through France - the main routes for driving to the south or
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Motorway driving in France is normally quite relaxed...
holidays in France.
The following days are public holidays ("jours fériés") in France, when
all or most shops tend to be shut.
- January 1st, New year's day
- Easter Monday (though not Good Friday except in
- May 1st, Labour Day, Fête du Travail
- May 8th, Armistice Day
- Ascension Thursday
- July 14th, Bastille Day, Fête Nationale
- August 15th, French August bank holiday
- November 1st, Toussaint, All Saints' Day
- November 11th, Armistice, first world war.
- Christmas (though not Boxing Day)
Unlike in the UK, when a public holiday falls during a weekend, there
is no extra compensating holiday on the following Monday.
Note that on public holidays, hypermarkets will generally be shut, so
unless you have a chip and pin credit card that works in French
automatic petrol pumps, you'll need to fill up on the motorway or in
normal filling stations.
"driving in" pages....
You may also like....
Photo above: Joe Schlabotnik
driving rules 2018
The national speed-limit on ordinary roads (i.e. excluding divided
highways and motorways) went down from 90 km/hr to 80 km/hr on July
1st. Also, use
of a mobile phone while driving may from now on lead to immediate
suspension of the driver's licence. Be warned !
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, Lyon, Marseilles or Toulouse, 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
- Summer 2018
Here 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
motorways: A1 Lille-Paris, A6 Paris-Lyon, A7 Lyon Marseilles
A8 Marseille-Nice, A9
, A10 Paris-Bordeaux (in
parts). A63 around Biarritz, and Alpine motorways in general.
Official traffic density forecasts:
: delays likely in some places
Red= busy, Black =
saturated : delays certain in busy spots
- Green from
20th May to 28th June
weekends: orange or red
on all routes every Friday and Saturday from 29th June to
Saturday: 4th August on all routes
- Black or red on all routes: Sat
from 22nd May to 13th July
- Sat 14th July orange in Rhone valley
- Orange or
red throughout France on Saturdays from 21st July to 25th
- Orange throughout on
Sundays 12th 19th and 26th August
- Orange on Fridays 10th, 17th and 24th
worst weekend for travelling north : Friday
17th - Sun
MOTORWAYS OR NOT ?
Avoiding problems. When driving in France, in spite of
the cost, it is generally worthwhile taking motorways (autoroutes) unless
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.
a) Petrol (gasolene)
(fr. essence): 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.
b) Anyone who
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
motorway 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 toll gates:
Three tollgates on a French motorway. Left lane:
vehicles with the drive-through remote payment transponder (télépéage)
- speed limit 30 km/hr
for vehicles with the télépéage transponder OR pay by credit
all forms of payment - cards and cash
Other signs :
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.
- Red cross: closed -
- Blue CB
rectangle : debit or credit cards only
Cash payment toll-gates (green arrow or
pictogram of coins) will provide change – even the automatic ones.
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,
but Sanef, the
French motorway operators' company, charges higher rates for users
applying via its English language website than for applications from
its French website - which can only be used by people having a bank
account in France.
2018 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 €uro
for 10 miles. For example, in Jan 2018 motorway tolls on the 1060 km
trip from Calais to Marseille,
via Reims, almost all of it on toll motorways, cost 89.6 €uros, about
£80 sterling at Jan 2018 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 2018
(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). 8.10 €
Calais - Paris, via A 16: 20.60 €
Calais-Marseilles, via Reims: 88.20 €uros
Calais-Bordeaux, via Rouen & Chartres
Calais-Bordeaux, via Rouen & Le Mans
Calais-Toulouse, via Paris 56.40 €
Calais-Toulouse via Rouen, Dreux: 37.10 €
- Perpignan via Rouen, Chartres & A 71:
via Reims, Dijon & A39:
via Reims, Dijon, A39: 74.00 €
Le Havre :
Le Havre - Montpellier via Chartres & A 71: 44.70 €
Le Havre - Bordeaux, via Alençon: 62.80 €
Le Havre - Bordeaux, via Paris: 74.20 €
- Toulouse via Bordeaux: 43.00 €
- Nice via Beaune 75.00 €
Paris - Bordeaux via A10:
Paris - Bordeaux via A10 to Poitiers then N10 via Angoulême: 34.60 €
BruxellesBrussels - Marseilles,
via Valenciennes and Reims: 78.60 €
Strasbourg - le Perthus (Spanish
border): 69.80 €
Freiburg im Breisgau / Mulhouse -
Perpignan: 68.20 €
Freiburg / Mulhouse - Montpellier, via Lyon: 54.30 €
Freiburg im Breisgau - Bayonne, via Châlon sur Saône and Bordeaux:
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 to Bordeaux
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 Angoulême,
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.
Among free motorways note in
► 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 peri-urban 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 Autoroutes
roads are strategic trunk routes - the National
roads are roads whose upkeep is paid for by the local Department,
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 rather
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
6 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 France
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 motorist who
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 of France 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 A
26 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
of Lyons, 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
route) 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 have headlight
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.
Compared to the UK, there is not a big difference, except for diesel
which is much cheaper (about 15%) in France. In
2018 typical supermarket fuel
prices in France were :
In non-supermarket and motorway filling stations, petrol prices can be
anything from 5 to 20 cts. a litre more expensive, depending on the
||1.50 Euros per litre
||1.47 Euro per litre
||1.35 Euros per litre.
E10 graded fuels (containing 10% of ethanol bio-fuel) are a couple of
centimes cheaper, where they are available. These are
compatible with most modern cars; 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
as Novotel (3 stars) , Mercure (3 stars), Ibis (2 stars) , Ibis budget (2 stars), and Formule 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 page
for useful information if you are planning to stop to shop on your way
journey through deepest France, from the north to the south
of France on scenic byroads
DRIVING IN FRANCE
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