French motorways (autoroutes) are defined by numbers preceded by the letter A (for Autoroute). There are a few free motorways in France, and some long-distance dual carriageways are up to motorway standard. It is actually possible to drive right through France avoiding all tolls – though this is not always the best nor the most economical way to drive.
Tolls Roads in France
The entrances to toll roads are marked with the word “Péage”. The normal procedure for using the toll road is a ticket – or pay-as-you-go system. They can save you heaps of travelling time, skirting round busy towns.
When you drive onto the toll road approach, you press the button on the machine to collect a ticket which records where you enter the toll section of the autoroute. When you exit the toll section you present your ticket to a cashier in a booth, or pop your ticket in a machine. The machines have a screen which clearly indicate how much you have to pay. It’s usually quickest to pay cash so have plenty of coins handy for short journeys on the toll roads.
Using the toll roads isn’t as daunting as you might think. Even if you’re driving a car with right hand drive, with the toll booths and toll machines on the left, drivers in France are used to this. They know you might have to get out and walk round to pay if you don’t have a companion in the car to help.
And, whatever you do, don’t lose your ticket. You’ll have to pay way more than you wanted if that happens.
Signs on French toll gates:
Red cross: closed
Green arrow: open, all methods of payment.
Blue rectangle: debit or credit cards only.
Orange T: Télépéage slow down only, no stopping – this is only for vehicles fitted with toll charging sensors.
What is the procedure if you break down on a French toll road?
Toll roads in France are effectively private roads – their rules are (for “safety reasons”) that if you break down on one of their roads you must use their breakdown operatives for assistance. The Autoroutes of France Association state that:
Minor problems are fixed in situ.
For more serious problems, the breakdown service operator will tow the vehicle to the garage.
Breakdown call-out and tow-in fees are set by the French government.
You can find more details about the fees here.
If you want to plan your route and take into account the toll charges on French motorways, the French Autoroutes of France site has an excellent tool which will allow you to choose your route via a number of categories such as most scenic route or quickest route and is well worth checking out. To give you an idea, traveling to Paris from Calais will cost roughly 21,40€ (2013) – but note that toll charges change from time to time.
The Autoroutes of France website also offers traffic updates as well as the locations of scheduled road works . Click here to plan your route and work out the cost http://www.autoroutes.fr/en/routes.htm
For more rules on driving in France see: