Good to know before going on vacation

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What are the differences in traffic rules abroad compared to the Czech Republic, what are the speed limits and where and how are tolls paid in Europe?

The answers can be found below for each country. One of the most interesting and least known rules is the ban on using navigation apps on your phone that can display fixed speed cameras. This restriction exists in Germany, and with summer coming up, really watch out for them.
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Speed limits in Europe generally do not differ much from those we know from Czech roads and highways, but even so, it is necessary to be prepared in case you’re travelling abroad by car. This will help you avoid paying a fine that may arrive via postal service months after you return from your vacation. For an overview of the limits, see our article.

And how about the tolls and highway fees in Europe? Some countries have toll systems or road charges in place for the use of certain sections of roads and highways. Check in advance whether you need to buy a toll sticker or electronic toll or make any other payments for road use in the country you are travelling to. To make things easier for you, we have prepared a simple overview of the basic rules for each country, with a link to the most important information website in that country.

Austria

Differences: Beware of the in-car camera, its use is prohibited. Any fixed camera in a public place is subject to notification and must be registered with the relevant authority or you will face a hefty fine. A fire extinguisher is compulsory. In the event of a traffic jam or accident, there is an obligation to create a passageway for emergency services, a so-called safety lane. In Austria, children under 150 cm and 14 years old must sit in a car seat or booster seat. There is a ban on smoking in the vehicle if children under the age of 18 are present in the car. Although a reflective vest is only recommended, all passengers and the driver must wear it when leaving the vehicle.

Speed limits: The normal maximum speed in towns is 50 km/h. On some sections it may be reduced to 30 km/h. Outside the town, the normal maximum speed is 100 km/h on roads and 130 km/h on highways. For vehicles over 3.5 tons, the maximum speed on highways is 80 km/h. Beware of the so-called IG-L zones when crossing the Alps. Here the speed limit is usually 100 km/h. The only exception is for fully electric cars, which can drive up to 130 km/h.

Tolls, highway fees: A valid highway vignette (Vignette) is required to use Austrian highways and expressways. Highway vignettes can be bought physically at border crossings, petrol stations, post offices or online. The vignette must be pasted on the windscreen of the vehicle. BEWARE: If you are planning to purchase an electronic vignette as a private individual, the deadline for purchasing it is 18 days before the start of your journey. TIP: If you choose to buy as an entrepreneur, the vignette is valid immediately.

Slovenia

Differences: In Slovenia, it is forbidden to enter an intersection when the traffic light is yellow. Any person leaving a vehicle on a highway or expressway must wear a reflective vest.

Speed limits: The normal maximum speed in towns is 50 km/h. On some sections it may be reduced to 30 km/h. Outside the town, the normal maximum speed is 100 km/h on roads and 130 km/h on highways.

Tolls, highway fees: Toll payment is required to use Slovenian highways and expressways (Vinjeta). A paper Vinjeta must be purchased before entering the highway and must be placed on the windscreen of the vehicle. It is also currently possible to purchase an electronic E-Vinjeta. The E-Vinjeta is linked to the vehicle registration number. Therefore, when purchasing it, you must indicate the correct registration number and country of registration of the vehicle and select the correct toll category.

Croatia

Differences: In the high season, the influx of motorists can from time to time result in a traffic collapse and highways can come to a standstill. However, if you get impatient and want to jump the queue for example by making a U-turn or by backing up on the highway, you could face a fine up to €1,000. In Croatia, police officers will also now be keeping an eye out for visibly tired drivers or those driving under the influence of drugs that can impair concentration. Plan your journey with plenty of stops.

Speed limits: The normal maximum speed in towns is 50 km/h. On some sections it may be reduced to 30 km/h. Outside the town, the normal maximum speed is 100 km/h on roads and 130 km/h on highways.

Tolls, highway fees: Toll payment is required to use Croatian highways (ETC - Electronic Toll Collection). There are two ways to pay the toll. You can pay via the electronic system or directly at the toll gates, where the driver collects a ticket and pays when leaving the highway according to the distance travelled. Toll discounts are provided by ETC for on-board units, which ensure easier passage through toll gates. Toll charges can be prepaid by credit card, and discounts are also available. You can then easily check everything through a mobile app.

