Find out what to expect when it comes to tolled roads in Europe!

The UK has practiced charging people to travel on private turnpikes since the 1600s - so the long-standing tradition originated here! Toll roads are relatively common in many parts of Europe, and it pays to know a bit about what to expect before you hit the highways.
 
Of course, there is always the option to plan a route that avoids the toll roads - this is known as “shunpiking.” Some GPS systems and new Google Maps apps can be set to avoid toll roads to make life easier for frugal drivers. What’s more, taking the back roads can often offer a scenic and interesting route, uncovering hidden gems off the beaten track. A great way to travel!


United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has one major turnpike and a number of bridges and tunnels which are tolled.The M6 Toll is also called the Birmingham North Relief Road, and it bypasses the busy M6 around Birmingham for faster journeys. It operates on pay-as-you-go and has two toll plazas, one for northbound and one for southbound. Automatic toll tags are available for frequent users, but cash and cards are commonly used which makes it easier for casual users on a UK car rental holiday.
 
There are also a smattering of tolled bridges throughout the UK - here are a few of the major ones:
 
  • The Dartford Crossing spans the River Thames in Essex. It has electronic payments, but one-time users can make a payment online with their license plate number at www.dartford-crossing-charge.service.gov.uk.
  • The Severn River Crossing joins England to Southeast Wales. Payment can be made in cash, credit or debit card, and there are tags for frequent users.
  • The Tyne Tunnels take drivers underneath the River Tyne near Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and cash payments can be made for those who do not have a prepaid permit. 
  • The Mersey Tunnels in  central Liverpool cross underneath the River Mersey. Tolls can be paid by cash or card, or with a Fast Tag for regular users.
 
The United Kingdom also has congestion charges in the CCZs (Congestion Charge Zones). The London zone is in the central city and operates between 7am and 6pm, Monday to Friday. The Durham zone applies to the historic Saddler Street. Both use automatic license plate recognition. The London charge can be paid online at tfl.gov.uk and the Durham one in person at “The Parking Shop” on Finchdale Road.
 
Even without the congestion charges, we recommend parking outside the major city centres of the United Kingdom and making use of your legs or public transport - particularly in London!
 

Mainland Europe

The Continent is unfortunately a lot more toll-heavy than the United Kingdom! Along with charges for the main highways that get you from place to place, there are around 14 cities with urban toll road aimed at easing congestion. 
 
There are many and varied toll systems in the different European countries - too many to go into in this brief overview! Here are some things to note if you are planning a road trip throughout Europe.
 
  • Finland, Luxembourg, Iceland, Monaco, Ukraine, Andorra, Estonia and a few other small countries have no or very, very few toll roads. Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Albania and a few more have tolls only on the occasional bridge or tunnel.
  • Italy is heavily tolled - most Autostrade (motorways or freeways) will incur charges, although they are not too expensive. The toll price is proportional to distance travelled, so drivers take a ticket when entering a motorway which is then used to calculate the toll when leaving the network. Locals use a Telepass system for cashless travel.
  • Many toll roads around Europe will offer cash payment for those visiting. However, Norway’s networks are all cashless. If you do not have and AutoPass, you can look up a numberplate to pay outstanding charges.
  • Vignettes are road user stickers which are required for travel on motorways in some countries. They are an alternative to tolls, and payment is based on a period of time rather than distance travelled. You will need to purchase a vignette for travel to and around Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland. Some use electronic vignettes, others paper stickers on the windscreen. They can generally be obtained at border crossings, gas stations and other outlets. 



So, be prepared for your travels - whether you will need cash, vignettes, or to get online and pay outstanding charges. We recommend more in-depth research once you have decided on a route - and if you need more information about driving in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, check out our UK Driving Guide. Happy travels!

 

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