of main motorway routes through France: click map for further
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Motorways are generally not congested
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Find hotels in FranceFrench Motorways are very well provided for in terms of Service Areas, known as "Aires" or "Aires de service". Distances to upcoming service areas, together with pictograms indicating the services provided, are indicated at regular intervals on the motorways. So too are fuel costs at service areas to come.
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The first point to note, however, is that full service areas are not the only points at which drivers can stop for a break on the French motorway system. Far more frequent than full-scale service areas are much smaller "aires de repos" which are in essence just off-road parking areas where drivers can pause for a break, a picknick or other essentials. But whatever the type of "aire" that is coming up, the services provided are always clearly indicated in advance, with standard pictograms.
Here is a guide to what you can expect to find at the different stopping points along French motorways.
a) Full motorway service areas.
Well indicated in advance, full motorway service areas provide a wide range of facilities for motorists. As well as offering a filling station (petrol, diesel and sometimes LPG), full motorway service areas have at least one restaurant, maybe more, a snack bar, a café, at least one shop selling a range of products for the traveller, including sandwiches, drinks, newspapers, and maybe more. there are also of course toilets and sometimes shower facilities. In tourist areas, there is often a shop selling local specialities and guidebooks, and there may well also be a tourist information point. Examples are the Aire du Poulet de Bresse, near Bourg-en-Bresse on the A39, or the Aire de l'Aveyron, north of Millau, on the A75 motorway. More and more full motorway service areas are now equipped with free access wi-fi.
All big service areas have ample parking facilities, and often a landscaped area with chairs and tables for picnicks. Most have an outdoor children's play area. Some even come with tourist attractions included; one such example is the Archeodrome, located on the main A6 Beaune-Tailly service area, in Burgundy, which has replicas of neolithic huts, a group of medieval dwellings, a Gallo-Roman house, and other historic reconstructions.
actually located on motorway service areas.
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These easily-accessible hotels are often full, particularly for motorists who turn up without a reservation, and advanced booking is is highly recommended. Advanced Internet booking also means plenty of discounted offers that are not available to travellers who just show up at the door.
►►►► For MORE MOTORWAY HOTELS - handily sited close to exits, check out these route maps:
b) Smaller service areas
As well indicated as the full service areas, but with less pictograms on the advance information signs, smaller service areas are similar to large (or even not so large) petrol filling stations on other roads. They are essentially just fuel stops, with a snack bar / café, toilets, and usually a small shop selling essentials such as snacks, busicuits, and drinks.
c) Parking areas - rest areas (aires de repos)
Designated in advance as "Aire de .....", these parking areas are situated on average about every 25 kilometres. They are usually unmanned, and are just places where drivers can have a pause on their journey. Facilities are limited to toilets, generally unheated. They are designated with the standard P pictogram for parking, + the toilet (or for Americans, washroom) pictogram, and perhaps the picnic area pictogram. They may or may not have a telephone kiosk.
d) Secure truck / HGV parking areas on French motorways
Prices on French motorway service areas:
As one might expect, prices in motorway service areas tend to be more expensive than in equivalent locations elsewhere. But even in motorway service areas, one can shop around. In one service area visited recently (on the A 40 Alpine motorway), the cost of coffee and a sandwich was almost 30% less in the small café attached to the filling-station part of the service area, than in the café area of the main service area. Different franchises, different prices ! (Or is it reasonable prices for the regulars, who know; high prices for the passing tourists?)
Wining and driving
Wine is available with meals in French motorway service areas - a fact that surprises a lot of visitors. But don't forget that the drink drive limit in France is lower than it is in the UK. The best advice is the same everywhere; don't drink and drive.
Service areas on the A-26 - A5 - A 31 - A 39 - A 42 (Lyon).
restaurants are self service, some have waiter service
|A 26 at km 55||Aire de Rely||Small restaurant|
|A 26 at km 179||Aire d'Urvillers||Restaurant|
|A 26 at km 239||Aire du Mont de Nizy||Small restaurant|
|A 4 (A 26) 22 km after Reims||Aire Reims Champagne||Restaurant|
26 at km 336
|Aire de Sommesous||Restaurant|
|A 5 at km 200 (after Troyes)||Aire Chateauvillain Val Marnay||Two restaurants|
|A 31 before Langres||Aire Langres Perrogney||Restaurant|
39 at km 25
|Aire Pont de Saône chêne d'argent||Fast food|
39 at km 79
|Aire du Jura||Restaurant, self-service, snack. Viewpoint, many facilities, nature trail, activities in summer|
|A 39 at km 115||Aire du Poulet de Bresse||Restaurant, self service, viewpoint, play area, motorway hotel: Ibis budget hotel (**)|
|A 42 20 km before Lyon||Aire Lyon Montlue||Self service|
|A 16 before Abbeville||Aire
de la Baie de Somme
28 at km 68 before Rouen
28 after Exit 15 for Broglie, Aigle
28 - A11 by Le Mans
la Sarthe Le Mans
service restaurant, fast food restaurant
|A 28 after exit 26||Aire
Self service restaurant
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