Roads & Autoroutes in France
Depending upon your own driving style and needs for a journey don't necessarily ignore the older roads, those prefixed with the letter N or RN (Route or Route Nationale) or the smaller roads prefixed with the letter D. These roads are generally well maintained and are often lightly used. So if you are not in any particular hurry, give some consideration to trying some of them.
For further information about some alternative routes buy a copy of the ‘Bison Fute’ map, available from most petrol stations.
Many of the Autoroutes (Motorways) in France are TOLL roads. Known as autoroutes à péage, fees are payable at the regular toll gates.
As you enter the Toll booth allowing you to get on the Autoroute to start with you have to drive up to the appropriate booth (don’t enter the ‘Priorité’ lane which is for card holders only). Once you have collected your ticket continue forward, watching for vehicles merging potentially from both your left and right, and checking the lane leading to the destination you want to go to!
The Toll tickets list the access points along the Autoroute as a guide to exit numbers and locations. Use this a prompt for when to come off the Autoroute.
The layout of the exit toll booths is similar to the entry booths only this time you hand your ticket in and pay the toll to the attendant. If you are in a hire car, the attendant will be next to the driver but if you are driving down through France the toll booth will be on the passenger side so make sure your passenger is primed to hand over the money.
A ‘Merci Monsieur/Madam’ never goes amiss!
Using the regional toll roads to facilitate sightseeing isn’t expensive but make sure you have some change available for when you exit the toll booth after that first stretch – they are not set up to accept English money! Perpignan to Beziers North was just over 4 Euros in February 2005.
Over the length of the holiday, if you are covering a lot of mileage, the toll costs can mount up so make sure that you budget for the costs for these costs if you are going to use toll roads a lot.
Autoroutes in France are excellent, with service stations approximately every 30 to 40 kilometres offering a range of facilities. These often even include some entertainment for children during the summer holidays. There are also frequent stopping places known as ‘Aire’s which are ideal for stretching your legs and taking a 10 minute break - keep an eye open for the signs coming up!
Although most motorways are toll roads, there are some stretches that are not - these are marked with a green sign.
Along the Autoroutes, you are expected to drive on the right and pass on the left.
Just as in the UK, don't hog the overtaking lane (the left lane!) as faster cars coming up behind you can make it very clear that they want you to move over. Just make sure that you do so safely and are careful not to cut to the right too quickly because of the added pressure - you don't want to carve up the drivers on your right, do you!