/ Driving to the French alps - best route from Calais?

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Tris - on 03 Dec 2012
We are driving down to Courchevel in the alps.

We usually just head straight down to Lyon and then do a left...

Last year we sat for a few hours in gridlock between Chambery and Albertville, so was just wondering if an alternative route might be better than following the sat nav via Lyon.

Is going down the A39 via Geneva/Annecy a better option?

Any advice appreciated!
John Stainforth - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Tris:

Almost any route is better than Lyon!

First you have to choose whether to go on the A16/A6 via Paris or on the A26/A5/A31/A6 past Rheims, Troyes and Amiens. The latter is only slightly further (about 10 kms!) but can be quite a lot quicker, with less traffic than the Paris route.

Be very careful to avoid Lyon: the worst route takes one straight through the city on either side of the Rhone in crowded subways. Best to turn "left" (east) off the A6 onto the A432 near Anse, which is south of Macon but way north of Lyon. Then it is fairly straightforward via A43/A430.
John Stainforth - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Tris:

I meant to add: for the last part of your journey it is not a good idea to go via Geneva/Annecy, because it is almost an hour longer than the A43/A430 past Chambery and Albertville.

Also, if you take a road atlas I would NOT recommend the AA 2012 Big Road Atlas of Europe because it has crucial road-numbering mistakes. Google maps is good for investigating the various options, especially as it gives the times of the routes under "current driving conditions". (So if you look at several times of the day, you can get quite a good feel for the times.)

Finally, don't underestimate the frequency and cost of the tolls!
Tris - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to John Stainforth:
> (In reply to Tris)
> Be very careful to avoid Lyon: the worst route takes one straight through the city on either side of the Rhone in crowded subways. Best to turn "left" (east) off the A6 onto the A432 near Anse, which is south of Macon but way north of Lyon. Then it is fairly straightforward via A43/A430.

Many thanks for the advice John. Sorry, I should have said but I am pretty sure we went this way last year as I don't recall Lyon being bad so we must have done this detour.

The big hold up for us was between Chambery and Albertville as we just sat not moving for hours. As we've not done it before I don't know if this is the norm for this stretch or whether we were just unlucky and there was an accident etc (no car wrecks were noticed at the time).
Orgsm on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Tris:

I'd also advocate going down the east side of France via Reims, Dijon etc. To avoid gridlock I'd look at the times you are driving. We often do an overnight drive to ensure we arrive at any bottlenecks at quiet times. You can get a tag to the t lanes at the peage, which can save you a considerable amount time avoiding any queuing at the tolls.

To avoid Chambery you want to go left at Macon to Geneva on A40, then A41 to Annecy. Annecy to Albertville isn't particularly fast though.
Rory Shaw - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to John Stainforth: there is now a by pass round lyon - all good when I went that way in the summer
John Stainforth - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Rory Shaw:

We may be talking about the same route, or not: there is also a ring road further in towards the city centre. I think the outermost route is the best bet traffic-wise.
Rory Shaw - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to John Stainforth:Lyon: A6 - A46 - A432 - A43 sorted
alexcollins123 - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Tris: Drive during the night - no traffic at all!
RichardP - on 03 Dec 2012
Hi Tris,
I have two basic routes for you, the first is via Paris, Lyon to Chamnoix,
the second will take a bit longer but you will avoid most of the tolls, you will need to get a swiss motorway pass that you can get in London.

The Route via Basel to Chamnoix I have driven during the summer, that route but going to From Basel south into Switzerland I have driven many times and the roads are great (I use to live about 25 miles from Millian)


Route 1
Calais to paris
Paris to lyon
Lyon to Chambery
Chambery to Chamonix
According to Google maps 1013Km, 9hours 39mins


Route 2
Calais to Mons (belguim)
Mons (Belgium) to Luxemburgh
Luxemburgh to Metz (france)
Metz (france) to Strasbourgh (germany)
Strasbourg (germany) to Basel (Switzerland)
Basel (Switzerland) to Chamonix
According to Google maps 1045Km, 10hours 56mins


The second route only has tolls between Metz and Strasbourgh.
I think there must be some EEC rule about toll roads near the old borders


Good luck

Richard
andy - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Richard Phelan: That's brilliant. But the OPs going to Courchevel.
RichardP - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to andy:
> (In reply to Richard Phelan) That's brilliant. But the OPs going to Courchevel.


ha ha ha I'll take my foot outa my mouth.....
Bruce Hooker - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Tris:

The last bit is often the worst, especially on busy weekends and at the start of French school holidays. As these are staggered over three zones for the February holiday try checking the out on: http://www.education.gouv.fr/pid25058/le-calendrier-scolaire.html

