Driving in a different country can be daunting and many travelers opt to go without a car. While traveling around Europe is the perfect place to be without a car because many cities have affordable and well-connected public transportation. Having access to a car and driving in Slovenia can help you to reach a lot of places you otherwise couldn’t.
The first few years I lived and traveled Europe my access to a car was limited to friends who had one (which isn’t many) or to rentals. I didn’t drive for years. I was terrified to drive in another country. As an American, I am used to wide roads, slower speed limits, big parking spots, and right turn on red (Pennsylvania represent!).
The decision to start driving again happened after moving to Slovenia. While I live in the capital city, let’s just say I am more in suburbia with a dash of farms. I still greatly benefit from a few bus lines, but it isn’t ideal for getting everywhere and especially in bad weather (see: November-March).
Present-day, I have my own car, which is also my first big adult purchase (yay), and a Slovenian license. Throughout the tedious process of learning the rules of the road, driving school, and a few failed exams I wanted to share with travelers some tips to ease their driving experience in Slovenia.
Driving in another country doesn’t have to be stressful if you familiarize yourself with the basic rules of the road and some street signs. Here are the most significant differences between driving in the US and driving in Slovenia.
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This is probably the biggest mistake travelers make when coming to Slovenia. The vinjette (vinjeta in Slovene) is serious business. You will not be able to get by without one if you are driving on the highways, which you will be. The vinjette is simply a toll similar to paying at a toll booth. With no toll booths this eliminates waits and worries about having correct change.
If you are renting a car in any of the neighboring countries do not forget to stop at a gas station (Petrol, OMV, Agip, MOL) to purchase before crossing the border.
Weekly vinjette 15.00 EUR / Monthly vinjette 30.00 EUR
Penalties run from 300 to 800 EUR.
2. No Parking or Stopping Signs
Round signs with a red outline are called prohibitory signs and yes, they prohibit you from doing something. In this case, we are referring to parking and stopping. The first sign with one line means no parking but if you need to drop off/pick up put on your hazard lights and you may. If there is an X through the sign that means no parking and no stopping, ever.
3. Do Not Enter and One-Way Signs
Now that you are familiarizing with prohibitory signs here are two very important ones. The first one, that looks like a minus sign means do not enter. It is a one-way street.
If the sign is like the one on the right just white with a red outline, that means entry is prohibited for whatever reason.
A blue square sign with a white arrow means you are on a one-way road. Be mindful especially when driving in Ljubljana. Many one-way roads suddenly turn to two-way roads after an intersection.
4. Small Roads!
Roads in Europe are dramatically smaller than American roads. Some roads in Slovenia do not look like two-way roads, but I promise you, they are. Because of this, there are signs to watch out for so you know who has the right of way.
Blue square signs with two arrows, in opposite directions, and one will be red and one will be white. The white arrow has priority so ideally the other car will pull off to the side and let you go. Of course, it is not always possible so if you have space to allow the other car, it is polite to do so.
5. Speed Limits
Speed limits in the US are posted every so often and vary by the state. In Slovenia, there are set limits that you should memorize as they are often not posted unless there are exceptions or changes.
For example, if you are driving in Ljubljana and see a sign for 60 (km/h) after you cross an intersection the speed will revert back to the standard 50 km/h unless another sign with 60 appears after the intersection.
Speed Limits in Slovenia
- 50 km/h in residental areas
- 90 km/h outside populated areas
- 110 km/h on express roads (blue signs)
- 130 km/h on motorways/highways (green signs)
|This is a speed limit sign.|
|This sign means you are|
entering a new town.
If on regional roads this indicates
50km/h speed limit.
|This sign means you are|
leaving the town.
Lines through a sign mean
it is the end of something.
(town, speed limit, warnings)
If on regional roads this indicates
90km/h speed limit.
|This sign is for the highway. |
The speed limit is 130 km/h.
This sign in blue is for express ways.
6. Driving Across Borders
Slovenia is not the only country with a vinjetta. If traveling to Austria they have a similar system so be careful if driving across the border to buy it beforehand.
There are no checks at the border with Italy, Austria, or Hungary you simply drive through. Sometimes they have old checkpoints that you drive through but they are not open anymore. (Note: Due to COVID-19 there are now checkpoints at the border so you may be stopped and wait times are longer.)
