The French road network is one of the longest in the world with over a million kilometres of roadway and more often than not offers a hassle-free driving experience. Peak-times around the larger cities and towns, especially during holiday times, can become heavily congested on the Autoroutes but it is always possible to avoid these jams using the strategic national road network or not travelling at weekends.
A roads, or Autoroutes, are designated by the letter A followed by a number. The Autoroutes are the equivalent to the British motorway and American Freeway. Autoroute signs are indicated with white lettering on a blue back ground.
The Autoroutes of the French road network are one of the most significant in Europe with over 11,000 kilometres of roadway. The longest is the A10 from Paris to Bordeaux followed by the A89 linking Bordeaux in the southwest of France with Lyon in the East. Although some are free to use, most Autoroutes in France are toll roads which are indicated at its entrance by a sign indicating a Péage. At the beginning of the Autoroute, or where you join you the motorway, you will be required to pass through a control booth which issues you a ticket. This is then presented at another booth when you take your desired exit from the motorway or when the toll route naturally comes to an end. Credit cards and cash are accepted as a method of payment but you will need to look at the electronic signs situated above the toll booths that indicate which method of payment can be used. The electronic displays usually show the following: A red cross indicates that the booth is closed; a green arrow means that it is open and will accept both cash and credit cards; the blue CB rectangle accepts debit or credit cards only; and the Orange T is for Télépéage only. Whilst the Autoroute may charge a toll it is worth bearing in mind that these roads are well maintained and generally free moving, though traffic tends to be heavily congested around the main cities, especially during peak times. For more information on tariffs, click on the following official website link APRR
Service areas can be found on the auto routes and are advertised as ‘Aires’. The facilities offered by these service areas vary from a simple picnic stop offering seating and toilettes to petrol stations offering café/restaurant facilities or a small mini-market. Fuel prices in the French service areas are more expensive than you will find on normal roads or in towns and cities so it is always advisable to fill up before you use a French motorway.
N roads, or Route National, are the major trunk roads throughout France and on directional signs are depicted with white lettering on a green background. They are designated with the letter ‘N’ followed by a number which is normally shown as white lettering on a red background. Since the recent regionalisation of responsibility of main roads, road numbering has become somewhat misleading and therefore it is recommended to follow the directional signs for your place of destination.
D roads are the Departmental, or county roads, and can range from busy local routes, recently downgraded route nationals or the much smaller country roads and lanes France is so well known for.