Monday, May 17, 2010

Sans Plomb or Gazole

I can't imagine going to Provence and not having a car so that in addition to the larger towns where you can walk around or hop on a bus or tram. you can also go visit the wine villages of the Côtes du Rhône, the hill top villages of the Luberon, drive along the Mediterranean Sea or visit remote historical sites like the Pont du Gard.

I think you ought to rent a car even if you intend to ride bikes every day. I think that having a car will give you flexibility to go places that wouldn't be practical without a car to get you and your bikes there. Then there is the fact that most restaurants don't start dinner service till 19 30 (7:30 PM) and you will be leaving the restaurant after dark.

If you are going to take my advice and rent a car (most major US car rental companies have offices at TGV stations and airports), you will inevitably be faced with buying gas if you want to keep going. I will admit that I find buying gas in France to be a confusing experience.

First off, you should know that in my experience, most cars rented by major US car rental companies use diesel. This is a good thing for you as diesel is less expensive in France and you will get better gas mileage. Make sure you know what type of fuel your rental car uses before you leave the rental car lot.

Unlike the United States, you will not find gas stations on each corner of intersections (a very good thing in my opinion). This is obviously due to the fact there are very few intersections and automobile fuel is sold in 3 general locations: gas stations, supermarchés and at aires, rest stops along the autoroute.

For first time travelers to France, you will find few intersections because the French road planners are big fans of the rond-point, the roundabout or traffic circle. Some of these are beautifully landscaped, adorned with sculptures or circumvent monuments like the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Navigating these can be confusing itself but that is a topic for another post.

You will generally find that gas is least expensive at supermarchés like Intermarché or Super U and most expensive at the aires along the autoroute. Away from larger towns, supermarchés and gas stations are spread out. Look for road signs that say "Centre Commercial;" they will lead to shopping areas where you are likely to find a supermarché or gas station.

Gas pumps are similar to those in the United States except that gas is sold by the liter. There are 3.78 liters to a US gallon. Pumps are labled sans plomb (unleaded) in either 95 or 98 octane, super (super unleaded) or gazole (diesel).

You can pay for gas with cash or a credit card when an attendant is on duty. Except for on the autoroute, most gas stations do not have attendants on duty 24 hours a day although some stations do have automated pumps that allow you to buy gas with credit cards with a chip which works with a pin number.

One final note, even when you are going to pay with cash, you pump first and then you pay, except if you are riding a motorcycle. I guess French gas station operators have less concern about drive offs except for motorcycle riders.


  1. Surely sans plomb is not leaded but unleaded?

  2. Thanks for checking in on my blog and for pointing out my editing mistake. I read each post many times but that mistake escaped me. I hope you will keep reading.