Emissions stickers: the rules for each country (2019)
Environmental zones have been established in many European (inner) cities since 2016. You can only drive into these areas with a special sticker. These rules have changed a little in recent times. That’s why I decided to incorporate all the latest legislation into a handy overview. There’s one tip I can share straight away: make sure you buy your emissions sticker on time. Particularly now that the holiday season is approaching, the delivery time may be longer than expected.
[This article was first published in April 2018. The article was amended with the latest information in March 2019.]
Fortunately, most cities with environmental zones are easily accessible by public transport. In some cases, campsites even have their own shuttle buses to bring their guests to and from certain cities. But if you do need to visit these cities with your car or motorhome, you can find the most important information per country below.
- Great Britain and Northern Ireland
France has extensive regulations in the field of environmental zones. Cities where an emissions sticker is required include Paris, Lille, Lyon, Strasbourg and Toulouse. The French emissions stickers is called the Ecovignet Crit’Air, and is available here. It costs slightly less than five euros (including shipping within Europe) and the average shipping time is four to six weeks.
- In France there are two types of environmental zones. You can only enter the permanent environmental zones with a valid sticker. These zones are in force all year round. There may be exceptions, but exceptions are always signposted. Where there are temporary environmental zones, you only need to have a valid sticker if there is (long term) extreme air pollution.
- Anyone driving into the centre of Paris on working days between 08:00 and 20:00 needs to have an emissions sticker on the inside lower right of their windscreen. There are six types of stickers. Which one you need depends on the CO2 emissions and age of your vehicle.
- If you have a European disability card, you are allowed to enter an environmental zone. Please note: your vehicle must still have an emissions sticker.
- It’s worth knowing that heavily polluting vehicles will always be refused entry into an environmental zone in France. This will include any cars that were registered before 1 January 1997. And motorcycles registered before 1 June 2000. You won’t be able to get a sticker for these vehicles.
- From 1 July 2019, a low-emission zone will be introduced in Paris. This third type of zone, in addition to the previously mentioned permanent environmental zone and temporary environmental zone) will only apply to the capital city for the time being. But other major cities, including Lyon, Reims, Strasbourg, Nice and Montpellier, will follow. The local authorities in those cities have until 31 December 2020 to set up this additional zone. You can find more information about the low emission zone here (site is in French).
- In Lyon, including in the suburb of Villeurbanne, things are different. There, it’s only on days with extreme air pollution that an emissions sticker is required. Those days are indicated on signs on the motorways. The motorways through Lyon are excluded from the zone.
- Then there’s Grenoble. There too, the use of the mandatory emissions sticker depends on the degree of air pollution. If you need to use a sticker, this will be on all roads and motorways in the city.
- Since the cost of the emissions sticker is relatively low, it’s probably easier to just get one before visiting France. If you don’t have one when you need one, you risk getting a fine of at least €68
- In the not too distant future, even more cities will introduce environmental zones: Avignon, Bordeaux, Cannes, Clermont-Ferrand, Montpellier and Rouen. The French government publishes news about this on this site.
In Belgium, you will need to pay particular attention in Antwerp, but rules also apply in other cities.
- In Antwerp, the whole of the city centre is considered an environmental zone. You can read more about the admission requirements here.
- What if you can’t get access? You can request an exemption, which allows you to enter temporarily. The second option is to purchase a LEZ day pass for € 35 per day, available from parking meters in the zone. There is a restriction attached to this pass though – you can only use one for eight days per year.
- Are you planning to visit Brussels? The entire Brussels Capital Region has been a low emission zone since 1 January this year. Just as in Antwerp, you need to buy a day pass for Brussels. This isn’t possible for all vehicles though. There’s an overview of all the vehicles that fall outside of this rule here.
- Ghent now also has car-free zones. You can find out more about those here.
Across Denmark, there are only rules for heavy diesel vehicles that drive through a few larger Danish cities.
- If you are visiting Copenhagen, Frederiksberg, Aarhus, Odense or Aalborg with a motorhome that weighs more than 3500 kg or has more than eight seats (regardless of weight), you will need to take action. In that case you will need to have an EcoSticker in order to visit the environmental zones in the city centres. Ordering one on time certainly can’t hurt.
Germany has ‘Umweltzones’ (environmental zones) in many large cities. You can only access these cities with an emissions sticker, which are called ‘Umweltplakkette’ there.
- The emissions sticker is valid as long as your license plate number is noted on the sticker when you purchase it. So you will need a separate emissions sticker for each vehicle.
- Car owners who have a European Disability Parking Card (clearly visible behind the windscreen) do not need to purchase an emissions sticker.
- You can see a list of cities where you will need an emissions sticker on the site of the German government. A few examples include Cologne, Bonn, Karlsruhe, Munich, Leipzig and Berlin. It’s often the case that suburbs of cities also fall within the environmental zone, so be careful where you park.
- You don’t need an emissions sticker on motorways and provincial roads.
- If you don’t have a visible sticker, you risk a fine of € 80.
- Several German cities have recently banned diesel cars. Which cities already have that ban in place? Bonn, Hamburg and Stuttgart. And which cities will implement this diesel ban this year? As far as we know, it includes the following cities: Berlin (June), Gelsenkirchen (July), Darmstadt (mid 2019), Essen (September) and Mainz (September). We should add that these plans may be subject to change and that some cities have already postponed implementation. It’s best to keep an eye on this handy site before visiting Germany.
