Home Drive Tolls

Beware of Tolls

This photo shows multi lanes of cars coming to a stop because of toll booths on the road.

Carry at least $20 in miscellaneous coins for tolls.

If you want to know where the toll booths are, here are some tips.

In addition to $200 cash for gas, always carry at least $20 in assorted small bills and coins. You’ll need it for paid parking and tolls.

(In Canada there are $1 and $2 coins. In the US, there are $1 and $5 bills. Both have 25¢ quarters, 10¢ dimes, and 5¢ nickels. The US has 1¢ pennies, but Canada no longer uses them.)

If you plan your drive using Google or Apple maps, it tell you if the route has tolls or not. Scroll down the driving directions and it will show exactly where they occur. Usually there are signs along the highway as well.

The toll booth will always be on a critical bridge, highway section, or offramp, where you can’t avoid them, even if you wanted to. So come prepared.

For example, last time we drove near Chicago, they had one dollar toll booths every couple of miles. The whole highway came to a grinding halt, over and over again, as everyone searched for a one dollar bills to pay the person in the booth.

After we got fed up with the tolls, we decided to take another route. But we had to pay to LEAVE the freeway. Seriously, an automated arm blocked the offramp. To open it we had to toss 35¢ into a collection cup.

That’s one of the dumbest things I’ve experienced on a road trip. How are tourists supposed to know, that they need to carry loose change like quarters and dimes, just to get OFF Chicago freeways?

Some toll highways don’t charge a dollar every few miles, they put one massively expensive toll booth, in the middle of the wilderness. Such used to be the case with the Coquihalla highway in BC, Canada, which cost $18, to save two hours of drive time, between the coast and interior cities.

I bring up the Coquihalla in the past tense, only to demonstrate the point, that much of the travel info on the internet is out of date. The highway has been paid for and the toll no longer exists. So always check your favorite maps app before you go, and be sure your GPS maps are up to date.

In some places the tolls are automated. They have cameras that take a photo of your license plate as you cross a bridge.

On the upside, you can zoom through the toll booth without delay. On the downside, you get an invoice in the mail a couple of months later, which means going through the hassle of logging into their site, or setting up an account, just to pay a couple of dollars.

If you’re on a really tight budget and need to avoid toll booths, check your map app before planning the route, or set the GPS to avoid them. Just be aware that you could be adding a lot of time, perhaps hours to your trip.

Personally, I think you’d be better off carrying the $20 in change, because no matter where you drive, toll booths always pop up unexpectedly. They are a fact of life on the road, even when all you’re trying to do is LEAVE the freeway.

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