car travel between Amsterdam, Cologne, Luxembourg, Basel and Metz

Hello. We are renting a car in Amsterdam for a whirlwind drive to Cologne, Germany, Luxembourg, Basel, Switzerland, and Metz, France. We will be driving from Amsterdam to Cologne, and I can find no good information about whether we will need to buy a toll card (vignette?) for the trip from Amsterdam to Cologne and then from Cologne to Luxembourg? Can anyone advise? We will literally be spending half a day in Germany, and I don't mind paying a toll, but I don't wish to buy an expensive toll card if that can be avoided. Any suggestions would be appreciated. I already understand that a toll card is required for our trip from Luxembourg to Basel, at over 30 euros, even though again we are spending just half a day in Basel. So, I'm hoping to figure out a route from Luxembourg to Basel and then from Basel to Metz, France that does not involve the use of toll roads. Any route advice (or websites I could try) would be appreciated. Thank you!

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7967 posts

Check the rental car to make sure it doesn't already have an environmental sticker. It's a green gizmo on the windscreen. The ones I've rented in Germany already had one. Probably not with a Netherlands pick-up, but the way you're pinching pennies, it's worth a look. One thing that just hit me. Where are you getting rid of this car? An Amsterdamn pick-up and Paris ditch is going to more than double the cost for a week - - adding maybe a couple hundred bucks.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8732 posts

Ed da Man. Take what he says. He right. Now then, here's another one lobbing in hand grenades. Put your tin hat on. I wonder about your itinerary. Are you saying that you will be Amsterdam Koeln Luxembourg Basel Metz Brussel Brugge Paris? Metz on the trip north means two sets of French tolls and two trips through Luxembourg. Metz is immediately to the south of Luxembourg. Unless your goal is to suck the tank dry just before the Luxembourg border and brim it with (relatively) cheap fuel both ways. Check the relative fuel prices just before your trip and see where the cheapest fuel is. It will depend if you have diesel (pay the extra and get diesel, it will pay for itself) or gas, and it changes all the time, but roughly for the countries you will be in it may be (cheapest on top to priciest) Luxembourg - cheapest Belgium France or France Belgium Germany
Netherlands - very pricy Switzerland - most expensive Don't try to dodge the vignette police in Switzerland. Either pay and display the Vignette or take the back roads from France. Watch out for speed cameras in France, Germany and especially in Switzerand. You won't see them but they will see you and you will be hundreds lighter after return. Belgium gets honourable mention. Taking the N and D roads in France will eat your time and possibly safety, use the Autoroutes and pony up the tolls if going Metz- Basel or return. You can avoid tolls by going Germany to Karlsruhe, hang a left and go to Luxembourg via Trier and south but the tolls are cheaper than the fuel and time.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7967 posts

The only tolls in the Netherlands are for a couple of tunnels. There are no toll roads in Germany, but a couple of tunnel tolls. There are no tolls in Luxembourg. The only vignette required is for Switzerland. It's forty francs which would make it a bit more than thirty euro. You only need it for the major motorways. Get off the freeway just on the French side of Basel and take the back roads. It's not going to take you that much more time. Your route through France is kind of unclear, but if it's easentially Basel, Metz, Luxembourg, the tolls are less than twenty bucks. If you try to duck them by using back roads in that area, you'll burn more money in gas, lunch stops, etc.

Posted by Mari
Columbus
18 posts

Thank you very much. Do you have a suggested website that I might visit to plan a road trip from Luxembourg to Basel then to Metz that doesn't require toll roads? Thanks also for the tip that no vignette is required for the trip from Amsterdam to Cologne then from Cologne to Luxembourg. I couldn't get a straight answer about that before, so thank you!

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7967 posts

Viamichelin.com ignores tolls by default, but does have a no-toll filter. Try it both ways and see what happens. It also has an 'avoid vignette' filter, I think.

Posted by Mari
Columbus
18 posts

Thank you! I will try this. We honestly don't mind paying tolls, but 40 francs for less than a day in a country seems a bit excessive to me. I wish they'd let you pay as you go for the roads you use as you've indicated they do in Germany and France. Also, I should have asked, but we will then be going from Metz to Brussels then Brugge then Paris. I've been told by the rental car company that vignettes (toll cards) are not needed in France or Belgium and that you pay as you go for the roads you use. Do you agree with that? Thank you again!

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7967 posts

Go back to my original response. It is accurate. The only possible vignette is for Switzerland. The only potential toll roads are in France. You will encounter tolls on the French portion of the Brugge-Paris run. Viamichelin will give you an excellent idea of the amount. My guess is about twenty dollars. I remain adamant in my opinion that avoiding tolls is ineffecient. I would guess that avoiding tolls would add a couple of hours to the last segment if you know the roads. It will probably add more if you make a wrong turn for which there is a much greater potential. Figuring an average/notional fuel burn rate for a small car (40mpg/ 80mph/ two gallons per hour/ eight dollars per gallon) that's sixteen dollars per hour or thirty two dollars for the extra two hours. I'm bound to be off some since you won't be going as fast and will have better mileage on the back roads (maybe not since there will be idle times at stop signs and such) but the simple, rough math clearly shows that the tolls save total cost. In this rough example, it's twelve bucks. The very worst case scenario is that it would be an even wash, cost-wise, but it would save you two hours.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2172 posts

You need an environmental sticker to drive in central areas of German cities. It costs less than € 10, you can buy them as ed car maintenance shops and gas stations. You don't need it of you are not going on the central area of Köln. It is not required to have the environmental sticker to drive on highways. You can technically enter Based from the German side on secondary roads, but it is tricky to avoid the Swiss vignette roads. The fines are just not worth it.

Posted by Mari
Columbus
18 posts

Thank you for all the tips. We do know about the huge drop off fee, and yes it does double the price of the rental, (as does paying almost 300 euros for full insurance - but our credit card company doesn't offer it and everyone has told us to just get all the insurance available so we can walk away if the car gets dinged when we're parked or a stone hits the windshield). But time is at a premium on this trip, which is meant to give our son just a taste of Europe so that when he's footing the bill he can go back to the places he liked best. A rental car seemed the fastest way to get to all the places we're trying to visit and made more sense than taking trains (even with fuel, insurance, drop-off fees and parking costs figured in). It's not that I mind paying tolls, and I will pay them of course, I just don't like the fact that you have to pay the same 40 francs whether you're visiting a country for a day or a year. That seems a little like highway robbery to me (pun intended). Thanks again for all the tips. Anything else you can think of is appreciated.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2172 posts

Mari, I got the sense of your trip, but unless you want it to be a transportation trip, I's suggest you to drop Basel and use your limited time heading from Luxembourg straight to Metz. Maybe you can even add some other place like Trier, that is on the way, instead of burning 6-7 hours of driving time for "half a day in a country" as you defined it.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9094 posts

Tossing in more grenades.... Don't go through Germany from Basel to try to save money or time, or anything else. The A5 Autobahn, which runs from Basel to Karlsruhe and beyond to the north, tends to be one of the more congested roads in this part of Germany. Large sections south of Karlsruhe seem to be under perpetual renovation. If you hit this stretch at the wrong time, traffic jams can easily add an extra hour to your trip. The corresponding autoroute on the French side of the Rhine (I forget the number), by contrast, isn't nearly as congested and has no tolls. I even think the scenery is a little nicer on this side. Two downsides- there's no full service rest stops, so if you need to use a toilet, your only option are these absolutely filthy "toilet pods". Other downside is that last time I drove this road, it looked like it needed repaving about 10 years ago.