Getting around France by car

(c) Chris Hellier / Getty Images

(c) Chris Hellier / Getty Images - Credit: Archant

Whether you’re planning your commute or a longer journey across the country here is what to expect from France’s autoroutes and car sharing options

(c) DEBOVE SOPHIE / Getty Images

(c) DEBOVE SOPHIE / Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

France is a large country and exploring the towns, cities and varied landscapes is one of the great pleasures awaiting holidaymakers and residents alike. However, the sheer size of the country means that long trips can require careful planning. France has an excellent rail network and a number of French cities have trams, but there are, of course, times when public transport is not an option and you need to take the car.

In the driver’s seat

This is when France’s excellent motorway or autoroute network comes into its own. The comprehensive autoroutes.fr website will help you plan the route, suggest when to stop, show service areas, calculate fuel and toll costs and do just about everything bar the driving! It can also provide real-time information on weather, roadworks and/or accidents that could affect your journey.

(c) George Pachantouris / Getty Images

(c) George Pachantouris / Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images

Service areas, known as aires, generally appear around every 15km or so and contain toilets and picnic areas. The larger aires which provide fuel, restaurants, shops and so forth tend to be much busier. Many have children’s playgrounds, designated areas for dogs and even visitor centres. It is essential to take a break every couple of hours when doing a long drive and the French motorway system is very much geared towards encouraging drivers to do just that.

The vast majority of the French motorway system is based around toll roads or péages and while the cost deters some users, they provide a fast and efficient way to get around. Regular users may want to acquire a badge (such as those provided by Bipandgo and Liber-t); this means little or no queuing as there are designated lanes for badge holders. It is much more convenient if you have a righthand-drive car and discounts are available for users who regularly use the same stretch of motorway.

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Of course, an even more economical way to travel by car is to car share and there are numerous car share sites in France. Blablacar is by far the best known but it’s also worth taking a look at Kombo’s car sharing section which provides information on other car share sites, car hire between private individuals and cheaper hire options such as DriiveMe, where cars and vans can be hired for the nominal sum of just €1 – making it a very cheap car hire option!

Car sharing is a great option if you have a regular commute to do as well as for longer trips and it’s also a good way to improve your French!

Many cities are now also offering individual car hire or autoportage. This is a cost-effective way to access a vehicle for the occasions where public transport isn’t an option. Tarifs vary according to whether you require the vehicle for an hour, a day and so on. Given the difficulties and costs involved in parking, not to mention damage and theft, autoportage is probably the ideal solution for city dwellers who require occasional access to a vehicle.

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Ideas for French road trips

Explore the Sologne region of north-central France

Explore La Rochelle and Cognac country

Explore Amiens in northern France