Driving in France can be a real pleasure compared to other countries of Europe. Read our guide to motoring through France to help you enjoy a smooth and hassle free journey.
Benefits of having a car in France
Many holiday makers choose to drive through France to their holiday destination. You can usually take more luggage than on an airline, and enjoy some of the scenery and culture of France along the way.
French autoroutes speed millions of holidaymakers to their holiday destinations every year. Discover more about each of the Autoroutes in France.
The French Autoroute Network
The French autoroute network is excellent, with spacious carriageways and family friendly services. Autoroutes are the French equivalent of motorways in the UK or Autobahn in Germany. Almost all autoroutes are toll roads which you pay to use. The French autoroute system is centred on Paris, and connects all regions of the country, as well as neighbouring countries of Belgium and Germany.
Find out which autoroutes you'll need to use to reach your French holiday destination.
A1 Autoroute from Paris to Lille and Belgium
The A1 Autoroute is also known as ‘l'autoroute du Nord’ (the Northern Motorway) and is one of the busiest of France's autoroutes. It starts in the northern suburbs of Paris, near to the Stade de France, Le Bourget, Paris' Roissy Charles de Gaulle International Airport and Parc Astérix, and then runs 211 km (131 miles) up to Lille in the North East. After Lille it becomes the A22 and continues into Belgium.
A4 Autoroute from Paris to Strasbourg and Germany
The A4 Autoroute is also known as l'autoroute de l'Est (the Eastern Motorway) and travels 482 km (299 miles) between the east suburbs of Paris (near to Disneyland Paris) and Strasbourg. From Strasbourg local roads provide a route to southern Germany.
A5 Autoroute from Paris to South East France
The A5 Autoroute was constructed in 1990 to relieve the A6 and is 238km (148 miles) long. Both the A5 and the A6 leave Paris in the south and head down towards the south east. These two autoroutes run almost parallel until the town on Sens in Burgundy, where the A5 branches away to the east towards Langres. After Langres it becomes the A31 and circles back round to join up with the A6 near Dijon.
A6 Autoroute from Paris to Lyon
The A6 is also known as l’autoroute du Soleil (the Sun Motorway, so named because of all the tourists heading down to the sunny South of France) along with the A7 and connects Paris to Lyon. The motorway starts as two branches – the A6a and A6b – that soon join up and leave Paris in the south. At Lyon it turns into the A7 (also known as l’autoroute du Soleil) and as such is the main link to the South of France and the French Riviera. However, due to the sheer amount of holiday goers at certain times the A7 suffers from severe traffic jams around famous bottlenecks, such as the Tunnel de Fourvière near Lyon, so try to avoid using this route at peak times like August or during any French national holidays. The A6 is 446 km (277 miles) and the A7 is 302.5 km (188 miles). The A8 leaves the A7 and heads towards Nice, and the A9 heads towards Perpignan and Spain.
A10 Autoroute from Paris to Bordeaux
The A10 is also known as L'Aquitaine and runs 549 km (341 miles) from the south of Paris to Bordeaux.
A13 Autoroute from Paris to Normandy
The A13 is 200km (124 miles), opened in 1946 and as such is France's oldest motorway. It connects north west Paris with Normandy and is used intensively by both commuters and holiday makers.
A16 Autoroute from Paris to Northern France
The A16 starts about 40 km (25 miles) north of Paris at L'Isle-Adam and ends after 319km (198 miles) at the Belgian frontier near Bray-Dunes. Along with the A25 and the A26 it is a particularly important autoroute for Brits as it passes Calais, Boulogne and Dunkirk and these are where you’ll be exiting the ferry should you decide to travel in your own car via the sea. The A25 is 58km (36 miles) and connects Dunkirk and Lille, and the A26 is a 394 km (245 mile) long autoroute also known as L’autoroute des Anglais that connects Calais and Troyes. At Troynes the A26 meets the A5, providing connections to southern and eastern France.
Driving Products and Services
European Breakdown cover is an essential ingredient of any motoring journey to France. A vehicle breakdown situation can be very stressful at the best of times, but a breakdown abroad could be a nightmare. With European breakdown insurance from Breakdown Direct, situations like this don’t have to become a crisis. When you call their European motoring assistance helpline, you can be sure their staff have the experience, expertise and ability to save your holiday with the minimum of hassle.
Save money on your channel crossing with French Connections. Book cheap ferry tickets on all the cross channel routes including Calais, Cherbourg and Le Havre. If you want a faster crossing then you can also book Eurotunnel fares for the Channel Tunnel.
Don't want to take your own car abroad? Maybe you want to hire a newer or larger vehicle, or fly to the sun and rent a car locally. Book great value car hire with French Connections. See our car hire page for details.
Tips for Driving in France
Driving through France needn't be as stressful as a long journey in the UK. Many holidaymakers tell us that they find driving in France an easy and comfortable experience. We've got the best hints and tips from regular travellers, to help you get your holiday off to the best possible start.
On Autoroutes, or A roads, there are numerous attractive rest areas or Aires, ranging from picnic/toilet/petrol stops to full-scale service stations with restaurants and shops selling local produce. If you won't be arriving at your holiday property until the evening, when local shops are likely to be closed, services are a good place to purchase something for supper.
Avoid seasonal congestion at the beginning and end of August when most French people holiday en masse. Also avoid if possible the week around July 14th and around August 15th, both big national holidays. HGVs are banned from the roads on Sundays all year round so motorways are quieter on this day outside seasonal peaks.
If your holiday property is situated in the west of France, you could save hours of driving through France by taking the ferry to Cherbourg or Le Havre rather than the shorter Dover to Calais route. You'll spend more of your journey sat comfortable on the boat and less of it behind the wheel.
If you have a long drive in the UK to reach the channel ports, break your journey by staying the night in Dover, then catch a lower priced ferry early the next morning.