Most rents go from Saturday evening to next Saturday morning so Saturday is a bad day to arrive in the mountains... add a bit of snow on the last leg requiring chains and conditions are set for an epic trip :-)
Andysomething - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Tris: Have done this route quite a few times. The traffic after Chambery before Albertville is dependent on what day and what time you get there. Saturday morning in a French half term week is the worst in our experience. Have always used the northern ring around Lyon - sometimes very busy but not usually a problem
Andysomething - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Bruce Hooker: spooky similar simultaneous content!
Anonymous on 04 Dec 2012 - 85.132.14.38 whois?
In reply to Tris:

Which ever way you go, remember to stop off at Beaune to stock up on wine.
Jamie Wakeham - on 04 Dec 2012
In reply to Anonymous: ah, you beat me to it.

The correct route is Tain L'Hermitage - Buxy - Macon - Burgundy - Chablis - Champagne - Calais.
gear boy - on 04 Dec 2012
In reply to Tris: as said the traffic at chambery/albertville is changeover day traffic, get in early by driving through friday night leave work friday, and then ski saturday afternoon!

calais, reims, troyes, dijon, dole, bourg en bresse, lyon outer ring(past st exupery airpot), chambery

Tris - on 04 Dec 2012
In reply to A Game of Chance:
> (In reply to Tris)
> You can get a tag to the t lanes at the peage, which can save you a considerable amount time avoiding any queuing at the tolls.
>
> To avoid Chambery you want to go left at Macon to Geneva on A40, then A41 to Annecy. Annecy to Albertville isn't particularly fast though.

Thanks for the advice - had a quick look at the tag things, they seem a sensible idea and fairly cheap..

Have you driven both of theses ways? Is the Annecy way much (or any) better? We will be getting to the alps mid afternoon on a Saturday.

Tris - on 04 Dec 2012
In reply to Richard Phelan: Thanks Richard :)

I will keep the alternative route in mind if I drive to Chamonix in the future!
Tris - on 04 Dec 2012
In reply to Bruce Hooker:
> (In reply to Tris)
>
> The last bit is often the worst, especially on busy weekends and at the start of French school holidays. As these are staggered over three zones for the February holiday try checking the out on: http://www.education.gouv.fr/pid25058/le-calendrier-scolaire.html
>
> Most rents go from Saturday evening to next Saturday morning so Saturday is a bad day to arrive in the mountains... add a bit of snow on the last leg requiring chains and conditions are set for an epic trip :-)

Many thanks for the info Bruce - very useful.

We are going on Sat 16th March so it looks like the french kids will be going the other way..

I have a set of chains (well actually socks) and have not needed to use them so far.


Tris - on 04 Dec 2012
In reply to Andysomething: Thanks Andy - it will be Saturday afternoon, as Bruce linked to above the half term ends that week so fingers crossed!!
Enty - on 04 Dec 2012
In reply to John Stainforth:
> (In reply to Tris)
>
> Almost any route is better than Lyon!
>
> First you have to choose whether to go on the A16/A6 via Paris or on the A26/A5/A31/A6 past Rheims, Troyes and Amiens. The latter is only slightly further (about 10 kms!) but can be quite a lot quicker, with less traffic than the Paris route.
>

Agree! I'm amazed people still drive south via Paris and not Reims and Troyes on the A26.It's usually deserted.

> Be very careful to avoid Lyon: the worst route takes one straight through the city on either side of the Rhone in crowded subways. Best to turn "left" (east) off the A6 onto the A432 near Anse, which is south of Macon but way north of Lyon. Then it is fairly straightforward via A43/A430.

I beg to differ on this one. I always chance going through the city, especially out of rush hour times. Following the eastern ring road is actually 55km longer. Most I've been delayed is about 20 minutes.
This won't affect the OP though.

E

Bruce Hooker - on 04 Dec 2012
In reply to Andysomething:
> (In reply to Bruce Hooker) spooky similar simultaneous content!

