Winter tyres in Europe

  • Author: OPONEO.CO.UK

"Ignorantia iuris nocet" (not knowing the law is harmful) — this Latin legal principle is also a warning for those who want to spend their Christmas break or winter holiday abroad.

Travelling within the European Union is very simple. All you need are the sufficient funds, an appropriate plan and knowledge about the regulations that apply in the countries you are visiting.

Winterbanden in Europa

Ignoring the obligation to use winter tyres or other accessories required for safe travelling in winter can be very expensive and not only because of the expensive fines that some member states levy. By underestimating the risks that winter conditions bring on the road, you may also be risking the safety of your loved ones.

Find out what you should know before you start your European journey!

Map of Europe indicating the countries where winter tyres are obligatory.

Map of Europe indicating the countries where winter tyres are obligatory.

OBLIGATION TO USE WINTER TYRES 

Norway

The winter season officially begins on November 1st and lasts until the first Monday after the Easter holidays. The exceptions are the counties of Nordland, Troms and Finnmark (October 15th - May 1st).

Winter tyres


  • Regulations require preparing the car for road conditions, as well as ensuring its sufficient grip.

  • Vehicles heavier than 3.5 tonnes must be equipped with the appropriate tyres and chains. This requirement, established in 2015, also applies to lifted axles. Suitable tyres must be marked with the M+S (mud and snow) and 3PMSF (three peak mountain snowflake) symbols.

Tread depth

  • Not less than 3 mm.

  • At least 5 mm for vehicles over 3.5 tonnes.

Studded tyres

  • May be used if conditions require it.

  • Vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes must have studded tyres installed on all wheels, whereas heavier vehicles are required to have them across one axle. When arranged symmetrically on the longitudinal axis, it is sufficient that one of the twin wheels has such a tyre.

  • Districts: Oslo and Trondheim, allowed only when the daily toll of 30 NOK is paid.

Chains

  • You can use chains in the winter season and beyond, if circumstances require it.

  • Drivers travelling on Norway’s roads should have chains in the boot at all times in case of sudden changes in the weather. Drivers of vehicles over 3.5 tonnes must carry snow chains regardless of the conditions on the roads.

 

Sweden

The winter season starts on 1 December and lasts until 31 March. The regulations listed below also apply to passenger cars and light commercial vehicles registered abroad, which travel throughout the country during this period.

Winter tyres


  • Winter tyres or all-season/summer tyres with the M+S or 3PMSF markings are compulsory.

  • The requirement applies to vehicles of all types, including tyres of the towed trailers.

Tread depth

  • Not less than 3 mm.

  • Minimum 5 mm for vehicles over 3.5 tonnes.

Studded tyres

  • Can be used from 1 October to 15 April or if winter conditions occur.

  • If they have been installed in the car, the trailer attached to it must be fitted in the same way.

  • The vehicle must not be fitted with both studded and non-studded snow tires.

Chains

  • In Sweden, drivers are required to carry snow chains so that they can be quickly mounted on the wheels of the vehicle if road conditions change.

 

Finland

Winter tyres are required by law between December 1st and the end of February, but this period can be extended to April 20th, if necessary.

 

Winter tyres

  • The obligation to use winter tyres is applicable also to tourists travelling around the country by car.

  • Use of winter tyres outside the winter season is allowed when road conditions require it.

  • Trucks up to 3.5 tonnes are not legally required to use winter models.
     

Tread depth

  • For cars up to 3.5 tonnes, the tread depth should be 3 mm and at least 1.6 mm for vehicles over that weight.

Sudden tyres

  • Permitted from 1st November to the first Monday after the Easter holidays.

  • Using studded tyres is legal if you they are mounted on all four wheels of the vehicle.

  • It is permitted to use such tyres outside the winter season, if the weather demands it.

Chains

  • In Finland, each vehicle must be equipped with snow chains.

  • The chains may be used only on roads covered with snow or ice.
     

 

Profieldiepte 4 mm voor een winterband

Level indicator of 4 mm on a winter tyre

 

Estonia

Between December 1st and March 1st, all vehicles must be equipped with winter tyres (when weather conditions require it, this period can be extended and cover the time between October and April).

