This information has been prepared by our friend Clive Barker, an overland traveler and member of the Silk Route Motorcaravan Network in England; it first appeared in their newsletter.  The information is complex, but may give you some useful background on some of the issues facing motorhome travelers in Europe.  Note that the older and heavier your vehicle, the more likely this type of regulation is to affect you.  We share this article with Clive’s permission.

Urban Access Regulations in Europe

The number of vehicles on the road is constantly increasing. At the same time the scientific evidence that pollution causes health problems is getting stronger driving the introduction of more and more restrictive measures. This growing raft of restrictions defines which vehicles can go where, when and at what cost. Generically called the Urban Access Regulations, they are proliferating across Europe and the rest of the world. affecting both diesel and petrol fuelled vehicles.

In the EU, there are now more than 8000 schemes of various types. It is becoming difficult to plot a route across Europe without coming up against some restriction or other. This map gives an idea of where the schemes are located. 

The colour coding is as follows

  • Red Urban Road Tolls or Congestion Charges 
  • Green Low Emission Zones
  • Blue Traffic Limited Zones

Many of the regulations are related to the EU emissions standards. These are date specified scales ranging from Euro 0 to Euro 6 for diesel engines and Euro 1 to Euro 6 for petrol engines which also vary with the type of vehicle. The table below shows the limits for cars. There are some variations on the limits for larger vehicles.

CO is Carbon Monoxide, NOx is for the various oxides of Nitrogen and PM is for Particulate Matter (mostly soot) 

Types of Restriction

As you can see from the map, a number of different techniques are used as follows:

  •  Low Emission Zones (LEZ) where access is controlled by the level of vehicle emissions
  •  Urban Road Tolls where access is controlled by the payment of a toll
  •  Access Regulations where access is controlled by traffic restrictions

Vehicles affected

Not all vehicles are controlled in the same way. Regulations often treat motorcycles, cars, vans, lorries, coaches, and motorhomes differently. Motorhomes are usually regulated according to weight so that those under 3.5 tons are different to those over 3.5 tons. They may also be treated as an entirely separate group.

For example

If the motorhome is under 3.5T:

  • It is only restricted in Germany, Italy and in London

If the motorhome is over 3.5T:

  • In Denmark and Sweden motorhomes are not affected (as long as they have less than 9 seats)
  • Budapest and Prague, motorhomes are treated the same as all other vehicles over 3.5 tons
  • In Germany, Italy and in London they are also affected.
  • The Netherlands and on the Austrian motorways restrictions are for lorries only so aren’t restricted.

Low Emission Zones

LEZs are probably the most effective measure cities can take to reduce pollution. The first such scheme was introduced in Stockholm as long ago as 1996. They exclude, charge or restrict those vehicles with the highest emissions. LEZs are also known as Environment Zones (E-Zones), Umweltzonen, Milieuzones, Lavutslippssone, Miljozone, Miljözon, ZTL Ambiente. If you are travelling to a city with an LEZ it would be advisable to check the regulations as charges can be as much as £200 per day for non compliance.

 Vehicles that don’t comply can sometimes be retrofitted with Diesel Particulate Filters (DPF) and Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) used to reduce oxides of Nitrogen. DPFs come in 2 varieties – a full DPF or a partial DPF. The former are normally fitted as original equipment or to heavy vehicles. The latter is usually fitted to light duty vehicles.

Some of the more widely accepted suppliers are

  • Baumont 
  • Dinex 
  • Eminox 
  • HJS 
  • Puritech

If you are proposing to visit counties outside Europe you should check the fuel quality (also availability of ULSD, ed.) as poor (or high sulfur, ed.) fuel can have a detrimental effect on DPFs and SCRs

Retrofitted devices should be certified to be valid for use in a LEZ. However certification varies for each country and city so what is accepted in one place is not in another. There is also variation between the acceptance of full and partial DPFs. London and Denmark for example only accept full DPFs.

Proving compliance is one important feature of certification This may be done by having a sticker on the windscreen. Danish LEZs required a windscreen sticker for Danish vehicles but this is not currently required for foreign registered vehicles. However, you must be able to present documents to show that a diesel particulate filter has been fitted. You can also present documentation in London and Germany. (ed. note: In 2010, we were able to successfully have our 2007 Chevrolet diesel vehicle certified as Euro 4 in Germany, and also to register online for the London LEZ. Neither process was difficult at that time). 

If you find yourself accidentally driving within an LEZ, the police
may treat you as a foreigner more leniently depending on
which country you are in and whether your vehicle’s exhaust is
an obvious pollutant. The fines for infringement won’t generally
be high but if you find yourself in the LEZ of London, Milan, Oslo, Bergen or Trondheim, the Netherlands (with a Dutch
registered vehicle over 3.5t and lower than Euro 4 emissions) or  Malta, you’ve probably already been fined, as the zones are
monitored with cameras. In some cases you have a grace period to pay the zone charge without being fined. You might also get a reduction in the fine for prompt payment as this Penalty Charge Notice indicates. 

