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Driving to the Alps

A self drive ski holiday is the perfect way to travel at your own pace, limit your carbon footprint, avoid busy airports and luggage restrictions, take food from home or shop in the cheaper hypermarkets en-route. With an average journey time of 10/12 hours, the Alps are easily accessible via an excellent network of motorways and by far the most flexible way to travel.

Benefits

  • Save money by avoiding expensive flights, transfers and hidden airline costs.
  • Save time, when you compare the time it takes to get to an airport, check in, wait due to delays, wait for your luggage and get to the resort at the other end, driving can often be the quicker way to travel.
  • Travel at your own pace; leave the night before or at 3am, whatever suits you, it is completely flexible.
  • With no luggage restrictions you can fill your car to the brim.
  • Avoid the expensive resort supermarkets by taking your own staples from home and/or shopping in the cheaper hypermarkets on the way.
  • Take your own skis and boards without paying airline surcharges.
  • Freedom to explore local towns, resorts and attractions.
  • Stock up on excellent quality, good value wine, champagne and French food on the way home.

Top Tips

  • Before you leave you should have your car fully serviced, check your battery and fan belt, top up your antifreeze, and make sure your windscreen solution is strong enough to cope with the weather in the Alps.
  • French Road Safety law stipulates that all vehicles driving in France must carry at all times at least one reflective safety jacket, one warning triangle and at least one working breathalyser in their vehicle, enforced by on the spot fines of between 90-135€.
  • Snow chains are a legal requirement if you are attempting mountain roads.
  • Items which you should not leave home without are a warning triangle, reflective jacket, shovel, tow rope, snow chains, and heavy duty gloves for fitting snow chains, spare bulbs for your car headlights, a windscreen scraper, de-icer and matches to help thaw car locks.
  • The roads leading to the mountains can get very congested at the weekends and in the peak season and the best time to travel is in the early hours of the morning or late at night.
  • Ensure that you always have a good amount of fuel in the car and make sure that you have a shovel, torch, gloves, warm clothing and refreshments that are easily accessible.
  • It is advisable to pay tolls with a credit card as this is a lot quicker, an approximate return price to the Alps is £100 - £140; however this depends on the route you take and your destination.
  • Always use the highest gear possible in a manual car, especially when moving off from stationary. Avoid using high revs when moving from stationary or uphill.
  • Make sure the engine is warm before setting off on your journey to limit the possibility of stalling your vehicle.
  • If you find your car skidding try and steer in to the skid and do not use the breaks.
  • If you are hiring a car, please check that you will have snow chains or snow tyres (usually payable locally) and check that you have the snow chains in the car before leaving. Also ensure that you know how to put the chains on!
  • Park your car facing downhill and if possible in the direction you will be wishing to move off in.
  • Lift your windscreen wipers away from the front and back windscreens so they are not impossible to move if it snows heavily.
  • Leave car in gear if you are able to, so that you do not have to use the handbrake as it is possible for handbrakes to freeze in position.

Driving times to the Alps

Speed Limits:

  • 130km/hr on toll motorways (110km/hr when raining)
  • 110km/hr on dual carriageways (90km/hr when raining)
  • 50km/hr in towns
  • 90km/hr on other roads

Tolls:

  • Approx. £55 each way from Calais to the Alps
  • credit cards accepted
  • in Switzerland tolls replaced by a ‘vignette’ (SFR40) to be displayed on windscreen
  • N.B. some high top vehicles, including some cars with roof boxes may be charged as a van (the tolls are automatic and go on height).  If this happens please press the assistant button for the toll to be reset

Snow chains

Erna Low has negotiated special rates with Polar Snowchains who offer easy fit snow chains for all vehicle types. Polar Snowchainscan offer Erna Low customers a 10% discount by quoting Erna Low when calling to order their snowchains, or selecting Erna Low from the 'where did you hear about us' dropdown when booking online.

Contact them on 01732 360638 or email polar@snowchains.com.

Shopping

One of the huge advantages of driving down to the Alps is being able to do some shopping in one of the several hypermarkets in and around Calais. Avoid England’s expensive prices and stock up on excellent quality, good value wine, champagne and French food before you return home. Please see the map for some hypermarkets conveniently placed for the ferry port and Eurotunnel terminal.

Hypermarkets in Calais

Read more about self-drive ski holidays »

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