You’re ready to leave on holiday, but have you forgotten something? Given that these days you are required to be able to submit evidence of environmental badges in several different European countries, you are best off purchasing these ahead of time. We briefly summarise what you need to know.
There are a number of cities worldwide that are implementing environmental badges in the fight against air pollution. These cities are attempting to keep heavily polluting vehicles out, and therefore also determine whether your vehicle may or may not enter the city. You are therefore better off being thoroughly prepared on time, because you will obviously be fined should you fail to comply with the rules.
In France you are required to have an environmental badge should you want to drive through the centre of Paris - and as of September a significant number of other cities will be applying this same policy. In the ‘Zones à Circulation Restreinte’ (ZCR), indicated using road signs at the start of the zone, only cars bearing the Crit’Air vignette are welcome. Are you only visiting Paris for the weekend? Should that be the case, you do not fall under the new emissions legislation because from 8:00 p.m. Friday evening up to and including 8:00 a.m. Monday morning the vignette is not required for driving in these zones. The fines for passenger cars start at EUR 68, while a vignette costs a meagre EUR 4.80 (shipping costs included).
In cases of extreme air pollution you are also required to have a vignette in Lille and Grenoble, and should you be driving with a local rental car, this is also required in Lyon. Having a vignette at all times is recommended when driving in Lille, given that it is hard to predict ‘protracted air pollution’. If there have been five or more days of smog alarm in Grenoble, then reading below about whether or not your car is permitted to enter the city is recommended. The fines amount to a minimum of EUR 45, despite the French government having announced that no fines will be issued for the time being.
There are several different cities in Spain that have environmental zones, among which Madrid. Only badge holders may drive past the ‘Area de prioridad residencial’ sign. Only, for example, should your hotel be located in this zone, will you be able to provide your hotel with your number plate in advance so that you can arrange for a permit. Should you decide to risk it any way, then you will immediately be caught by the cameras.
In Italy, it’s the ‘Zona a Traffico Limitado’ (ZTL) that you must account for, because tourists are not permitted within these zones. If your hotel is located in such a (often a historic) zone, then you are therefore also required to provide your number plate in advance here. Should you fail to do this, then you will be recorded by a camera-based number plate recognition system. In a few Italian cities are you are permitted to enter, provided you purchase a special badge.
- Are you travelling to Bologna? If so, you are required to be able to submit a ‘ticket per l’accesso’ should you wish to drive around the city between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. without being fined.
- In Milan (Area C) you are advised to briefly stop by a tobacconist, newsagent or post office to pick up an Eco Pass. Otherwise you are not permitted to enter the city between 7:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. on working days - should you only have planned to enter for a weekend, then you are obviously not required to purchase anything.
Are you driving a diesel vehicle that dates prior to 1 January 2001? If so, then you would be better off avoiding the cities of Utrecht and Rotterdam. For that matter, in this latter city petrol vehicles delivered before 1 July 1992 are no longer permitted.
Meanwhile, ‘Umweltzones’ have been commonplace in Germany for some time now, and as a consequence the list of participating cities is quite extensive. For instance, if you are interested in driving toward Aachen, Cologne or Berlin, then purchasing a badge either a week in advance through the VAB website or locally at a TÜV office or petrol station is highly recommended. Depending on your car’s Euro Emissions Standard you will then receive a green, yellow or red badge. On entering environment zones, which badge colours are permitted will be visible each time on the signs. Take note: cars bearing a red badge have, in the interim, been forbidden entry at all locations.
The German environmental badge costs EUR 15 and may be ordered here.
Anyone driving to London this summer is sure to notice signs and signposting bearing a large circle with a large letter ‘C. These are warnings for the congestion charge.
Register your car and pay the duty prior to your departure at https://tfl.gov.uk.
Will you be taking a road trip to Göteborg or Stockholm? If that’s the case, then ideally you might want to plan your trip for July given that during this month, on weekends and public holidays, you won’t be required to pay a congestion charge. On weekdays between 6 a.m. (Göteborg) or 6:30 a.m. (Stockholm) and 6:30 p.m. you will be required to pay this charge. What’s convenient is that no preparatory work is involved because the cameras automatically register your number plate, and afterwards you receive the invoice at home.
Would you like additional details? Is your destination not included on this list? Or are you looking for further information about toll stickers? If that’s the case then you can visit the VAB website, which provides information on European roadways.
And what is Belgium’s policy?
In Belgium as well, a few ‘low emissions zones’ have been announced in recent months, and have even entered into force. A brief overview:
- Antwerp: since 1 February 2017 you are no longer allowed to simply enter the core area of Antwerp. Vehicles not satisfying the entry requirements must purchase an LEZ day pass in advance for EUR 35, or purchase an alternate type of permit. You can read all about this at: https://www.slimnaarantwerpen.be/en/home.
- Brussels: as of 2018, the city of Brussels will ban older polluting cars from the city centre.
- Mechelen: this city on the River Dyle will also be implementing a ‘low emissions zone’ as from 2018.
- Ghent: as of 2020, LEZ traffic signs will also start appearing in Ghent’s city centre. You can find out more about this on the City of Ghent’s website.
Would you like to know more? The Flemish government has compiled all LEZ-related information at this location.