The big advantage of toll barriers is that you cannot miss them! Unfortunately, abroad there are many chargeable or prohibited areas that are more difficult to detect. Always check the rules and restrictions in the countries you are visiting. There are specialist travel and automobile sites that contain this information. However, here is an overview of some of our neighbouring countries or those visited by many Belgians.
Beware of low-emission zones called ZFE and those that apply differentiated traffic. The former have permanent limitations and the latter are areas that impose temporary restrictions during pollution peaks. They are activated by the prefects, sometimes only the day before they are put in place. It is therefore important to be well informed. Each time, the restriction levels are defined by the Crit'Air environmental sticker. This can only be ordered via the Internet on the official website of the Ministry of Ecological Transition. Given its price of €4.51 (shipping costs included for Belgium), and being valid as long as the vehicle is not changed, this must be obtained before setting off to France. Especially as it is mandatory in Paris and the Île-de-France (within the perimeter of the A86). All major French cities already have different traffic rules or will have them by 2024.
The cities of Amsterdam, Arnhem, The Hague and Utrecht have LEZs called 'milieuzones'. Diesel vehicles which do not meet at least the Euro 3 or Euro 4 standards, according to the information on the signs, are prohibited.
Almost all German cities restrict access to their conurbations. The German LEZ is called 'Umweltzone'. A green eco-label, called a 'Feinstaubplakette', is required for entry. It can be bought online, at a few sales outlets in Belgium and in some of the specialist car shops in Germany. The registration certificate must be presented. Some cities also prohibit diesels that are not Euro 6 or Euro 5 in certain streets or areas of the conurbation.
In Italy, many cities, and sometimes even villages, have ZTLs. These are areas reserved for local residents, and sometimes for guests. It is essential to contact your host to find out the rules for car access with a foreign number plate or even for a rental vehicle with an Italian registration number from outside the local area. Some ZTLs are temporary with limited hours, others are permanent. Fines are severe!
Barcelona and Madrid have access limitations. Vehicles with a Spanish registration must have an eco-label to access certain areas. Foreigners are not yet able to purchase this type of eco-label. Access is therefore prohibited by default. Unless it is authorised by your host. Find out before you arrive.
The sticker, which is valid for 1 year, is mandatory in Switzerland on motorways. It can be purchased in France at certain petrol stations, at the border and at numerous points of sale in Switzerland. This sticker may become electronic in 2023. The city of Geneva also has a low-emission zone. Access is permitted with a French Crit'Air sticker.
The sticker is mandatory on the Austrian motorway network. They are available with a validity of 10 days or 2 months. You can also opt for an electronic sticker.
Be aware of the rules in the following countries. They apply stickers, an electronic toll system with vehicle registration or box, or city tolls: Norway, France, Czech Republic, France, Slovenia, Sweden.