Motorways/Autoroutes bear the prefix ‘A’. Most are toll roads and are marked by blue signs, although autoroute sections through cities are normally toll free. The free autoroutes are marked by green signs. Be prepared at the beginning of toll sections to take the ticket which records where you entered the toll road and then to pay when leaving the toll section at the “peage”. It’s worth having some small denominations of Euros available for this – usually credit cards are acceptable although from time to time we have experienced problems in getting them authorised. When driving on autoroutes you need to be aware that lane discipline is much more strictly followed in France. If you don’t pull into the inside lane when there is space you will find angry French drivers very close on your tail with their left indicator flashing – their way of saying “ get out of the way stupid Englishman”!
Main roads in France, designated Route Nationale or “N” roads, can be acceptable for long journeys as an alternative to toll roads. Of course you can’t travel as fast, but they are often straight and un-crowded and are a nice alternative to monotonous toll roads.
Minor roads are classed as ‘D’ roads. Sometimes they can be quite acceptable routes when travelling in a locality, especially in busy areas such as the Dordogne or Côte D’Azur. But they are not to be recommended for travelling long distances.
Sometimes the French road numbers can be confusing, especially where you see two or even three road numbers on the same sign. A common one is to get an “A” and an “E” number on the same sign, for example the A18-E402. A18 is the French autoroute number, E402 is the road this becomes heads into another European country. Less common, but more confusing is where roads join and numbers combine temporarily, for example you may see road number A15-N14-D55. This would mean that these roads all follow the same route at this point, so if you’re following the N14, you’re still on the right road.
Getting around the Driving in France Section:
Practical Advice: This section is for the first timer with helpful hints on how to make your first drive in France a relaxing experience, even driving on the right hand side! For example making sure that you always have some cash ready for the autoroute tolls.
Preparing your car: There are things you need to remember before you leave, some are legal requirements, some just good advice.
Priorité à Droite: This famous feature of French driving etiquette still causes confusion today! Priorité a Droite info here.
Route Planning: Advice on route planning with the best maps, traffic advice and the best rest areas on the main autoroutes.
Read more travel in France:
- Before You Go
- Getting there
- Day Trips
- Overnight stops
- Entertaining the kids in the journey
- On arrival