Austrians off the christmas card list!

Sep 22nd, 2011, 12:32 AM
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Join Date: Sep 2005
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Austrians off the christmas card list!

Currently, we are on hols in Slovenia. The other day we took a spectacular drive over the Vrsic pass. Just stunning!! On the other side we crossed the border in to Austria and decided that as it was lunch time, we would stop for some lunch. We drove around 2 towns and were unable to find anywhere to eat so we decided we would stop at a supermarket and get some picnic supplies and head over the border to Italy to find a nice picnic spot. This we duly did and proceded to follow our map.. ( at this point we had been in Austria all of 20 mins or so). Anyway, we inadvertantly found ourselves on an Austrian motorway, we drove down the road for little over a minute and could see the Italian border ahead when a man in a high visibility vest was standing on the road pulling over traffic. He pointed to us to pull over and to ourselves we wondered what we had done. We rolled down the window and he spoke to us in german, we indicated that we didn't speak German and he said "documents please".Not sure what he wanted and as it was a border crossing, we gave him our passports. He then said in a very aggressive tone, "you have to pay €120 fine because you are travelling on Austrian motorways illegally." He would give us no further explanation and refused to return our passports unless we paid the money. At this point, we figured that we must have been obliged to pay some form of "vignette" like in Slovenia as a prepayment for use of the Austrian motorway.
However, in many coutries where we have travelled including our home country of Ireland, we are offered the opportunity to, as it were, pay as you go on tolls. As we were litterally on the Austrian motorway for no more than 2 minutes genuinely and had ended up on it inadvertantly, we had not made ourselves aware of the rules in advance ( not expecting to need them). We would have gladly paid a toll had we had the opportunity. We weren't trying to pull any stunts!
While we accept that we broke the rules, my husband is particularly annoyed at the manner with which we were dealt . He asked the man if he was the police and he said that he was a worker for the toll company. At this point, we realised that he was deliberately targetting tourist cars as an easy way to make money.
We had no choice but to pay the €120 fine and in fairness we did break the rules. But we were left very upset by the experience. The man was very intimidating and we felt he abused his authority by being on a power trip. Laws like that really shouldn't be there to catch tourists inadvertantly travelling on a tiny stretch of road. They should be in place to stop regular road users from abusing the system.
The worst thing is that I had been considering the Carinthia region of Austria for our holiday next year but my husband is adamant that after that treatment, he would not like to return to Austria. He might have calmed down by next year though!! Just thought I would share the experience so that others might prepare themselves and can avoid the hefty fine ( it was an expensive half an hour in Austria!!!) . And aslo wanted to let off some steam- sorry!
We are starting to be able to laugh about the experience and there have been a few unmentionable jokes about Austrian men on power trips!!
CailinDeas is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2011, 01:10 AM
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Welcome to the club, there is a tiny bit of Austria between Germany and Switzerland at the end of lake constance and, 'cause the Austrians are so nice they offer a tiny vignette just for this bit of the motorway system. Ain't they kind.
bilboburgler is online now  
Sep 22nd, 2011, 01:13 AM
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Ignorance of the law is no excuse. They don't have a system of toll booths collecting tolls but you have to buy a vignette in advance, like in Switzerland.

Your 120 euro wasn't a fine - it's a supplementary toll (Ersatzmaut) for not having your vignette at the start of your journey, levied by the toll company. If you had been stopped by the police and taken to court, you could have been fined 300 to 3000 euro as an offender.
Alec is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2011, 01:21 AM
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This happening more and more:
I would advise you to check before travelling.
Here is something I have written about Portugal.

Maybe cross them of your Christmas list too.
ribeirasacra is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2011, 02:15 AM
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Ignorance of the law is one thing, illogical laws and severe fines are another. One might expect a toll, but 120 Euros is a ridiculous and excessive fine. Austria is not one of our favorite places because of the widespread officious behavior. This is but one more example.
Aduchamp1 is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2011, 02:41 AM
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Very typical for Austria, sadly. I don't drive on motorways in Austria at all, always choose other roads.

Yeah, you broke the law. But is seems this law is intentionally created like a trap for tourists. And the fines as well as the "Ersatzmaut" are outrageous.

