Roadside services

You're making a long journey. The advice is to stop roughly every 2 hours. So where do you plan your break? Do you need to use a toilet, have something to eat or refuel? Or will a stretch of the old legs and a bit of fresh air do?

Each country provides a range of roadside facilities to suit people's needs. Here's what to expect, and our maps will tell you what facilities are available at each area.

 

Aires de repos

These are small, basic rest areas generally located 20 to 30km apart, and are designed to offer a quiet respite away from the road. The facilities on offer are basic, usually just parking and picnic tables, so there's somewhere to eat a packed lunch or stretch your legs. You may find a snack bar, tuck shop or children's play area on site.

Toilets are also provided at these sites, however they are unmanned, so it is stronlgy advised that you keep some toilet roll and hand soap with you!


Aire de la Mare des Fourches rest area, alongside the N154 between Evreux and Dreux, France. Click to open full size image.

 

Aires de service

These larger service areas are normally located around 40 to 60km apart, and provide a greater range of facilities when compared with a rest area.

The size of the facility will determine what is on offer. Smaller service areas are usually found on the quieter stretches of motorway, and are generally nothing more than a petrol station, with toilets and a shop selling light snacks and drinks to take-away.

In contrast, larger sites offer a full range of facilities, such as eat-in restaurants, take away outlets, and sometimes tourism offices and gift shops selling local produce. However, these are typically the more popular sites, so in the busy tourist season parking can be at a premium.

One thing to note is that you may find that prices are a little higher than off the motorway, but the thing to bear in mind is that these are remote sites, and they need to open long hours (if not 24/7) - so they need to cover the costs of providing staff during quieter hours.


Aire de Chartres Gasville service area, on the A11 near Chartres, France. Click to see full size image.

 

Croq'Malin
During the summer season, additional facilities are provided at many French service areas, such as children's entertainment and vehicle health checks.

Also offered is the Croq'Malin programme - this is a scheme whereby healthier picnic style meal deals are offered for five Euros. Some operators also offer reduced price deals at their eat-in restaurants.

This is a very popular scheme offered by the main roadside providers, with over 50 million meals sold in 2018. Panels advertising this scheme are usually displayed alongside services signage.

 

Villages étapes 

If you are travelling through France and looking at stopping off somewhere a little different, then you may wish to consider one of the almost 70 village étapes dotted around the country. These are small villages with a population below 5,000, and located less than 5km from a motorway (must be untolled) or expressway.

Despite their size, you'll still find everything you need - somewhere to eat, local shops for those provisions, pharmacy, cashpoint, hotel or campsite and garage. There also needs to be publicly accessible toilets and a play area. They should also be great places to explore.

Becoming a village étapes isn't automatic for those villages that can qualify for this status. Every applicant has to pass an inspection to ensure they meet the necessary criteria, which has to be renewed every five years to ensure the ameneties are still in place.

 

Signage

All service areas are signposted in advance, with signage stating what is available at the upcoming facility, as well as the distance to the next site provinding the same. These are uselful in determining if a site is a rest or service area.

Emergency telephone  Public telephone Tourist information  Picnic area CCTV secured parking Toilets Disabled facilities
             
           
Petrol station Petrol station
also providing LPG
Petrol station with
EV charging
 
Petrol station with
LPG and EV charging
 
Electric vehicle
charging
Electric vehicle
charging plus LPG
 
Restaurant
             
             
Hotel Cafeteria Viewpoint Children's play area Motorhome
waste drop
Cash machine Tyre inflation point
(free to use)
 
             
             
24 hour repair point Shop selling local
or regional products
HGV Ecotax sales
outlet
 
       
 

Photos of Aire de Chartres Gasville by Qwesy Qwesy, and used under a Creative Commons 3.0 licence
Sigh graphics by Roulex45 and Chabe01, and used under a Creative Commons 3.0 or 4.0 licence