 

Winter tyres

  • This obligation also applies to tourists.

Tread depth

  • At least 3 mm.

Studded tyres

  • Permitted between October 1st and April 30th, only on vehicles weighing less than 3.5 tonnes.

Chains

  • Only on icy or snow-covered roads.

 

Latvia

The obligation to use winter tyres applies between December 1st and March 1st for all vehicles under 3.5 tonnes and vehicles with trailers.

 

Winter tyres

  • The obligation is applicable to both residents and tourists.

Tread depth

  • Latvian legislation specifies the minimum tread depth for winter tyres at 4 mm.

Studded tyres

  • The use of studded tyres is allowed between October 1st and April 30th for vehicles with a total gross vehicle weight not exceeding 3.5 tonnes.

Chains

  • Only on icy or snow-covered roads.

 

Lithuania

In Lithuania, winter tyres are mandatory between November 1st and April 1st. This obligation applies to all vehicles with a total weight of up to 3.5 tonnes.

 

Winter tyres

  • The obligation to use winter tyres also applies to tourists and travelling without the proper equipment is punishable with a fine.

Tread depth

  • Acceptable minimum tread depth is 1.6 mm.

Studded tyres

  • They can be used between November 1st and April 1st.

  • Vehicles with studded tyres must have the rear adequately marked (an equilateral triangle with a red border and a symbol with studded tyres inside it).

  • The length of the triangle sides must be between 2 and 3 mm.

Chains

  • Only on icy or snow-covered roads.

 

Germany

In Germany winter tyres are required in specific situations (depending on road conditions). There are no defined periods when winter models must be used, but using inadequate tyres is punishable with a fine of 60 EUR.

Causing traffic congestion could mean a fine of 80 EUR and creating a dangerous situation on the road could also result in a fine of 80 EUR.

Drivers who cause an accident are fined 120 EUR. Apart from the financial consequences, each of the aforementioned offences carries a 1 penalty point charge also (Flesburg system).

In addition to chains, drivers are required to carry a shovel, pickaxe and tow rope.
 

 

Winter tyres

  • When weather conditions require winter tyres, they must be installed on vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes. Alternatively, it is acceptable to use models marked with M+S on all wheels.

  • In winter conditions vehicles heavier than 3.5 tonnes must have M+S tyres mounted on their drive axles.

Tread depth

  • The permissible tread depth of winter tyres is 1.6mm, but experts recommend it to be approximately 4 mm.

Studded tyres

  • Studded tyres are not permitted, with the exception of the road running through the "Kleines Deutsches Eck".

Chains

  • If necessary, chains may be used, but only in accordance with the road signs. The maximum speed with snow chains fitted is 50 km/h.

 

Czech Republic

In the Czech Republic drivers are required to drive on winter tyres between November 1st and March 31st.

In the period between November 1st and March 31st, vehicles heavier than 3.5 tonnes, travelling on roads with ‘Zimni vybava’ signs, must be equipped with winter tyres on all drive axles. Between these dates, and in areas with a salt ban, all vehicles with a total weight exceeding 3.5 tonnes must have winter tyres and snow chains.
 

 

Winter tyres

  • Drivers in the Czech Republic are required to use winter tyres in case of unfavourable conditions.

Tread depth

  • Not less than 4 mm.

  • At least 6 mm for vehicles over 3.5 tonnes.
     

Studded tyres

  • In the Czech Republic, studded tyres are prohibited.

Chains

  • Chains are required on roads marked with special signs, and should be installed at least on two drive wheels with 3 axles or more. For vehicles fitted with snow chains, the maximum speed is 50 km/h.

 

Sneeuwkettingen verbeteren de grip van een voertuig onder extreme winterweersomstandigheden

Snow chains improve vehicle traction in extreme winter conditions.

 

Austria

In the winter season, which starts on 1 November and ends on 15 April, drivers must use winter tyres. Austria is one of the countries where drivers are punished for failing to comply with the snow tyre requirements with truly high fines.

 

Winter tyres

  • Vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes must be fitted with winter tyres on all wheels, whereas heavier vehicles must have them fitted across at least one axle.

