Will be driving from Barcelona to Toulouse, France and am curious about the process to refuel. For example, are most petrol stations self-pump, or is there an attendant? Do the pumps take credit cards, like in the U.S., or does one have to hand cash or card to an attendant. This is my first time driving in Europe and am a bit anxious, so any assistance is much appreciated!
In Spain, there was always an attendant who pumped the gas. Not sure what the paying process was, since my friend paid and I gave him my share of the money.
In France, if the petrol station has an attendant, you can usually pay inside or at the pump. However, to pay at the pump, you will need an IC-enabled credit card (the "pin and chip" that you see people talking about here). At unattended petrol stations, you can only pay at the pump, and you need an IC card.
Thanx! I hadn't heard of the IC card; more research to do!
In France, more and more gas stations, even those at supermarkets that used to have attendants a couple of years ago, are machine-only. Because of that I got a chip and PIN card from Andrews FCU. I'd suggest looking into it.
Robin, The stations on the toll roads, autoroutes, have cashiers inside and are open on Sundays. As for stations in towns, you will always be able to find a station with an attendant even if the first one or two are automatic--but don't bank on buying gas on a Sunday because only automatic pumps will be in service in most towns. Many, many French and Spanish people who drive cars don't have credit cards and must pay with cash. I know because the lines at the cash pumps are longer than the lines at the automatic pumps. I have the type of credit card needed for the automatic pumps, and I find it very convenient, but I'm in Europe up to three months a year. Unless you are a regular European traveler, it might not be worth the hassle to get a special card that you use mainly overseas for a few fill ups or metro tickets.
Remember that fuel is 20-30% more expensive in France, so fill up in Spain if to save some Euros.
As long as you've applied for it, I hope it arrives in time because it does make it easier to travel.
@Brad, If it makes your friend feel any better, I've seen French people do the same thing and then crumble to the ground when they realize what they've done and what will be required to rectify the error.
If you do rent a diesel car - which is common in Europe - be aware that diesel fuel may be called gasoleo A in Spain and gazole in France. I won't tell you how I first learned that.
Wow, lots of really great info. Thank you everyone. It's the little cultural differences like fewer pump attendants on Sundays, and gas is way more cheaper in Spain, that are really helpful to know about ahead of time. Ill be sure to fill up before we cross into France. I did apply for the Andrews FCU credit card. I'm sure we could manage w/o it, but it could make things easier....if it arrives in time!
I won't tell you how I first learned that. Oh, do tell, Tom, do tell. Inquiring minds want to know... ;-}
Robin, I got an Andrews card in March, and while the application process took awhile, it went fast once the process was complete. The one thing I learned was not to assume that everything was fine if you didn't hear back after applying. But if you've gotten confirmation, the card should arrive pretty soon. As to putting diesel in a regular car and vice versa, I've always been curious as to what happens. The first time I rented a diesel in France I wasn't sure that I was doing the right thing when I saw Gasole, but there was color coding that convinced me it was OK. What happens when you're wrong?
Diesel nozzles are black throughout Western Europe, to my knowledge.
I would plan to pay in cash, personally. Don't waste your time/money getting a chip/pin card that they advertise at the airports. Most places don't accept them (or that is what we have found living over here). Some places will take your US-based credit cards, but we found the easiest thing is to just carry around a small amount of cash. You can withdraw cash at nearly any ATM using your US debit card. Nearly all stations are self-pump.
Spain is all full service. Tell them to fill it up (I was there in April and I've already forgotten how to say it, something allong the line of llenarse, llenar or llena). Use the bathroom (notice how clean they are), buy a drink or snack (many have small mini-marts like here), and pay. I don't have a chip and pin and never had a problem using a credit card. I haven't driven in France so can't describe it for you.
Re: Don't waste your time/money getting a chip/pin card that they advertise at the airports. Most places don't accept them (or that is what we have found living over here).
The first part is good advice for reasons of cost, not because they're not accepted, at least in France, although the Netherlands is different. They will be accepted throughout France. And cash won't do any good at automated pumps in France, which, as I mentioned, are becoming ubiquitous. I'd suggest looking into an Andrews chip and PIN.
Andrews FCU credit card approved and documents e-signed. I'll followup on Wed to ensure the card arrives in time. Thanx everyone!
Robin, based on my experience you'll have the card very soon. The application process took forever, but then the card and PIN arrived very soon after approval.
Just wanted to report back and close this loop. Although I paid the $25 for the expedited delivery of my Andrews FCU credit card, it did not get to me before I left for my trip. Some logistical issues were probably the cause. An expedited delivery requires a signature and the only place available to me for a signature was my work, a large public hospital. Although I put an exact building number for delivery on the request, the card did not come through that building and was waiting for me upon my return. Did the lack of a pin-and-chip card result in inconvenience? Yes, slightly. The main event of my trip was that we hired a boat in France and drove it down a section of le canal lateral de la Garonne. One port, at Valence d'Agen, required a pin-and-chip card at the kiosk to pay for electricity and water for the boat. Fortunately, we were able to give cash to someone who used their credit card and we were good to go. As far as petrol stations... We stopped exclusively at the station only the motorways, at which we were able to pump then pay inside. THANK YOU everyone for your assistance; I felt much better prepared, and even though I didn't have the credit card for this trip, I have it for future ones!
An additional couple of points that others might find helpful ... Fuel at autoroute filling stations is usually about 10cents/litre more expensive than at supermarkets. The difference between fuel costs in France and Spain is narrowing. It used to be between 20% and 25% cheaper in Spain. It's now down to just a few cents. Supermarket filling stations in France are often closed at lunch time (12-2) and after 7pm and all day on Sundays. At those times there is usually an automatic service available if you have a chip and pin card. If you use a card from the English speaking world, the machine will switch to English.
As I have two vehicles, one petrol and one diesel, I actually prefer to use the automatic self-service pumps, as there is less chance of putting the wrong fuel in by mistake. (e.g. if you specify unleaded on the screen and try and use diesel, the system will alert you.) There are often TWO types of diesel available with the more expensive having a yellow pump handle.
Never a problem. Drove from Barcelona to Carcasonne which is near Toulouse.