Tolls in France and Europe
Part 3 of our Essential Vanlife Guides
Very often the more picturesque and leisurely routes through the tree lined French countryside whilst soaking up the beauty of La France are just the best way of getting to know the region or the country itself. It’s the spontainaity of not knowing what the next little village will have in store for us from the turreted Chateau of the Loire Valley to those stunning vineyards in Champagne, Burgundy and The Rhone to name a few, where endless hillsides adorn the ripening vines glistening back at us in the glare of the mid- summer sun.
There’s no better feeling of the cab windows open whilst a seasonal hot breeze blows through our hair enjoying the sweet fresh smell of sunflower fields in a Summer meadow, their heads turned away for protection from the heat whilst we listen to the sound of French birdsong whistling past the cab as we go.
For those who have travelled these quiet routes of perfect isolation, you’ll be familiar with the picture we paint, such a romantic vision with no better place to be than driving through those prettiest of stone built hamlets or past vast pine forests, along wide flowing rivers or besides dramatic coastline, such a freedom out on the road in the van without a care in the world.
As romantic as it is and as hard as we try to avoid motorway’s, sometimes, depending on where and when we travel, it is just much easier or convenient to choose the quicker route and head to the nearest motorway or Péage. This is particularly the case in Winter or even if we arrive in Calais in Summer to bad weather, we have sometimes just hopped straight on the motorway driving until the sun appears and the warmth hits the windscreen.
It’s so much easier sometimes to just take the quicker route, it obviously saves time and fuel, particularly when you are just heading for that end destination that you’ve been thinking about exploring and just want to be sat outside with a bottle of your favourite beer in hand with the barbecue coals warming nicely under a clear, starlit Mediterranean sky.
Lovely……couldn’t we just all be there now 🙂
With the thought of the motorway network now in mind, we will provide a little insight into what it entails and how to get the most from it. Although we’ve talked about France here, it’s with a wider view of Europe that we’ll look at from here on, with our essential guide to the motorways in Europe.
Here’s the lowdown to Tolls in…..
Spain and Portugal
There are some motorway tolls, Pay at the toll booths by card or Kuna (local currency)
No toll roads although there may be an occasional bridge or tunnel toll.
Belgium and Germany
No toll roads except an odd charge at a bridge or tunnel.
Toll roads where payment is made at toll gates
Toll roads, payment at toll gates
No toll roads except for the occasional tunnel, bridge and the M6 toll, this has toll gates, payable by either cash or card and Caravan Club members travelling in their van get a discount but you must show the membership card.
Now that we’ve got all the essentials out the way, here’s a few helpful pieces of extra information to help you on your way.
Firstly, the French motorways are just a joy, rarely blocked with traffic jams, except in the obvious black spots around the likes of Paris and Lyon but overall the driving experience throughout the country is easy, quiet and fuss free, getting you from A to B in the best possible fashion without raising the blood pressure. To be honest, it’s one of the best countries to drive in and for us it’s almost a relief to leave the busy roads of the UK behind when we arrive off the tunnel in Calais.
German motorways can busy and we have got held up in long traffic jams on occassion usually over the Summer period, we’ve found Austria, Slovenia and the Netherland motorways to be great as is Belgium except for the road surfaces there, which are not quite the smooth finish of the French routes!
We usually try and avoid driving in the dark if we can, the problem for us is not so much the driving but the finding places to stop, street lighting can be minimal, if at all in some areas, so trying to see where things are especially searching for the elusive rural town Aire for the night becomes much more difficult.
Remember the legal driving requirements will differ from country to country, research what you need in the van and check speed limits etc. We always have items such as reflective vests, beam benders, warning triangle and breathaliser kit but you also need to bear in mind things like snow chains for Winter tours, some regions specify that you must have them in the vehicle.
Above all be prepared, relax, don’t rush and just enjoy the journey, after all, you’re on your travels, in the van and about to have great adventures in new places which is what our vanlife is all about…….go out and enjoy the world around you!
A reminder: All information unless stated otherwise is based on a van under 3M high and under a weight of 3.5tonnes, this is as per the format most often used in Europe to differentiate on vehicle size although some vans will be over this category size so we have tried to provide some brief information on this especially where we have had some past experience on driving our past van which was 4.2tonnes!
Note: Costings and general toll information found is correct at time of writing but could change, all information is for guidance purposes only, please remember to drive safely taking regular rest stops and check with local country authorities for specific advice and additional information.