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Calais to La Thuile help

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hi All, so in Feb I will be getting the tunnel over to Calais and then driving up to La Thuile. Has anyone else ever done this? Any tips?
I was thinking I might try and book a cheap motel about half way but have no idea where to start lol. Any help much appreciated 😃
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Winter tyres Toofy Grin
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I have done similar and assuming you are using the Tunnel Mont Blanc then I would do a route search using viamichelin like https://www.viamichelin.co.uk/web/Routes?departure=62100%20Calais%2C%20France&arrival=11016%20La%20Thuile%2C%20Italy&index=0&vehicle=0&type=0&distance=km&currency=EUR&highway=false&toll=false&vignette=false&orc=false&crossing=true&caravan=false&car=hatchback&fuel=petrol&fuelCost=1.36&allowance=0&corridor=&departureDate=&arrivalDate=

Your tunnel time will determine to an extent where you want to stop. I often take a late ferry then stop a bit to the south of Calais such as in St Omer where there is a reasonably good ibis budget; a little earlier crossing then i will try to hit Reims where there is a F1 hotel near the autoroute (Reims Tinqueux) or maybe even Chalons en Champagne. I have found hotels in closer to Calais to be a bit rubbish to be honest and are often noisy with business travellers arriving late and departing early. A good early start (0800, earlier is NOT good, you're on holiday) the following morning and La Thuile should be doable with any of the options by early evening even given a decent break for lunch and a couple of further shorter breaks.

Don't buy fuel on the autoroute it is F expensive. There are supermarket fuel stops just off - Reims for example is a good option. Carrefour there iirc fits in nicely with an overnight halt or a shorter break if staying further north. Supermarket fuel stations often do not take debit cards, so a low cost credit card like halifax clarity will be useful. It will also make autoroute tolls much cheaper as you will not be paying a transaction fee for every booth!
Don't buy booze in France, its cheaper in Italy in most cases.

You could write a book on this really there is so much to tell.
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Mash the gas pedal and you will be there in ~6 hours.
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@JMorl, If your sat nav says use the petit st bernard pass ignore it and head towards Chamonix and the mont blanc tunnel. Persoanly I would not bother with an overnight stop but it really depends on how much effort it took to get to Calais.

@mcspreader, I've never had a problem with debit cards in supemarkets, but you are correct using a non euro card, particulally on the Italian motorways icurs a cost every time you use it. IIRC the French companies aggregate the journey costs to one charge. If you are driving on your own an autoroute transceiver will save you effort climbing across the car at every toll booth, but will incur extra cost.

Go to audible.com and download a good book or two
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Thank you so much for all the info. @mcspreader do you normally book your ibis or just turn up?
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JMorl wrote:
Thank you so much for all the info. @mcspreader do you normally book your ibis or just turn up?


The AccorHotels app is my preferred booking method in France now. Turning up may work most of the time, but if one hotel is full, they all will be. I've only slept in the car once......
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I would recommend getting a SANEF liberT tag for automated toll payments. If you are driving overnight it's particularly useful as you don't need to keep waking-up the front passenger to handle the ticketing. And none of those awkward "Where did you put the ticket before we swapped drivers?" / "In the usual place." / "Errr ...no, not there." conversations. See the 'telepeage doofer' thread on this forum.

And yes, winter tyres.

And definitely, a choice of audiobooks really helps pass the time and keep the driver awake. If you have a reasonable EU Roaming tariff and usually use the car's DAB/FM radio then worth a bit of time ahead of the trip making sure that you or your co-driver can easily set up internet radio. Obviously, we do this so we can keep listening to The Archers in realtime although slightly surreal sometimes. Our County Library Service has an app that allows you to download audiobooks for free, using your library membership.

And I know it sounds really obvious but a Thermos of hot coffee can make a big difference as it means you can stop at an aire without a café, say to swap drivers or for a bio-break, and have a hot drink at the same time without having to stop again later to get a drink.


