After driving to Le Mans umpteen times in my life, somehow I still manage to screw up the queue for the Péage on multiple occasions! Just when I think I’ve got the signs and symbols covered in my mind, disaster is always around the corner and the now infamous reverse manoeuvre gets initiated. I decided to do some research into become the Grand Master of French toll road driving and this is what I found…
UK residents now enjoy access to the Telepeage transponder for automatic payments on French toll roads, which was previously not available to them. This means you easily skip the tollgate queues by driving straight through. In some cases, the barrier rises on your approach and you can cruise through. More often than not, however, you will have to slow to a crawl as you approach the barrier and wait for it to rise. Here is our quick how to guide on using toll roads in France.
The advantage of the Telepeage transponder
If you order the transponder in the UK, it conveniently deducts payments from your bank account, so you don’t need to worry about Euros and conversions and whatnot. It’s also convenient for right-hand drive vehicles because you can drive through without having to contend with ticket/pay points that cater to left-hand drive cars.
The expense (which is not much to begin with) is a one-off because the battery lasts for 5 years and when it dies you can exchange it for a fresh one free of charge.
About Using and Paying Tolls in France
More than 4200 miles of highway run on a system of tolls. The toll ways are owned and maintained by different companies so you will travel and pay in differing segments as you travel across the country. In fact most French autoroutes are toll motorways, and their entrances are marked on blue signs with the word “Péage”.
You can read the key rates for 2017 here, which allows you to choose your destination and works out the rates from there. In general, you can expect to pay between 10 and 60 Euros which can add up if you’re not careful. Most people pay by with tickets or cash but if you’re a regular user you can get a Telepeage transponder which gets you through the fast lane without having to stop and pay. All the toll operators fall under the ASFA umbrella (the association of French motorways) which makes the Liber-t telepeage scheme viable. Visit www.saneftolling.co.uk/how-does-it-work, for full details on how to use the automatic toll payment service and install the transponder in your car.
Use this link to obtain €5 off your fees, if you plan to install the transponder. It’s currently only €16 a year plus charges.
Understanding the Signs
As a UK driver, the signs can be confusing when you drive up to them as we aren’t used to them. Here is a quick rundown of what you need to know beforehand.
Upon entering the highway you may only need to take a card or ticket and pay later. This is what the sign looks like to collect a card or ticket from the automated machine.
Once you reach the payment stations you need to quickly decide what lanes to use. These lanes will be one of four things:
- Reserved for automatic payments – Telepeage
- Accepting credit cards (CB)
- Accepting coins (will show coins on the sign)
- Has an attendant present (has a blue sign depicting an attendant)
This is the lane you need to go through if you use a Telepeage transponder for automatic payments.
This is the lane to go through if you are paying with a ticket or card (note the CB sign).
Look for this sign if you want to pay with coins or cash.
Always have cash handy as not all foreign cards are accepted by the machines. If you do not have coins handy look for the blue attendant sign.
Service or Rest Stops
Rest stops are a great way to stretch your legs on a drive across France. There are two different service stops or ‘aires’ in France: one has food and fuel; the other just has picnic tables and toilets. They typically alternate. The food and fuel type rest stop will be indicated with the emblem of the fuel company as shown below, while the picnic spot is shown as such with a table and tree; also shown below.
Some good routes to take on the autoroute from the north if you wish to avoid Paris include:
- take the A16 towards Rouen then the A84 to Brittany
- take the A16, the A28 then the A87 to the south-west of France
- take the A26, direction Dijon, then the A39 and A4 to the Alps
- take the A26, direction Dijon, the A31, A6, A7 to the Provence and the south