Exactly the same time to the nearest minute... Thought transfer? Pretty scary!

johnwright - on 04 Dec 2012
In reply to Richard Phelan:

> Route 2
> Calais to Mons (belguim)
> Mons (Belgium) to Luxemburgh
> Luxemburgh to Metz (france)
> Metz (france) to Strasbourgh (germany)
> Strasbourg (germany) to Basel (Switzerland)
> Basel (Switzerland) to Chamonix
> According to Google maps 1045Km, 10hours 56mins
>
>
> The second route only has tolls between Metz and Strasbourgh.
> I think there must be some EEC rule about toll roads near the old borders

The reason that there are tolls between Metz and Strasbourg is because Strasbourg is in France, only just tho.lol
marmot hunter - on 04 Dec 2012
In reply to Bruce Hooker:
The "Belley short cut" is our secret. Come off the A39 to Amberieu en Bugey and follow the D1504 through Belley to Chambery, doesn't save much time but it is far more scenic, no longer (time), a bit shorter in distance with a few supermakets en route for food/loos. Even if traffic isn't great there's never been an hour or two delay at peage booths (which we've sufffered before). And it saves a few in tolls too.
Plus it is quite pretty if you like your views whilst driving.

not a sercet now thought!
Orgsm on 04 Dec 2012
In reply to Tris:
> (In reply to A Game of Chance)
> [...]
>
> Thanks for the advice - had a quick look at the tag things, they seem a sensible idea and fairly cheap..
>
> Have you driven both of theses ways? Is the Annecy way much (or any) better? We will be getting to the alps mid afternoon on a Saturday.

I've only driven the Annecy one in the summer when going to pralognan for summer alps trips. In winter I tend to go the Lyon route. If you have the tag there is also no need to wake a sleeping passenger (or even open the windows) for the tolls. Ideal when night driving.

John Stainforth - on 05 Dec 2012
In reply to Enty:

I got bitten a couple of months ago, driving up from the south of France, and somehow managed (by route-finding error) to go slap through Lyon, and it was not a happy experience. Once bitten, twice shy!
davidoldfart - on 06 Dec 2012
In reply to Tris: Do not take that Belley short cut. I once did in very cold weather and it was a nightmare. It had not been gritted properly, and added about two hours to the journey. Lots of traffic, very slow. The best way to avoid the weekend jams between Chambery and Albertville, which are always awful, is to leave a day early, book into a B&B somewhere as close as you can get to Courchevel, and then grab an extra day's skiing.
Tris - on 06 Dec 2012
In reply to A Game of Chance: Cool, thanks for letting me know. Will stick with the Lyon route then..

Have found you can get the tag for 20 euros from a french site so will most likely do that.
ads.ukclimbing.com
Tris - on 06 Dec 2012
In reply to davidoldfart:
> (In reply to Tris) Do not take that Belley short cut. I once did in very cold weather and it was a nightmare. It had not been gritted properly, and added about two hours to the journey. Lots of traffic, very slow. The best way to avoid the weekend jams between Chambery and Albertville, which are always awful, is to leave a day early, book into a B&B somewhere as close as you can get to Courchevel, and then grab an extra day's skiing.

Thanks David, duly noted!

I did have a look at that detour quickly and had dismissed it as taking too long.

Orgsm on 06 Dec 2012
In reply to Tris:

Or you can get one via the uk sanef tolling site

https://www.saneftolling.co.uk/subscription
marmot hunter - on 06 Dec 2012
In reply to davidoldfart:
We do it two or three times a year, always quicker.
Tris - on 07 Dec 2012
In reply to A Game of Chance:
> (In reply to Tris)
>
> Or you can get one via the uk sanef tolling site
>
> https://www.saneftolling.co.uk/subscription

Hi - yeah, I saw that but it is double the price...

"Total up front fee of 39.14 (including TVA) of which 20 is refundable when you return the tag"

Whereas it is only 20 (10 admin fee + 10 postage) here:

http://www.telepeagepourtous.fr/fr/particulier/toutes_nos_offres/libert_balade

Plus the monthly fees are a lot less.
Orgsm on 07 Dec 2012
In reply to Tris:

>
> Whereas it is only 20 (10 admin fee + 10 postage) here:
>
> http://www.telepeagepourtous.fr/fr/particulier/toutes_nos_offres/libert_balade
>
> Plus the monthly fees are a lot less.

Maybe, but do they accept UK Bank accounts being linked to the account for payment?

Tris - on 07 Dec 2012
In reply to A Game of Chance: No - you just register your credit card with them and it gets charged on that instead.
Bruce Hooker - on 07 Dec 2012
In reply to Tris:

So there is a small charge for the badge but do you get any reduction on the actual tolls?
Carless - on 07 Dec 2012
In reply to Bruce Hooker:

Bruce - how long have you been in France? And you don't have one?!

You don't get any reduction in the tolls

If you get one from an agent telepeage on the autoroute, there is frequently no charge or deposit

The monthly fee can be as little as 1.50 and only in the months you use it
The first time you sail past a queue makes it well worth it

SANEF, APRR, AREA etc all have slightly different deals
Bruce Hooker - on 07 Dec 2012
In reply to Carless:

Only since 1974! Every time I looked into it it didn't seem worth it as it was no cheaper. I've just looked so really my post was superfluous but as many people on ukc seemed to like the system I thought perhaps there was something I'd missed.