There are checkpoints going into Croatia because it is not in Schengen. Be sure to have your passport and any accompany documents you might need (similar to flying internationally). During the summer months, especially during the weekends, the lines at the border can be hours long so plan accordingly.
Parking is my least favorite thing to do in Europe. It always seems like there is never enough parking regardless of where you are. If you are in Ljubljana, chances are you will have to pay for your parking. You will notice small pay machines on the sidewalk at least one every street or so. You pay at the machine, take your ticket, and place it on the dashboard of your vehicle.
Similar to many other places check the signs along the road which will state the days and times when it is mandatory to pay. Some machines will allow you to pay for longer periods while others max out at 2 hours. Don’t forget to top it up or you will get a ticket.
If you enter a parking lot or garage that gives you a card upon entrance, then you pay before you leave. I repeat. You do not pay at the exit. There are usually pay machines on the ground floor (pritličje) or near a pedestrian entrance.
Some parking lots, and especially outside of Ljubljana, have free 2-hour parking. How this works is you place a dashboard clock, or piece of paper stating the time you parked. Be sure to not leave it beyond two hours or you may receive a ticket.
8. Drinking, Cellphones, and Seatbelts
Just like most countries in the world, Slovenia has blood alcohol content limits for driving. The limit is .5 BAC but the truth of the story is don’t drink and drive. Period. Taxis are very cheap and readily available.
Taxi Laguna allows you to order a taxi through their site.
Taxi Metro is my personal go to but you will have to call to arrange a pick up.
Cellphones are not allowed to be used while driving not for calls or texts so go hands-free.
Seatbelts are required by all passengers regardless of age and where you are sitting in the car.
9. Lights on!
Headlights are required to be turned on at all times not just in the evening or when it is raining. Some cars have this automatically set but others you will have to remember to put the lights on every time you drive.
10. Required Items
By law, every car must have a first aid kit, spare light bulbs, an orange triangle, and a reflective vest/jacket. If you are pulled over without these items you can receive a fine.
If you break down you are required to place the triangle near your car to alert oncoming traffic, and you are to wear the reflective wear outside of the car.
The good thing is that most rental companies will provide these in your car, but it doesn’t hurt to double-check in case an emergency arises.
12. Emergency Numbers
For emergencies, dialing 911 won’t get you anywhere. In Slovenia, use 112 for medical help or firefighters and 113 for police.
11. International Drivers License
I see a lot of (mis)information online telling travelers they do not need an International Driver’s License when renting and driving in Slovenia. While many anecdotes claim rental companies did not check it is technically the law and you are better off spending the $20 to save yourself a headache.
From my personal experience driving just over the border in Italy is that you 100% should never ever drive without it unless you love paying fines. *If you are driving in Primorska (Western Slovenia) there are a few sections where the road goes into Italy for a few kilometers and then back. Better to be safe than sorry.
Read details about obtaining your International Drivers License from AAA.
13. Driving and Renting Age
The legal driving age in Slovenia is 18 unlike in the US where it is only 16! In the US that makes sense because unless you live in a huge city, you probably don’t have reliable public transportation. In many European countries, the public transport system is vast and efficient.
In Slovenia, you can rent a car at 18 as long as you had your license for 1 year. There may be additional fees for renters under the age of 25.
Driving in Slovenia Resources
Familiarize yourself with European road signs by country.
Read the official Slovenian transportation website for more information (available in English).
Where to rent a car in Slovenia?
I imagine if you are renting a car in Slovenia then you will be doing so at the Ljubljana International Airport. There are around 11 rental companies that operate at the airport. I tend to recommend the following companies as their prices are reasonable and I have had good experiences with them.
Plan a road trip through Slovenia
After checking out the Definitive Guide to Traveling to Slovenia (Summer 2020 Edition) here are some road trip ideas for Slovenia.
- Drive up to Mangart Saddle, the highest road in Slovenia
- Take a day trip to Lake Bled and surrounding sights.
- A road trip through Slovenian wine region, Goriška Brda
- Take a castle-inspired road trip
- Choose from 20 different day trips from Ljubljana.
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Thank you for taking the time to read this guide and as always feel free to direct any questions or comments below. Safe travels!