Urban Road Tolls

This is another method of controlling the level of traffic entering a city where entry to the area is subject to a toll. The urban road toll can be operated by camera enforcement, an electronic transponder, or by paying on entry to the area.

Perhaps the best known scheme is the London Congestion Charge. You need to know the rules which in brief are a charge for entry of £11.50 with steep fines for non payment. This charge operates between 07:00 and 16:00 Monday to Friday. There are various ways to pay from a completely automated system using number plate recognition for registered accounts to postal payments. Payment can be made no later than midnight the following day. The scheme has reputedly only reduced traffic by 10% but raised nearly £3 billion in revenue.

Of course road tolls are more widely charged than in the urban environment. They have proliferated all over the world where many different rules apply. In many places there is electronic tolling from the USA to Russia which has recently introduced a national scheme for vehicles weighing over 12 tons. Many of the motorways in China now weigh the vehicle at each toll booth and charge accordingly.

Access Regulations

Access Regulations are also known as Traffic Restrictions, Permit Schemes, or ZTLs in Italy. The variations here are as many as can be imagined. Here are a number examples

  • By Permit only
  • Access permitted only at certain times of day
  • Access only permitted according to registration plate usually on specific days (eg odd
  • numbers and even numbers on alternate days)
  • Certain vehicle types only are permitted (eg delivery vehicles)

Vehicles may also be restricted at the point of entry by a road sign 

Multiple Restrictions

Regulations may get more restrictive as you approach the centre of a city. London is a prime example where it is easy to get confused and end up with a large charge or fine. At the moment London has 5 schemes in place. These are

  • Congestion charging scheme which covers much of Central London
  • Low Emission Zone which covers virtually the whole of the area within the M25
  • London Lorry Control Scheme
  • London Coaches Scheme
  • London Safer Lorry Scheme

From 7th September 2020 an Ultra LEZ will be introduced. This limits access to vehicles as follows:
Motorcycles, mopeds etc: Euro 3
Cars, vans and minibuses: Euro 4 petrol, Euro 6 diesel

Buses, coaches and lorries: Euro 6.


The detail of the regulations can be complicated and with so many schemes across Europe it is easy to get tangled up in situations you may well not understand. 

Here for example is an outline of the scheme for Athens:

Dates and details

12th October 2015 until 8th July 2016. And similar dates in future years.

There are two schemes:

1 - In the city centre (Small ring, ΜΙΚΡΟΣ ΔΑΚΤΥΛΙΟΣ, ‘Athens Ring’ or ‘The Ring’)

2 - In the whole Athens area (Big ring, ΜΕΓΑΛΟ ΔΑΚΤΥΛΙΟ, Μεγάλο Δακτύλιο (Megalo Daktylio)), also known as the green ring or ΠΡΑΣΙΝΟΣ ΔΑΚΤΥΛΙΟΣ

For the small ring:

Vehicles up to 2.2 tonnes are only allowed entry to the area on alternating days, depending on the last digit of their license plate (odds or evens). The following vehicles are excepted from this restriction:
- Electric vehicles

- At least Euro 5 when emitting less than 140 g / km CO2 regardless of the fuel used (gasoline, diesel, liquefied petroleum gas or compressed natural gas)
- At least Euro 4 gas vehicles (LPG or natural gas) when emitting less than 140 g / km CO2

For the big ring:

- Vehicles over 2.2 tonnes and buses registered after 1.1.1990 (for 2013). Each calendar year the date is increased by a year.

Vehicles affected
Small ring: Vehicles up to 2.2 tonnes.
Big ring: Vehicles over 2.2 tonnes and buses

Scheme Boundary

Small ring

Alexandras Avenue - Prize - Mesogheion - Feidippidou - Michalakopoulou - Sporting Mercouri - Vryaxidos - Hymettus - Age Sun - Ambergris. Franzi - L. Andrew. Avenue - Hamosternas - Piraeus - Sacred Way - L. Constantinople - Achilles - Karaiskaki Square - Charles - Marni - October 28 (Patision) - Alexandras Avenue.