Last edited by After all it is free Go on u know u want to! on Thu 16-11-17 10:47; edited 1 time in total
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Having done the trip annually (with kids) for 20 odd years I would suggest sharing the driving in ONE HOUR segments. It may seem a bit extreme but neither driver gets tired - if one does just do a couple of hours to enable the other a snooze.
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@jillym, We do 3 hour stints. In a one hour stint I have only just got to sleep when my wife will pull over and ask me to drive.

@JMorl, I have this feeling that winter tyres or (possibly) snow chains are manditory in italian mountain areas.

@LaForet, +1 for the big thermos

@LaForet, I don't think there are many toll booths on the road to La Thuile and at least one of those is Italian. We never have a problem with the tickets or the debit card. Perhaps we are just organised in the car- centre consul on top of (formally known as) the ash tray. I have measured the time taken to slow down collect a ticket or pay a ticket as about 15 seconds adding up to less than 2 minutes on a trip to Les Arcs. We usually overtake the cars having gone through the 30kph T barrier within a few hundred metres but the faster French cars usually arrive, pay and get away before we do. Perhaps I should learn how wide the car is. However driving solo is a completely different problem.
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Quote:

I have this feeling that winter tyres or (possibly) snow chains are manditory in italian mountain areas.

Chains are OK - winter tyres are not mandatory (or Italian hired cars would have them... Twisted Evil )
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@pam w, both are mandatory by law but extremely unlikely they'll need to use chains.
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I am with @pam w, on this one. If you hire a car in Milan or Venice (I have not hired in Turin) then it will not have winter tyres and the hire desk have told me that only snow chains are required. But then they also told me it was not possible to hire a car without a mobile phone!
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I found this from https://www.blackcircles.com/tyres/winter-tyres/laws-and-legislation

Quote:

Winter tyres are not compulsory in Italy. However, if local signs indicate that snow chains should be carried in the vehicle, you are required to do so.
One region which differs is the Val d'Aosta area (in the north-west of the country). From the 15th of October to the 15th of April vehicles must be either fitted with winter tyres or snow chains.

This is not saying winter tyres are not a good idea - there is sufficient discussion about this elsewhere just that they are not compulsory
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@johnE, it's not really debatable when it's the law though
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 Poster: A snowHead
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@johnE, I've lived in Aosta for five winters and not only are they compulsory, you will have trouble if you are stopped by the polizia. They are a pretty active presence around town and the Italian side of the tunnel before La Thuile.
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Sorry @johnE, I misread your post, I thought you were saying neither were necessary which seems to be a misconception on here sometimes because Aosta is separate to the rest of Italy. But the OP will need tyres or chains, and it is required by law
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@JMorl, Pretty much echo what's been said so far. We try to drive in two hour stints as this suits us best.

We have the toll doofer thingy now and it definitely makes for a smoother journey. You can order one from the Eurotunnel site. Paid from a debit once you have it set up.

We're going to Tignes in January this season and for the first time we're going to have a stopover. Simply because we have more time to do the journey this year. We won't have our apartment keys until mid-afternoon Saturday so there's no point in hitting the queues around and from Bourg st Maurice on Saturday morning. We're going to stop at Nuits Saint Georges just south of Dijon. This should allow us a fairly leisurely start on the Saturday morning.

You say that you're travelling in February. Is that during half term? We drove to Madonna di Campiglio (Dolomites) a couple of seasons back at half term. We hit major traffic queues at a few bottle-necks as we drove across towards Southern Germany, down to Innsbruck and over the Brenner Pass. 3 drivers stopping only for comfort and coffee breaks really. Took us nearly 27 hours door to door from Lancashire to Pinzolo.
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Did this run via Eurotunnel down to Aosta/Pila about 3 years ago. Drive down was fine, drove through Belgium Luxemborg which makes for a cheaper route missing out the tolls in France. Stayed just outside Strasborg on the Germany side in an Ibis, then made our way into Switzerland, purchased the toll sticker which was about £40, then went up and over St Bernard pass. It was half term February and I think we were lucky on the weather as no substantial snow falls, with the roads being clear. Had winter tyres and snow chains, but did not use the chains.
Journey time from Nottingham - Strasborg was - start time 5am, crossing at 10.30am (this was a Friday, so a bit quieter), made it to Strasborg stop at 6.30pm with a stop off for lunch and fill up in Luxemborg. Next day, we were at our hotel in Pila at 3pm after a leisurely breakfast/start.
Did same route back with no issues either.
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Quote:

