The best routes driving to Spain through France

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After making six journeys by car to our home in Spain, here is my opinion of the best route through France. This route makes the most of free N roads where available, but using toll-roads (called péage in French) where they make sense and will save time and money.

All routes are a compromise. You can use toll roads and blast down the whole of France in 18 hours, but it will cost you about 130€. Alternatively, you can avoid toll roads altogether, but you will need an extra six hours, plus extra fuel from stopping and starting at roundabouts and traffic lights. The scenery is better travelling off the toll roads, but it is a much harder drive requiring more concentration, and without access to the wonderful motorway services France has to offer.

We set off from a rainy England. This is the Dartford crossing before the rain started!

UK to France – Ferry or Tunnel?

Firstly, we always travel from Dover to Calais as it has by far the most crossing options and the most competing companies. This means lots of available times to cross, and generally the best prices. We have a dog, who is very nervous so we do not want to leave her in the car. This means, for us, either travelling on the Le Shuttle train under the sea, or P&O Ferries who have the pet lounge which I have reviewed before. Generally, the ferry is about £30 cheaper for us, and gives a nice 90 minute break from the journey. I find when I travel in the tunnel, because I am still sat in the car, I am unable to relax and fall asleep as easily. However the journey time is only 35 minutes.

Top tip – Make sure you fill up at the Tesco Extra just outside Dover. It is considerably cheaper than waiting until you are in France!

Calais to Rouen

When we get out of the ferry, we head for the A16 motorway to Boulogne, Abbeville and Rouen. This becomes a toll-road at Boulogne, but stick with it, as it is only for a short distance to Abbeville and then it is free again where the road becomes the A28 to Rouen. This is the old capital of France before Paris got that honour. You need to make sure you have your low emissions sticker on your windscreen at Rouen. I covered this in an article last year.

Rouen to Chartres

Head for the A13 towards Paris, it is a toll road but we will drop off before they want to collect any money. Turn off the A13 onto the A154 towards Louviers and Everaux. The road becomes the N154 at Louviers. Follow this towards Dreux. The road becomes the N12 for a little while, then back to being called the N154 towards Chartres. That is the tricky bit done, everything from here on is very straight forward.

Chartres to Poitiers

At Chartres take the N10 towards Tours. On the way, when you get to Chateau-Renault, switch onto the D910 towards Châtellerault. Do not be put off by this being a D-road. It is decent all the way, and a really nice easy drive. You will stay on the D910 until Poitiers. If you manage this section, you have saved yourself about 45€ in tolls. In addition there are some good supermarket fuel stations along here which are much cheaper than filling up on the motorway services.

You are going to travel through parts of Rouen, but do not worry – it is well sign posted. There are a lot of roads, and a lot of intersections so it is worth spending a few minutes looking at a map so you know roughly where you are headed. Even better if you have a co-pilot who can talk you through!

Poitiers to Bordeaux

From Poitiers, keep going on the N10 towards Angoulême and Bordeaux. This is a really good section of dual carriageway, very easy driving, and completely free!

Bordeaux to Spain

From here on we use the toll road, as there is no good alternatives in southern France. If you skip the toll-roads here, you will be on logging trails, passing through countless pretty villages, but it is slow going.

If you are heading towards north-west Spain you will probably want to use the A64 toll road towards Bayonne and Biarritz.

If you are aiming for central Spain, Zaragoza and the Pyrenees, take the A62 and then the A65 towards Pau. At Pau, head on the A134 towards Oloron-Sainte-Marie and Somport. This is a very scenic drive through the Pyrenees and is highly recommended!

Spain onwards

If you come out of the Somport tunnel, the A23 will take you to Huesca. If you want to get towards the northern Mediterranean coast, switch to the A22 towards Tarragona. Otherwise keep on the A23, and eventually you will be near Valencia. From here you can pick up the new A33 towards Murcia, or use the A7 coastal road to Alicante and beyond.

Fortunately Spain does not have too many toll-roads (or auto-pistas) so it is possible to travel on decent, empty motorways all the way to the coast without spending anything! The motorway services are not as nice in Spain – usually just gas stations – but the quality of the roads more than makes up for this.

We spent around 60€ on tolls with our journey home. It took an extra two hours driving, but we did not notice that. We also used less fuel as we were driving at 90kmh for some sections instead of 120kmh.

I hope this helps someone travel smarter to Spain. Also, if you know a better route, please share it in the comments. I will try it next time, and if necessary update this article.

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