Q. While driving through France we picked up a ticket from a motorway toll booth but then lost it, resulting in a panic-stricken few minutes wondering how we were going to exit the péage now that so many of the toll booths are unmanned. We found the ticket, thankfully, but what if we’re not so lucky next time?
AH, Stourbridge, West Midlands
A. Most French autoroutes are toll roads (often dubbed the “péage” by Brits, although that’s actually the word for the toll plaza). You pick up a ticket when you enter a tolled section and then pay when you exit, with the cost calculated on how far you have travelled.
Losing a ticket is not disastrous, but it could add stress to a holiday.
Most of the bigger péages still have a manned booth at all times, while some of the smaller ones are manned in daytime hours (typically 6am to 10pm). In the case of the fully automated ones, there will be video surveillance and a press-and-speak intercom system to summon assistance. Someone will then try to talk you through the problem, but if that is not possible — for linguistic or technical reasons — a member of staff will be dispatched to the péage in question. Staff will usually come from the closest manned péage and the typical wait is about 30 minutes.
A useful source of information is the website autoroutes.fr, maintained by the 20 private contractors that run the network. It can be viewed in English and includes details of costs, real-time traffic information and route calculators.
Have you considered investing in a télépéage? This small electronic tag sticks to the inside of your windscreen and allows you to pass through the toll booths without having to bother with tickets or paying cash (tolls are taken from your British bank account by direct debit). Setup and management fees mean it’s only really suitable for regular Channel-hoppers, though. For information see www.saneftolling.co.uk.
Dave Pollard has written several Haynes manuals and has tested just about every car-related accessory – read more from Dave here.
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