Italy

Differences: In Italy, access to city centers is restricted by so-called ZTL zones with limited traffic. Without a valid permit no one is allowed to enter them, i.e. tourists are usually banned. So beware, if you want to drive to a hotel in the city center, for example, check if you can first. This applies especially to old cities like Rome, etc. Most Italian cities have ZTL zones. There are currently more than 200 such areas.

Speed limits: The normal maximum speed in towns is 50 km/h. On some sections it may be reduced to 30 km/h. Outside the town, the normal maximum speed is 100 km/h on roads and 130 km/h on highways. Higher speeds may be allowed for certain sections of highway if marked accordingly.

Tolls, highway fees: Toll payment is required to use Italian highways (Pedaggio Autostradale). Tolls are paid via electronic systems, for example via toll gates or prepaid cards. A simple way to pay for highway use in Italy is to collect a ticket when entering the highway and pay for the driven mileage when exiting.

Germany

Differences: The Police punish aggression or provocation towards other road users. While driving in Germany, it is forbidden to use mobile apps that display positioning radar information, for example, the popular Waze or Google Maps. This restriction also applies to co-drivers. So if a co-driver alerts you to a speed camera while you’re driving, he can also be fined and, in extreme cases, the Police can confiscate also the mobile phone, as it is considered a hardware device. Another difference is the so-called "Dooring", i.e. opening the motor vehicle door into the path of another road user. You can be fined up to €50 for this traffic offence.

Speed limits: In general, the maximum speed limit is 50 km/h in towns and 100 km/h outside, unless otherwise marked. It is generally known that there is no speed limit on highways in Germany but very often the speed is reduced by road signs, particularly around large cities or as part of traffic restrictions.

Tolls, highway fees: Tolls are not applied for use of highways in Germany if you’re driving a vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes.

Hungary

Differences: In the event of an emergency, every member of the vehicle crew must wear a reflective warning vest. If you enter Hungary in a car with visible damage to the bodywork (usually as a result of an accident), it is advisable to carry the relevant police accident investigation report, which will show that the damage did not occur in Hungary. Otherwise, problems may arise when leaving the country.

Speed limits: The normal maximum speed in towns is 50 km/h and outside the town, the normal maximum speed is 90 km/h on roads and 130 km/h on highways, unless marked otherwise by a road sign.

Tolls, highway fees: In Hungary, electronic tolls are paid on selected sections of highways and expressways. The easiest way is to buy a vignette ONLINE. The website is available in Slovak language and it is also good to read how it works. For transit through Hungary it is a good idea to choose a 10-day vignette. Purchase can be made at petrol stations, electronically or via a mobile app.

Na dovolené

Poland

Differences: A passenger outside of a vehicle in reduced visibility must wear a reflective vest. Another difference exists if an inoperable vehicle is being towed. This vehicle must be marked with a warning triangle on the left side of the car.

Speed limits: The normal maximum speed in towns is 50 km/h and outside the town, the normal maximum speed is 90 km/h on roads and 140 km/h on highways, unless marked otherwise by a road sign.

Tolls, highway fees: In Poland, for vehicles up to 3.5 tons, and also for motorcycles, only certain sections of highways are subject to toll, not the entire highway network. An overview of the toll sections is given below. For the A1 highway, the vignette purchase is possible only online via mobile app. For other toll sections it is also possible to buy a vignette at many petrol stations.

Polish highway toll sections for vehicles up to 3.5 tons:

A1
Rusocin - Nowa Wieś
A2
Świecko - Lodž
A4
Wrocław - Kraków

Switzerland

Differences: In Switzerland, for example, it is forbidden to pick up hitchhikers. If a driver is required to wear glasses, there is an obligation to carry spare dioptric glasses. The warning triangle must be within reach of the crew, not in the luggage compartment.

Speed limits: The normal maximum speed in towns is 50 km/h and outside the town, the normal maximum speed is 80 km/h on roads and 120 km/h on highways, unless marked otherwise by a road sign.

Tolls, highway fees: In Switzerland, a toll is charged on all highways and selected roads. Vehicles up to 3.5 tons of weight are required to have a toll vignette (Vigneta), valid for one year.

