Our Essential Guide to Tolls in Europe. Very often the more picturesque and leisurely routes through the French countryside. Are just the best way of getting to know the region or the country itself.
It’s the spontainaity of not knowing what the next little village will have in store for us. From the turreted Chateau of the Loire Valley to those stunning vineyards in Champagne, Burgundy and The Rhone, to name a few. Where endless hillsides adorn the ripening vines glistening back at us, in the glare of the mid- summer sun.
Taking The Slower Roads
There’s no better feeling of the cab windows open. Whilst a seasonal hot breeze, blows through our hair. Enjoying the sweet fresh smell of sunflower fields in a Summer meadow, their heads turned away for protection from the heat. Whilst we listen to the sound of French birdsong whistling past the cab as we go.
For those who have travelled these quiet routes of perfect isolation, you’ll be familiar with the picture we paint. Such a romantic vision with no better place to be than driving through those prettiest of stone built hamlets or past vast pine forests. Along wide flowing rivers or besides dramatic coastline, it’s such a freedom out on the road in the van. Without a care in the world.
As romantic as it is and as hard as we try to avoid motorway’s. Sometimes, depending on where and when we travel, it is just much easier or more convenient to choose the quicker route. By heading to the nearest motorway or Péage.
This is particularly the case in Winter or even if we arrive in Calais in Summer to bad weather. We have, sometimes just hopped straight on the motorway. Driving until the sun appears and the warmth hits the windscreen.
Taking a Quick Route
It’s so much easier sometimes to just take the quicker route. It obviously saves time and fuel. Particularly, when you are just heading for that end destination that you’ve been thinking about exploring. You just want to be sat outside with a bottle of your favourite beer in hand whilst the barbecue coals warm nicely. Under a clear, starlit Mediterranean sky.
Lovely, couldn’t we just all be there now!
With the thought of the motorway network now in mind. We will provide a little insight into what it entails and how to get the most from it. Although we’ve talked about France here, it’s with a wider view of Europe that we’ll look at from here on. With our essential guide to Tolls in Europe.
Here’s The essential guide to Tolls in Europe:
Toll roads in France or Péage as they are known, cover the majority of the motorway networks. They include some bridges such as the Millau Viaduct and Pont du Normandie. There are some toll-free routes, but these are limited. At some point, you will probably have to use a toll road to make good progress on your journey.
Situations vary but usually the process entails entering the toll route via a toll gate type concourse. Taking an automated ticket from the machine as you pass. This is then inserted at the last toll gate or exit that you pass through. Where you will then pay the amount that is displayed in front of you.
All these toll booth systems are undergoing a transition from manned to automated. So it is now more likely to be an automated payment machine, rather than the traditional format of handing money over to a person in the booth.
This generally means that you will pay with a card instead of cash. Which overall is much easier, than quickly trying to get the correct change together in the cab, whilst a large queue of impatient individuals are waiting for you to finish up and get on your way
Word of warning here. The payment machines have a low and a high point to make a payment. In a van, you can be stuck somewhere between the two, while you are dangling precariously out of the van window. Trying to reach the machine and make the payment, all a bit of a juggling act!
To avoid all this there is now a great alternative which we started using a couple of years ago and it comes in the form of a Sanef Liber-t-tag.
UK residents can register online by providing bank account details for it to be linked to. You need your UK address for the tag to be sent to. There is a payment initially for the tag and the rest is simple. Follow the instructions and place the tag on the van windscreen where it stays for the next time you use the toll roads.
Sanef send you a bill by e-mail and collect payments from your bank automatically when you have used the network. The great advantage of this system, apart from not having to fumble for change or pay with card at each individual toll booth. Is that it also acts as a fast track system by use of the designated lane for liber-t-tag users.
The barrier reads the tag from a distance and opens automatically. Allowing you to proceed at no more than 30km/h if it is safe to do so. Therefore, not requiring you to stop. This can avoid the sometimes lenghty queues of the other lanes, allowing you to happily drive past those waiting to pay at the booths. It’s also a good option if you’re a regular visitor to France.
The system is based on a van under 3M in height and under 3.5 tonnes. Which is a class 2 vehicle, larger vans would be covered under a different system by Eurotoll.
Spain and Portugal – Essential Guide to Tolls in Europe
Both countries have toll roads, but the good news is that you can now also have a tag system that covers both Spain and Portugal.
