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The Rules of the Road: European Driving Rules and Regulations

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If you’re one of the lucky souls ditching air travel for an all-hands-on-deck road trip discovering our vast and varied continent, then we’re here to help with our informative guide on the rules and regulations for driving around Europe.

Similarities end as soon as you leave our shore. For starters driving on the opposite side of the road can already bring with it a whole new level of difficulty. But even if you’re a keen traveller who regularly find themselves driving on the right hand side, it’s wise to refresh yourself before leaving blighty as just like our driving legislations, European Regulations are subject to change.

The Essentials

Whether you’re off to France or Finland, Belgium or Bulgaria, Poland or Portugal, nobody’s keen to be the one holding up the 300 holidaymakers whilst at border control, therefore here’s a list of the documents you’ll need when travelling in your car abroad:

  1. Valid Driving Licence & paper counterpart
  2. Another form of ID (passport)
  3. European car insurance*
  4. Proof of ownership of vehicle and/or hire car contracts


Unlike in the UK, various countries in and around Europe also require you to carry a number of items in your car for emergencies. These are pretty standard throughout the whole of Europe:

  1. Reflective jacket (kept within reach inside the main cabin of the vehicle)
  2. Warning triangle
  3. Headlamp beam deflectors (if you can’t do this manually, you can purchase deflective stickers)
  4. Spare exterior light bulbs
  5. A first aid box
  6. Functional spare tyre or tyre repair kit


Also, if driving in or through France, you must also carry one unused breathalyser displaying the French NF certification mark.

Although you won’t be breaking any European legislations by not having a policy in place, we feel European break down cover is certainly an essential item for when your vehicle leaves our shores.

Tip: Print off the above checklist ready for your holidays.

*Not all car insurance policies include European travel, or for the most part will only offer minimal coverage.

The Confusion Around Breathalysers, Solved

European Driving Rules and Regulations

Look out for breathalysers with the French NF certification mark

There are many of you who question the French legislation around breathalysers, but it’s hardly surprising. Since July 2012, every person driving in France has been required to carry a self-test breathalyser in their vehicle at all times. Plans were in place to enforce an on the spot fine for those found without the equipment in their vehicle from November 2012, this was subsequently postponed to March 2013. However, the French Government have since announced this sanction will be postponed indefinitely.

So yes, to comply with the law you must carry a breathalyser in your car, however if found without one, although you won’t be fined on the spot, you will be issued with a written warning and subsequently fined if found without one on a separate occasion.

Speeding Limits

EVERY country outside of the UK in Europe measures the speed limit of their roads in kilometres per hour (kmh or kph), not miles per hour (mph). Pretty vital information when you’ll see is a number in a sign (which will always be a higher number than in the UK) with no indication of measurement.

Luckily the majority of vehicles do have the conversion from mph to kmh on the speedometer. If not you’re looking at around 1.6 kmh in a mph.

Below you’ll find a handy guide on speeding limits on various roads, as they differ from country to country. But instead of listing each and every country within the continent and confusing you with too many numbers, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 most popular driving destinations in Europe.






130kmh (100kmh in wet)

90kmh (80kmh in wet)







For restricted roads130kmh




130kmh (110kmh in wet)

90kmh (80kmh in wet)


























As you can see for those of you driving around Norway this year, be sure to make sure you give yourself plenty of time to arrive at various destinations as their somewhat slow motorway’s (90kmh = 55mph) could become something of a hindrance.

On the other hand don’t make your way into Germany, hit the motorway and think it’s ok to let yourself loose and speed along at 120mph. The reality is, only a fifth of the famous German Autobahn network is unrestricted!

Call It Your Written Warning

In recent years there have been reports on a number of incidences where con-artists will prey on unsuspecting and naïve holidaymakers, who let their guard down when in holiday mode. Deemed as ‘Highway Pirates’ by the Foreign Office, they have been particularly rife across the border of Spain, targeting hire cars and foreign registered vehicles.

Most will attempt to pull you over to either to point out a fault on your vehicle (such as headlamp bulbs etc) or in extreme cases accuse you of hitting their vehicles, all in all, it’s any attempt to make you step out of your vehicle. In extreme cases, they have been known to masquerade as police officers.

If, the worst scenario, you happen to get pulled over – whether disguised in police uniform or not – ensure you stay in your vehicle, winding down the window cautiously. In line with our own force, every police officer will carry their official ID so be sure to ask if found in this kind of situation.

But by all means, don’t let these few and far between incidences leave you worried, it’s just a handy bit of information to keep at the back of your mind in case of emergencies.


We always appreciate a good factoid here at TyresOnTheDrive and these European driving laws are no exception. With hefty fines in place for not complying with law, we’re bringing UK drivers up-to-speed on the following European legislations to ensure nobody is caught out whilst on their travels this year:

DO NOT switch lanes in Spain without indicating, failure to do so can result in an on-the-spot fine

DO carry a spare pair of prescription glasses if you’re required to wear glasses for driving

DO NOT enter any Zona Traffico Limitato (ZTL) in Italy, these can either be prohibited to all cars or only those without permits

DO switch off any speed camera warning devices (even those found on Sat Navs) when entering France or Spain

DO NOT travel to Germany in the winter without having winter or all-season tyres fitted to the vehicle

DO make sure your compulsory first aid box is in a dirt-proof box whilst in Austria

DO NOT use your horn (no matter how frustrated you may be) in a built up area in Spain or Italy

For more information on travelling in and around Europe for your holidays from in-car activities for the kids to the hidden costs of travelling abroad, keep up-to-date with our blog throughout the summer months.   

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