When driving in Europe and the United Kingdom, you’ll probably travel on a toll road at some stage of your journey so it’s a good idea to know where they are most common.
There are a couple of exceptions where you will pay no road tolls but you may need to purchase a Vignette (toll sticker) instead.
In this article I explain what a vignette is, where to purchase it and tell you in which countries you’re most likely to find toll roads.
European Toll Roads
Roads attracting a toll are mostly motorways or expressways or those which travel through tunnels. In most cases, tolls are paid in proportion to the distance travelled on each toll road and this is particularly so in Italy and France.
Other countries that have toll roads include (but aren’t limited to) Croatia, Hungary, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland.
In Denmark and Sweden, it is mainly just the major bridges (Svinesund and Sundsvall in Sweden and Great Belt Fixed Link in Denmark), as well as the Oresund Bridge which links the two countries, that carry tolls.
The English Automobile Association website provides a guide to toll road charges in Europe.
As hire cars and those leased via the tax free leasing scheme are unlikely to have electronic toll devices fitted, you’ll be required to pay road tolls at the toll booths at motorway exits.
Options are usually provided for both cash and credit card payment – just make sure you are in the correct lane for your preferred method of payment.
Road Tax Stickers (Vignettes) in Europe
Swiss and Austrian motorways don’t have tolls but these are just two of the countries that require motorists to purchase a vignette, a pre-paid sticker that you affix to your car windscreen.
The vignette acts as proof that you have paid the toll-road fee.
The Swiss vignette is valid for one year and costs (approximately) 40 Swiss francs, whilst the Austrian vignette can be purchased for periods of 10 days, 3 months or 1 year (cost approximately 9 Euros for 10 days).
Slovenia (approximately €15 for 7 days), Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic are amongst the other countries that also require drivers to purchase a vignette if they will be driving on motorways.
Fines apply if you are caught travelling without a vignette, so make sure you purchase one at your point of entry into the country. You can purchase them from service stations which are located at the border crossing. Even if you are only travelling a short distance, the price of a vignette will be far less than the cost of a fine.
Update: On our 2014 self-drive holiday in Europe, we missed the exit into the first service station on the autobahn as we entered Austria. Never mind, we said, as soon as we exit the motorway into the next town, we’ll buy one there. Bad mistake!
As we took the exit ramp off the motorway, an officer from the Roads department waved us into a layby where he slapped us (and a huge queue of drivers behind us) with a €120 on-the-spot fine for not displaying a vignette. A costly lesson.
No road tolls apply in Germany – even the impressive autobahns are toll-free – so you can hit the German roads for free!
Footnote: In 2014 I travelled by car around Europe for seven weeks and road tolls cost us €199. The most expensive tolls were charged to travel through the Mont Blanc tunnel (€40.20) and from there to the motorway exit near Milan (€30.50).