The first thing to say about avoiding the toll roads in Slovenia is that if you can afford the 15/30/110 euros for the weekly/monthly/yearly vignette (or vinjeta, in Slovene) for a regular car (half that for motorcycles and twice that for bigger vehicles, defined as a height of more than 1.3m above the front axis, with vehicles weighing more than 3,500 kg still paying at regular toll booths), then you should buy one, either online or at gas stations in Slovenia or just over the borders with neighbouring countries. You’ll then be free to use any of the country’s roads, stress-free, and can get to all your destinations slightly faster, with the official FAQ found here.
Not buying a vignette can be expensive
If you can’t afford to buy a vignette, then you should definitely buy one, as the fine for not doing so runs from 300 to 800 euros, and could ruin your vacation.
That said, if you’re only passing through the country, want to save a few euros and get off the beaten track, then read on at your own risk. Also note that diversions, missed signs and whatnot could invalidate these plans, and understand that the toll system is an important source of government revenue, and treated as such, with no leniency for tourists who are lost or confused. Perhaps we should also note that the blood alcohol content drink driving limit is 0.5 g/l, which is why we never drive in Slovenia.
Then this is how you avoid paying for a vignette:
A vignette is needed to travel on all motorways and expressways, whatever their length, so your basic aim is to avoid these. There are five motorways, named A1 to A5, leading to borders with Austria, Croatia, Italy, Croatia and Hungary, respectively. There are also seven expressways, H1 to H7, with H4 leading to Italy, H5 to Croatia, and H7 to Hungary. The signs for highways are green, while those for expressways are blue, both with white text. Avoid those, and you’re golden.
In addition, if you’re coming or going from Austria via the Karavanke Tunnel then a vignette is not needed, as the toll for using the tunnel is valid between the first motorway exits on both sides of the national border (the Hrušica exit in Slovenia, and the Podrožca/Rosenbach exit in Austria).
Now just follow these steps to find your route:
1. Go to Google Maps.
2. Enter your start and end points - in our example we'll use Villach, Austria, and Bregana, Croatia.
3. In the Route Options click so you avoid highways and tolls.
All images were produced using Google Maps
4. Live traffic will show you if there are any roadworks, diversions or traffic jams on the way. You can also choose Typical traffic and set the day and time you'll be on the road.
And that should get you across Slovenia without a vignette.
Related: Tipping in Slovenia, Crossing the Croatian-Slovenian border - live webcams and avoiding Bregana, How to park in Ljubljana