Or in Greek letters ΑΛΕΞΆΝΔΡΑΣ - ΖΑΧΆΡΩΦ - ΜΕΣΟΓΕΊΩΝ - ΦΕΙΔΙΠΠΊΔΟΥ - ΜΙΧΑΛΑΚΟΠΟΎΛΟΥ - ΣΠ. ΜΕΡΚΟΎΡΗ - ΒΡΥΆΞΙΔΟΣ - ΥΜΗΤΤΟΎ - ΗΛ. ΗΛΙΟΎ - ΑΜΒΡ. ΦΡΑΝΤΖΉ – Λ. ΣΥΓΓΡΟΎ - ΧΑΜΟΣΤΈΡΝΑΣ - ΠΕΙΡΑΙΏΣ - ΙΕΡΆ ΟΔΌΣ - ΚΩΝΣΤΑΝΤΙΝΟΥΠΌΛΕΩΣ – ΑΧΙΛΛΈΩΣ - ΠΛ. ΚΑΡΑΪΣΚΆΚΗ - ΚΑΡΌΛΟΥ - ΜΆΡΝΗ - 28 ΗΣ ΟΚΤΩΒΡΊΟΥ (ΠΑΤΗΣΊΩΝ) – ΑΛΕΞΆΝΔΡΑΣ (in lower case greek letters: Αλεξάνδρας - Ζαχάρωφ - Μεσογείων - Φειδιππίδου - Μιχαλακοπούλου - Σπ. Μερκούρη - Βρυάξιδος - Υμηττού - Ηλ. Ηλιού - Αμβρ. Φραντζή – Λ. Συγγρού - Χαμοστέρνας - Πειραιώς - Ιερά Οδός - Κωνσταντινουπόλεως – Αχιλλέως - Πλ. Καραϊσκάκη - Καρόλου - Μάρνη - 28 ης Οκτωβρίου (Πατησίων) - Αλεξάνδρας.)

Big ring:

Coastal avenue - Alimos - Vouliagmeni - Eleftherios Venizelos - Perimeter Hymettus - Katechaki - Messoghion - Ag - Halandriou - Papanikoli - (K. Paleologos) - Kapodistrioy - Kimi - Kastamonis - Halandriou - Renaissance - National Road Athens-Lamia - Athens - Thebes - Gr to nbspkeratsini.

(in Greek letters: ΠΑΡΑΛΙΑΚΉ ΛΕΩΦΌΡΟΣ - ΑΛΊΜΟΥ - ΒΟΥΛΙΑΓΜΈΝΗΣ - ΕΛ. ΒΕΝΙΖΈΛΟΥ - ΠΕΡΙΜΕΤΡΙΚΉ ΥΜΗΤΤΟΎ - ΚΑΤΕΧΆΚΗ - ΜΕΣΟΓΕΊΩΝ - ΑΓ. ΠΑΡΑΣΚΕΥΉΣ - ΧΑΛΑΝΔΡΊΟΥ - ΠΑΠΑΝΙΚΟΛΉ - (Κ. ΠΑΛΑΙΟΛΌΓΟΥ) - ΚΑΠΟΔΙΣΤΡΊΟΥ - ΚΎΜΗΣ - ΚΑΣΤΑΜΟΝΉΣ - ΧΑΛΑΝΔΡΊΟΥ - ΑΝΑΓΕΝΝΉΣΕΩΣ - ΕΘΝΙΚΉ ΟΔΌΣ ΑΘΗΝΏΝ-ΛΑΜΊΑΣ - ΑΘΗΝΏΝ - ΘΗΒΏΝ - ΓΡ. ΛΑΜΠΡΆΚΗ ΈΩΣ ΚΕΡΑΤΣΊΝΙ. Or lower case greek letters: Παραλιακή λεωφόρος - Αλίμου - Βουλιαγμένης - Ελ. Βενιζέλου - Περιμετρική Υμηττού - Κατεχάκη - Μεσογείων - Αγ. Παρασκευής - Χαλανδρίου – Παπανικολή

Need to Register?


Foreign vehicles affected?

Foreign vehicles are not affected. Rental or hire cars are not affected for the first 40 days.

Retrofitting allowed?


Hours of operation

For both schemes:
Monday to Friday, 07:00 to 20:00
Friday, 07:00 to 15:00
The measures do not apply on Saturdays, Sundays, public holidays and days of 24-hour strikes of public transport.


Manual with police enforcement


Punished according to the provisions of Article 52, paragraph 6 of the Highway Code (Administrative fine of 200 €).

National Scheme

The scheme is for Athens, but the basis is set in national law.


Residents within the Athens ring road can apply for an exemption between August 26th and October 31, Monday to Friday, 8:00 - 14:00 hours and Saturday hours 08:00 - 12:00 from Attica Traffic (Th Diligiannis 24-26, 4th floor) or fax 210-5284030.

Local name for the scheme

‘Green Ring’, the Athens Ring or Δακτύλιος Αθηνών (Daktylios Athinon)


The number of Urban Access Regulations is bound to increase in the years to come, not only in Europe but in most other parts of the world. Even with a vehicle with the most up to date specifications it is becoming a problem to thread a route around the regulated areas and payment of tolls seems almost unavoidable. Research into this aspect of a long trip will become more important as time goes on.

Clive Barker June 2016 

© Rick & Kathy Howe 2001-2018