How to avoid France’s major traffic jams this weekend

Highest possible warnings as holidaymakers return from extended break

A motorway traffic jam in France
There are certain roads you should avoid this weekend
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Drivers are being warned of extensive traffic jams this weekend, as ‘black’ level warnings are put in place on Sunday (May 12). 

This signifies the highest possible level of delays on the road, with official traffic watchdog Bison Futé putting the warning in place across the north and west of France at the end of the weekend. 

“Return journeys [towards major cities] will generate traffic jams and slowdowns on all the country's major routes,” it said. 

“They will be present from mid-morning and will last until very late in the evening,” it added.

The entire country will see at least red warnings, but black alerts will be present in Normandy, Brittany, Hauts-de-France, Pays de la Loire, and Centre-Val de Loire.

Why is traffic so busy?

The two back-to-back public holidays on May 8 and 9 have led to many workers also taking Friday May 10 off, allowing them to enjoy a five-day weekend. 

Read more: 10 days off for just 3 holiday days: Why French workers love May

Traffic is set to be particularly busy today (May 7), with a level-three ‘red’ warning in place across all regions for roads leaving major cities. 

It will begin to appear from mid-morning, but continue well into the evening, as people leaving for their destinations after work ends create a peak during the evening house.. 

In particular, the main corridors to coastal destinations in Normandy, Brittany, and the south of France will be busiest. 

Between May 8 and 11, there are little to no traffic warnings, as most people will already be at their destinations.

Smaller local roads in popular tourist destinations may be busier than usual, however.

On Sunday, the influx of people returning from their trips will see roads busy from mid-morning. 

Traffic will begin on most major roads from around 10:00, but after lunchtime towards the late evening is when they will be busiest. 

Roads returning to major cities on the Atlantic coastline (N165), the A84 and A13 in Normandy, and the A7, A9 and A61 in the south are all expected to see heavy traffic. 

In addition, the major routes leading into Paris will also be busy throughout the day, as will the Mont Blanc tunnel in the direction of France. 

Read more: Do you recognise these French road signs? Their meanings have changed…

How can I avoid the jams? 

Bison Futé lists a number of tips to help people avoid busy roads on Sunday. 

Alongside generally avoiding major motorways and national roads if you do not need to use them, specific roads to avoid are: 

  • The A25 motorway, between Socx and Lille, from 16:00 to 18:00

  • The A13 motorway, between Caen and Paris, from 11:00 to 16:00

  • The A11 motorway, between Angers and Le Mans, from 4pm to 8pm

  • The N157 trunk road and the A81 motorway between Rennes and Le Mans from 14:00 to 19:00

  • The N165 national road, between Quimper and Nantes, from 16:00 to 18:00

  • The A10 motorway, between Niort and Poitiers, from 13:00 to 16:00

  • The A7 motorway between Salon-de-Provence and Orange from 11am to 1pm and between Orange and Lyon from 12:00 to 21:00

  • The A9 motorway between Spain and Narbonne from 1pm to 6pm and between Montpellier and Orange from 15:00 to 17:00

  • The A61 motorway between Narbonne and Toulouse, from 15:00 to 19:00

  • The Mont-Blanc tunnel (N205), between Italy and France, from 11:00 to 23:00

If travelling to the Île-de-France region (around Paris) you should aim to be at your destination before midday.