You say that you're travelling in February. Is that during half term? We drove to Madonna di Campiglio (Dolomites) a couple of seasons back at half term. We hit major traffic queues at a few bottle-necks as we drove across towards Southern Germany, down to Innsbruck and over the Brenner Pass.

We similalrly had big jams during the summer
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@Simon94, We had a change of plan for our return journey from Madonna di C. After chatting with a couple of UK coach drivers we drove roughly north west across Italy then up through Switzerland towards Luxemburg. Ditto for the one-off toll sticker and the cheap diesel fill up. Return trip was quicker, cheaper and a bit less stressful. Very Happy
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Oh, and an up-to-date French/Alps road atlas. Yes, I know, it's all SatNv and digital nowadays but (a) it's still useful to be able to see where you are in the wider context and (b) you may need to re-route because of traffic, accidents, snow etc. in which case it's much easier for the navigator to evaluate the options using an atlas (at least it is for me).
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JMorl wrote:
Thank you so much for all the info. @mcspreader do you normally book your ibis or just turn up?


Always plan and book. Remember the several Ps
Prior planning prevents wee wee poor performance.
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Whitegold wrote:
Mash the gas pedal and you will be there in ~6 hours.

While this is technically true, french law has allowances for idiots. If you get caught driving like that they will seize your car and crush it.
Happy driving.
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A few things to add to the book:

Winter tyres are mandated in the ALL Aosta area of Italy from October to April -not just on the hill roads as in France. Check whether carrying chains is acceptable as alternative but i'm not at all sure they are. I popped over the Petit St B to Aosta for a day trip last Oct to find signs telling me I was one day late for summer tyres. Wasnt stopped but I was v nervous. My italian is non existant and i would not have liked to explain even though temp was 20 degrees.
The autoroute tags are very handy - i have one - but for one trip prob a bit OTT.
Take care leaving the tunnel mont blanc. If you miss the Courmayeur exit which is just outside, the next one is near Aosta iirc. Have not done this but have heard of others having a 'scenic' trip through miles a tunneled autostrada (tolls to pay also).

Once you have a better idea of plans and times i am most happy to help with more detailed advice, just PM me to rattle my cage and i'll add it here to this topic... in the interests of full peer review.
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@mcspreader, I've never had a problem with debit cards in supemarkets, [/quote]
Lucky you.
Whilst most of the major SMs take most cards some of the budgets are a bit more unreliable. I have been in rural areas where superU only take carte bleu or credit card and then only mastercard and visa, no amex etc. Also some of the majors only take debit during kiosk opening hours, the 24hr is different.
Be prepared.
At the end of the day youn can always buy fuel at a full fare service station but i'd rather not.
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Quote:

Take care leaving the tunnel mont blanc. If you miss the Courmayeur exit which is just outside, the next one is near Aosta iirc. Have not done this but have heard of others having a 'scenic' trip through miles a tunneled autostrada (tolls to pay also).


Avoid the motorway all together - the La Thuile road is only a few minutes from the tunnel anyway so just follow the blue signed roads
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@JMorl, can't reply to your email, so we stayed at here ---ibis budget Strasbourg Sud Illkirch Geispolsheim --- ideal stopover without tiring yourself out, just off the motorway, basic, but fulfilled our needs. Enjoy your trip.
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mcspreader wrote:
Whitegold wrote:
Mash the gas pedal and you will be there in ~6 hours.

