Ski Holidays by Car: Tolls in Alpine Countries

23/11/2021 - SnowTrex

Most winter holidaymakers still plan their journey to the ski area with their own car. However, there is often uncertainty about tolls: do I have to pay tolls on the route during my skiing holiday, and if so, can I arrange this in advance so that I don’t have any stress while driving? SnowTrex provides information about tolls in Alpine countries.

The Mont Blanc Tunnel connects France with Italy and, like many motorways and other roads in the Alps, is subject to tolls.

How much do motorway tolls cost drivers in Europe?

CountryMotorway tollCosts
AustriaYesEUR 9.90 (10-day vignette for cars)
ItalyYesEUR 0.07 (per kilometre by car)
FrancePartlyEUR 0.09 (per kilometre by car)
SwitzerlandYesEUR 42.00 (yearly vignette)
GermanyNoEUR 0.14 to EUR 0.24 (per kilometer by lorry)
Czech RepublicYesEUR 13.00 (electronic 10-day vignette for cars)
SloveniaYesEUR 8.00 (electronic 7-day vignette for cars)

What are tolls?

Tolls, also known as road charges, are area-based charges for the use of transport structures such as roads, bridges, country roads, motorways and tunnels. Tolls are rarely charged in Germany, but when travelling abroad, holidaymakers should be aware of which charges apply in which country.

There are basically two types of tolls: time-based access tolls and usage-based route tolls. With the first type of toll, the motorist receives an access authorisation for the use of certain traffic facilities without the actual use being important. Access to the transport facilities is usually limited in time and is usually charged via a motorway vignette, as in Austria. In the case of usage-based tolls, the driver pays at a toll station depending on actual usage. In this case, the toll is mainly defined geographically, for example according to the distance travelled or the sections of road used. Many holidaymakers have long been familiar with this type of toll from French motorways.

The countries pursue different objectives with the levying of tolls. Among other things, the charges serve to finance existing or future road infrastructure, to relieve the environment through a hoped-for reduction in motorised traffic and to generate additional revenue for public budgets.

Tolls in Austria

Austria is one of the most popular travel destinations for European winter sports fans. If you travel to Austria by car, you should, however, pay attention to the vignette obligation on the motorways. There are different validity periods: ten days, two months and one year. The “Pickerl”, as the Austrians also call the vignette, can be purchased in two ways: the classic variant is a sticker that is affixed to the windscreen of the car in a clearly visible manner. Another quite new variant is the electronic vignette. Just as the classic vignette can be purchased in advance, the digital version can also be booked in advance. Drivers should note, however, that the validity of the electronic “sticker” can begin at the earliest 18 days after booking. The reason for this is Austrian law.

The same price applies to both vignette variants, which is 96.40 Euro for the annual vignette for vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes in 2023. If you opt for the 10-day vignette and drive a car, you can expect to pay €9.90. The vignette tariffs are adjusted annually to the harmonised consumer price index (HICP) in accordance with the statutory provisions, which leads to a regular price increase of around 2%.

Also important to know when travelling to Austria by car: in addition to the routes subject to toll stickers, which incidentally start just over the border, there are also special toll routes such as the Arlberg tunnel (11.50 Euro for a single journey by car) or the Brenner motorway (11.00 Euro for a complete journey by car). Here you have to pay separately – or switch to a toll-free route.

Tolls in Italy

While Austria and Switzerland have time vignettes, Italy has a route-dependent toll system. Here, it really depends on exactly which route winter holidaymakers drive and for how long. Thus, the tolls are also calculated according to the kilometres actually driven. This means that you do not have to buy a vignette or similar in advance – the motorways in Italy are always equipped with toll stations. Here, you draw a ticket that you pay at the station where you leave the motorway. You cannot miss the stations, there is no other possibility than to pass them.

The ‘Passo dello Stelvio’ is one of the most beautiful and spectacular pass roads in the Alps.Drivers do not have to pay tolls here during the opening period between the beginning of May and the end of November.

