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Even in a brand new campervan, you will need to display a sticker to prove your vehicle is in an eligible emissions class before heading to some European cities

Avoiding fines whilst touring the EU – we keep you informed

We have written about this topic before and each time we do, our efforts seem to turn from informative blog to breathless rant!

Look out for signage across Europe warning you are entering into a Low Emissions Zone and make sure your vehicle complies

Look out for signage across Europe warning you are entering into a Low Emissions Zone and make sure your vehicle complies

We are talking about Low Emissions Zones or LEZ and more than 200 cities in ten European countries are now operating them. They are designed to improve air quality and protect sensitive areas from heavy traffic pollution. This is clearly necessary and we are all for it but we take issue with the way the schemes are being administered as they carry punitive fines and are tough to comply with for visitors.

Most of the schemes require you show a windscreen sticker to indicate your emissions class so the authorities can determine whether your vehicle is eligible for use in the LEZ. Frustratingly, you cannot just buy one windscreen sticker for use throughout the EU. First you have to understand the totally different rules in each and every country (frankly, you have a better chance of following IKEA flat pack furniture assembly instructions) then you have to work out which cities or areas they apply to and finally you have to actually obtain the relevant sticker before entering the LEZ.

Any of the motorhomes we sell from our ex-rental fleet will have this sticker to demonstrate they can be driven in the Low Emissions Zones of France

Any of the motorhomes we sell from our ex-rental fleet will have this sticker to demonstrate they can be driven in the Low Emissions Zones of France

The most annoying thing is that all recent motorhomes (therefore any that we sell) do comply with the latest regulations so are not excluded from most LEZ’s but if you fail to get the relevant sticker before venturing into one, you can get a huge fine.

Clearly we understand how to obtain an LEZ in France and any of the ex-rental vehicles we sell will already have the relevant sticker (once you obtain one here, it stays with the vehicle for life) but we urge you to check the rules and make sure you comply before heading to other EU countries. If you buy a new vehicle or a used vehicle that does not already have the sticker, you can obtain one online that covers the French LEZ for less than €5. All you need is your vehicle registration certificate and a means of payment. This French government website explains it well and there is even a video (in French but with English subtitles): https://www.certificat-air.gouv.fr/en/

For the rest of Europe, the good old AA in the UK have tried to explain the rules on this webpage and this is the best explanation we have found (if a little long winded and complex!): https://www.theaa.com/european-breakdown-cover/driving-in-europe/european-low-emission-zones

Even in a brand new campervan, you will need to display a sticker to prove your vehicle is in an eligible emissions class before heading to some European cities

Even in a brand new campervan, you will need to display a sticker to prove your vehicle is in an eligible emissions class before heading to some European cities

On a recent trip to London, even though we were travelling in a nearly new motorhome which complies with the low emissions zone requirements, we narrowly escaped a £200 fine and it was just sheer luck that we did not pass any of the number plate recognition cameras that are there to record you as you inadvertently wander into an LEZ. We only learnt about the scheme when we checked into our London campsite and now understand we should have obtained the sticker before heading there. We called the authorities to ask how visitors are supposed to comply as it takes days to obtain the sticker and the first you know of it is when you drive past a sign on the outskirts of London. They said it is simply the responsibility of the driver to know about and understand it! They also said pleading visitor ignorance if you receive a demand to pay the £200 fine is not a valid excuse.

There are similar schemes all over Europe now and those who police them are totally unsympathetic to the argument that you could not comply because you didn’t even know about it. Come on EU rule makers, give us chance to comply by making one EU-wide system that we can all understand and commit to. We will happily sign up to that and really do think LEZ’s are a great necessity but if we obtain all the stickers we need to drive from Amsterdam to Athens, we won’t be able to see through our windscreens.

Needless to say, advice on this topic and reminders to ensure you comply with Europe’s LEZ form part of our comprehensive buyer information packs, available to all who buy a motorhome or campervan from us. Let us guide you through the process of motorhome ownership in Europe so you can enjoy travelling without falling foul of rules (some of which are pretty well kept secrets!).

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