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DRIVING

Winter tyres and snow chains: What are the rules in France?

Winter is coming, which means it's time to dig out your studded tyres and chains. Here's a look at the rules for different tyres in France.

Winter tyres and snow chains: What are the rules in France?
People chaining up their cars on their way up to the French Alps. Photo: AFP

France's road rules are outlined in the government's road safety agency, Sécurité routière.

Here's a look at what the rules say about winter equipment for your car.

Winter tyres (pneus contact/pneus neige).

Except in special, indicated cases, winter tyres are not required in France.

This is contrary to many other European countries where the use of winter tyres is mandated by law. The rules are however about to change in France, and as of November 2021 local authorities in 48 départments will be able to make lists of towns and cities in their areas where winter tyres become compulsory.

Between then and now, if you are driving to a European neighbour during winter time, you should check what the rules are in that respective country. The European Consumer Centre France has a handy map outlining the different rules in Europe. 

Studded tyres (pneus cloutés/pneus à crampons)

These are tyres adapted to drive on icy roads.

As a general rule, you may use studded tyres from November 11th until the last Sunday of March the following year (March 29th 2020). Regional governments may adapt this date to local weather conditions, but they are not compulsory. 

Chains (chaînes)

They are allowed on all roads covered in snow, whatever the season. Roads marked with B26 signs require the use of chains on at least two of your car’s wheels. There are exceptions when regular winter tyres are allowed on B26 roads, but in those cases the signs will explicitly indicate it. If it's not indicated, you're better off sticking to chains.

You can find out more about the winter rules here.

French vocab

Tomber en panne – break down

Route barré – road closed

Déviation – diversion

Antigel – antifreeze

Route glacée – icy roads

Antipatinage – Traction control

Liquide de lave-glace spécialement adapté aux conditions hivernales – Windshield washer fluid adapted for winter conditions

 

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TRAVEL

Driving in France: What is télépéage and how does it work?

Ever seen those drivers who avoid the queues at toll booths and driving straight through? Here's how they do it.

Driving in France: What is télépéage and how does it work?

If you’re driving on French autoroutes one of the things you need to know is that they are not free – you will have to pay regular tolls, payable at toll booths known as péage.

Usually, drivers pick up a ticket from a booth at the start of their journey, then pay the required amount at a booth at the end of it – or when they move onto a different section of autoroute – based on the distance they have travelled.

But the toll booths themselves can be busy, especially during the summer, and long queues sometimes build up.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer

This is where automated pay systems – known as télépéage – come in, especially for those who use the motorway network regularly.

As well as allowing you to pass straight through péages without stopping for payment, it’s also very useful for owners of right-hand drive vehicles, who may otherwise find that they’re sitting on the wrong side for easy and speedy payment.

Here’s how it works

Order your télépéage badge online

Click on the Bip&Go website here and follow the instructions to order a scannable personalised device (up to a maximum of two per account for private users). You will need to set up an account to arrange electronic payment of charges.

The website is available in English, French, German or Dutch.

You will need to supply bank details (IBAN number), address (for delivery), mobile phone number (to activate your account) and the vehicle’s registration details.

Your badge will be dispatched to your address within 48 hours from the opening of your online account. You can have the device sent to addresses outside France, but allow longer for it to arrive. 

If you’re in France, you can also pick up the device at one of Bip&Go’s stores, if you prefer – you will need need your bank details, proof of identity and a mobile phone.

Attach your badge 

Place your device on on the windscreen to the right of the rearview mirror. It is activated and ready to go. Then, simply, drive.

At the péage

All toll booths are equipped with the sensors that recognise that the vehicle is carrying the necessary device. At most, you will have to stop briefly for the device to be recognised and the barrier to lift.

You will also be able to drive through certain booth areas without stopping. These are indicated by an orange t symbol on the overhead signs. The maximum speed you can pass through these booths is 30kph.

Payments

Payments are processed automatically. You can monitor the amounts you have to pay on an app.

Do I need separate badges for motorway networks run by different companies?

No. The badge allows holders to travel on the entire French motorway network, no matter which company manages the motorway, and you can also use it to cross a number of toll structures in France such as the Millau Viaduct, the Tancarville Bridge or the Normandie Bridge, and pay to park in more than 450 car parks. 

Is it only valid in France?

No, with certain packages, you can also as easily travel on motorways in Spain, Portugal and Italy, and use a number of compatible car parks. You can even use them on Italian ferries.

Okay, but how much does it cost?

Subscriptions to the Bip&Go service depend on what type of service you want. A fixed price rolling subscription is €16 a year – plus toll charges – but assumes you’re a regular user of French motorways. 

A pay-as-you-go subscription is €1.70 for every month the badge is in use – plus toll charges – and carries a €10 additional fee if the badge is not used in a 12-month period.

How much are the toll charges?

They depend on the road you’re on, how far you travel along it, and the vehicle you’re driving.

Heading from Toulouse to Biarritz along the A64 will cost a total €23 in fees for a private car and if you’re driving all the way from Calais down to the Mediterranean coast expect to pay around €70 once you add up the various tolls along the way.

You can find out tariffs for autoroutes on the website of France’s official autoroute body AFSA – where you can also calculate the cost of your journey – including fuel.

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