectors if driving after dark
restrictions in France
Petrol (Gas) stations in France
Almost all petrol stations in France accept Visa and Mastercard;
however take care with 24h automatic pumps in supermarket forecourts.
Many of these do not accept credit cards without integrated chip and
PIN number. Most UK cards now have integrated chip and pin, so the
times when UK cards did not work in French petrol stations are now
history for most travellers. However, if you think you may need to fill
up in an emergency while driving in France, check your card out at a
supermarket self-service pump well before you run out. If it doesn't
work, nip round and join the queue for the pay-at-the counter pumps.
Make sure that you don't have to fill up in an emergency using an
untested card at an unmanned filling station at night or on Sundays.
prices in France
Compared to the UK, there is not a big difference, except for diesel
which is cheaper. In mid August 2019
- after falling from the peaks that led to the first
fuel price protests in mid November - typical supermarket
prices in France were :
Euros per litre
95 - E10
Euro per litre
Euro per litre
||1.40 Euros per litre.
In non-supermarket and motorway filling stations, petrol prices can be
anything from 5 to 20 cts. a litre more expensive, depending on the
95 - E10 graded fuels (containing 10% of ethanol
compatible with almost all petrol-engined cars built after 2000; if in
doubt check with your supplier.
(There are 3.79 litres to 1 US gallon; but generally speaking cars in
Europe are smaller and consume less fuel than cars in
Click for information on Traffic
accidents in France
Motorway hotels or something else? France is very well equipped in
hotels and other types of accommodation. Many of the chains , such
(3 stars) , Mercure
(3 stars), Ibis
(2 stars) , Ibis budget
(2 stars), Campanile
(3 stars) and F 1 (1 star), have outlets
clustered near motorway exits, notably near the exits from toll
motorways and around towns and cities. The hotel links below list only
the French motorway hotels that are really easy to find.
See the French shopping guide
for useful information if you are planning to stop to shop on your way
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2003 - 2019 except where otherwise indicated.
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