Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Cost of Driving in France

Anyone doing a road trip in Europe knows that gas prices are sky-high. For the equivalent of a gallon of gas, one will pay between $6.40 and $7.92 this summer in France. To fill up our little Ford Focus cost an average of 80 EUR ($115) for an entire tank of gas. Can you imagine the outrage if Americans had to pay this much to drive in the U.S.? (And as a side note, this is the one area where Switzerland actually looks cheap. Gas in Switzerland is about $5.88 a gallon. What a deal!)

The other thing the French get you on are the toll roads. To drive from Geneva, Switzerland to Marseille, France on the highway for example, will cost you about 50 EUR ($70) in tolls. I have to hand it to the French though. They're really putting your toll money to work. The one accident we saw only cost us two minutes of time and the French had vans complete with flashing accident signs and also an official "accident woman" waving a red flag in front of the flashing vans in case all of those florescent lights weren't enough.

So you won't waste time due to accidents on French toll roads, but you will waste time at toll booths, spending 20 minutes in line for the honor of paying your 20 Euros for an hour of driving time. These booths are terribly slow, like most things French, and don't always function correctly. One booth we sat in line for rejected all coins put in it, and this caused much strife among the French, some of who were driving horizontally across the highway "parking lot" to find a better functioning booth. It was a mess.

The third way driving is costly in France is because of crazy ratings that make certain little cities (Gordes, Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, Roussillon) believe they are worthy of a big parking charge. The French like to rate their cities with nicknames like "One of the most beautiful" or with flowers instead of stars. A French city with a 4-flower rating will definitely charge you at least 4 EUR for the pleasure of parking on the far end of it.

A French man we met at a B&B in Sault was really upset about all of these parking charges and they are kind of ridiculous. It's this crazy French attitude that "We're beautiful and you will pay." So after paying parking fee after parking fee, my husband and I decided to visit the cities NOT rated as the most beautiful and we were rewarded for our efforts with free parking and fewer tourists. I highly recommend places like Sault, Simiane la Rotonde, and Aurel where beauty and FREE parking abound. That, in my book, is a five-star place to explore.

(It must not be "one of the most beautiful cities" because it has free parking...this is pretty Simiane la Rotonde, a bit off the tourist route and thank goodness.)


Greg Christensen said...

Other than the price, I haven't had any problems at the French toll booths. We've gone through Paris, Dijon, Annecy and Chamonix, and never had to wait long. But, yeah, the price can be staggering.

After 8 years in Chicago where an hour parking can be about $14, I've never had a problem paying to park in Europe. Chicago made me parking-callous.

Chantal said...

Consider yourself lucky about the French toll booths. Maybe traveling in July is the problem.

And you're right, compared to Chicago, parking in any European city seems reasonable. Except for what they wanted a month to park underneath my apartment building. That scared me.

Probably why I never got a car. Parking it at my apartment would cost more than the monthly car payment...


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