Cameron’s licence was expired. Well, it was officially renewed but it didn’t arrive in time for our round-the-world trip. We had a piece of paper from VicRoads that said his licence had been renewed. That piece of paper meant nothing in Zurich. Actually, it meant that I had to be the one to drive on my learner’s licence – in a strange country, on the other side of the road, with a manual. I couldn’t even drive to the shops in an automatic!
It was my first time in Europe. A stickler for rules, I felt terrible having Cam drive us when he wasn’t supposed to. ‘It doesn’t matter, we’ll obey all the road rules and won’t get in trouble, it’ll be okay’, Cam assured me.
Less than an hour in, imagine my heart palpitations when a police man started waving his traffic wand at us, indicating for us to pull over. Please don’t ask for Cam’s licence! Please! I handed the officer our car hire documents and passports to show we had nothing to hide (gulp).
We were in Austria! Austria?! Cameron and I had no idea. (This was clearly before I started my practice of exhausting the internet for all information before travelling.) To use Austrian highways, you need a toll sticker called a ‘Vignette’.
‘There were lots of signs before entering,’ the officer told us. Yes, but all in German! We only thought that in our heads of course. It was a € 240 fine but in light of our licence fears, we were more than happy to pay.
The lesson? Learn to read signs in German (or do your research or ask the car hire company for important information).
If you want to save € 240 when driving from Zurich, Switzerland to Fussen, Germany, just get the 10-day Vignette which costs € 8.70. For longer trips, a two-month Vignette costs € 25.30.
After the drama and our ‘donation’ to the Austrian economy, Cam and I were just thrilled to add another country to our list. It was a beautiful drive on the autobahn in a brand new Mini Cooper (with only 7 kilometres on it). Snow-capped mountains, quaint villages… it was an amazing experience and quite unreal.
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