How to Pay Highway Tolls in France
Autoroutes (expressways, motorways) connect the major cities and regions in France. Many are operated by commercial companies, prominent among them Vinci Autoroutes. (A related company, Indigo, operates hundreds of car parking garages in France.)
Rules for tolls, and paying them, are set by the operating companies. Here are examples for Vinci-operated autoroutes.
Types of PaymentOn most autoroutes, you take a ticket when you enter the highway, and pay the toll when you exit. Look for a toll gate marked by a green downward-pointing arrow. The green arrow means all types of payment are accepted,
including euro cash, credit/debit cards, and télépéage (electronic transponder).
For foreign visitors, the simplest way to pay highway tolls is with euro cash (coins and/or notes).
Drive into the gate with the green downward-pointing arrow to the toll machine:
A toll machine on a Vinci autoroute. Note the flagged buttons on the left for instructions in French, English or Spanish.
Tolls are charged by distance, so a longer drive will require more and larger coins and notes/bills. Be sure to have a sufficient and varied supply of notes and coins before entering a toll highway! Don't depend on chance—the euro cash you may have in your pocket at the time—to get you through. Prepare a special reserve of coins and notes/bills for highway tolls as the tolls can be high. The 8-hour, 775-km (482-mile) drive by autoroute from Paris to Marseille in a Classe 1 vehicle (passenger car) incurs tolls of nearly 60€ (see below).
You can calculate the estimated toll amount for any autoroute trip on the ASFA website (see below).
Some toll gates are marked by stylized credit card logos meaning you may pay only by credit card at that gate. Cash is not accepted at toll gates marked only by the credit card symbol.
Not all credit and debit cards are accepted for payment of tolls. Cards must contain a computer chip (puce), but not all chip cards are accepted!
Highway operator Vinci notes that the following types of cards are accepted: CB (Carte Bleu), Visa, Visa Electron, Mastercard, Maestro, Total GR, DKV, Eurotrafic, Esso Card, euroShell. It also advises, cryptically, that "cards issued in some non-European countries are not accepted," but does not list which countries. Helpful!
Thus, it is wise never to insert your only credit or debit card into a highway toll machine. If you are carrying other cards with which you can continue to pay your travel expenses, you may decide to try it. Some toll gates now offer contactless (touchless) payment. If your card has RFID for contactless payment, you can try that without fear of losing your card. More...
If this is the only sign you see over a toll gate, you must pay the toll via télépéage in that lane.
Estimating Your Tolls
Tolls from Paris to:
ASFA (Autoroutes & ouvrages concédés), the association of companies operating autoroutes in France, has a website, autoroutes.fr, that provides information in French and English on expressways/ motorways in France, including a distance & toll calculator.
Fill in the DEPARTURE and ARRIVAL fields of the YOUR ROUTE calculator, then click SEARCH to see a map of a recommended route, statistics on distance, toll amount, estimated motor fuel usage, and other information.
Big French Traffic Jams
Several times each year, French highways are jammed with traffic. These times can often be predicted. Real-time traffic reports are available for all of France on Bison-Futé, a French government website for...predicting traffic jams. More...