Toll free route to Lake Garda

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In recent days, a couple of camp sites opened their doors for the start of the 2013 season at Garda. It then struck me that “my” toll free route to Lake Garda is not directly documented. As a result,  here we go!  I use the term “toll free route to Lake Garda” but there are some tolls to pay. However, the routes suggested will minimise money spent on tolls and maximise the cash spent on other Italian niceties, such as wine, pasta and Parma ham!

The toll free route to Lake Garda is about 750 miles from Calais. Some routes will add a few more miles, but not many, whilst other routes will shave a few miles off.

Due to the length of the journey, I have split the toll free route to Lake Garda  into sections.  The first part will take us as far as Basel, the French/Swiss border. This is a particularly straight forward route and using Calais as a starting location, it is simply a matter of following the signposts as detailed. It may of course be cheaper to take a ferry to Dunkerque. This has the added advantage of chopping a few more miles off the journey.

Toll free route to Lake Garda via Chateau Salins

This is a particularly straight forward route and using Calais as a starting location, it is simply a matter of following the signposts as detailed.

Calais – Dunkerque – Lille -(towards Belgium)  Tournai – Mons – Charleroi – Arlon – Luxembourg – Metz – Metz Est – Chateau Salins –  Sarrebourg – Phalsbourg and then here, a little cheat. It is worth joining the A4 motorway for one junction at J44 and leaving at J45. This avoids a steep hill and also bypasses the town of Saverne. Of course Saverne is a pretty enough place for an overnight stop, but the traffic can be busy. From J45 of the A4, head for Molsheim – Obernai – Colmar and the French/Swiss border at Basel/Mulhouse. It really is that simple. We have done this route many times with a conventional motorhome and also the tag axle – it is a very easy drive.

Motorhomers may well like to take a copy of the Camperstop Europe book – thousands of free and low cost camper stops. These camperstops are great night halts. Follow the link….Motorhome guide Camperstop Europe 27 countries. 2017 GPS

A Google map of the first part of the toll free route to Lake Garda is shown. The actual distance is 462 miles with a Google time factor of 8 hours 53 minutes. Obviously, motorhomers and caravanners may take longer than that anyway, thus the timings for information only.


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Toll free route to Lake Garda via Nancy

This route starts off in the same way – so Calais – Dunkerque – Lille – Tournai – Mons – Charleroi – Arlon – Luxembourg and Metz. From Metz, head south on the toll free A31 motorway towards Nancy – Epinal – Thann and Basel.

Toll free route to Lake Garda

Toll free route to Lake Garda may feature a night stop at the superb aire at Charmes

This route comes out at 459 miles and an anticipated journey time of 8 hours 10 minutes.  The “Coline de Bussang” is quite steep but it is used by buses and trucks. We have driven this route both north and south at various times of the year and had no problems with passing villages or the hill. There are also several supermarket in the Thann area offering good value diesel and also easy access to the pumps for motorhomes and caravans.


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Toll free route to Lake Garda via Germany – just!

This is the last of my tried and tested toll free routes to Basel. The little quirk being a short stretch on the German autobahn! The mileage for this route is 462 with a time factor indicated by Google maps of 8 hours 54 minutes. The routing is the same as far as Luxembourg. From Luxembourg, it’s onwards towards Saarrebrucken in Germany before re-entering France at Sarreguemines. Follow the N61/D1061/D661 towards Saverne, before continuing again via Molsheim, Obernai, Colmar and finally Mulhouse/Basel.


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The non toll free route from Calais to Basel, via the A26 motorway and the A4 motorway comes in at 474 miles and a traveling time of 8 hours and 4 minutes – so as you can see very little time differences between the routes.


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Full details of the cost or routing via Reims is available on the French Autoroutes website.

Another advantage of a toll free route to Lake Garda

The three toll free routes to Basel that I have tried and tested have a common factor – routed via Luxembourg. Diesel is Luxembourg is amongst the cheapest in Europe and so compared to France, you could save up to one euro per gallon. By planning your journey carefully, adding diesel at Calais to get you as far as Luxembourg and then filling “to the neck” with cheap diesel once in Luxembourg, you can make further savings to your journey thus reducing further the cost of your toll free route to Lake Garda.

On arrival at Basel, you are required to obtain a Swiss motorway vignette for vehicles under 3500 kg. Drivers of motorhomes over 3500 kg must complete a paper document.  More details are available on my Swiss motorway tolls page.

There are ways to travel from Calais following a totally toll free route to Lake Garda, but in my experience the route via Switzerland is the best if you are heading for Garda south or east. Equally, if you are heading for Milan and so on the same route applies.

Once in Switzerland, and you have paid your dues, transit the country via Lucerne, the St Gotthard road tunnel and Chiasso. Enter Italy from Switzerland at Chiasso.

Leaving Switzerland you enter Italy and travel on the motorway for a very short distance. Leave the Italian motorway at the exit marked “Como Centro”.  In turn, this will lead you to a rather busy interchange and from here, keep following the BLUE signs for Milan. The GREEN signs will take you back onto the toll payable motorway. The SS35 soon becomes a dual carriage way and will drop you to the north of Milan on the partially toll free A52. This route is a few miles shorter than the motorway and not particularly any longer in time as you do not have to stop at the toll booths on the A9 & A8 motorways. From the A52 it is easier to then travel to Garda on the motorway. This short section of non motorway road will save you about ten euro cmpared to the A9/A8.

We have tried running totally toll free from Garda to Como. This involves travelling around the back of Bergamo Airport, but the roads, traffic and time factor do not really make this a viable option.


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So there you have a toll free route to Lake Garda. OK, it is not totally toll free but is a great compromise!

Toll free route to Lake Garda – take a map!

For those taking this sort of toll free route from the Swiss/Italian border through to the Lakes, it is well worth carrying a map of Italy. We like the Michelin one as seen below. NEVER rely only on satnav, take a back up plan!

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