While this is technically true, french law has allowances for idiots. If you get caught driving like that they will seize your car and crush it.
Happy driving.


Indeed - 6 hours is a *touch* optimistic.
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It's about twice that
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Hi All, another question re snow chains. We will be driving in a selectable 4wheel drive car using 2 wheel drive for the trip unless we get stuck and need to use 4wheel drive. By law Do I need just one set of chains for the 2drive wheels or do I need two sets ??
Thanks
James
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@JMorl, one set for the drive wheels - check your handbook for which axle gets maximum drive in each setting, ideally you need winter tyres and chains even if in 4x4. If by February you mean Half term, good luck - you'll need it Sad

Theres an offer here for telepeage https://www.eurotunnel.com/uk/traveller-info/sanef-tolling/ for the French bits although at half term its not such an advantage as the toll queues go back onto the main carriageway at the major junctions.
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Another + for the Accor Group. They are v flexible and don't charge for the kids or poochie. If you are going in Feb and driving on a Saturday be prepared for big Qs at the tolls and tunnel. I often find it is best to try and get ahead of the Qs, or leave it until quite a bit later. I am sure those of us that do the drive a lot have our preferred stop over places. As to the drivers, and duration of spells, I think it also depends on the people and the weather. If I am not tired and it is a clear day, then I love the drive and it flies by. The autoroute transceiver is a good idea as well, esp if you do not have top boxes, as you can use the 30 lane with the height restriction. Even after all these years we still give a little cheer every time we beep through - kids used to join in, but now we just get sighed at! Good luck and enjoy the journey.
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It depends where you are coming from in the UK and how much you like/can handle driving long distances!

I live in Kent, and leave in the evening generally when i head to Italy. If i drive to the Valle d'Aosta I tend to drive towards Geneva north of Bourg en Bresse and stop at an Ibis at the rest stop Dommartin les Cuiseaux on the A39. Its cheap clean and convenient and there is a good breakfast to be had at Paul in the rest area in the morning. It's also importantly got a secure parking compound which requires a keycode to get in from reception and means if you have a roof box its safer than the general parking lot. It has late check in too which i need when i turn up after 1pm (as i tend to leave Calais around 6-7pm). I have been known to have a nice meal at the Buffalo Grill in Calais before heading on my trip Smile

In the morning its about a 3hr ish drive from Bourg en Bresse and if you leave early you can get an afternoon skiing in in resort.
You can also go north of Lake Geneva via Montreux and Martigny then down to the Grand Saint Bernard tunnel. This is cheaper if you already have a swiss vignette (I do and is required) but takes longer. However if there are issues with the Mont Blanc tunnel this can be an alternative. The Mont Blanc tunnel is about 45 each way or 55ish return however the return is 7days max only. Kinda annoying if you are staying 8-9 days. The GSB tunnel is around 43 for a return valid up to 30 days.

When you get to the Valle d'Aosta if going via MB tunnel just stay on the blue ss26dir (strada statale) road. Follow this past Courmayeur and Palleusieux to Pre St Didier. Then take the ss26 through Pre St Dider to La Thuile. Its one road from Pre St Didier to La Thuile so you can't really go wrong. It has a number of hairpins and if it snows here is where you are most likely to need winter tyres/chains not in the valley itself.

Requirement in Italy in general is winter tyres or chains though i prefer both. Also think winter tyres are a requirment in switzerland and other EU countries like Germany and Austria so keep that in mind. Some local laws can superceed the minimum requirement however. In my opinion driving to the mountains without winter tyres is a bad idea in general.

hth
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Have tunnel booked and accomodation in La Thuile on hold while we decide if its practical for us to drive there at Feb half-term (mad I know)

We intend to get a Friday mid-afternoon tunnel to Calais and then drive a few hours and stop overnight.