In fact the fixed charge seems to be lower than last time I checked so I suppose I should get one, although I don't use autoroute that often and mostly off peak there aren't too many queues... It takes me a while to adapt to technology :-)

I also think they should offer you at least 5% off, or at least completely free tags, given the saving they make on labour costs... it seems a bit mean to have the same charge.
Enty - on 07 Dec 2012
In reply to Carless:

I've had one for 9 years. I think the initial charge for the transponder was about 25. There's no monthly charge, I just pay whatever I journeys I get billed for.
The deal we get is if you do 12 identical journeys of 100km in one monthly period you get a journey free and if you do 6 identical journeys of 50km you get a journey free. Basically the deal is for commuters.

E
Orgsm on 07 Dec 2012
In reply to Tris:

I could be wrong but I think there was a change in the law so you can't register using a non French card. Hence the uk subsid being setup for sanef. But do let me know if it works out.
Orgsm on 07 Dec 2012
In reply to Tris:

It's also free if you travel on your birthday. So register a birthday you are likely to be driving down the autoroutes!
sg - on 07 Dec 2012
In reply to davidoldfart:
> The best way to avoid the weekend jams between Chambery and Albertville, which are always awful, is to leave a day early, book into a B&B somewhere as close as you can get to Courchevel, and then grab an extra day's skiing.

Indeed - that's the strategy we're trying this year. Having driven overnight to Meribel years ago and got stung because we got to Lyon about 8 in the morning and so still ended up crawling up past Albertville, taking many hours, with all the other northern Europeans, we're going a day early this New Year. Formule 1 type place near A'ville should help avoid worst of the traffic before heading up to Les Arcs first thing Sat am. Thing is, we're now driving with the kids so arriving in the resort at any time after an overnight drive but nowhere to crash until teatime seems less appealing... Loads of snow already anyway! Reims and peage to East side of Lyon then a left has to be the logical route though. Otherwise bad weather could wreak greater havoc.
altirando - on 07 Dec 2012
In reply to Tris: Just another thumbs up for Reims/Dijon/Bourg then either N504 to Chambery or perhaps Annecy-Albertville. But there will always be traffic problems on Friday nights/Saturdays on the last section. Have you checked the Bison Fute website, which gives likely trouble spots and possible alternative routes?
Kipper - on 07 Dec 2012
In reply to A Game of Chance:
> (In reply to Tris)
>
> It's also free if you travel on your birthday. So register a birthday you are likely to be driving down the autoroutes!

I may be celebrating my Birthday on a different date next year.


Tris - on 10 Dec 2012
In reply to A Game of Chance:
> (In reply to Tris)
>
> I could be wrong but I think there was a change in the law so you can't register using a non French card. Hence the uk subsid being setup for sanef. But do let me know if it works out.

I think you can't register using a current account but credit cards are fine?
Happy to be corrected on that as I have no knowledge on the subject.

Anyway, I ordered one yesterday on the Mastercard. Will let you know when (if) it arrives...
DNS on 10 Dec 2012
In reply to Tris:

I had a tag direct from SANEF France, but could only use a credit card to pay on a direct debit. Everytime the credit card expired I spent the bast part of a day trying to get SANEF to update their records. I've gone with the UK SANEF agency in Harrogate now. A coupe of quid more, but DD onto a UK bank account.
French Erick - on 10 Dec 2012
In reply to Tris:
I've been doing yearly for ten years.
if it's the middle of the night Lyon is fine.
If it's any near friday night or sunday night(4-7) take ring road to satolas airport, tahn follow chosen route.
if this is jammed... you're f***ed: don't even think about taking the wee roads. You'll get lost (however, if you'd rather rage at a map than at a jam...)

Best is to plan travelling so it's a week day middle of the night.
At the end of the day, you're one car out of a million that goes done (round xmas time), best not to be there at the same time.

Someone did say but it's worth re saying: tolls (roads are better and faster but it's not cheap).
Enjoy courch' though...it'll be awesome. They've got a nice base layer building up the now.
Tris - on 14 Dec 2012
In reply to Tris:
> (In reply to A Game of Chance)
> [...]
>
> I think you can't register using a current account but credit cards are fine?
> Happy to be corrected on that as I have no knowledge on the subject.
>
> Anyway, I ordered one yesterday on the Mastercard. Will let you know when (if) it arrives...

