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Principal Roads

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France including the South West has a god and usually well-maintained road network.

In general driving in France is a pleasant experience. Traffic is light - nothing like the UK, for example - except for the major connurbations. Motorways are generally toll-roads, and for that reason there is less traffic than you might otherwise find. Some motorways have a lot of lorries - for example the A63 to Spain. The exceptions are the key weekends at the beginning and the end of the July/August holidays. Most of France take their holidays at the same time, and at these periods, known as red days, traffic on the main arterial routes can be very heavy.

The speed limit on Motorways is 130 kph, or 110 kph in wet weather. Non-motorway dual carriageways are often 110 kph but watch the signs. The general speed limit on all roads is 90 kph, or 50 kph in built-up areas. Note that the sign with the name of a village/town on it, with the white background, also means that from then until the cancel sign the speed limit is 50 kph. Driving is on the right. Gendarmes enjoy hiding with their speed guns whenever it is felt a cash-injection is required for the State, or they are just bored. Speed cameras are also making an appearance.

French drivers are bad tailgaters, despite attempts to educate them otherwise. Alcohol for drivers is limited to 50 mgms. On some main roads you will see macabre black cut-out figures on the side of the road. These are what you fear they are - reminders of past fatalities at that place. Worth paying extra attention, especially where you see several at once.

The main arterial routes in the South West of France are:


The main N-S route from Bordeaux to Spain. The motorway from Spain stops a few kilometres north of Bayonne, but merges with the toll-free dual carriageway N10 all the way to Bordeaux. The motorway is a toll road apart from small sections round Bayonne and Bordeaux.
The main E-W autoroute from Bayonne to Toulouse and the East. Tolls payable.

Routes Nationales

N 10
The main north-south road from Bordeaux to the Spanish border. Between the motorway box round Bordeaux and the start of the A63 the road is all dual carriageway and up to Motorway standards. But watch out for sneaky speed cameras.
N 117
The main East-West road from Bayonne to Pau and the East. Mainly single carriageway.
N 124
A West-East road from Bayonne to Dax, Auch and Toulouse.
N 134
The main road north from Pau to Toulouse.
N 21
The road north from Tarbes to Agen and Perigaux

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