Great Britain and Northern Ireland
If you’re planning to visit London, there are two things you need to be aware of.
- Firstly, you will pay a congestion charge in order to drive in the centre (see header image). This is an amount that all vehicles have to pay, including cars and motorhomes with foreign registration. The zone is indicated with a sign, and a camera will record your car. You can only pay per whole day, and the cost is £11.50. The rule only applies on working days between 07:00 and 18:00.
- The second thing to note is that there is an extra rule of you are entering the Low Emission Zones (LEZ) around London with a motorhome. You may need to pay to drive into this zone, depending on the weight and age of your motorhome. Motorhomes with foreign registration must register in advance. You should do this two weeks before you visit the city, using this form.
- You can find an overview of the most important rules here.
- On 8 April this year, an ultra-low emissions zone (ULEZ) will be established. Vehicles that do not meet strict requirements can enter the zone on payment of £12.50 in addition to the existing congestion charge. The rules for the ULEZ are clearly explained on this government site.
Italy already has a number of cities with an environmental zone – here they are known as Zona a Traffico Limitato (ZTL). Here are some of the cities that have a ZTL: Rome, Florence, Pisa, Verona and Palermo. Chances are that at least one of these cities will be on your holiday bucket list. So read on.
- In the cities listed above, the environmental zones are closed to motorized traffic at certain (busy) times. You don’t need to pay anything, except if you drive in those areas when it’s not allowed. Because then you’ll get a hefty fine. The times when motorized traffic is banned are listed on road signs which also indicate the zones. You will see these signs when you enter any of the environmental zones.
- There are also more and more tourist areas with an environmental zone. For instance, it’s no longer possible to inside the city walls of Lucca or Pisa with a car or motorhome.
- Then there’s Milan: in this city you’ll need a vignette to drive into the city centre on work days between 07:30 and 19:30. This is an access card for one day, which you can purchase for € 5 at newsagents and kiosks. You can find more information here.
- Do you need to just drop someone or something off quickly? That’s possible, but do note that in some places you will need a temporary permit to do so. So if for instance you’ve booked an apartment in a city centre, it’s worth asking the apartment owner for such a permit.
When there is a smog alarm in Budapest and in other large cities in Hungary, there is a ban on certain types of vehicles.
- Often that includes vehicles with a lower emission standard that Euro 5, which are not allowed to enter the centre when there is a smog alarm. Do you want to know what emission standard your car has? This site has more information. The smog alarm is often announced a day or two in advance.
- In any case, it’s not a good idea to visit Budapest with your car or motorhome. There are many streets in the historic city centre where vehicles are always prohibited. So it’s better to go camping somewhere nearby and take public transport to the city.
There are no environmental zones in Austria (yet). For heavier motorhomes and freight traffic, there are a few measures in place to help take care of the environment. Freight drivers must have a so-called ‘Abgasplakette’. It costs around € 25.
- It’s possible that you will find speed limiting measures in or around some cities when the smog percentage is too high.
- Motorhomes that are heavier than 3500 kg need to pay a toll via an electronic toll system with the GO-Box, a box you will need to buy before you enter the country. This is used instead of a vignette.
- Please note: you will need to load between € 75 and € 100 on the card that goes in the GO-Box. This credit is only valid for up to two years.
There are environmental zones in a few Spanish cities. In some zones, you can only enter with a sticker, while in others you cannot drive at all.
- These zones are indicated with signs with the text ‘Area de prioridad residencial’. The government is also aware of the needs of residents in these cases, as well as the environment. This rule has led to a significant drop in the number of cars.
- Cameras are in place to check that the zones remain car-free.
- Madrid is one such city, where you risk a hefty fine if you drive into one of these zones in the centre. Only permit holders receive an exemption.
- The second city in Spain, Barcelona, is one large environmental zone. Since 2017, motorized traffic has become increasingly limited in the city. For instance, every different type of vehicle (e.g. hybrid, diesel, petrol) needs to have a particular sticker to drive into the city. You can find more information on this English-language site.
- There are four types of emissions stickers: blue, green-blue, green, and yellow. You can buy these stickers at Spanish post offices for about five euros. You can find out which sticker you need for your vehicle here.
In this beautiful country full of glaciers and mountains, you only need to be aware of environmental zones in the capital, Oslo.
- The government determines when the air quality is poor in the city. At those times, the city centre is closed for vehicles which run on diesel. There are exceptions for vehicles transporting people with disabilities.
- This measure is announced via the media one day in advance. So keep an eye on local websites. If you don’t want to take any risks, using public transport is the best way of getting around.
In the city centres of Stockholm and Gothenburg, car traffic is limited on weekdays.
- If you are visiting these cities with a car or motorhome, you will need to pay a so-called congestion tax. Motorcyclists do not pay this tax.
- In the month of July and on public holidays, no vehicles need to pay the tax.
- The amount of the tax depends on the time you enter the zone. The costs are listed when entering the zone.
- You don’t need to have a sticker as there are cameras which record your license plate. You will then receive a bill at your home address.
It is quite possible that the laws per country (and even per city) will change during 2019. Always check before you leave if the rules as described above still apply. Have a great trip!