Planning on driving in Italy? You will enjoy the highways connecting the big cities. While they get jammed during the summer months, you will still be able to have a pleasant drive most of the time.
Highways in Italy are paid. The toll is calculated based on the distance and is paid at one of the toll booths when exiting the highway. Here is all you need to know about the fees.
Driving in Italy is expensive
The fuel prices in Italy are among the highest in Europe. Additionally, the highway tolls are also expensive. The average is almost €10 per 100 km. Consider the long distances to drive and this adds up. In comparison, even the yearly Swiss vignette which costs 40 CHF looks pretty cheap.
Pay per segment or pay on exit
The highways in Italy are managed by different companies, which leads to two slightly different payment models.
In the pay per segment model, you will take a ticket from one of the automatic toll booths when you enter the highway. Upon exiting, you insert the ticket into a similar machine. It will calculate the amount based on the distance you drove and display it.
In the pay on exit model, you simply enter the highway without taking a ticket. When you exit, you pay a fixed amount of typically a few euros at the automatic toll booths. On longer segments, such toll booth are also placed on the highway itself, not only after the exit ramp. This ensures you keep on paying regularly as you drive.
There are four payment methods, but as a tourist you will likely pay cash or by credit card. When you approach a toll booth station, the payment methods are displayed on top. Make sure you position yourself correctly depending on the method you want to use.
Cash is accepted by all toll booths. You have to pay in euros, using either coins or banknotes. At a toll station, only a small part of the booths accept cash. Add the fact that many people still prefer cash, and this results into long queues. Instead of cash, it is better to pay by card, where the queues are shorter.
Credit cards or debit cards issued under the major international brands are accepted at all toll stations. Usually a few machines accept cards, so make sure you drive to one of them. The machines don’t issue a receipt by default, so make sure to press the button if you need one.
Telepass is a device installed in the car and linked to a bank account. It is the most convenient, as it allows to pass the barrier by simply driving slowly. The toll booth recognizes the Telepass and charges the account accordingly.
Telepass requires an Italian bank account, so it’s not easy to get one if you are a tourist. There are companies offering them for rent. These companies will receive the charges and forward them to you, in exchange for a rental fee or a commission on top of the highway tolls. If you drive a lot, such a solution might be fast and convenient. Otherwise stick to credit card payment.
Viacard is a prepaid contactless card. It can be bought from gas stations and it typically comes in €25 or €50 versions. You drive to one of the booths accepting credit cards and use it there. If the balance is insufficient, you can pay the difference with another Viacard or by credit card. Unused balance cannot be refunded. With credit cards being so widespread, Viacard is pretty much obsolete.
What to do if you run into issues at a toll booth
Many things can go wrong. The machine may stop working. The credit card might end up getting blocked inside. If anything happens, don’t back up. This is forbidden and the fines are pretty hefty. Push the assistance button and someone will help you with remotely or on the spot.