Navigating the toll booths in the south of France has been really interesting. We only encountered 1 toll booth that was manned by a real person. All of the other toll booths are completely automated. There are 2 kinds of toll booths; one kind posts a set toll fee and the other kind you get a ticket at one booth and then pay a toll at another booth farther along based on how far you travel on the toll road.
There are various ways to pay the tolls. You can throw coins into a toll collecting basket, you can feed euro bills in or you can pay with credit card. The machines even give back change in coins. The interesting thing about the credit card option was that our Visa card wasn't accepted but it would take American Express. We only brought our Amex in case we needed to go to an American Express office for something. The Amex card has also been accepted in the parking garages around Provence when the Visa card was not. We never thought that the American Express card would be such a life saver in Europe.
The vast majority of toll booths are
automated and every parking garage/lot we parked in is automated as
well. It's great that they don't have to pay people to do such a boring job! The parking on the street is also very efficient. You find a space (usually parking half onto the sidewalk) then go to a main parking meter, called a horodateur, put in euro coins and out comes a slip of paper noting the time that you've paid up to. You put the slip of paper on the car dash. The parking in Aix was 1 euro per hour and charged from 8:00-noon, then again from 2:00-7:00 pm. Lunchtime (noon-2:00) and overnight after 7:00 pm is free. The parking machine would work in the free time periods and give you exactly the correct time. So if you parked at 6:45 pm, it would charge you for 15 minutes until 7:00 pm and then depending on how much you paid it would calculate the time starting at 8:00 am the next morning. I was very impressed that the parking meter would calculate and give you the free time during lunch and night time!
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