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Driving Through France – P&O Ferries

Avoid the jams – driving routes through France

Avoid the jams – driving routes through France

Whether you’re heading due south for beaches, west for wine regions and chateaux or east for the Alps, charting a traffic-free course through France can take some doing. But don’t worry – our driving expert Simon Heptinstall knows all the best routes!


The main routes

Avoid Paris! That’s the first lesson for drivers heading south from channel ferry ports. Unless you want to visit or stay overnight in the French capital, it’s best to avoid the motorways around it, especially the Peripherique ring-road. It’s even worse than our M25 and can become terribly jammed - especially during rush hours and summer weekends. France is big enough to have several major routes to the south so it’s easy to head to the west of Paris if you’re going to south west France or Spain, or to the east of Paris if you are off to Provence, the Alps or Italy.


Left or right?

After leaving your ferry at the Channel ports you have the choice of two major routes south: take the A16 for the western route to go down the left side of Paris via Rouen; or the A26 via Arras and Rheims for the eastern route passing on the right of Paris.

At Rouen those heading for the Atlantic coast (Bordeaux and Biarritz) can follow the A28 to Le Mans and Tours. Those set for the central south (Languedoc) can take the A71 Chartres/Orleans route.

Traffic heading for southeast France (Marseille and Nice) should head south on the A26 for Troyes and Lyon. Continue on the A7 to Marseilles and then head east for the Cote D’Azur. Don’t be tempted to cut off that final corner via Grenoble. It’s a scenic route and looks more direct on the map but can add hours to your journey.


Jam busting tips - heading to the south east

Heading south from Dijon the main road is joined by the A6 from Paris carrying all the traffic from the capital. From Beaune onwards that can mean delays. So bypass this junction altogether by switching to the A39 at Dijon. This is a quiet motorway that will also lead you to Lyon but avoid the jams.

Heading through Lyon on the A7 can be a problem. It goes through the city via tunnels that can easily get clogged. One option is the A46 bypass that loops a long way round to the east. It’s much longer - but at rush-hour it should be quicker.


Jam busting tips - heading to the south west

The A28 heads right through the centre of Rouen. It’s dual carriageway but can get busy at peak times. There’s no guaranteed quicker route but there are a couple of good scenic diversions to miss the jams. One is to take a loop using the A29 via La Houssaye and Barentin and cross the river at Duclair instead. Rejoin the A28 at Bouquetot.

The diversion to the east of Rouen is even more scenic - take the little D roads through Buchy, Fleury and Gaillon before joining the Evreux and Chartres road south.


Forget the time, enjoy the journey

Here’s a scenic route for those who want to enjoy as much of the trip through France as possible: The A16 south from the ferry ports is the best for speed and views and has lots of possibilities to stop off and visit the coast. Carry on to Amiens then switch to lovely D roads just to the east of Paris via Compiegne and Meaux to Troyes. From Troyes join the speedy A6 south or stick to small roads and head across country to beautiful historic towns, first Auxerre, then Nevers. Head south via Moulins to Clermont Ferrand. The A75 from here is a spectacular route through the mountains of Auvergne and the longest toll-free section of motorway in France. There is one charge however, for crossing the wonderful Millau viaduct. Towards the coast turn left for Montpellier, Arles and the Cote D’Azur, or head right for Beziers, Perpignan and Barcelona.


Need some handy tips for avoiding the jams in Spain? Read Simon’s jam-busting guide to driving through Spain.