French Toll Roads is a subject that most UK drivers will be concerned about when considering a road trip through France.
You have several choices to consider; firstly you can stick to areas like Brittany where there aren't any toll roads at all or if that isn't an option then you need to consider the following.
Are you going to be happy to have a considerably longer journey time by using a non-toll road route, or would you rather pay the cost and go more direct?
The Toll Road Payment Options
If you decide that you are happy to pay the Toll charges then you have two options.
You can either pay at the barrier every time you approach one, which will probably involve some queuing or you can buy a “Toll Tag” which automatically allows you through the barrier without having to physically stop and pay and then it charges your account.
This saves the time it takes to sort out change or use your credit card and you aren't queuing behind other people struggling to do the same. Remember it isn't easy in a UK car to pay at the booth because your right hand drive car means you will be unable to reach the pay meters which are on the left hand side for French cars. Though having a passenger helps!
Advantages of Automatic Pay System
You can get a Toll Tag for all the motorways in France, and then use the special “t” toll-gate lanes at all toll plazas. Some of the special “t” lanes allow you to go through at 30 KPH.
Drive-France is on twitter @drivinginfrance and one of our Twitter followers, David Vickers, has recently driven through France and decided to try a Sanef Toll Tag on his trip. He has kindly supplied this report on his findings.
David Vickers Writes
Earlier this year when booking our Tunnel Ticket for our holiday in France – we saw that Eurotunnel were offering/promoting Sanef Toll Tags. The special offer meant we wouldn't have to pay the 10 Euro Application Fee.
Having been frustrated in previous years after “bombing” up the French “Autoroute” only to get stuck at the peage for ages while cars in front struggle to find the ticket/change/credit card/have to get out because they are on the wrong side of the car etc… and at the same time seeing others just cruising through the automatic toll booths – we thought it would be daft not to give it a go.
When the tag arrived I was concerned about the placement of the tag – the advice was specific - it had to be placed on the windscreen in the “shaded/mottled” area as these would be free of any reflective coating that would interfere with the tag electronic reading. Our car (a 61 plate BMW 330D) does not have a “Shaded/mottled” area so was very concerned that it would not work. The local BMW dealers could not help!
I had visions of arriving at an auto-toll on a busy autoroute only to find the thing didn’t work and several irate drivers behind me getting more and more frustrated (I don’t think the “auto” booths have ticket issuing/payment machines) – so a failure would result in a wait for a “toll-booth-operative” to come and sort out the problem – reversing not being an option.
Eventually I attached the Sanef Tag to the side of the box behind the rear view mirror (the box that contains the rain sensor?) – But this meant it was sideways on. Who knows if this would work!
Setting off from the tunnel we headed off down the A16 and decided to come off at Le Touquet as we knew this would not be a busy peage. With no one following us we gingerly approached the auto peage (as this is the first exit off the A16 there is no ticket). As we got to the barrier at first nothing happened – so I edged backwards and Voila the tag beeped, the barrier lifted and off we went – straight round the round-about and back to the peage to re-join the A16 to continue the journey. This time – as we approached the barrier – a little slower – we heard a reassuring beep – the barrier lifted – brilliant.
The rest of the journey that day and the next was plain sailing through the peages – although it was amusing to see following French cars deliberately moving out of our lane (to use other booths) as they assumed that we were idiot Brits trying to use the wrong toll booth and they didn't want to get stuck behind us. All’s well until the second-to-last peage of our journey when the tag was not read/recognised. I swiftly yanked the tag off the rear view mirror and waved it out of the window – whereupon we got a reassuring beep and the barrier lifted. At the last peage my wife held the tag flat on the windscreen behind the rear view mirror – and it worked perfectly – and so that is where it stayed.
On the return journey the only problem was at the first peage when the tag simply was not read/recognised – but as it was also a ticket issuing booth we just took a ticket and paid with it at the next peage. After that there was no problem.
Below is i) the initial bill from Sanef and ii) the bill showing the charges for our trip. (identifying details removed) As you can see they are very clear and detailed – with the charges also explained on the last pages.
Would I recommend it?
Any negatives – yes – some of the peages did not have dedicated 100% auto tolls (just lanes for both auto and ticket) and so one can still get stuck in a queue. Although I was too chicken to try the “fast” auto lane – where you can apparently drive through at 30km per hour, as opposed to the normal walking pace of the usual auto tolls!
The images below are from David's Actual bill
The "Toll Charges" for the trip
Below are the Fees for the Tag
Here is a YouTube Video by Roger Holden with his thoughts on the Liber-t Tag
Great Tip For Cheaper Petrol
When I told Roger I was going to use his video for this article he contacted me to say that regarding calculating the toll costs for a trip he uses mappy.com and suggests that it's easy to nip off the motorway to get way cheaper fuel then get back on again.
Roger does this around Troyes on way to/from the Alps where he gets off the motorway and goes to a petrol station that's at least 15 cents a litre cheaper and only about 1km away.
If you wish to locate cheaper fuel on your journey and get more information regarding petrol/diesel in France read my blog post on Petrol Prices in France here.
Should you have a Tag?
When making your decision you would need to weigh up the amount of usage it's going to get and decide whether the time and hassle it could potentially save you is worth the Application Fee, Annual Management Fee, Monthly Active Service Fee etc.
If you are going to France only once and for a relatively short trip then it’s probably not worth it.
If you are going to make a very long trip through France or visit several times a year then it’s probably worthwhile.
When your likely usage doesn't make it a clear cut decision it’s up to you to decide if the hassle of paying at each individual toll would bother you too much.
To calculate what the cost of the Toll Charges will be on your journey see here for a link to France Toll Calculator. www.viamichelin.com
Have You Used A Toll Tag?
If you have used an automatic toll tag I'd be interested to know your opinions on them. Please post your views on our Facebook Page here or tweet to us and I'll add the best comments here. Both positive and/or negative views welcome.
Kate Short writes (via our Pinterest Account).
We used a toll tag for the first time on our recent trip - highly recommend, best investment yet for trips to France!
Lesley Scott writes (via our Facebook page)
Used one of these for a number of years, even on our motorcycles, would definitely recommend. No payment is taken if not used, except for the yearly admin charge. Simples!!
Mike Grierson writes (via our Facebook page)
If you buy the Tag in UK you are charged £5 per usage month, buy it in France and its only 1 Euro 60! RIP off Britain again.
DSG Pearson writes (via our Facebook page)
I have one (Toll Tag) issued from France many years ago, linked to my Nationwide credit card (no currency conversion). Yes it costs E2 every month it is used, but with no other overheads. Fantastic aid for regular annual or twice yearly runs down to Charente of Charente=Maritime, via Rouen.
On shared lanes lovely to see looks of astonishment on faces of staff as approach moderately quickly and then speed off, but real bonus is lack of any real queuing, although more Brits these days than for previous years.
Rob Fairhead writes (via Twitter)
Just back from a week in the #IleDeRe and have to say our Libert-t tag from @sanefTollingUK made @DrivinginFrance a breeze! Recommend to all.
Jeremy Blanchard writes (Via Twitter)
so simple it's brilliant easy billing, no queues, great roads pure joy!
Philip Davies writes (Via Twitter) @pdss9
It's a complete mystery to me why a regular driver in France wouldn't have one.
Adrienne May writes
I have used them excellent, drive through avoid queuing essential if driving on your own in RH drive. Website fine and easy to reclaim deposit.