Chaos on the continent: Varying toll road systems in Europe

Written by on July 5, 2017 in Europe - Comments Off on Chaos on the continent: Varying toll road systems in Europe

Note: An earlier version of this article was previously published on F&F Magazine, which is now part of The Sofia Globe.

Driving through European countries by car will reveal something about the European Union and the continent: When it comes to fees for using roads, every single country follows a different path. This applies to what they charge, how they charge and the question whether they charge at all. Due to this issue, car trips across borders, even in E.U. territory only, can be pretty chaotic and annoying.

When crossing one of the countless borders this continent has, drivers need to make sure they are informed about the toll road system of any country they enter. That is because the border guards they might meet will likely not volunteer any information regarding toll roads and how to pay for them. Especially in Balkan countries, corrupt cops on the roads might wait for anyone who did not know he or she had to purchase a vignette, especially close to border crossings, in order to cash in.

The next issue: Regulations in some countries are changing. The Austrian automobile association ÖAMTC just said in a release, Hungary had added roads to the category which requires vignettes. According to the organization, this includes the M86 motorway, which had not been a toll road before.

In another European country, some former toll roads can now be used for free. This applies to the Czech Republic. Mostly bypass roads around large cities are now free to use. The new regulation is supposed to help congested cities such as Prague.

There are several systems countries use, when it comes to charging drivers. In Bulgaria, any road between villages, towns and cities, including the motorways, require a vignette, which can be purchased at most larger gas stations. In neighbouring Serbia, drivers need to change currencies at the border, in order to pay tolls on the highways, e.g. the one from Niš to Belgrade, in cash. Or they can rely on debit or credit cards, hoping the system will work at every booth. In the next country, vignettes might be required again.

Anyone who takes long trips by car, from Turkey to Germany for example, will have a windshield plastered with vignettes in all colours of the rainbow, at the end of the journey.

Vignettes are required in Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and Bulgaria. In the latter country, most roads are in an appalling condition. But that does not stop the Bulgarian state from collecting millions through Vignette sales. In the Czech Republic, vignettes are required too.

In other countries, electronic vignettes need to be purchased, which means the car’s registration (number plate) will be registered. Those countries are Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. The ÖAMTC says that especially in Hungary lots of spelling mistakes are being made. They are saying, drivers should double-check the registration number of the car on the receipt, before signing it.

In many European countries, drivers need to pay at toll booths. This is an antiquated system, which causes traffic jams. The countries which annoy drivers with lots of toll booths are France, Greece, Italy, Croatia, Poland, Serbia, Spain and Turkey. In several of the countries mentioned, debit cards are being accepted at tool booths, but those payment systems fail at times.

There are more surprises: Whoever wants to drive in Paris, will have to order a so-called pollution badge for his or her vehicle three weeks ahead of time. A spontaneous car trip to Paris? Forget it.

Some automobile associations, such as the ÖAMTC in Austria or the ADAC in Germany, offer route planners on their websites on which the costs for vignettes and toll booth visits will be added up automatically.

The easiest and cheapest country is Germany, at least for now. At this moment, the Germans charge absolutely nothing for any roads or motorways. They are also the only ones who have refrained from implementing a general speed limit on motorways. So, driving at 300 km/h, as long as there is room for that kind of stunt, on Autobahn stretches without speed limit, is not a problem. And it won’t cost a dime.



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