You would think the main advantage of a unified Europe would be encouraging standard process across all countries, if you drive a vehicle, forget that idea. If you own one of those horrible ‘diesel’ vehicles (ie, almost every motorhome or caravan owner) then you better start doing your homework before you venture from these shores. It’s a good job Hannibal crossed Southern Europe and the Alps with elephants, it seems they were exempt.
Not content with having speed limits a couple of kph different to each neighbour and different equipment requirements in your boot (the UK is just as guilty), you also need to consider whether you can drive your vehicle through specific zones on any day, or odd dates, or even dates, or at 20kph if air quality is poor that day, or whether you pay in advance or in arrears for the pleasure. To make matters worse, every month of every year further zones are being considered or introduced. So basically, I’m telling you details within this blog may be outdated by the time you are reading this.
In a few weeks from now we are taking our caravan into Europe for 50 days passing through Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France. We started to see warnings about low emission zones through social media and through useful websites such as the AA. While we felt sure that we could avoid all these zones, stories of Police fines for not displaying appropriate stickers outside these zones, plus the relative low cost of application forced us down the belt and braces approach of ‘paying up’. Below you will find our arrangements and plans for the six countries mentioned above.
First, please treat this info as awareness only and be sure to seek further clarification on latest developments or regulations going forward. If you drive a vehicle over 3.5 tonne there WILL be additional considerations, be sure to check. Also, be careful not to pay more than necessary as there are some websites applying inflated admin costs when you should go through the official sites. Links to useful websites are also included below.
We have made no advanced arrangements for Austria as it seems the required stickers can be purchased at garages on the approach to the border or within Austria. We will need a ‘Vignette’ (Toll Windscreen Sticker) for a car up to and including 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight (the caravan is covered by this Vignette) and this is placed in windscreen between the mirror and the top left corner (UK passenger side). Cost, €8,90 for 10 days or €25,90 for 2months. This Vignette is mandatory for all Austrian Motorways and Highways.
At present, while there are Low Emission Zones in multiple areas of Austria we can only see that they apply to Lorries (over 7.5 tonne) but we will check again before we arrive in the knowledge we can buy stickers in local garages (on production of Car Registration Documents). Asfinag Website is a good source of information.
While Brussels will implement a large LEZ area in January 2018 our concern for this trip was Belgium’s only current LEZ area in Antwerp as we have to get round the ring road that is within the zone area but actually seems to be exempt, again, belt and braces, we registered our car on the database via the official website at no cost and it is valid until Dec 2019.
Low emission zones have been introduced in Paris, Lyon and Grenoble. If you plan to drive in these towns you must obtain a ‘Crit’ Air Vignette’ window sticker that is placed on the right side of windscreen (UK driver side). Again, we intended to skip these areas but many stories abound about Police fining drivers in other areas for not displaying sticker. So, belt and braces, we obtained the Crit’ Air Vignette from the official website for only €3,70 on the credit card and it arrived one week later in the post.
For Toll information in France can I direct you to our Towing in France article.
The LEZ (Low Emission Zones) in Germany seem to cover so many Cities, Towns and other areas we felt this one was a MUST. The AA website directs you to the official website for an environmental zone sticker costing €6 but I was initially confused this was Berlin only, so I probably paid too much and went via TUV Nord at €17.50, which ultimately became €25 via credit card (international bank transfer was even more) after receipt of sticker and invoice through post approx one week later.
To best of my knowledge road tolls in Germany only apply to trucks.
We are only aware of two tunnel tolls in The Netherlands – Kiltunnel and the Westerscheldetunnel which are paid at the tunnel booths. There are also no LEZ zones we are aware of for vehicles below 3.5 tonnes.
To travel on Swiss motorways in vehicles up to 3.5 tonne gross weight you must purchase an annual ‘Vignette’ at a cost of CHF40 and this must be displayed on all vehicles including the caravan (yes, caravans and trailers will need a second vignette). You can get the stickers in the UK by calling 0800 100 20030 or in Switzerland from local garages or customs offices at the border.
We are not aware of any specific Low Emission Zones in Switzerland.
In summary, please take the information above as a starting point if you have not previously been aware of these requirements and carefully check the current status of any information provided as it will be changing over the coming years. We are not experts and this is only our experience as we plan our first driving trip beyond France. Comments on items we have missed are welcome below but we also advise readers to check accuracy of any comments provided below.
We would describe the online application process for Antwerp, France and Germany as fairly simple, made easier if you can convert a photocopy of your V5C (UK Registration Doc / Log Book) into .pdf format – Front Page and 2nd Page are required as attachments to the application.
We are getting proper excited for this trip now but maybe next year a toll free / LEZ free tour of Scotland will be in order.