Heading to Germany? Beware of the umwelt.

Planning a trip to Germany this summer? Watch out for the umweltzones.

Currently 47 cities and towns in Germany have umweltzones, or low emission zones (LEZ). To be allow to enter these zones, petrol and diesel vehicles must comply with the appropriate standards.

Brandenburg Gate Berlin © copyright photo

While Germany has the most LEZs in operation, other countries are implementing similar zones. There are more than 220 cities and towns in Europe that have, or are planning LEZs. These include two in Belgium in Antwerp and Brussels, with Ghent to follow in 2020. In the Netherlands there are LEZs in Rotterdam and and Utrecht.

If your car is eligible, for the German zones you need an umweltzone plaquette, or windscreen sticker, to be able to take your car into the zone.

Without it you will find your choice of hotels restricted and you will usually have to book some distance from city and town centres and rely on public transport to get in to see the sights.

If your car complies with the umweltzone regulations you can get the necessary sticker at various agencies or auto repair workshops that are certified for conducting emission tests. You will need your registration papers, so that they can determine your car’s compliance. Or you can order a plaquette before your trip.

See the details on eligibility and how to get an umweltzone plaquette at https://www.tuev-sued.de/auto_fahrzeuge/feinstaub-plakette/feinstaubplakette_ausland/england (I found the page slow to load so give it time).

Take it from the people who had a fraught drive around the fringes of the unweltzone in Berlin trying to get to our hotel which was just on the edge of the zone. Our car did comply with the emission standards but without the sticker we were going round and round in circles, fighting a sat-nav that didn’t know we were excluded from the zone.


And, don’t assume your hotel front desk or concierge are up to speed on the umweltzone regulations.

One major hotel chain in Regensburg told us just to drive into the zone because “foreign registered cars are exempt”. They are not.

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Low emission zones in Paris

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