Updated: Sep 27, 2020
TRAVELING OUTSIDE OF GERMANY WITHOUT THEM CAN COST YOU BIG TIME!
Now that a lot of COVID restrictions are being lifted, and travel across (some) European borders is possible again, many people who have been staying indoors for months are eager to get out! Due to schools being back in session, most families living in Germany missed out on opportunities to travel outside of the country, so the roads to border countries are likely to get crowded over extended weekends and the approaching holidays.
If you’re new to travel outside of Germany’s borders, you will want to become familiar with the Vignettes (a form of toll or tax for the roads, and pronounced vin-yet) used in Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland. The requirement varies by country; some require it to use ANY roads, and others require it only for roads outside urban areas, or only for use of motorways and expressways. It is not required anywhere in Germany!
Some countries still use a small colored sticker that you place on your windshield, but many countries have gone the route of the electronic (digital) vignette. Most sell “short-term” vignettes like for 30 days, that typically costs around €30, but also offer an annual option. The annual vignette is the only option for Switzerland (about €35 – so really a better value than the monthly!) Short-term stickers can be purchased at border crossings, gas stations, ADAC offices, and other outlets.
Road traffic is often monitored by roadside cameras; vignettes are verified by state officials and national police. Hefty cash fines are often charged to travelers using public roads without a valid and properly affixed vignette.
We recently traveled to Austria and purchased the digital vignette before leaving home, which is (in our opinion) the way to go! No need to make an additional stop to purchase and no need to put anything on the windshield. When you purchase the digital vignette, you register your license plate number at the time of purchase, and use the lanes clearly marked for digital vignettes. The cameras register your license plate, recognize it as authorized, and you’re good to go. So easy!!! And if you go with the annual option, you can revisit that country for a whole year hassle-free!
Definitely the way to go if traveling in Austria!
Of the European countries listed (above) that require a vignette, Slovenia is the only country that doesn’t already have a digital version in place (or in progress). For ease of online vignette purchases, I have included links for the countries that have digital vignettes below. For all other countries, tolls are likely to apply even though vignettes are not required; it’s probably worthwhile to research those countries individually regarding their tolls.
Austria – this system is AWESOME! Even has an app to make it even more convenient!
Czech Republic – Not yet available, but they are working on it!
"I can’t speak for all of these countries, but for most, when you travel through them you will understand the need for vignettes to pay for maintenance on their roadways!"
The need for these road taxes are understandable! Travel is fast, and roadways are in great condition. The engineering of the tunnels amazes me, and in countries with the propensity for an avalanche or landslide, precautions have been built into the roadways to protect travelers.
BTW: For anyone affiliated with the US Federal Government, If going to Austria from Bavaria, and traveling on A8 towards Salzburg, be advised that there is an Esso gas station on the Germany side right before crossing into Austria, where you can use your Esso card to fill up AND get a vignette if you choose not to do the digital version.