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gas stations

any tips to getting gas or using gas stations in france?

Posted by
10344 posts

Yes, on Sunday, you'll be surprised how many gas stations are closed. They will be open on the Auto-routes (think Interstates), but if you're going to be away from the Auto-routes, fill up on Saturday.

And you need to find a manned gas station, a person you can give your US credit card (or cash) to, because the unmanned pumps won't take your US credit card.

Posted by
10344 posts

Yes, we've had recent reports here that even US cards with chip & pin technology have not been accepted in unmanned Europe gas pumps. No, we don't know why.
Maybe some others will share their experiences.
If the gas station is unmanned and the machines aren't accepting your card, for whatever reason, you're not going to figure it out there on the spot. And if you're low on gas, and it's Sunday and you're in the country--not good.

Best to get gas at a manned gas station, which you'll find on the Auto-Routes (toll roads) in France.
And if you're getting off the Auto-Routes, fill up your tank before you leave the Auto-Route..
And assume that you won't be able to get gas on Sunday, if you're not on the Auto-Routes.

It's different over there. Some of the differences aren't obvious and aren't the kind of differences you want to get blindsided by.

Posted by
9720 posts

Gazole = diesel

Essence = gasoline

Don't leave it for a Sunday in an unfamiliar place. You might end up searching for a while! Best, if you have the opportunity, to make sure you've filled up on a Saturday!!

Posted by
119 posts

We will be driving from L'Isle sur la Sorgue on a Sunday and turning in the rental car in Nimes on that Sunday night at the train station. We need to leave the car fully fueled. Does anyone know whether there will be a gas station open on Sunday in Nimes? Thank you.

Posted by
10344 posts

Best bet might be the closest service plaza to Nimes on the A9 Autoroute.
That's just a guess because I've taken the train to Nimes but not a car. I actually tried to drive into Nimes once but couldn't find parking, turned around, went to the Camargue instead, and returned to Nimes by train the next day.
I found it a challenging town to drive in so use your map and GPS to find the train station.

Posted by
393 posts

We were there Sept 2013. No problems.
I returned the car "downtown" Paris. Hadn't considered the problem of filling the car in a city w/o gas stations. :-)
There was a gas pump at the side of the busy city street, right on the sidewalk, where we just pulled over in traffic and filled up. It was attended by a man to ensure all was safe.

Posted by
228 posts

And you'll be AMAZED at how miles the european diesel engine cars get per gallon! We rented a luxury car in Orlando and filled up a completely emptied 17 gallon gas tank three times in 4 days... about 12 miles/gallon freeway. Stupid! In France and England we travelled long countryside roads all day long for 8 days and only thrice filled up a still half full 15 gallon tank! Averaged 40-50 miles/gallon... no joke! Look for the clear vinyl gloves at the gas pumps and USE them before touching the gas hose. Diesel is oily and stays on your hands for hours.

Posted by
1189 posts

Hi from Wisconsin,

We had a Toyota Echo (?) and we got 47 miles per gallon. I carefully kept track and did the conversions precisely. It didn't seem to matter is we were going 120kph or 40 kmp. And we didn't have a diesel which is suppose to even better.

Gas stations in France. Out first two trips we had a hard time finding an open petro station. Not this year. Seems about half of the large food markets shopping centers have pumps.

These food grocery stores are typically on the out skirts of a city. Once we figured that out, we just refueled well before 8PM (20:00). Most have a person in the box to take your cash.

The US chip cards. I tried using a chipped Citi card and about half the time it worked. I was smart and kept a pile of cash for toll roads rather than hope the card would work.

Another thought about traveling in France. Schedule your meals to take advantage of the Price fix meals available 12:00 to 12:30. I know they eat from 12:00 to 14:00, but the restaurants/cafes fill fast and stop taking additional customers real early. Picking the 'right' place to eat is much less important than being in a seat at 12:05. The food was GREAT, the prices AMAZING.

wayne iNWi

Posted by
8 posts

I did not realize the rental car in France was a diesel. The young lady at the rental counter was chatting on the phone
and did not tell me about the car. The gas tank accepted the nozzle of the regular gas pump and, down the road ,
things started to go bad. Fortunately, I was able to limp to my destination, and the nice Hertz people exchanged the
car. This was a few years ago, and maybe it is not physically possible to make such a mistake today.
You learn from your mistakes, John

Posted by
784 posts

I have found the best gas prices to be at the Supermarches and Hypermarches, which are generally located on the outskirts of towns or on the main thoroughfares through a town - you can hardly miss them. They also have manned payment booths. BTW, shopping in these stores can be an experience in themselves. Think street market + super market + department store.

