|How to Pay Highway Tolls in France|
|You can get yourself into a jam if you are not prepared for French toll booths. Here's how to prepare, and to travel France's autoroutes without problems.|
Autoroutes (expressways, motorways) connect the major cities and regions in France, making it easy to zoom from one to another.
Many autoroutes are operated by commercial companies, prominent among them Vinci Autoroutes.
Types of Payment
Rules for tolls, and paying them, are set by the operating companies. Here are examples for Vinci-operated autoroutes. Other companies' rules are similar.
On some autoroutes, you take a ticket when you enter the highway, and pay the toll when you exit. On others, you may encounter a single tool booth during your drive, and pay a set price for the toll.
Péage sans Contact
If your credit/debit card or smartphone is RFID-enabled, you need only touch your card or your smartphone to the RFID contactless-payment symbol on the toll machine to pay the toll. This is the easiest and safest way to pay, but not all toll booths yet have this feature. You may have to insert your card instead. Look for this symbol:
Credit/Debit Card or Euro Cash
To pay with euro cash. look for a toll gate marked by a green downward-pointing arrow:
You should be able to pay the toll with an acceptable credit/debit card, euro coins and/or notes/bills at any such gate.
If you see only a 't' symbol, or a stylized logo of credit cards, and no green downward arrow, you may not be able to pay with euro cash at that toll gate. Don't go there!
Drive into the gate with the green downward-pointing arrow to the toll machine:
1. Insert your toll ticket in Slot 1 (Ticket). The toll amount will appear in the Prix digital display above (for example, 2 euros 30 centimes, as seen above).
2. Insert your French credit card (see below) in Slot 2 (Carte), or touch your RFID-enabled card or smartphone to the RFID symbol (if there is one); or insert euro coins (10-, 20- and 50-cent, 1- and 2-euro coins) in the slot marked Pièces and/or euro notes/bills (5, 10, 20 and 50 euros) in the slot marked Billets. In case of overpayment, change may be returned in the Monnaie (excess payment) hole.
When the full amount of the toll has been registered, the gate barrier will rise.
3. Push the Récu button to obtain a receipt (if desired). Proceed through the toll gate.
4. In case of a problem, press the Assistance intercom button (upper right-hand corner) and wait for assistance. Don't back up!
Tolls are charged by distance, so a longer drive will require more and larger coins and notes/bills. You can calculate the anticipated toll amount for any autoroute trip on the ASFA website (see below).
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 66.10€.
Credit & Debit Cards
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 by the credit card symbol.
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!
Some toll machines are now equipped to interact with "touchless" RFID credit/debit cards (with the little 4-waves symbol). If your card bears the RFID symbol, you can try using it.
You might not want to insert your only credit or debit card into a highway toll machine as there's a chance the machine may not return it. If you are carrying other cards with which you can continue to pay your travel expenses, you may decide to try it.
ASFA (Autoroutes & ouvrages concédés), the association of companies operating autoroutes in France, has a useful website, autoroutes.fr, that provides information in French and English on expressways/ motorways in France, including a distance, time & toll calculator, estimated motor fuel usage and cost, and other information. More...
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