‘Stay calm’: Advice for drivers in France caught in the ‘yellow vest’ road blocks

The "yellow vest" fuel tax protests around France have continued into a third day in France with road blocks set up at strategic points on roads and motorways across the country. Here's some advice for anyone who gets caught up in the blockades.

'Stay calm': Advice for drivers in France caught in the 'yellow vest' road blocks
Photo: AFP

Road blocks were put up across France for a third day on Monday, leaving many people driving in France navigating tolls and motorway entrance points lined with protesters.

Already in Saturday's protests, more than 400 people were hurt, 14 seriously, in a day and night of “yellow vest” protests over rising fuel price hikes around France that claimed one life, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said on Sunday.

Here are some tips for how to navigate France's roads during the “yellow vests” protests without injuring protesters. 

Autoroute INFO which advises drivers on France's motorways advised drivers to remain calm and not to turn around and drive in the opposite direction of traffic in order to avoid a blockade (see tweet below).

Fuel protests LATEST: 'Yellow vests' continue road blockades across FrancePhoto: AFP


French motorway operator Vinci Autoroutes also advised drivers to check the latest news regarding protests on the roads you are planning to use and, if it looks like there is a lot of disruption, recommended avoiding the roads altogether. 

Meanwhile motorway operator Sanef has advised drivers “caution when approaching pedestrians and sudden stops in traffic”. 

You can follow the latest updates on several Twitter accounts dedicated to motorists in France, including SanefVinci Autoroutes and Autoroute INFO.

On top of that, you can use the map below which shows the locations of the latest blockades on Monday, according to the site which is run by the protest group itself. (Use the zoom function to see if there are any roadblocks in your area.)

On Monday protesters, whose anger over rising fuel prices has been directed at President Emmanuel Macron, blocked several fuel depots around the country
including one in Vern-sur-Seiche near Rennes, Pallice near La Rochelle, Fos-sur-Mer near Marseille and Lespinasse near Toulouse.
There were also spontaneous road blocks and go-slows set up a roundabouts and motorway exit points across the country.
However so far French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has vowed to stick to the government's plan to raise fuel taxes in January.

Member comments

  1. I was surrounded by these idiots at a roundabout yesterday. They are very intimidating in large numbers setting off flares by your window and pouring their hate and vitriol all about. Though, I bet they would slink off if there was only one or two of them – cowards!
    I am not Emmanuel Macron, so go take your protest to the Elysee and leave decent people alone. I hope you all get arrested.

  2. Last Tuesday I had a serous medical emergency which required that my husband drive me one hour to a clinique where a specialist was waiting for me to save my life. It terrifies me to think that we would have been required to drive through at least 3 or 4 of these blockades in oder to reach this clinique. My GP told me that, no, they probably would not let us pass. Of course we would call the wonderful pompiers, but this is not at all acceptable as they are busy with other serious matters. The price of oil has fallen dramatically of late. There’s a lot to be concerned about but putting people’s lives at stake is not acceptable.

  3. My experience isn’t as bad as LINDA’s above, but nevertheless, it did cause some disruption to ourselves and our friends.
    We arranged a get together at our house (we live in a village outside Nice) for a Wine Tasting of the new Beaujolais on Sunday. We thought that the roads would be back to normal by then. Well, no….
    Our friends bought a few bottles of the new Beaujolais and we bought the cold meats, cheeses and fois gras. Unfortunately, our friends couldn’t get to us (from Vallauris, near Antibes), and were stuck in traffic for hours with all the wine without anything to eat. And we were stuck at home with over £100 worth of food, and no wine!! We weren’t very happy.

  4. These are not idiots but protesters the kind of which the UK is too short of. In the Uk people sit around moaning, and very few get up and out and protest loudly when political issues impact directly on their lives. I was inconvenienced when I went shopping Saturday and couldn’t use the supermarket. but there wer shops open in the local town centre I was able to use. And nurses and other care workers were waived through, as would anybody with a medical emergency. But then of course one would have to speak the language well enough to explain the problem. As for inconveniencing your wine and cheese party, please! The hike in petrol prices affects everyone living in rural France, which are millions, which rely on their own transport to get them around, and to manage their businesses. The elite in government in Paris do not seem to understand this, but then they do not suffer from such moves themselves as they have enough money to cushion them.

