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Routes through France to Spain

Speed, tolls, distances ... compare the options

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Driving through FRANCE to SPAIN

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

Covid-19 info.   May 2022 : Spain's land border with France is open to road and rail traffic. This is not expected to change in 2022 unless a huge surge in infections leads to general European travel restrictions.

When driving through France, don't forget to carry a yellow fluorescent jacket... All vehicles driving on French roads  are obliged to carry a yellow fluorescent jacket, that must be put on if the driver has to get out in an emergency. (In Spain, it's one per passenger). 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.

Important: default speed limit on single-carriageway French roads is now 80km/hr 


It's a long drive from the UK to Spain, and drivers heading south need to establish their priorities in terms of time, speed and cost. Motorway tolls between Calais and the Spanish border can vary between zero and over 100 Euros, (over 160 € for campervans) depending on the route chosen. Yet unless time is no object, paying a few French motorway tolls makes sense ; it will even normally work out cheaper on fuel than slavishly avoiding all tolls, given that stop-start driving through urban areas is very heavy on ruel consumption.
  Trying to avoid all tolls is generally a pointless exercise even for motorhomes or campervans; driving hundreds of kilometres on slow roads with numerous towns and villages to negotiate is not the best way to cross France, unless you want to keep stopping to visit the sites on the way. There are more economical ways of driving to Spain than that.
   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.

Hotels along the way
Click for best online rates for hotels near the following towns on the main routes through France.
Other areas
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Time, distance, tolls - compare the routes UK to Spain:

Eastern route or western route ?  :
Eastern routes
are recommended for visitors travelling from the UK to the Costa Brava and anywhere on the Spanish Mediterranean coast north of Valencia. They cross into Spain south of Perpignan, at the border at Le Perthus / La Junquera and continue towards Barcelona.

Western routes
These are recommended for travellers aiming for central or southern Spain or Portugal. Routes to southern Spain via Bordeaux and Irun are actually shorter than those via Lyon and Perpignan. Western routes cross into Spain south of Biarritz, at the border at Irun and continue towards Zaragoza, Burgos or Bilbao.
Distances indicated below are from Calais to the Spanish border.
Times are liable to be considerably longer on peak holiday Saturdays (July August), particularly on routes E1, E2 and W2

Cheaper routes to Spain

Tip: reduce your fuel costs by driving less fast. Driving at 70 mph (112 kph) rather than 80mph (129 kph) reduces average fuel consumption by a huge 15%..... the equivalent of 30 centimes less per litre at 2022 fuel prices, or 18 € less on the cost of a full tank of 60 litres.
Note: Motorway tolls are based on May 2022 rates for cars.
For Car + caravan; add about 50%; for truck / HGV toll rates (class 4) : approximately three times the rate for cars.
   Since the savings on  fuel and on distance make the shortest routes an attractive proposition for HGVs (trucks), (notably N141 or N 10)  they are not necessarily 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. 

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

► ► 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

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See France as you travel through......

Chartres, with its UNESCO listed cathedral, is a good stopping-off point on routes E3, E4, and W3 - W5

Bourges cathedral  
Bourges : see the remarkable medieval sculpture and stained glass in the cathedral, a UNESCO world heritage site - routes E2 and E3

Bordeaux - wine capital of the world. On all western routes

Paris. On routes W2 and E2.  Tip: stay on the outskirts, go in by train.

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car hire in France

Map of France

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