In terms of costs, drivers can expect to pay around 7 cents per kilometre (as of 2023). A toll calculator on the internet can be used to determine the exact toll costs for a journey. The toll stations offer cash payment, card payment or payment via Telepass. The latter is an electronic toll box in the vehicle, which is not only worthwhile for frequent travellers in Italy, but is also available as a short-term option. Telepass users also have the advantage of being able to avoid traffic jams in the manual payment lanes at toll stations. Special lanes have been set up for them.

On other important transit routes, motorists in the Italian Alps have to pay separate tolls. For example, a journey over the Timmelsjoch High Alpine Road between the Passeier Valley in Italy and the Ötztal in Austria by car costs 18.00 Euro (return journey 24.00 Euro). The same applies to the Fréjus road tunnel between Bardonecchia (Italy) and Modane (France). A return journey by car from the Italian side through one of the longest Alpine tunnels costs a whopping 65.30 Euro (as of 2023)!

Tolls in France

Similar to Italy, France also has a distance-based toll system and motorways with toll stations. There is therefore no fixed price known in advance as with a vignette. Nevertheless, drivers can use toll calculators on the Internet to determine the exact toll costs for their journey. On average, the price per motorway kilometre driven for drivers is 9 cents. The payment methods are also the same as in Italy, with cash payment, card payment or payment via Telepeage (car toll boxes). In France, the toll boxes are called Liber-t and TIS-PL. Drivers can also save time with them, as the barriers open automatically for them.

Unlike in Switzerland, for example, it is also worth looking out for alternative toll-free routes in France. The loss of time is often not too great and outweighs the cost savings. On the other hand, if you want to drive through one of the major Alpine tunnels instead of over a mountain pass, you will have to dig deep into your pockets in the Grande Nation. For example, a return journey by car through the world-famous Mont Blanc tunnel between Chamonix (France) and Courmayeur (Italy) costs a whopping 64.20 Euro (as of 2023).

Cars and lorries that want to drive through the Fréjus Tunnel from Italy to France and vice versa have to pay a toll.

Tolls in Switzerland

Switzerland, like other European Alpine countries, offers breathtaking mountain panoramas and great ski areas. Nevertheless, vignettes are also compulsory here. Unlike in Austria, this can hardly be avoided for longer distances, unless motorists have a lot of time for free, but rather long bypasses.

In Switzerland, there is only one annual vignette valid for a total of 14 months. In the Swiss Confederation, a distinction is made between summer and winter vignettes. The summer rate is valid from May to November, while for the winter rate, vehicle owners receive a vignette that is valid from December to April. The annual vignette for vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of 3.5 tonnes, i.e. cars, has cost a constant 40 Swiss francs (CHF) since 2015 – depending on the exchange rate, the vignette price is therefore just under 42 Euro.

Only a few routes, such as the Great St Bernard Tunnel, are not included in the annual vignette and must be paid for separately. A passage by car from Bourg-Saint-Pierre (Switzerland) to St. Rhemy-en-Bosses (Italy) costs 18.50 euros, while a return journey costs 24.50 Euro.

Tolls in Germany

There are only small toll roads in Germany. For example, on the way to the Sudelfeld ski area on the so-called “Tatzelwurm-Straße”. The price for a car is 3 Euro. If you drive from Bayrischzell or Oberaudorf to Sudelfeld, you can avoid the toll station.

Since 1 January 2005, however, the lorry toll has been in force on Germany’s motorways and on some federal roads. Depending on the length and weight of the lorry, the cost is between 14 and 24 cents per kilometre driven. The lorries are recorded electronically.

Tolls in the Czech Republic

Many Czech ski areas are only a short distance from the German border.

The journey here is via toll roads, for which a vignette is required. Vignettes are available for cars for ten days (13 Euro), one month (18.30 Euro) and one year (62.50 Euro). The Czech adhesive vignettes were abolished at the end of 2020 and replaced by an electronic vignette system in 2021. The digital vignettes (Elektronická dálniční známka) are available online, at points of sale and from vending machines on site. The vignettes are also linked to the respective licence plate and can be purchased at least three months in advance.

