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toll roads --how to prepare

We will be driving from Normandy to Brittany and through Loire valley then back up to Charles de Gaulle. Plan to take mostly the smaller scenic roads (yes, I know they are slower), but may need to get on a A road at some time for a faster connection. How do the toll roads work? Do I need a lot of Euro coins ready ? a credit card? Approximately how much to they cost??

Posted by
2829 posts

You can check www.viamichelin.co.uk for reliable up-to-date information about toll costs in European roads. There is no need, specifically, to carry plenty of coins. Automated toll booths that accept money will take banknotes. Some will take only cards.

Posted by
3391 posts

You get on the road where you want, going through a toll booth where you will get a ticket from a person or, usually, a machine. Drive as far as you wish and then get off. There will be either a ticket booth with a person that will tell you an amount, or an automated booth where you insert your card and it charges you for the distance you have travelled. I have found that they are not really standardized. Just be prepared with paper notes and/or a credit or debit card and you'll be fine. When we were in France we were a little surprised at how much it was to drive the A roads...we hadn't budgeted for it and should have. Check the website recommended by the previous poster and you can get an idea.
It really is worth it to bypass things you don't want to really see to get to the things you do really want to see!

Posted by
3391 posts

You get on the road where you want, going through a toll booth where you will get a ticket from a person or, usually, a machine. Drive as far as you wish and then get off. There will be either a ticket booth with a person that will tell you an amount, or an automated booth where you insert your card and it charges you for the distance you have travelled. I have found that they are not really standardized. Just be prepared with paper notes and/or a credit or debit card and you'll be fine. When we were in France we were a little surprised at how much it was to drive the A roads...we hadn't budgeted for it and should have. Check the website recommended by the previous poster and you can get an idea.
It really is worth it to bypass things you don't want to really see to get to the things you do really want to see!

Posted by
6590 posts

All the above is right, but don't expect the machines to accept your US credit card. They only take the chip-and-pin cards used in Europe. Our banks and merchants haven't evolved that far yet. We would always pay cash, and use the staffed lane if there was one. Ditto for gas stations on the autoroutes, the machines won't take your US card. But as I recall the attendants will. The RS France guide estimates that four hours on the autoroute will cost about 25 euros in tolls, plus gas. Speed limits are 100 kph or more, so you can go a long way for that money. Of course the highways around Paris and CDG will be slower because of traffic.

Posted by
9110 posts

Miscellaneous corrections and amendments. All freeway rest plazas with gas stations are attended and will accept a mag stripe card. Get your gas and go inside to pay. Every once in a great while you have to march in first and tell them what you're about. The freeway speed is 130 on dry roads. You can burn through much more than forty euro in four hours, it just depends on the roads. You don't always snag an entry ticket, sometimes a booth just magically appears. The icon for a manned toll booth is a dude with his paw stuck out like he's taking money.

Posted by
194 posts

We were in France last week and used the toll roads when we needed to make up some time off of the smaller, scenic roads. As the others said, no need to carry tons of change just have banknotes available. Don't count on your credit card working. We, too, were surprised at how much the roads cost. The upside is that the roads are in great condition and the gas stations/plazas along the routes make for great stops. I've read in Rick's books that the gas along these routes are more expensive than you'll find elsewhere, but when you need gas, you need gas.

Posted by
531 posts

Just returned from France and drove toll roads all of which will take coins or notes up to 20 euro and will give change if automated.....our very last day exiting toll road to return car to CDG the signs above the booths were confusing and I swear they were either a T with a red circle around it or an icon to indicate cards only.....I chose the red-circled T and unfortunately it did not take cash and was not manned but did have a help intercom and a nice young lady appeared from somewhere to take my cash and give me change. She also told me I should have chosen the lane with the green-circled T as that one would have taken my cash......I honestly don't remember seeing that option that day but things turned out just fine.

Posted by
33 posts

Thanks for the information, folk. Just did a quick calculation to see how expensive the toll roads are. It looks like in France, it's about $0.14 per mile. As a reference, the Pennsylvania Turnpike costs around $0.11 per mile. Of course, I hope the French roads are in better shape the the PA turnpike!

Posted by
6898 posts

We drove 2,000km through France 2 years ago. We did drive on a lot of the scenic side roads along with the 18-wheelers that didn't want to pay the tolls. These roads do go through the small scenic towns. No tolls on most of these side roads. We did go on the toll roads for traveling longer distances. 20Euro for 170km was about what we paid. Make sure that you enter the toll booths that are either staffed or will accept bills (up to 20Euro) and coins. For the credit card only lanes, it's chip and pin only. No USA swipe cards. Most often, the toll booth on your far right is the one that is staffed (but not always). This booth will accept cash as well. Look for the square blue neon sign with a toll takers head and hat. The neon simply outlines this figure. Here's a link to what it looks like. http://gyazo.com/cb598fec3caee1bff549a9cb500836db Secondly, you may encounter an automated toll booth upon exiting that requires only a fixed fee. It's confusing at first because you won't have obtained a card as you entered this particular road. It's just a fixed exit fee. Just pay the Euro and go through. As Ed says above, you can use your credit card in the fuel stops along the toll roads. The gas pumps won't accept them but you just go inside and the attendant has a device that will accept the swipe card. Same with most restaurants. They have handheld devices that accept either type of card.

Posted by
9110 posts

There's no such thing as a standard toll rate. It all depends on the individual segment. Sometimes you can drive for two hours and not spend five bucks. Other times you can blast through $20 in an hour. I posted an estimate a couple of days ago for a segment down around Dijon where it was going to be six or seven dollars for 80 miles. The biggest one-day hit that I can remember was on a Dunkirk to Bordeaux run of about 550 miles that stiffed me something like $120. Also, some freeway segments don't have any tolls at all. For example, I can't picture a single tollbooth on the run from Paris to Chartres.

Posted by
531 posts

You are right Ed! We drove all the way from Chartres to above CDG until we hit anything that resembled a toll booth...We were headed to Pierrefonds...I was worried that somehow I blew threw a toll;)

Posted by
10254 posts

The roads are toll-free as you approach large cities, which explains the "free" Chartres to Pierrefonds run. For example, the last/first toll plaza on the A6 is near Fontainebleau. The different autoroutes are owned by different private companies.

Posted by
2026 posts

We were more than "a little surprised" by the costs of toll roads in France. When I mentioned it along the way, we were told that the roads were privately managed and operated, hence the prices. We started driving near Arles, but when that booth lit up our toll as we exited in Lyons it literally took my breath away.

Posted by
2916 posts

I've driven the toll roads of France for many years, and while I'm no longer shocked by the toll amounts, I'm often still amazed by how much they can be. And then suddenly there's a segment of an A road that's free. As to payment, I got a chip and PIN card from Andrews FCU last year, and it was very useful to have it for unattended gas stations and a few other spots. But it almost never worked at toll booths for some reason. Occasionally there would be manned toll booths, but usually I needed to use bills after the machine wouldn't take my card. Not a big deal, except when it's windy.

Posted by
123 posts

Keep a lot of coins in your wallet. We got caught at a toll road, could not find anyone manning a booth and cars lining up behind us. We threw in what ever coins we had , it was not enough, but drove through. It was pretty stressful.