Tolls: How they work

The French tolls are not as complicated as one might think as Carolyn Boyd explains

Many British drivers will not be used to the tolls (péages) for autoroutes, and they can be an unexpected cost on a journey. However, they are straightforward to use. You enter through a barrier, which goes up once you take the ticket. Keep the ticket in a safe place – if you lose it, you’ll be charged the maximum fee for that stretch of road.

When you come to the end of the toll section, or leave the autoroute, pull up to the booth, present your ticket to the attendant and pay the fee that is shown on the screen. You can pay in cash or by credit card.

On some toll roads you do not take a ticket at the start, but simply pay a fixed tariff when you reach the end. Most tolls have automatic barriers in which you throw the right change into a chute, which then raises the barrier.

Tried and tested

Those who travel often to France might like to try Sanef Tolling’s Liber-t automated toll payment service, as we did on a trip driving from Brittany to the Pyrénées and back.

Having fixed the special tag to the top of the windscreen before departure, we made the most of it on our epic 2,000-kilometre trip. Instead of fiddling around for change or a bank card at each toll booth, we cruised through the special lanes marked with the orange ‘t’ symbol – most of which were empty – and out the other side each time, often not going below a speed of 30km/h.

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With two small children in the back of the car, and the queues mounting up with summer traffic on the other lanes, we found the system a brilliant way to shave a bit of time off the long journey.

The annual fee for the tag is €6 (with a refundable €20 deposit for its use) and payment for the tolls is made by Direct Debit the month after you travel. The tolls on our trip cost a total of £115.36.

Carolyn Boyd