Driving to your Alpine holiday has many advantages, more so in a time of Coronavirus when you can take your ‘bubble’ with you and minimise external contact. More information is available on motoring sites such as the RAC and below we’ve provided some of our own thoughts.
The costs each way will be around £75 for tolls and between £125-£225 for fuel, depending on your car, with around 9½ hours driving time, 8½ on motorways, excluding stops. Sites like Via Michelin will work out your route and calculate the exact cost in tolls and fuel for your specific car, plus driving time. Add 1½-2 hours for stops to refuel, swap drivers, and for rest breaks.
Some of our customers – especially those already some distance from Ashford – make an overnight stop. The half-way point from Calais is between Troyes (about 4½ hours from Calais) and Dijon (6h) and an overnight stops means you arrive in the resort early afternoon with time to settle in and go out to get hire equipment.
The standard route to the French Alps takes the Autoroute des Anglais from Calais, past Reims and Troyes down to Dijon and then Bourg-en-Bresse. This is all on Autoroutes, most of which is tolled. The final section from around Bourg take you up the mountains to your resort, and may involve sections where chains are mandatory in bad snow conditions. See the ViaMichelin site for route planning and costs.
There are 2-3lengthytoll segments with toll stations to pick up a ticket at the start and pay at the end. These need the passenger to do ticket collection and payment. UK customerscan buy an electronic tolltag like thetbip&gowhich allows them to drive straight through the lanes and use the expresstag-only lanes.
The maximum speed on autoroutes is 130kph in good weather, 110kph in the wet and 50kph in limited visibility. Take a look at the RAC website on driving abroad for more information and useful guidance on road signs, speed limits, important road signs and other advice re driving in France.
One great thing about French autoroutes is the greater number and more regular distancing of service stations, called aires . There includea lot of smaller but spacious aires with toilets and picnic seating close to easy parking which are great for a quick toilet stop, snack break, driver-swap or a just a short rest. Also useful is the signposting of the distance to the next 2-3 fuel stops, which makes it much less stressful judging when best to refuel.
It’s a sound idea to swap drivers every 2 hours or so, even if they say they are fine to carry on. At a small aire, a swap-over only loses you five minutes drive time. It’s worth it to keep the drivers fresh and alert.
If you want to shop on the way down or back, a good place is the Léclerc hypermarket at Reims Champfleury (A4 Jct.23). It’s right by the autoroute. Allow 60-70 minutes before you’re back en route, especially if you plan to buy some fuel as well. But be aware that outside resorts, shops are closed on Sundays.
Items you must have with you are the obvious passports and drivers licence and for the car, the original V5C from DVLA and your insurer’s Certificate of Insurance. You also need to carry hi-vis jackets for everyone; spare spectacles if you’re a wearer; and a breathalyser kit.
Take a look at the French Govt website certificat-airto see if you want to get a CRIT’Air pollution control sticker (£4.50 one-off charge approx) for the car.
It’s sensible to get a set of snow chains if you’re venturing into the Alps in winter and under certain conditions, they are mandatory. Take a look at your Owner’s Manual to check what wheels you have and whether they can take conventional chains: some low-profile wheels can’t and need special front-fitting chains. Take along a carpet square (to kneel on), old gloves and a head torch and when you load the car make sure these are readily accessible - not buried under luggage!
Winter tyres are the ideal fitment but for a discussion of the options, take a look at the excellent AA < ahref="https://www.theaa.com/european-breakdown-cover/driving-in-europe/snow-chains-winter-tyres">Guide to Winter Tyres & ChainsAhead of your trip
Top-up the screenwash to the higher concentrations needed for Alpine cold, right up to the jets. If you have time, do a practice session with the chains so you’re familiar with how they fit.
Take some time to download any interesting podcasts and audiobooks (most local libraries have an app to download talking books – a lot cheaper than buying them). Similarly, any films and series. Remember that services like Netflix won’t necessarily have the same films and series in France asin the UK. And most libraries will let you take books out for longer if you are going away.
If you’re self-catering it may be easier and cheaper if you buy your staples at home and bring them down with you, rather than pay resort prices. Some customers buy pretty much everything they need for the journey at home in advance, just so they’re not reliant on having to stop for food en route.On the day
Making a Thermos of hot coffee to drink en route can help the driver keep awake without having to stop at a service-station. Try and arrive at Eurotunnel around an hour or so before your scheduled shuttle. They will try and fit you on to an earlier train if they can, but this isn’t guaranteed. Arriving late on a busy day may mean a long wait before there’s a free slot.
French Passport checks are done before boarding. Once on board, keep your window sticker handy, as it will be scanned while you’re in transit. Travel time is just 35 minutes then about 20 min to get off and onto the Autoroute des Anglais south out of Calais …. andyou’re on your way. Bonne Route!
For a great stay in Switzerland’s 4 Vallees try La Tzoumaz!