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France is a member state of the European Union as well as the Schengen Agreement. It is a great country for hitchhiking. There are many friendly car and truck drivers. The highways cost money, and at some péage (toll points) you can get a ride easily.
There are no prohibitions about hitching in France, apart from the restricted access roads, i.e. expressways and motorways. (See below)
Choosing the good spot is the key of getting the best rides. For instance, in Montpellier there are two spots very close to each other. The first one is easy to reach, nevertheless, the second one isn't much more difficult, but the chances of being picked up are much better. <map lat='46' lng='2' zoom='5' view='0' float='right' height='300' country='France'/> Most of the French don't speak English, so have a map to show them where you want to go. If you know any French, use it! French people like it if you try your best. Say Bonjour Monsieur/Madame, to show that you are friendly. If you're heading to Germany, you maybe need to know that Germany is Allemagne (all-ay-man'ye) in French.
It may also be helpful to put S.V.P. after your destination if you use a sign. It's shorthand for s'il vous plaît (sih-voo-play) = please in French.
The Michelin 726 National map of France is a good choice for hitchhiking. It shows all the major péages (see below) and service stations.
Autoroutes & Péages
Autoroute means "motorway" in French. Most of them are toll roads, and the fastest way to hitch across he country. A péage is a toll booth. There are two types of péages: Big ones, where all the traffic has to stop to pay or get a ticket (called "Barrières de Péage"). These are excellent spots to get a long-distance ride, usually located near big cities on the autoroute. Another type is a side barrier, situated on all exits in the toll part of the motorway. On this kind of péages the traffic is much smaller so waiting times may be longer, but in fact waits can be longer at congested péages due to the attitude of drivers.
To reach the first péage, you may need to walk beside the highway; consult a map to see if the distance is realistic. It is illegal to be along the highway, as well as on some parts of national roads ("voie express"). If police see you, they will drive you to somewhere safe and may fine you 90€. Péages are considered part of the motorway, and you do not legally have the right to solicit rides there. You may be asked to wait in the parking area which is after each péage. In practice, this is rarely enforced (maybe 5% of the time). Most employees simply want to make sure you're not endangering yourself or others. Having a sign with your destination (or next city) is recommended and will distinguish you as a serious hitchhiker, and not a vagrant.
You can get free maps in the péage offices - these also indicate where you can find "all-stop-péages". The fastest way to travel is from one of these to the next. Here are some information how to get a lift from péages:
- You can thumb immediately after the péage;
- If you prefer a direct approach you can dash across the lanes one at a time until you're at a busy lane and stand next to the toll machine and talk to drivers when they stop to pay (as pictured to left);
- You can wait before the péage, just where the drivers choose their lane. There is mostly enough space for cars to pull over here.
Some péages are really good, some are not. If you've been waiting for a while with destination sign, drop it and try with your thumb only. Also, you can try to get a ride to the next good spot in the wrong direction.
Also, you can always hitch from one gas station to another, either asking at the exit from the shop, or at the entrance ramp. The staff usually don't care about hitchhikers.
- Calais - the main ferryport to the British Islands.
- Dijon, Dol de Bretagne, Dunkerque
- Lille, Lyon
- Marseille, Montpellier
- Paris, Perpignan
- Reims, Rennes
- Saint Brieuc, Strasbourg
French number plates end with the number of the département the car is registered in. For example, Parisian cars end with the number 75, 78, 91,92,93,94,95. See List of arrondissements of France and French vehicle registration plates at Wikipedia. New number plates are to appear in the nearest future and those will not carry any information about the region, unless the owner decided to put a department reference on it. The current plates already in use will still remain for a while.
- Mappy is a good online map for France, it shows you (to) where you can take public transport.
- Le Réseau ASF, a PDF showing all-stop-péages on major routes.
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