Realistically how long is the drive from Calais - we have three drivers, one is limited speed wise being only 18 and only been driving a year.

Is the best/fastest route through the MB tunnel - if so does the 7 day return mean if we buy it on Saturday we can return through it on the following Saturday - we intend to ski on the 2nd Saturday till say 3/4pm and then leave the resort and do a stopover en route to Calais - we aren't due back at Calais till 6pm on the Sunday.

and presumably we go through Switzerland as well as France and Italy even if we use the MB tunnel so we will need a Vignette as well as the Mont Blanc tunnel ticket?

I notice the Grand Bernand Tunnel might be an alternative route - would that take a lot longer? I am not really bothered about cost -more about time.
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Quote:

and presumably we go through Switzerland as well as France and Italy even if we use the MB tunnel so we will need a Vignette as well as the Mont Blanc tunnel ticket?


No, you don't need to go into Switzerland - the A40 motorway to Chamonix doesn't go into Switzerlad. You will encounter very heavy traffic all the way if you do the main drive south during the day on Saturday - huge numbers of UK vehicles will be doing exactly the same thing. Expect significant delays at Eurotunnel on Friday night too, as well as losing the hour. You'll also need to book your overnight stop. I think you'll be OK on the return tunnel ticket but it's a while since I drove through - useful for someone more up to date to confirm.

I've driven through the tunnel to Italyquite a few times, but never at half term. Subject to other advice, it would be worth considering planning to arrive La Thuile really late that first Saturday, after the main rush.

Despite the discussion above I am pretty sure winter tyres are not mandatory in Italy, though they are certainly desirable. Your return plan is a good one.

It would be worth looking at flying to one of the Italian airports and renting a car - I've driven to and from the Alps lots of times but really, half term is a pain! Even without that extra stage through the TMB.
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I normally go via Luxembourg and stop in Besancon overnight then head on the N5 down to Geneva via Gex and on to my destination it saves €70 each way for tolls and is much less monotonous..it ok if you are not in too great a rush ...I have a Post Office credit card that does not charge a fee and gives you the best rate on the day ..according to Via Michelin 13 hours driving
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Last time I drove through Luxembourg I encountered significant traffic and such appalling road surfaces I vowed never again.

As for buying fuel, when I am driving a long way on a holiday costing a small fortune I really CBA to faff around looking for a few quid savings on diesel. I pick up fuel when I need to stop and eat anyway, then fill up with cheap supermarket fuel in Sallanches before I hit the mountains. The marginal cost is equivalent to a few cups of stupidly overpriced Costa coffee.
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@skimummk, FWIW best option could be as French half term, and of course if flights are available and not too extortionate would be to fly to Turin, rent car and then only 2.5hrs to La Thuile so you'll miss all the madness that can be French half term.

And re taking breaks when driving, me and the OG regularly* drive to and from Serre Che (1,000kms) in 8.5hrs (driving time cruise set at 134kph) with three/four mini breaks (30-45mins total) for dogs petrol /change over.

I do the stint from the tunnel to near Troyes, OH takes over and does circa 200km till we need to refuel near Beaune, giving me 90mins nap.

I'm quite happy doing 4-5hrs though think bizarrely doing long cycle rides of similar duration helps?

*probably 6-7 return trips this year, and we're not young !!!
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There is a lot of research showing that drivers should take a break every two hours. See for example https://www.rospa.com/road-safety/advice/drivers/fatigue/policy-statements/

Interesting that 85% of the drivers causing sleep-related crashes are male. A bit macho, perhaps, insisting they can drive for hours on peak form?

I have driven many times to and from the Alps, most often as the only driver. Stopping for a short break every two hours is perfectly feasible and makes sense. It's also wise to be prepared to change your plans if you hit bad weather (for example heavy fog on the motorway) or feel particularly tired.

And remember that when the road is wet the speed limit is under 70 mph. It's easy to drift well above the limit on those easy, beautifully engineered, autoroutes.
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