The tag arrived yesterday morning in the post, just got to now attempt to translate the french installation instructions :)
iksander on 19 Dec 2012
In reply to Tris: Check out http://www.viamichelin.co.uk decide between speed or economy
dave frost - on 31 Dec 2012
In reply to Tris: Having just completed the drive to / from chamonix i thought i would let you all know the route etc.

Gloucester -> Flkestone for the le shuttle was about 3 1/2 hours and ok.

Le Shuttle is pretty good, fast and was on time and pretty easy, though not cheap, 200 return!

We then did calais -> Rheims -> Troyes and stopped off over night in an aire near troyes, thinking we were half way. Unfortunately we parked up near a refrigerated van which kept us up most of the night. We set off from Gloucester at about 9.30 am and stopped driving near Troyes just before 8pm. I don't drive so my wife did all of it.

Next day was troyes -> Dijon -> Bourg en Bresse -> Geneva -> Chamonix. That was quite a long stretch after a bad nights sleep. Taking almost 7 hours as it rained heavy all day. We also spent about 45 minutes queueing for diesel, and then another 30 mins at a large peage just outside Geneva heading towards Chamonix.

There was heavy snow falling down to Les Houche when we arrived, and we faffed for an hour trying to find some fresh water for the van - we failed every where was frozen. We also had to put the chains on, but we made it to Argentiere and parked just in time to get a meal.

We were in a long wheel base, high top merc sprinter. The peage was about 110 euro's each way. Only a bit less than the cost of the diesel!

The drive on the way back took about the same length of time. I had been messing with the satnav a bit. It decided that the fastest route back was via Lyon! as it turned out it was faster roads but because we were in a big van it didn't help much.

Heading east from Macon the roads are not that fast. Quite mountainous, lots of tunnels (so no over taking) and in bad weather everything slows down.

We ended up usually cruising at about 110 Kph. We didnt really encounter any jams, but we headed out on the 22nd and back on the 29th.

I had assumed that getting down to Les Arcs or Tignes would take about 2 hours longer than Chamonix (from looking at google maps) but i don't think thats quite right. When we headed back we went just north of Chambery to Lyon, which doesnt seem much further to go to Tignes etc. So maybe just ab hour more. Though the road does seem quite small for quite a distance getting to tignes.

Cheers
Dave

Tris - on 31 Dec 2012
In reply to dave frost: Thanks for the info Dave...

We will be staying in Rheims overnight, would like to get to Troyes but it would be too late by the time we got there (2 small kids in car).

Hope you had a good holiday?

dave frost - on 31 Dec 2012
In reply to Tris: Yeh it was brilliant. Though the drive took longer than expected. 9 days minimum when in the van.

It was out first trip in our camper, and we have never done that drive before so lots of new stuff to deal with.

We did see that some of the aires de service have rooms for 20 euro's. Might not be the best but if you don't have a camper that could be an option.

We also got diesel for 1.47 (euro) per liter which is about 1.20 great!

The other thing is that le shuttle will sometimes bump you onto an earlier train if your there in time and there's space on the train.

Enjoy your hols.

Dave
Orgsm on 31 Dec 2012
In reply to Tris:

I've just got back from Alps as well. Diesel off the motorways is 1.34, so about 1.08. If using shuttle then come off A16 after one junction (junction 43) , take first exit off round about, straight across at next, and left at third. Ignore first petrol station and continue to auchan on left, just past battle,nets on right.

A tag saves the queues at the peages. We saw many speeding Brits pass us, only to pass them at the peages, to be caught well over an hour later.
Tris - on 02 Jan 2013
In reply to A Game of Chance:
> (In reply to Tris)
>
> I've just got back from Alps as well. Diesel off the motorways is 1.34, so about 1.08. If using shuttle then come off A16 after one junction (junction 43) , take first exit off round about, straight across at next, and left at third. Ignore first petrol station and continue to auchan on left, just past battle,nets on right.
>
> A tag saves the queues at the peages. We saw many speeding Brits pass us, only to pass them at the peages, to be caught well over an hour later.

Hope you had a good trip too!

Tag has now arrived and has been fitted - looking forward to jumping the queues :)

We get the ferry as it is cheaper and we like the break it provides in the journey. It's nice to walk around the boat and get some fresh air.


dave frost - on 02 Jan 2013
In reply to Tris: How much was the ferry and how long does it take ?

Cheers
dave
Tris - on 02 Jan 2013
In reply to dave frost: 78 return for a standard car with roofbox and 1 hour (Seafrance/Myferrylink Dover to Calais)

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