Driving Europe? Ask about vignettes

By Bruce Berger
This item appears on page 13 of the September 2015 issue.
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While driving in Italy in 2005, I briefly crossed the border into the Lugano area of Switzerland. When leaving Switzerland, I was stopped at the border crossing by a Swiss policeman, who said I had been on the highway without a toll sticker. Luckily, I wasn’t fined, but I did have to pay for a sticker even though I was leaving the country.

My wife and I weren’t so lucky in Slovenia in May 2015. Because it is costly to pick up a rental car in one country and return it in another, we opted to pick up our rental in Zagreb, Croatia, drive less than two hours north to begin our week-long tour of Slovenia, drive back to Croatia to tour for 10 more days, then drop off the car in Dubrovnik in the south.

While crossing the border from Croatia to Slovenia on the expressway, we stopped to show our passports and car registration, then continued through. Several miles into Slovenia we came to what seemed like a toll station, but no tolls were being collected.

After passing through, we were flagged down by an officer. In very broken English, we were told that our car did not have a vignette. After moments of confusion with the broken English (and a flashback to my experience in Switzerland), we figured out that we were required to have a prepaid toll sticker.

We were advised that the fine was normally 300 (near $328), but, for a first offense, we would have to pay only 150 plus the cost of a vignette (15) in order to continue on our way.

We were dumbfounded. My wife pleaded unfairness, and I said that I didn’t have 165. 

“Credit card?” the officer asked, as she led me over to a small police office on wheels, well equipped with paperwork for fines, vignettes for sale and a credit card machine.

Paying 15 for a one-week vignette was reasonable, but a 150 fine for something I had had no knowledge of was a severe sting that lingered until we began experiencing the joys of Slovenia.

We weren’t advised about the requirement when we presented our documents at the border crossing station nor when we picked up our car from the rental agency in Croatia. We had told the agent we would be driving in Slovenia, which required us to pay a rental surcharge for driving in another country.

I hope this information helps travelers who are planning to tour Slovenia by car. It was a great way to see that beautiful country.

BRUCE BERGER

Mountain View, CA

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

While driving in Italy in 2005, I briefly crossed the border into the Lugano area of Switzerland. When leaving Switzerland, I was stopped at the border crossing by a Swiss policeman, who said I had been on the highway without a toll sticker. Luckily, I wasn’t fined, but I did have to pay for a sticker even though I was leaving the country.

My wife and I weren’t so lucky in Slovenia in May 2015. Because it is costly to pick up a rental car in one country and return it in another, we opted to pick up our rental in Zagreb, Croatia, drive less than two hours north to begin our week-long tour of Slovenia, drive back to Croatia to tour for 10 more days, then drop off the car in Dubrovnik in the south.

While crossing the border from Croatia to Slovenia on the expressway, we stopped to show our passports and car registration, then continued through. Several miles into Slovenia we came to what seemed like a toll station, but no tolls were being collected.

After passing through, we were flagged down by an officer. In very broken English, we were told that our car did not have a vignette. After moments of confusion with the broken English (and a flashback to my experience in Switzerland), we figured out that we were required to have a prepaid toll sticker.

We were advised that the fine was normally 300 (near $328), but, for a first offense, we would have to pay only 150 plus the cost of a vignette (15) in order to continue on our way.

We were dumbfounded. My wife pleaded unfairness, and I said that I didn’t have 165. 

“Credit card?” the officer asked, as she led me over to a small police office on wheels, well equipped with paperwork for fines, vignettes for sale and a credit card machine.

Paying 15 for a one-week vignette was reasonable, but a 150 fine for something I had had no knowledge of was a severe sting that lingered until we began experiencing the joys of Slovenia.

We weren’t advised about the requirement when we presented our documents at the border crossing station nor when we picked up our car from the rental agency in Croatia. We had told the agent we would be driving in Slovenia, which required us to pay a rental surcharge for driving in another country.

I hope this information helps travelers who are planning to tour Slovenia by car. It was a great way to see that beautiful country.

BRUCE BERGER

Mountain View, CA