Autoroutes and French Tolls
Autoroutes are the French equivalent of a motorway and often involve the payment of tolls to travel along them. These Autoroutes are very common in France and can be the best way to travel long distances. Due to the size of France and the long distances you may need to travel we’d always recommend you use Autoroutes wherever possible because it will usually save you time.
To give you an example, driving from Calais to Paris takes over an hour longer if you avoid travelling on toll roads!
French Autoroutes account for over 9111km of the French road network. Autoroute signage is denoted by the letter “A” followed by a number.
Autoroutes are unlike other motorways in that they are operated and administered by a variety of different companies. Each of these companies charge a toll or “Péage” for their use. If you plan to travel long distances you may find that you have to pay on more than one occasion during your journey..
Although the majority of Autoroutes are toll based and require payment, there are a selection of Autoroutes throughout France which are still government run and are therefore free.
Autoroutes and Toll Procedures
Autoroute tolls are very easy to use and signage is self explanatory as long as you know some key words. The main word you need to know when it comes to Autoroutes is the word “Péage” which means “Toll”. “Péage” signs are usually viable when you approach and toll road and also when you reach the pay booths.
Tolls are generally payable on three occasions including when you leave the Autoroute at a particular place, when the Autoroute comes to a natural end and on certain sections of Autoroutes there are toll payable bridges.
The usual procedure for using the majority of Autoroutes is to collect a ticket from the ticket machine prior to joining the Autoroute and then you pay at one of the payment booths on when one of the above occasions occur. You are then charged a toll for the type of vehicle you are driving for the total distance you have travelled along that particular Autoroute.
There are occasions however when you will not be required to collect a ticket at the beginning of your journey because there will be a fixed fee at the end.
Toll Payment Options
There are three ways to pay or your trip on the Autoroute, by cash, by card or by TAG. Cash and Card are usually paid to an operative in the booth or via a machine located at the end of the autoroute. The only issues with paying by cash or card is that if your vehicle is left hand drive like all UK vehicles, unless you have a passenger with you, you’ll have to either get out to pay the fee or lean across the passenger seat and pay through the passenger window which can be a bit of a pain.
The third way of paying is with a TAG. If you regularly use a bridge, ferry or tunnel in the UK you may already be aware of similar devices. The TAG for France is provided by SANEF Tolling and is is fixed to the inside of your windscreen where it automatically opens the barrier and the fee for your travel is added to your account and deducted accordingly from a bank account.
You can find out more about the TAG, including costs, pros and cons and how it works in our SANEF Tolling page.