There are only a few toll-free sections of road, but these are marked by a crossed-out vignette or by the inscription ‘BEZ POPLATKU’.

Tolls in Slovenia

There are also some smaller ski resorts in the foothills of the Alps and the low mountain ranges in the north of Slovenia. If you want to spend a few relaxed days skiing there, you will also have to pay tolls on the way there. After all, vignettes are also compulsory on motorways and dual carriageways. Drivers can buy the electronic vignette for one week (8 euros), six months (32 Euro) or one year (58.70 Euro). Experts recommend purchasing the e-vignette at a sales point before travelling to Slovenia.

A vignette is also compulsory on Slovenian motorways and motorways.

As the Slovenian country roads are rather narrow and poorly constructed, you should not skimp on the vignette. In addition, the journey time is often extended by several hours due to detours, the signposting is usually very confusing and navigation devices are of little help.

Penalties for non-compliance

The toll controls in the individual Alpine countries are different and the penalties for toll offences also vary. Anyone caught driving on an Austrian motorway without a vignette does not have to pay a fine, but a ‘substitute toll’. However, this ‘substitute toll’ is significantly more expensive than the vignette and holidaymakers travelling by car have to pay at least 120 Euro. The ‘replacement toll’ allows you to use all Austrian motorways without a vignette for the rest of the day and the next day after immediate payment in cash or by credit card. The vignette is checked both manually by the Service and Control Service (SKD) and with the help of cameras by the Automatic Vignette Check (AVK).

In Italy and France, toll evasion is more difficult. This is due to the fact that a toll station must be passed when entering and leaving a motorway. It is practically impossible to use a toll motorway without passing through a toll station. In addition, the toll stations are equipped with cameras and sometimes with control personnel.

In Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia, too, it is better not to be caught driving on motorways and main roads without a valid vignette. In all three countries, the police check vignettes strictly. Anyone travelling without a vignette on the way to a ski resort in the Swiss Confederation and the Czech Republic who is stopped by the police will generally be fined the equivalent of 175 Euro or 200 Euro. In Slovenia, the fine can even be between 300 and 800 Euro. What’s more, the police are particularly strict here, which is why a vignette is definitely worthwhile.

Tolls are controlled differently in the countries in and around the Alps. The penalties for non-compliance also vary.

As there are only a few small toll roads in Germany, the controls are similar to those in France. There are usually toll booths at the beginning and end of the route that must be passed in order to access the toll road. It is almost impossible to pass these stretches without paying the toll, and anyone who does so must expect to pay the individually determined penalty.

FAQ on toll charges

What are tolls?
Tolls are area-based charges for the use of transport structures such as roads, bridges, motorways and tunnels. In Germany, tolls, for example for individual tunnels, are only levied sporadically.

Where can I buy a vignette?
Vignettes can be purchased in different ways depending on the country. They are usually available in towns near the border, at the post office and at petrol stations. The Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club (ADAC) also offers vignettes for all countries with popular ski destinations at its branches and on its website.

How high are the toll charges in Switzerland?
In Switzerland, the toll is charged with an annual vignette. For cars or ‘motor vehicles up to a gross vehicle weight of 3.5 tonnes’, the toll sticker has cost a constant 40 Swiss francs (CHF) for years, which corresponds to a price of around 42 Euro depending on the exchange rate.

How high are the toll charges in Austria?
In Austria, tolls are charged with vignettes. There are three vignette tariffs with a validity of ten days, two months or one year. The 10-day vignette costs 9.90 Euro for cars in 2023, the annual vignette 96.40 Euro. The vignette tariffs are adjusted annually to the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) in accordance with the statutory provisions.

How can I calculate the toll charges for my journey?
Toll calculators – for example on the Internet – can help you to calculate the toll costs for a specific route. Here you enter the start and destination of your journey and select the relevant route and vehicle class. The expected costs are then displayed.

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