  • Ignoring the regulations may result in your journey being ended and a high fine (from 35 EUR up to 5000 EUR).

Tread depth

  • Cross ply tyres — 6 mm.

  • Radial tyres — 5 mm.

Studded tyres

  • Permitted between October 1st and May 31st, only on vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes (provided that they are installed on all four wheels).

  • It is forbidden to use them between June and September. They can be used in other months, providing that the local governor does not forbid it.

  • A trailer towed by a vehicle with studded tyres should be fitted with tyres of the same type.

  • If a car is fitted with such tyres, its rear should be marked with the relevant information.

Chains

  • With the exception of public transport, all drivers are required to carry chains sufficient to secure at least two driving axles between November 1st to April 15th.

  • The chains are allowed only on snow-covered or icy roads between November 1st and April 15th.

  • The maximum speed for tyres with snow chains is 50 km/h.

  • They must meet the requirements of ONORM and CE standards.

  • Chains must be installed when required by road sign ‘Schneeketten vorgeschrieben’.

 

Slovenia

Slovenian law requires installing winter tyres or having snow chains in the boot. Trucks must be fitted with winter tyres on at least one driving axle. The regulation also applies to vehicles with foreign license plates, but only during the winter (e.g., snow, black ice, etc.). In winter, it is recommended to have a blanket and a snow shovel.

 

Winter tyres

  • Lack of proper tyres and chains is punishable with a fine of 125 EUR or 417 EUR if this causes traffic delays.

  • The regulations apply to all vehicles.

Tread depth

  • The minimum tread depth must be 3 mm.

Studded tyres

  • Use of this type of tyre is prohibited for all vehicles on any road.

Chains

  • They shall be carried in the boot of every car.

  • If the car uses summer tyres without chains, it will not be admitted to Slovenia.

  • Cars with constantly enabled four-wheel drive, must have chains installed across at least one axle.

  • The maximum speed for vehicles with installed snow chains is 50 km/h.
     

 

Croatia

Winter tyres are mandatory on main roads from November 15th to April 15th, regardless of weather conditions.

 

Winter tyres

  • Vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes are required to use winter tyres or summer models with additional equipment in the form of snow chains.

  • Buses and trucks must have winter tyres installed or use snow chains on the driving axles.

Tread depth

  • No less than 4 mm.

Studded tyres

  • Their use is prohibited in this territory.

Chains

  • Croatian law requires having them in the car.

  • When roads are covered by more than 5 cm of snow or when they are covered with ice, the vehicle must have them installed across at least one drive axle.

  • The police may order their installation.

  • A snow shovel is mandatory equipment for company cars.

 

Romania

In Romania, winter tyres must be used on roads covered with snow or ice between November 1st and March 31st, and all vehicles heavier than 3.5 tonnes must have them on at least one driving axle. Cars lighter than this weight must be equipped with snow chains, which should be installed when indicated by special road signs.

 

Winter tyres

  • Obligatory from November 1st to March 31st (if there are winter conditions).

Tread depth

  • At least 2mm.

Studded tyres

  • Their use is prohibited in the country.

Chains

  • Mandatory only on marked sections of road, for vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes.

  • The police have the right to stop vehicles heavier than 12 tonnes, when it considers the road conditions to be too difficult.

 

Slovakia

The winter season in Slovakia starts on November 15th and ends on March 31st. In this period, using winter tyres is mandatory. Commercial vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes must have winter tyres installed on all axles (vehicles heavier than 3.5 tonnes, must have them at least on one axle).

 

Winter tyres

  • Cars transporting people and goods must have winter tyres installed across at least one axle.

Tread depth

  • Not less than 3 mm.

Studded tyres

  • Use prohibited.

Chains

  • They must be transported in the vehicle and used as indicated by road signs, according to the prevailing conditions.

 

Winterbanden garanderen de veiligheid onder verschillende winterse omstandigheden.

Winter tyres guarantee safety in winter conditions.

 

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Cars must be equipped with winter tyres between November 15th and April 15th. In this period, all vehicles over 3.5 tonnes are required to have a snow shovel.