The VIA-t-tag available from Sanef is similar to the French Liber-t-tag and is available from the website Sanef Tolling UK
If you don’t want a tag, then you can pay the old fashioned way at the toll booths where vans under 3.5M high and under 3.5tonnes can pass through using card or cash.
Austria – Essential Guide to Tolls in Europe
All Austrian motorways and S roads are toll roads paid for by a Vignette system. For vans under 3.5tonnes and under 3M high.
The Vignette is a sticker, that is bought at fuel stations, newsagents or post offices in Austria or at fuel stations approaching the border.
The 2018 cost is currently – 9.00Euro for a 10-day Vignette or 26.20Euro for a two month version.
A van over these sizes require a different system known as a ‘GoBox’ which attaches to the windscreen.
The ‘GoBox’ can be bought at fuel stations on the border and pre-loaded with a set amount of Euro’s.
Each time you pass a toll gate, the GoBox bleeps and automatically deducts an amount off for that section of road. When credit gets low it will bleep differently to warn you that you need to top it up.
The It’s a lot more expensive than a Vignette, but don’t avoid buying one and getting fined as a result.
An example journey from Salzburg to Innsbruck will cost around 23.00Euro.
A deposit type payment for the actual box is made at the time of purchase which is refunded when you hand the box back, this ideally should be returned on leaving the border, here’s the GoBox website link
Slovenia – Essential Guide to Tolls in Europe
Motorways have Tolls, vans up to 3.5tonnes and under 3M high need a Vignette, this is a different one to Austria and is currently an annual Class 2B for vehicles over 1.3M in height and costs 30.00Euro.
This can be bought at the border and in post offices, Spar and other outlets displaying the Vignette sign.
Larger vehicles pay at on the motorway pay booths.
There are some motorway tolls. Pay at the toll booths by card or Kuna (local currency)
It’s Toll roads in Switzerland and a Vignette system. Buy one from a fuel station and other outlets at a cost of 35.75Euro valid for 1 year for vehicles up to 3.5tonnes.
Anything over this size will have a heavy duty fee of 3.25CHF a day with a minimum fee of 25CHF, buy this at a manned border crossing when entering Switzerland, they can be valid for 1-30 days, 10 days, 1-11 months and 1 year!
No toll roads although there may be an occasional bridge or tunnel toll.
Belgium and Germany
No toll roads except an odd charge at a bridge or tunnel.
Toll roads where payment is made at toll gates
Toll roads, payment at toll gates
No real toll roads. Except for the occasional tunnel, bridge or isolated road such as the M6 toll. This has toll gates, payable by either cash or card. Caravan Club members, travelling in their van get a discount, but you must show the membership card.
Now that we’ve got all the essentials out the way, here’s a few helpful pieces of extra information to help you on your way.
Motorways are just a joy, rarely blocked with traffic jams. Except in the obvious black spots around the likes of Paris and Lyon but overall the driving experience throughout the country is easy, quiet and fuss free.
Getting you from A to B in the best possible fashion, without raising the blood pressure. To be honest, it’s one of the best countries to drive in and for us, it’s almost a relief to leave the busy roads of the UK behind, when we arrive off the tunnel in Calais.
Motorways can busy and we have got held up in long traffic jams on occassion usually over the Summer period.
We’ve found Austria, Slovenia and the Netherland motorways to be great. As is Belgium except for the road surfaces there, which are not quite the smooth finish of the French routes!
We usually try and avoid driving in the dark if we can. The problem for us, is not so much the driving but the finding places to stop. Street lighting can be minimal, if at all in some areas. So trying to see where things are especially searching for the elusive rural town Aire for the night, becomes much more difficult.
Remember the legal driving requirements will differ from country to country. Research what you need in the van and check speed limits etc.
We always have items such as reflective vests, beam benders, warning triangle and breathaliser kit. Also, you need to bear in mind things like snow chains for Winter tours, some regions specify that you must have them in the vehicle.
Above all be prepared, relax, don’t rush and just enjoy the journey. After all, you’re on your travels, in the van. Hopefully you’re about to have great adventures, in new places which is what our vanlife is all about!
All information unless stated otherwise is based on a van under 3M high and under a weight of 3.5tonnes, this is as per the format most often used in Europe to differentiate on vehicle size although some vans will be over this category size so we have tried to provide some brief information on this especially where we have had some past experience on driving our past van which was 4.2tonnes!
Note:Costings and general toll information found is correct at time of writing but could change, all information is for guidance purposes only, please remember to drive safely taking regular rest stops and check with local country authorities for specific advice and additional information.