The annual holiday exchange, known as the ‘chassé-croisé’ in France, is the “worst travel day of the year”, according to the transport ministry, which advised against long journeys if possible.
The country’s road traffic information service, Bison futé, gave Saturday its rare 'black' designation, to denote serious difficulties on the roads. It said traffic would be bad across the whole country on Saturday, but particularly in the region running from Poitiers through Bordeaux to the Spanish border.
On the same Saturday in 2010, a total of 660 kilometres of traffic jams were recorded at lunchtime around the country.
National rail operator SNCF expects 1.1 million passengers on its trains over the weekend and more than 2,000 high-speed TGVs will be running.
A similar number are expected to pass through Paris’ two airports. A planned strike by Air France cabin crew was called off last week but a strike by some of the smaller pilots’ unions will go ahead causing some disruption.
“Air France expects some disruption but all flights are currently operating normally,” the company said in a statement.