Posted by
2916 posts

As Carolyn said, the best gas prices are at the large supermarkets, which also often have 24 hour gas pumps (as long as you have a proper credit card). A few years ago I got an Andrews FCU chip and PIN card, spurred on by the difficulty of finding manned gas stations in many places. With that card, I've never had a problem, and haven't had to worry about whether I could find an open gas station on Sunday.

Posted by
73 posts

A few tips to share based on my experience with taking the road trip to/from Paris and Normandy:

  • Type of Gas: First off, know the type of gas your rental car takes. Diesel is still common in Europe
  • Payment: it's much better to have the chip/pin credit card. If you only have magnetic strip cards from the US or cash, you will need to pay at the booth (if open). Many gas stations close relatively early (booth) but you can still get gas with a chip/pin card at the pump
  • Return to Airport (CDG in my case): Gas up outside of the airport if your return time is well past 9pm. I returned my car without a full tank and had to be charged $$$ by rental company because there were no gas stations open past 11pm around CDG.

Hope this helps! Safe travel!

Posted by
100 posts

We drove for three weeks in France in September 2014. At least three, maybe more, gas stations were not attended. No problem with my pin-and-chip Visa card. It also worked at unattended autoroute toll stations.

Posted by
1825 posts

Diesel is NOT the green handle like it is in the States. There are garages that make a living switching out the wrong gas that tourists put in rental cars. Some rental companies put a colored dot on the gas cover that coincides with the correct handle.

Stopping at a large gas station off the toll highway was a worthwhile experience. It was luxerious compared to an American truck stop.

Posted by
8889 posts

Green = Unleaded, Black = Diesel. Click here for a photo. These colours are standardised across Europe, but maybe not in the USA.
Diesel is "Gazole" in French, and variations of that in other Latin Languages.

Posted by
7 posts

thank you all so much for the deisel advice. we would have been up a creek without that knowledge.

Posted by
3610 posts

You might consider doing the prepaid fuel option, if it's available. I've always avoided it because you inevitably leave a gift of some gasoline to the rental company. However, on a recent domestic trip, I realized that we might be a little pressed for time getting to the airport for our return flight. Finding a service station near that particular airport is a bit complicated, and we would have been in rush hour traffic. I calculated that we left about $10 worth unused, a small price for no stress. Just a thought . . .

Posted by
2261 posts

Rosalyn, I took that option with our diesel, and after driving around Provence for three days I never needed to stop for fuel. Worth every euro. I also paid for a VW Polo, which they were out of, and got the 3 Series BMW for the same price-I love telling that story!

Posted by
15612 posts

Avoid refueling at the autoroute rest stops if you can because their prices are higher. It seemed to me that they were around €.20 per liter more than anything off the highway, where prices also varied by €.10-20.

Posted by
32964 posts

All filling stations (with a very few exceptions) are required by French law to report their prices within a very short period (I think 3 hours) of any change.

There are websites which capture this data, and there are a couple of apps.

I especially like the Carbeo app which will show (using your phone's GPS) the prices of fuel - you can choose what fuel - in the immediate vicinity or you can put in a town or postcode and get the same result.

I normally use it before I leave my hotel room (and filling in the morning puts cold fuel in the tank so it takes less room and you can fit more in and go further on a tank). It also tells you what facilities each filling station has. Unfortunately it does not list opening hours - you have to consider that most places will be open business hours only except places which have pay at the pump (chip and pin). Almost all are self service now in France - the opposite to Italy.

Posted by
776 posts

Thank you so much for asking this question. We are driving around Alsace, Normandie and the Loire on our next trip for 14 days and this thread gave me answers to questions I did not know I even needed to ask. Copied and Pasted lots of it into my helpful France word document.

Posted by
40 posts

Thanks for all of the posts on this thread.

This Sept., I'll be driving from Paris to Normandy on a Sunday. I'll make sure to have a full tank when I depart.

Posted by
2437 posts

Currently driving through southern France and our andrews chip and pin card worked at an unmanned gas station on a Sunday. Our car is diesel and we use the yellow handled gazole pump snd the plsce to insert the nozzle in the car is also yellow.

Posted by
165 posts

I just returned from 3 weeks in France. I have a chip and pic credit card (I had to ask my card company to mail me the pin) and never once did I need the pin in Paris. I did use it in machines for tickets and gas all over Provence without any trouble. Capital One cards also have no foreign transaction fees - which can mount up on a long trip. Enjoy your trip. suzy