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Driving on motorways in Europe

From toll roads to occasionally non-existent speed limits, there’s a lot to consider when travelling on motorways in Europe. Things can quickly become a bit confusing (that’s why it’s always worth having a European driving kit with you, just in case). 

To get you clued up before you hit those continental highways, we’ve broken down all the necessary info you need for a stress-free trip around Europe, whether you’re off to Marseille, Munich or Madrid. 

Motorways in Europe

Motorways have stretched across Europe for decades now. In fact, the oldest European motorway still in use is the AVUS in Germany, built way back in 1921. Once a marvel of engineering, these days we don’t give a second thought to our motorways, yet they remain the lifeblood of logistics around the continent. 

The International E-Road network is such a system of roads. These e-roads are integral to moving around Europe and enable drivers to reach even the most far-flung corners of the continent, from the norths of Russia right down to the most southern tip of Turkey. 

The e-road network is numbered for ease and journey planning. They all differ greatly in length, so if you’re heading down an e-road, prepare for a bit of a journey. The longest e-road, the E40, stretches an incredible 5,281 miles between France and Kazakhstan. 

Toll roads in Europe

When driving in Europe, you’re likely to encounter plenty of toll roads. The expenses when travelling will depend on your route and your destination, as each country has different toll systems, so toll roads in France will differ greatly to toll roads in Italy. 

To help familiarise you, we’ve outlined three different types of tolls in Europe. 

  • Standard toll system: these require a one-off payment, priced depending on the distance travelled and often the size and weight of your vehicle. Countries in which you’ll encounter a standard toll system include Croatia, France, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Poland, Portugal and Spain.
  • Toll roads, bridges and tunnels: these toll charges occur on specific stretches of road and are usually collected either manually or electronically at booths.
  • Vignette toll system: in specific countries, a special sticker (or vignette) is required to use certain stretches of tolled motorway. You’ll need a vignette for Czech, Hungarian, Slovakian and Austrian toll roads.

We always recommend checking both national and local toll operator sites if you know your route (here are the sites for France, Germany and Spain for starters). This way you can find out information on fees and payment options ahead of time.

Speed limits in Europe 

As time-consuming as European toll roads can be, there are plenty of long motorway stretches and e-roads in between where you’re able to just relax and enjoy the drive.

One of the most famous motorways is Germany’s Autobahn, a stretch of highway that has no speed limit, in some sections. Generally speaking, you’ll find these unrestricted areas in rural areas, with an Autobahn speed limit enforced in built-up, populated areas. 

Poland and Bulgaria also have some high-speed areas, with the highest motorway speed limits reaching 87mph, in some areas. 

You’ll find that the majority of European motorways enforce a maximum speed limit of 75-80mph. Here’s a breakdown of the 25 most frequently travelled: 

CountryBuilt-up areas in KPH (MPH)Dual carriagewaysMotorways
Austria50 (31)100 (62)130 (80)
Belgium50 (31)90 (55) or 120 (74)120 (74)
Bulgaria50 (31)90 (55)120 (74) or 140 (87)
Croatia50 (31)80 (49) or 100 (62)130 (80)
Cyprus50 (31)80 (49)100 (62)
Czech Republic50 (31)90 (55)130 (80)
Denmark50 (31)80 (49)110 (68)
Finland50 (31)80 (49) or 100 (62)120 (74)
France & Monaco50 (31)90 (55) or 100 (68)130 (80)
Germany50 (31)100 (62)130 (80)
Greece50 (31)90 (55) or 110 (68)120 (74)
Hungary50 (31)80 (49) or 100 (62)120 (74)
Republic of Ireland50 (31)100 (62)120 (74)
Italy & San Marino50 (31)90 (55) or 110 (68)130 (80)
Luxembourg50 (31)90 (55)120 (74)
Malta40 (23)64 (40)--
Netherlands50 (31)80 (49) or 100 (62)120 (74)
Norway50 (31)80 (49)90 (55)
Poland60 (37)90 (55)130 (80) or 140 (87)
Portugal50 (31)90 (55) or 100 (62)120 (74)
Romania50 (31)90 (55)120 (74)
Spain50 (31)90 (55) or 100 (62)110 (68)
Sweden50 (31)70 (43)110 (68)
Switzerland50 (31)80 (49)120 (74)
UK30mph60 or 70mph70mph

You should now be fully clued up on the types of European toll roads you can expect, as well as the various speed limits you need to stick to. 

For more information on travelling abroad, check out our information on ‘How to hire a car abroad’ and our ‘Tips for first-time drivers’. And if you are hopping across the channel, don’t forget to invest in that all-important European driving kit

Safe travels!