 

Winter tyres

  • It is required to use winter tyres or all-season models marked M+S and 3PMSF.

  • An alternative is to mount chains on summer tyres, but only on the drive axle.

Tread depth

  • No less than 4 mm.

Studded tyres

  • Prohibited.

Chains

  • Chains are mandatory and each vehicle must have at least one pair for the drive axle.

 

Serbia

In Serbia, winter tyres must be used in the period between November 1st and April 1st, on all 4 wheels. Additionally, snow chains must be installed in mountainous areas.

 

Winter tyres

  • Mandatory.

Tread depth

  • In winter, it should be 4mm.

Studded tyres

  • Their use is prohibited throughout the country.

Chains

  • They are mandatory in mountainous areas.

Door te weten waar je winterbanden moet gebruiken, kan een boete vermeden worden.
By knowing the countries where you are obliged to use winter tyres, you can avoid getting fined.

 

Turkey

The winter period in Turkey starts on December 1st and ends on April 1st. In Turkey, you must use winter tyres in 54 selected provinces. Drivers who fail to observe this obligation may be fined up to 77 TL. After being fined, the drivers must adapt the car equipment to the regulations within 7 days. If the next inspection reveals that the car is still not prepared for winter, it will be taken off the road.

 

Winter tyres

  • Commercial vehicles carrying cargo or passengers between cities are required to have winter tyres. Soon it will be applicable to private cars also.

  • Lack of proper equipment is punishable by a fine of up to 519 TL ($ 235).

  • Trucks, tractors and buses are required to have their drive axles fitted with tyres marked with M+S and 3PMSF.

  • Vans, light trucks, pickups and passenger cars used for commercial purposes (taxi, etc.) must be fitted with M+S and 3PMSF tyres on all axles.

Tread depth

  • For commercial vehicles, at least 4 mm.

Studded tyres

  • Turkey has introduced a general ban on using studded tyres. However, it is permitted to use such tyres temporarily when roads are covered by a thick layer of ice.

Chains

  • Recommended when the road is covered with snow or ice.

  • During the season they should be carried in all vehicles.

 

WINTER TYRES USED IN SPECIFIC SITUATIONS

Spain

There are no regulations governing the use of winter tyres.

Winter tyres

  • Mandatory when indicated by road signs or by a royal decree.

Tread depth

  • Not less than 1.6 mm.

Studded tyres

  • Using studs/spikes of 2 mm is acceptable if the roads are covered with a layer of ice.

  • The requirement for this type of tyres may be also ordered by royal decree.

  • The legislation does not regulate the speed and the time interval of their use.

Chains

  • Allowed.

  • Mandatory when indicated by road signs or by decree  (only on roads covered with snow and ice).

 

France

In France, both cars and vehicles heavier than 3.5 tonnes are not required to have winter tyres installed, but every driver must prepare their vehicle for the prevailing road conditions. Failure to do this is punishable with a fine of 135 EUR.

 

Winter tyres

  • Winter tyres must be fitted on vehicles travelling in the French Alps, where drivers should also have snow chains in the boot.

Tread depth

  • It should be at least 3.5 mm.

Studded tyres

  • Drivers of cars up to 3.5 tonnes may use them from the beginning of November to the end of March, if the vehicles are adequately marked.

  • Drivers must observe the maximum speed of 50 km/h (residential areas) and 90 km/h (urban roads).

  • Not allowed in vehicles with the weight exceeding 3.5 tonnes.

Chains

  • Permitted only when indicated by road signs, their absence is punishable with a fine.

 

Switzerland

Despite the lack of general provisions, which require the use of winter tyres, they are recommended in the period from November 1st to April 30th.

 

Winter tyres

  • In the case of an accident involving a vehicle inappropriately prepared for winter conditions, the driver may be considered complicit.

Tread depth

  • Not less than 1,6 mm.

Studded tyres

  • Only permitted for vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes, when driving on roads completely covered with snow.

  • The maximum speed of a car using studded tyres is 80 km/h (outside built-up areas) and 50 km/h (city).

Chains

  • Must be used on roads where signs indicate it.