I got a different treatment when driving the motorway from Germany (A5) to Switzerland. I had no vignette, planned to drive the minor roads, but missed the exit and got on the motorway in Basel. The police officer who stopped me removed a barrier so I could turn around and head back to Germany to find the exit. No fine.

Ingo is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2011, 03:15 AM
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Look on the bright side at least

you were not caught speeding in Switzerland

The $290,000 speeding ticket Thanks to European road rules that target the rich, a Swiss multi-millionaire was fined a fortune. Are the ... Switzerland: This should be ...
qwovadis is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2011, 03:38 AM
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Yup, it sucks. The Austrians are notorious for this. Sorry it happened to you. Hope it never happens to me.
kleeblatt is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2011, 03:47 AM
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There is one detail that I find particularly disturbing: that an employee of a motorway toll company felt entitled to take people's passports and refuse to return them until money (which might have been properly due) was paid.
Padraig is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2011, 04:03 AM
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As every traffic cop everywhere in the world will tell you - ignorance of the law is no excuse.

You do the crime - you do the time. And whining about it being unintentional and only for a minutes doesn;t really matter. If you are going to be in a country you need to know the rules and comply - or pay the fine. If you didn;t know you were going there - then you have learned a good lesson on planning.

Can't imagine why you were upset. If this is the worst thing that ever happens on a trip you're very lucky.

And the fine seems perfectly reasonable. Out parking tickets (even 1 minute over on the meter - are $150 - with $250 for egregious events - near a hydrant or in a handicap spot).
nytraveler is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2011, 04:27 AM
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There is obviously no way for anyone to know you had only been on a stretch of road for a couple of minutes.

There are a lot of "ridiculous" laws depending upon to whom you are speaking.

I'm sorry you had a bad experience but these sorts of "officious" events and attitudes are hardly exclusive to Austria.
Dukey1 is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2011, 05:13 AM
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At least Austria is being consistent. The same rules apply equally to locals (who know them well enough but try to save a dime or two), foreign drivers (who know them but think they won't be caught) and ignorant tourists (who should put it down to experience). It's the same in Italy with no driving zones, parking rules everywhere (e.g. you can only park on the left side the road on odd numbered days except in the evening on first and third Wednesday of the month when road cleaning takes place, all in Italian). It's up to the tourists to familiarise themselves with traffic rules not just in the country where they pick up their rental car, but also in any neighbouring countries (with no frontier formalities if in Schengen) they may drive into.
Alec is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2011, 05:14 AM
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Well, I, for one, would be furious.
tarquin is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2011, 05:30 AM
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I don't understand the problem. You broke the law and you paid the fine. It would have been nice for you if you were able to get away with it, but you didn't.

The vignette system in Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, and several other countries isn't exactly a secret.
PaulHahn is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2011, 06:10 AM
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Traffic fines, or extra tolls etc, tend to be punitive. To hit offender in the pocket as a painful lesson and as a deterrent to others. If it were set too low, more would be tempted to flout the rules because the risk of apprehension would become worth taking.

It would be nice if ignorant tourists are given a discount. I think in Spain fines are reduced by 30% if paid on the spot.
Alec is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2011, 06:15 AM
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Alec, who would decide what's a tourist? Lots of Swiss and Germans drive to Austria and are tourists. In fact, most people who get fined are tourists.

Nice thought but...
kleeblatt is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2011, 06:34 AM
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"Can't imagine why you were upset" says NYTrav. I can. It's a stupid flippin' rule. What if they were fined for wearing green on Sunday and that was a long-standing law? It'd still be stupid.
BigRuss is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2011, 07:17 AM
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It's a stupid flippin' rule.

Is it? To drive on the Autobahn, you need a toll sticker and display it on the windshield. If you don't, you are liable for a fine or excess toll. It seems perfectly reasonable and sane to me. Like riding a train you need a ticket bought in advance. If you are caught without a ticket, you pay a penalty fare.
Alec is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2011, 07:36 AM
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Are there warning signs when you enter the Autobahn?
StCirq is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2011, 07:39 AM
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Not normally. Just the blue Autobahn signs. In Switzerland, in cotrast, 'vignette obligatoire' or 'vignettenpflichtig' are usually displayed next to green Autoroute/Autobahn sign.
Alec is offline  

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