  5. Bravo PTB! The people in France are driven to make protests over important issues which affect their lives, such as can they afford to get to work, pay the bills, pay for food etc especially in poorer rural areas of which there are many in France (but obviously not the villages around Nice and near Antibes! Talk about 1st world problems!). Thank goodness some people have the guts to make themselves heard and try to change things for the better.

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Mutuelles: Why is French health insurance getting more expensive?

France’s top-up health insurance 'mutuelles' have been getting steadily more expensive in 2020. Here’s a look at what’s changing, why and who is the worst affected.

Mutuelles: Why is French health insurance getting more expensive?
A dentist is checking the teeth of an elderly lady in a nursing home in Paris. Photo: AFP

“The prices have never been so high in France,” said Fabien Soccio, spokesperson for the company Meilleure Assurance (Best Insurance).

His company this week revealed the results of a new study of France's private health insurance fees, mutuelles, to French media.

After comparing 55 different mutuelles health insurances, Meilleur Assurance concluded that there had been a general spike in the average cost.

What is a mutuelle?

France has generous state health care that covers a lot of medical expenses, but not all costs are reimbursed.

In France you pay upfront for your doctor's appointment, prescription or procedure and then the government reimburses the costs to you. Depending on the procedure and your situation, usually about 80-90 percent of the cost is reimbursed.

If that cost is a €25 appointment with your GP that's not such a big deal, but with more expensive treatments the costs can mount up, which is where a mutuelle comes in.

The mutuelle is a 'top-up' insurance – not obligatory, but recommended – which covers extra costs that are not covered by the state. How much a mutuelle covers will depend on the kind of insurance, where you live and the expenses in question.

If you are an employee, your employer must pay for at least half the cost of your mutuelle

Who was affected by the price increase?

The 2020 price hike touched the country as a whole, however some regions and population groups were harder hit than others, Soccio told Le Parisien.

To compare the costs for different socio-demographic groups, Meilleur Assurance created three different types of profiles; a 25-year-old employee with a “classic” mutuelle; a couple with two children, also on a “classic” mutuelle and a 60-year-old couple with “strengthened” guarantees in their mutuelle.

Seniors hardest hit

Retirees tend to go for fuller versions of mutuelles because these cover additional costs (such as dental and optical treatments). 

Seniors on extensive types of mutuelles were those suffering the steepest price increases this year, Soccio said. 

“In 2020, fifteen départements exceeded a threshold of €3,000 in annual fees for a senior couple with extra guarantees,” Soccio said.

“That’s an average increase of more than €176 in one year,” he said.

For the couple with a child, the increase was slighter ( an extra 4 percent), whereas the young employee saw health insurance bills largely unchanged.

READ ALSO Brexit: Do I need a mutuelle to get residency in France?


.. along with Parisians

The study also revealed large price differences between different regions, with inhabitants in the Paris region Ile-de-France paying the highest bills for their mutuelles.

A retired couple would pay on average €528 more if they lived in Paris compared to if they lived in a more rural, cheaper département like Mayenne.

Similarly, employees would pay 30 percent more on average in Paris than in Pays-de-la-Loire.

Parisians also saw the steepest price increases since last year, by 14.6 percent on average for the retired couple with a mutuelle covering extra costs.

On a national level, the average price increase for the same couple was 12.1 percent. 

.. but everyone was a little worse off

However the country as a whole saw a price increase last year, with even those opting for the cheapest kinds of health insurance affected by the general price hike.

In one year, from 2019 to 2020, the cheapest type of health insurance had increased by 13.7 percent, according to the study. 

Why the increase?

Prices generally increase a little every year, but this year was unusual, Soccio said.

“Today, we are in an uncertain and troubled situation,” he told Europe 1, listing several factors that had contributed to the price increase: the Covid-19 pandemic, the government's new health reform known as “100 percent Santé”, and a new health tax known as the “Covid surtax”.

When the French government presented their new budget for 2021, centred on their dazzling €100 billion relaunch plan, they promised not to increase taxes for the French. Instead, to top up their savings a little, the government introduced a new tax, the “Covid surtax”, which will be paid through the mutuelles and other health insurance companies.

This tax will provide €1 billion in total to the state in 2021, and €500 million in 2022, according to French media.

What about the future?

Soccio said he worried the trend of prices increasing would continue in the next couple of years, leading to steep prices for even those opting for the cheaper mutuelles.

“It's safe to bet that the national average costs will pass €3,000 in the next two years,” he told Le Parisien.