I love driving along the M6 toll road because it’s almost always free of traffic, allowing me to dodge the M6 near Birmingham, with all the delays and strife that involves. Of course, that convenience comes at a price in the form of a toll.
Which is exactly the case when you’re travelling through France; it can be an utter joy, albeit an expensive one.
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Here’s our guide to understanding French toll roads.
What are they?
While motorways in the UK can be easily identified with the letter ‘M’, French motorways, or autoroutes, are designated with the letter A. They’re a fantastic network of well-maintained and high-speed roads that make travelling the length or breadth of France such a delight.
However, the autoroute network does come at a cost, and that cost is generally the need to pay a toll to use them.
Is there an upper age limit for car hire?
How do I know if it’s a toll road?
Most autoroutes (‘A’ roads) are toll roads, and the entrances to them are marked "Péage" (pronounced pay-arje).
Autoroutes also have blue road signs with white lettering on them and if it is a péage then it will be marked as such on the sign too!
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How much does it cost?
The cost varies, but averages out at about €1 for every ten miles travelled. There is a handy online toll calculator here.
What do the signs above the lanes mean?
You will come across five main signs on the autoroute toll booth lanes:
- A Red Cross shows that the lane is closed and a Green Arrow means that the lane is open.
- Blue Coins indicate that cash is taken in that lane, but change won’t be given.
- A picture of a Blue Man means that that lane is staffed and that change will be given while, A Blue Rectangle with ‘CB” on it – or a picture of a black and white credit card or the words “cartes” and “Cards” – shows that that lane is only to be used by people who want to use debit or credit cards.
- Finally, an Orange T (for Télépéage) shows that that lane is for drivers who have a toll charging sensor, or transponder, fitted. The drivers of these cars don’t have to stop, relying on an automatic charge being levied by the sensor fitted in that lane.
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How do I use them?
The normal procedure is to stop and collect a ticket from the booth as you enter the autoroute, making the appropriate payment as you leave the autoroute or when the toll road ends.
Of course, the toll booth and ticket machine will be on the left, so having a passenger with you makes it so much easier!
Registering for an autoroute transponder
Motorists in the UK can also now register for a transponder from Sanef.
The transponder, which is fastened to the inside of your windscreen behind the rear-view mirror, enables you to use the Orange T lanes, which can speed up your journey considerably as the queues there can be lengthy. It also means you aren’t scrabbling for change to pay the fees all the time.
Sanef will then send you a bill within a month or so of you incurring the toll and will then collect the amount due via direct debit from your designated bank account approximately two weeks later.
It’s a easy and safe way to pay the fees, and is something I highly recommend doing if you’re going to be driving through France, even if it does cost about €10 a year in fees.
For more tips and useful information, browse our motoring articles.
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