France

Differences: If you are travelling to the centers of selected cities (Paris, Lyon, Lille, Grenoble, Strasbourg, Marseille, Toulouse, Chambéry, Gers, etc.), it is compulsory for the driver to have a Crit'Air emissions plaquette. The regulation applies to all types of cars. It needs to be purchased in advance (you will not be able to once in France). Find out more about emission zones on the website Urban Access Regulations. In France, it is also compulsory to have a reflective vest for each passenger of the vehicle. Drivers are also prohibited from smoking when children under the age of 12 are present in the car.

Speed limits: The normal maximum speed in towns is 50 km/h and outside the town, the normal maximum speed is 80 km/h on roads and 130 km/h on highways, unless marked otherwise by a road sign. A speed limit of 30 km/h was just recently imposed in Paris.

Tolls, highway fees: France has several highway operators. All information can be found on the common website Autoroutes.fr. In general, it is very similar to Italy. You pick up your ticket at the toll gate and pay by card or cash on exit. It may also happen that you pay the toll when you enter the highway at the toll gate. Drivers can find up-to-date traffic information on the web.

The Netherlands

Differences: If you are standing on a road that is not lit, you must mark the vehicle or leave the dipped-beam headlights on. For example, it is acceptable to mark the car with a warning triangle.

Speed limits: The normal maximum speed in towns is 50 km/h and outside the town, the normal maximum speed is 80 km/h on roads and 130 km/h on highways, unless marked otherwise by a road sign.

Tolls, highway fees: In the Netherlands, tolls are generally not required on highways for passenger vehicles. And it has to be said that the highway network is very dense. Only two tunnels are tolled - Kil and Westerschelde.

Spain

Differences: 2 warning triangles in the vehicle are mandatory. Drivers who drive with glasses or contact lenses must carry a spare pair. There is also a ban on hitchhiking in Spain and a reflective vest must be worn when leaving the vehicle outside the municipality. If you are travelling into the center of Madrid or Barcelona, certain restrictions apply. In Barcelona, foreign vehicles must comply with the entry requirements, but no registration is required. In Madrid, foreign vehicles cannot obtain an emissions badge. Foreign drivers must contact the local authorities by e-mail to obtain an entry permit. Residents can send "invitations" to their guests 20 times a month; these vehicles then do not need a permit but must be registered and pay the appropriate fee at a machine when parking the vehicle.

Speed limits: The normal maximum speed in towns is 50 km/h and outside the town, the normal maximum speed is 90 km/h on roads and 120 km/h on highways, unless marked otherwise by a road sign.

Tolls, highway fees: In Spain, tolls are collected on some highways and expressways, called Autopista (AP). There are several different toll systems. It is important to find out in advance, which system is valid on a given route. Unfortunately, the information on the website is only available in Spanish. However, there are also highways in Spain where you do not have to pay tolls. These roads are called Autovia (A) and are free to use. These are mostly ordinary roads that have gradually expanded. Madrid and its ring road will offer you the so-called Radial (R), which is subject to toll, and the Highway (M), which is toll-free.

Portugal

Differences: The use of audible warning signals is prohibited in residential areas. It is compulsory to wear a reflective vest when getting out of the car outside designated stopping and parking areas, during repairs and necessary stops. This obligation applies to all occupants of the vehicle. And in case you want to install a dash cam in your car, forget it right there. In Portugal, by law, you are not even allowed to own such a device.

Speed limits: The normal maximum speed in towns is 50 km/h and outside the town, the normal maximum speed is 90 km/h on roads and 120 km/h on highways, unless marked otherwise by a road sign.

Tolls, highway fees: In Portugal, tolls are collected on most highways and expressways. There is an electronic toll system called "Via Verde" and there are dedicated lanes at toll gates for this system. Only customers with an activated Via Verde device can use these lanes. If you do not have an electronic device in your car, you can stop at a toll gate, take a ticket, and then pay the toll when you exit. The last option is to register your car with a Czech registration plate in the easyToll system. This is a client account, where your number plate is linked to your credit card and the charges are deducted directly from your account. BUT BEWARE! It is only valid on highways with an exclusively electronic system. The system cannot be used in lanes reserved exclusively for Via Verde customers at the traditional toll gates.

Published at June 28, 2023
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