  • Mandatory on roads marked ‘Chaines a neige obligatoires’. Having them in the car is recommended.

  • When they are necessary, they must be installed at least on the drive wheels.

 

Italy

There is no obligation to use winter tyres for the whole country, but in certain cases and regions it is required between October and April.

 

Winter tyres

  • Regulation RU/1580 applies to M1, N1 and O1 category vehicles. In case of snowfall, the local police have the right to prohibit transit on certain parts of the motorways.

  • On several road sections the use of winter tyres may be indicated by road signs.

  • Some regions of Italy may introduce their own legislation, which imposes the obligation to use winter tyres with chains.

  • Vehicles equipped with anti-slip systems are exempt from this obligation and allowed to drive on summer tyres with chains.

Tread depth

  • At least 1.6 mm.

Studded tyres

  • Permitted for vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes in the period between November 15th and March 15th, in accordance with road signs.

  • Always on all wheels of the vehicle and trailers.

  • It is recommended to have mudguards fitted.

  • The maximum speed is 120 km/h (motorways), 90 km/h (outside built-up areas) and 50 km/h (within the city).

Chains

  • No obligation.

  • In the area of Val d'Aoste, chains must be present in the boot from October 15th to April 15th.

  • In areas where it is mandatory, you can use chains or winter tyres.

 

Montenegro

Across the territory of Montenegro, winter tyres are mandatory from November to April on selected roads, as specified by the Ministry of Police.

 

Winter tyres

  • Tyres marked with M+S.

Tread depth

  • Must be at least 4.4 mm.

Studded tyres

  • Prohibited in Montenegro.

Chains

  • It is required to have them in the boot (enough to fit them to the wheels on the drive axle). Drivers who do not comply with this obligation may be fined from 80 to 300 EUR.

  • Chains are used according to the road signs and in accordance with road conditions. Vehicles heavier than 3.5 tonnes must be also equipped with a snow shovel and a bag of sand.

 

Het is goed om aanbevelingen i.v.m. winterbanden te volgen.

It is advisable to observe the recommendations for using the winter tyres.

 

NO OBLIGATION TO USE WINTER TYRES

United Kingdom

Winter tyres

  • The regions where winter tyres are often installed include areas with snowfall and harsh conditions, such as Cumbria, Scotland, and Pennines.

Tread depth

  • Cars below 3.5 tonnes — 1.6 mm.

  • Vehicles exceeding 3.5 tonnes — 1 mm.

Studded tyres

  • Permitted as long as they do not damage the road surface.

Chains

  • Chains may only be used on roads covered with snow or ice.

  • The period in which they may be used has not been defined.

 

Ireland

Winter tyres

  • In Ireland, there are no general rules on using winter tyres, however, experts argue that the increasing yearly snowfall will gradually force the need to equip your car with this type of tyre.

Tread depth

  • Should be at least 1.6 mm.

Studded tyres

  • Allowed. The maximum speeds are 96km/h (national roads) and 112km/h (motorways).

Chains

  • Allowed only on roads covered with snow and ice.

 

Portugal

Winter tyres

  • There are no general regulations concerning their use.

Tread depth

  • No regulation.

Studded tyres

  • The use of this type of tyre is prohibited.

Chains

  • Mandatory only if required by road signs (only in high-mountain regions).

 

Nederland

Winter tyres

  • No obligation.

  • However, experts have proposed installing equipment to suit winter road conditions.

Tread depth

  • Must exceed or be equal to 1.6 mm.

Studded tyres

  • Prohibited

Chains

  • Their use is not permitted.

 

Banden gemarkeerd met M+S en 3PMSF symbolen zijn in veel landen voldoende winteruitrusting.

Tyres marked with M+S and 3PMSF symbol are sufficient winter equipment in many countries.

 

Belgium

Winter tyres

  • Due to the weather conditions, it is recommended to use them in the period between November 1st and March 31st.

Tread depth

  • The required depth is 1.6 mm.

Studded tyres

  • Vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes may use them in the winter season (this also applies to cars of roadside assistance if a special permit has been issued).

  • The maximum speed is 90 km/h (motorways and two-lane roads), and 60 km/h (other roads).

