Coming on holiday to Istria by car? A few years ago, the Slovenians introduced toll stickers (‘vignettes’) for their motorways, similar to the system in Austria. If you are only driving across Slovenia to Istria, this makes the short (10 km) motorway journey, from the Italian border at Trieste to Koper/Capodistria, very expensive. Obviously the advantage of the motorway is that it is fast and straightforward, but there is an alternative route you can take via the back-roads. Under normal conditions this will add only about 10 minutes to your journey, maybe a bit longer in the summer when the road can get busier.
I have tried to include as much detail in these directions as possible, so they might seem long and complex, but it really is quite straightforward. In essence, you simply take a few turnings immediately after the border to put yourself on the old road, which by-and-large runs alongside the new motorway. You simply follow this road through the towns of Skofije and Bertoki/Bertocchi, until you join up with the exit you would normally take from the motorway, in Koper/Capodistria. Apart from one spot involving a couple of turns in Bertoki/Bertocchi, you basically just keep following the road ahead (ignoring all those road signs with a blue background trying to tempt you back to the motorway!).
- At the border, you go out of Italy, and then immediately you have crossed the Slovenian part of the border, bear right into an OMV petrol station. (Yes, I know it sounds like you are doing something dodgy, but the petrol station was effectively built on a road junction! You’ll see when you get there …)
- Drive through the petrol station, keeping left, and just behind it, you’ll see a small junction – the left turn takes you back to the motorway; you take the right turn, signposted to Skofije. After a few metres you will come to a T-junction; turn left here, going uphill (again, signposted Skofije). The road swings round to the left and you’ll find yourself on a bridge over the motorway; it then bends round to the right (and in fact you do a 180° change in direction) to reach a T-junction. Turn left here (towards Skofije).
- Now you just follow the road ahead for a few kms, through the town of Skofije. You’ll lose sight of the motorway for this stretch.
- Once you’ve left Skofije, you’ll come to a roundabout. Take the 2nd exit (the ‘straight on’ direction) signposted Dekani – don’t turn right or you will be back onto the motorway (to reiterate – don’t follow any sign with a blue background). Follow the road ahead and after a downhill stretch you’ll come to another roundabout. Take the 2nd exit (ignoring the one marked with ‘no entry’ signs), in this case signposted ‘Bertoki/Bertocchi’ (don’t follow signs for ‘Dekani’ here!)
- Keep going straight on for a few kms – again, you are driving parallel to the motorway here although it’s not always visible – and you will drive through the village of Bertoki. In the village, you’ll come to a crossroads with a larger road (a newer road, expanded to link up with the motorway), recently converted to a ‘temporary’ roundabout. As you approach, there is a traffic sign which gives you 3 options – the 2 ‘main’ directions are the ‘straight on’ and ‘turn right’ options, which lead you back to the motorway – you ignore them and turn left up hill (direction ‘Sv. Anton’).
- In a few hundred metres, at another small roundabout turn right (essentially, going back onto the old road you have been following). This is signposted ‘Koper’.
- Follow the road ahead for another few kms, leaving Bertoki / Bertocchi, and you come to a junction, again with links to the motorway and again, recently converted to another ‘temporary’ roundabout. Turn left here.
- Just follow the road as it bends gently to the right for a hundred metres or so, to arrive at a large junction with traffic lights. Turn left here (there are often queues) and join the traffic leaving the motorway, signposted Pula. You are now on the same road you would have been had you used the motorway.
- You’re well on the way … keep on through one more set of lights to come to yet another new, ‘temporary’ roundabout. Take the 2nd exit (‘straight on’) and now just follow the road ahead as it goes up and down and wiggles around, and you’ll arrive at the Slovenian-Croatian border. Welcome to Istria – toll-free!
- If you take the motorway, don’t try and avoid the toll – the traffic police check regularly with cameras. The fines are steep if you don’t have one and payable on the spot, so your ‘economising’ could end up being very expensive.
- Make sure your vignette is stuck to the windscreen as per the instructions on the back, and is clearly visible. They’ll fine you if it isn’t – we were fined €150 just for having ours sitting on the dashboard, not stuck to the windscreen.
- Make sure your vignette covers your whole journey time. The ‘one-week’ is strictly enforced so, depending exactly when you cross the borders, for some ‘one-week’ holidays you can end up needing 2 ‘one-week’ vignettes.
- If you are hiring a car in Slovenia, it should come with a pre-paid vignette; some cars hired in other countries may do to. Check with your car hire company.
Click here for current vignette prices and information.
Information correct as of March 2015