French Motorway Tolls – avoid the queues by buying a toll tag

Peage sign ahead of French toll booths

French Autoroute System

Unlike the UK, France has a large network of autoroutes which require the payment of a toll if you want to use them. The tolls payable aren’t cheap (for example, it’s around 55 Euros to travel between Caen and Bordeaux), but the roads are well maintained, usually quiet, and really do cut journey times. Maximum speed limit is 130km/h, except when it is raining when the speed limit is reduced to 110km/h.

Toll Booth Delays at French Péages

However, in built up areas and during peak periods elsewhere, there can often be very large queues at the toll booths, which can delay an otherwise rapid journey through France. At these toll booths (péages) it’s not always obvious which booth drivers need to go to, which can cause some last minute changes of direction. Some booths take cash, others take cards and cash, and others are for the vehicles that have a transponder (or tag) fitted.

Transponders for fast use of French Toll booths

We’ve often wondered how to make use of the “fast lane” booths, the ones where the barriers are raised without the driver having to hand over any cash, or enter a credit or debit card. These booths generally don’t have as much traffic passing through them, and the vehicles that do use them go through very quickly. Well, now we know…

The vehicles are fitted with transponders, little electronic tags that sit inside the windscreen just behind the rear-view mirror. As a vehicle approaches the barrier, the tag is ‘read’ and the barrier is raised. Payment then comes out of your nominated UK bank account. You can now buy these transponders in the UK for use when you’re in France.

The company that provide them are called Sanef Tolling, who are licenced to supply transponders for light vehicles (not larger vehicles like motorhomes for the time being). There are no toll discounts available, and you have to pay a registration fee, a deposit for the tag, an annual management fee as well as a usage fee for each month that you actually use it (but there is a payment ceiling after 2 months of usage in any year). However, the tag is transferable between vehicles.

I don’t think the convenience of this system outweighs the cost for us – we use toll roads for no more than 6 or 7 days each year, and generally away from the busy areas and outside of peak periods, but I’m sure that this will be useful to a lot of English second-home owners in France.

Let us know what you think. Could it be for you?

2 Comments

  1. Geoffrey Coan November 23, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

    I think I can propose an alternative (cheaper) option, the use of the Alis tag. Alis is one of the French autoroute companies but unlike all the other companies they don’t charge an annual fee for their autoroute tag. You simply apply, give them the details of your French bank account (so they can deduct the toll charges each month), and they send you a free tag.

    We did this a few years ago (after getting stuck one summer for an hour trying to get through the toll booths south of Paris) and it’s been a real blessing at the peak holiday times. I think we get strange looks from the French drivers at the UK car jumping the queue, but its great!

    Earlier this year the tag stopped working and I emailed them and they sent me a replacement, again free of charge.

    Looking on their website just now it looks like the deal has changed, you have to make 15 trips on “their” section of the autoroute within the first year, or else there is a one-off €20 charge, but even that’s quite reasonable for the convenience it brings.

    See http://www.alis-sa.com/gb/offres/libertConfort.php/ for further details.

  2. Simon Smith June 27, 2015 at 9:29 pm #

    In 2015 I think things have changes again. I have an APRR (French Autoroute Company) tag. It work an all Peage routes and is debited in Euro from a UK credit card account.
    I have a card that does not charge a currency conversion fee. This arrangement is much more flexible and cost effective than either the UK Sanef rip-off or the previous requirement for a French bank account.
    The monthly charge is 1.70 Euro but only for months I use the tag.
    It can be ordered direct to a UK address from the APRR website (this is written in French) and is delivered in 72 hours!!
    What more can you ask for?

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