For the most part during my travels I have chosen to avoid the roads which charge a toll, preferring to use the original main roads and smaller roads through the local villages. I feel that this way I get to see a lot more of the countries I visit and sometimes I discover something a little bit special that isn’t listed in any guide books.
However, I also try to avoid retracing my steps and after the stress of the Ligurian coast roads and the lack of any feasible alternative I decide to take the Autostrade from Viareggio to Ventimiglia and the border with France. The road is not very scenic, mostly passing through long, dark tunnels with the occasional glimpse of the sea, and there are quite a few large lorries on the route. However, it is two lanes and fast. In fact it only takes me 3.5 hours to complete 300kms and that includes a stop along the way for coffee. I have no idea what the cost will be and so when I arrive at the little booth and the sour-faced woman takes my ticket I am prepared with cash and card. It’s €35.60, which is about what I expected.
I continue with the ‘peage’ when I arrive in France. Again the road is fast and stress-free but I find it rather annoying that I have to stop and pay every 20 kms or so. This time there is only a machine and the local woman in front of me is already having problems. Having already inserted her money, she punches every button, but the barrier remains firmly closed. In the end, I back up and go to another lane. There is no sign that any assistance is on the way. Each part costs about €3 or €4. When I finally leave the motorway at Frejus, I add up the tickets and discover it has cost me €19.40 to cover about 100kms in 1 hour. Even more expensive than Italy!
So, the question is: To pay or not to pay?
I think it really depends on the time you have and what you want to see. Also on how big your budget is. Weather can also be a factor as the toll roads are usually cleared and gritted. Although when I was travelling from Pamplona to San Sebastian in a blizzard this was not the case.