Low emission zones in Europe

Driving your lease car in low emission zones

August 1, 2019

Here in Belgium

Low emission zone (LEZ)

In Belgium, Antwerp and Brussels already have LEZs, and Ghent and Mechelen are set to follow shortly. Your vehicle type and emissions standard are checked via number plate recognition, which is why drivers from abroad are required to register their car in advance on the website of the city they wish to visit.

Heading to Brussels by car soon? Make sure it is registered before driving into the Brussels low emission zone. This became mandatory for cars as of 1 October 2018. Registration is valid for three years. If you register your car yourself, you will avoid a fine of €150.

Due to their relatively short lifespan (four to five years on average), the majority of commercial vehicles meet the admission requirements. If this is not the case, it is best to park your car at one of the Park & Ride locations on the outskirts of the city and then head in using public transport. It is also possible to purchase a day pass that allows you to enter the LEZ temporarily.

The Netherlands

Environmental zone (Milieuzone)

The Netherlands has also established environmental zones in various cities, including Amsterdam, Arnhem, Rotterdam and Utrecht. The Hague, Leiden and Maastricht will follow suit in 2020. The agreements and regulations that govern the environmental zones in the Netherlands vary from city to city. Some cities prohibit the use of mopeds and bikes with motors, while others (like in Belgium) are based on the European standards of the cars.

We recommend that you check the website of the city in question before travelling there.



France has temporary and permanent emission zones. New legislation means that cities and departments can establish emission zones independently. These areas are indicated by special signs. Foreign vehicles should also possess a Crit'Air (an air quality certificate). An environmental sticker, or 'Ecovignet', is valid throughout France.

The sticker can only be ordered online from the official website. As delivery takes anywhere from two to four weeks, it is best to order it in good time. Affix the sticker to the in side of your windscreen on the right (passenger's side), where it will be clearly visible and legible. The sticker remains valid indefinitely. Apply for your Crit'Air ecovignet here.


Environmental zone (Umweltzone)

Many cities in Germany have an emission zone. You are only permitted to drive in these zones if you have an environmental sticker (an 'Umweltplakette'). Signs will show you when you are entering an Umweltzone.

There are three types of environmental sticker: green, yellow and red. The sticker indicates a vehicle's emissions. The yellow sticker is only valid in the Neu-Ulm region. Vehicles with red stickers are no longer permitted to enter the environmental zones, which is why the sticker is no longer available. If you are driving in an environmental zone without a sticker, you risk incurring an €80 fine. The sticker should be clearly visible and affixed to the inside of the windscreen at the bottom right (on the passenger's side). The number plate is used to determine which sticker the vehicle requires. You can, for example, purchase an Umweltplakette from VAB. You do not need a sticker if you are passing through on a motorway that is excluded from the environmental zone.

Other European countries


Denmark also has emission zones that require foreign vehicles to have an environmental sticker. If you are going to Copenhagen, Frederiksberg, Aalborg, Aarhus or Odense, you may need an environmental sticker: all diesel cars and buses with a total weight of 3,500 kg or more than eight seats require one. You can order an environmental sticker online. Make sure to leave yourself enough time to do this, as it can take a week before the sticker is sent to you.

United Kingdom

Some cities in the UK have a low emission zone. Not all zones apply to passenger cars. In addition to an emission zone, London has a congestion zone in the city for which it applies a congestion charge, as well as an LEZ and an ULEZ (ultra low emission zone) covering the Greater London area.

LEZ The LEZs do not apply to passenger cars, but do apply to some foreign camper vans, delivery vehicles and vehicles of a certain weight or age. They should be registered two weeks in advance.

ULEZ The ULEZ does apply to passenger cars. You will pay an ULEZ charge if your vehicle does not meet the requirements.

More about low emission zones in London: https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/


In Italy there are many cities with a low-traffic zone, known as a Zona a Traffico Limitato (ZTL). These zones often cover historic city centres, and the rules vary depending on the city. It is recommended to avoid these zones if you do not necessarily need to enter them. Although no stickers are required in Italian environmental zones, the fines are high. ZTL zones are indicated with a traffic sign stating 'zona traffico limitato'.

Want to take the car from your lodgings to an Italian city? Ask the place where you are staying whether a ZTL is in place. The owners will often be able to arrange a temporary permit for you. View the ZTLs for Italian cities.


Madrid A permanent emission zone, known as Area de Prioridad Residencial (APR), is in place in Madrid. Old vehicles are not permitted to enter this zone. In the event of heavy air pollution, the environmental zone is extended to the M30 orbital motorway that circles Madrid. The environmental stickers for this zone are categorized based on European standards. You can purchase them from Spanish post offices.

Barcelona If Barcelona is suffering from serious air pollution, the low emission zone exclusively applies throughout the day (between 7 AM and 8 PM) during the week. In this case, only vehicles with an environmental sticker may enter the LEZ.

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