Routes through France to Spain

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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  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 has gone down from 90km/hr to 80km/hr as from July  2018

Hotels on the way

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


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 roads with numerous towns and villages to negotiate.

The fastest routes to Spain:

Eastern route or western route ?  :
Eastern routes are recommended for visitors travelling 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
  • E1  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. 
    See  Map, showing motorway hotels - Calais, Reims, Dijon, Lyon route
    Toll May 2018 ~ 107.90 €  Distance:  1233 km    Driving time: about 11h 25. 
  • E2 All motorway, via Paris. Leave Calais on the A 26 following signs for Reims as far as Arras. Then follow down through Paris, Orleans, Clermont Ferrand, Beziers, Perpignan. Motorway toll-free from Clermont Ferrand to Béziers, except for toll on Millau viaduct.  
    See  Map, showing motorway hotels - Calais, Rouen, Orleans route
    Toll May 2018 ~ 99.90 €   Distance:  1162 km    Driving time: about 11h.  (if no delays round Paris)
  • W1 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 detailed map, showing motorway hotels on this route
    Toll May 2018~ 87.40 €  Distance:  1081 km    Driving time: about 10h..
    Alternative route: use Portsmouth Le Havre or Portsmouth Caen ferries for 150 km less driving in France (and less driving in the UK too if coming from west or northwest of London, as well as avoiding M25). Check with Brittany Ferries
  • W2  Like W1 but via Paris not Rouen
    Toll May 2018~ 92.90 € Distance, about 1088 km. Driving time: about 10h20.
    But beware of delays round Paris

Cheaper routes to Spain,

  • E3 then from Orleans.  Mostly motorway, avoiding Paris.
    8 km longer than E2, but less tolls and no Paris. Leave Calais on the A 16 , 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. Map with hotels
    Toll May 2018 : ~ 61.30 €.  Distance: 1164 km  Driving time: about 11h 30. 
  • E4  The fastest eastern route with few tolls:
    see To the Mediterranean without tolls Same as E3 except for Orleans to Clermont Ferrand. But it will take about 3 to 4 hours more driving than any of the other routes. After Béziers, follow the old routes nationales to the Spanish border. Rather slow after Perpignan, and not for HGVS.
    Toll costs and driving time depend on how many time-saving toll sections you prefer to take.
    Distance, a little over 1200 kmDriving time: about 13h  to 14h.30.
  • W3  A fast western route with few tolls:  Calais - Irun via Rouen, Orleans, and A10 to Poitiers, then N10 to Bordeaux:  tolls depend on what toll sections you prefer to take
    See Calais to Bayonne / Irun without tolls
    Toll May 2018 54.10 €.  Distance, about 1100 kmDriving time: about 11h 08.
  • W4  Calais - Irun with few tolls  via Rouen, Chartres, then N10 to Tours, and A10 to Poitiers, and N10 to Bordeaux: shortest route, but longer in time than W3,  Note: Chartres to Tours, 120 km, mostly single carriageway. For more details, notably regarding toll motorways south of Bordeaux, see Calais to Bayonne / Irun without tolls 
    Toll May 2018 :  38.90 €.  Distance: 1030 km   Driving time: at least 11h. 22.... up to an hour and a half more if you avoid tolls between Bordeaux and the Spanish border.
  • W5  Calais - Irun with few tolls  via Rouen, Orleans, Vierzon, A20, N141, Angoulême, Bordeaux: more motorway than W4 but most economical in tolls. A good balance between distance, speed and tolls   .Map with hotels
    Toll  :  36 €.  Distance: 1112 km Driving time: about 12h. 50.
Note: Motorway tolls are based on May 2018 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

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