Chains

  • There are no legal requirements, but in winter it is recommended to have them in the boot.

  • Approved for use only on snow-covered or icy roads.

 

Luxemburg

Winter tyres

  • Mandatory in the case of frost, snow, ice or black ice.

  • This obligation is also applicable to motorised tourists visiting Luxembourg.

  • Drivers of vehicles heavier than 3.5 tonnes should have winter tyres installed on the drive axle of their vehicle.

Tread depth

  • Should be at least 1.6 mm.

Studded tyres

  • Permitted from November 1st to March 31st for vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes.

  • They may only be used on snowy or icy roads.

Chains

  • There is no obligation to have them in the car or use them.

 

Poland

Winter tyres

  • No obligation to use winter tyres, but they are recommended from November 1st to April 1st.

Tread depth

  • Not less than 1.6 mm.

Studded tyres

  • Using this type of tyre is totally prohibited.

Chains

  • No obligation to have anti-skid chains in the car boot.

  • In mountain areas, the obligation to have chains installed is indicated by special signs.

  • Permitted only on snowy or icy roads.

 

Hungary

Winter tyres

  • No obligation to use them.

Tread depth

  • At least 1.6 mm.

Studded tyres

  • Prohibited by law.

Chains

  • Permitted only when the road is covered with a layer of snow or ice.

  • It is recommended to have then in the boot during winter.

  • The maximum travel speed with chains installed is 50 km/h. The road sign ‘Mandatory use of snow chains’ means that only properly equipped vehicles will be allowed to enter the territory of Hungary.

  • Driving on dry roads with installed snow chains is punishable with high fines.

 

Albania

This is a country with one of the strictest speed limits in Europe, but given the state of the roads and driving culture, it is justified. Albania's road infrastructure is constantly changing, but tourists should be prepared for very severe road conditions, especially outside urban areas.

 

Winter tyres

  • The law does not require seasonal tyre replacement.

Tread depth

  • The minimum tread depth is 4 mm.

Studded tyres

  • There are no restrictions on their use.

Chains
  • The rules are not defined in any official regulation or directive, but in adverse weather conditions affecting specific areas, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure may announce the installation of winter tyres as mandatory.

 

Greece

Winter tyres

  • No obligation.

Tread depth

  • Should be at least 1,6 mm.

Studded tyres

  • The official rules do not regulate this issue.

Chains

  • Driving with snow chains is only allowed when the road surface is covered with a layer of snow or ice, which prevents its potential damage.

 

De vervanging van winterbanden kan in sommige regio’s noodzakelijk zijn.

Installing winter tyres in some regions may be necessary.

 

Macedonia

Winter tyres are not required in Macedonia, but are recommended between November 15th and March 15th. However, all cars, regardless of their weight and purpose, should be equipped with a snow shovel.

 

Winter tyres

  • It is mandatory to install winter tyres on the drive axle on all vehicles over 3.5 tonnes.

Tread depth

  • In winter, at least 5 mm.

Studded tyres

  • These tyres are prohibited.

Chains

  • Vehicles operating on summer tyres must carry chains in their boots.

 

Bulgaria

Winter tyres

  • No obligation, but experts advise matching tyres to the road conditions.

Tread depth

  • Acceptable tyres with tread of not less than 4 mm.

Studded tyres

  • Prohibited by law.

Chains

  • They must be present in the car from November 1st to March 31st. Mandatory at mountain crosses, when required by road signs.

  • Cars insufficiently equipped may not be allowed to drive on certain routes, or may be refused entry.

 

Denmark

Winter tyres

  • No obligation to have them.

Tread depth

  • Minimum tread depth is 1.6 mm for vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes and 1 mm for vehicles with greater carrying capacity.

Studded tyres

  • Allowed, should be mounted on all wheels. The maximum speed is 80 km/h (national roads) and 110 km/h (motorways).

Chains

  • The permit covers the period from November 1st to April 15th.

 

Remember that differences in the European countries are also present in the provisions defining the car accessories, such as first aid kit, fire extinguisher and warning triangle. Check the differences between Poland and other EU countries and be well prepared for the journey.

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