Motoring Advice for Europe

What you need when driving in Europe

The first port of call for anyone crossing the channel to Europe is usually France. In order to drive in France there are a few mandatory requirements that have to be met.

Booking a Ferry

Better Safe Than Sorry

Requirements may change subtly as you travel through France to other European destinations. European Travel Advice offers general advice and information on the rules for driving in Europe but it should always be noted that rules and information may change over time and ultimately it is the responsibility of the driver to ensure that they verify any information supplied and meet any legal obligations in the country they are travelling through.

Driving in Europe Requirements

The first obvious difference between driving in the UK and the rest of Europe is the switch to driving a left hand drive car and using the right hand side of the road. You need to be especially careful when you first enter the country (and when you return to the UK). Also take care when you have made a stop for a break and you are starting off again that you resume on the right hand side of the road. If you are driving a RH drive car leave sufficient space to see if there is oncoming traffic before trying to overtake.

  • Seat belts are mandatory for front and rear occupants
  • The speed limits for urban areas begin at the town or city sign and traffic offences may be subject to spot fines. Always make sure you have a means of paying
  • You may be requested to give over your driving license so it is worth carrying a photocopy as they may accept this as an alternative. If you do have to give up your driving license always ask for a receipt
  • The drink driving laws may be stricter in Europe for example in France the limit is 0.5 mg/ml. So probably better not to drink at all when driving
  • A new law requiring all drivers to carry handheld breathalyser came into force in France on the 1st July 2012. Fines for failing to adherre to the new law commence in November
  • Children less than 10 years of age cannot sit in the front of the car unless it is in a baby seat facing backwards (airbag disabled) or unless there is a legitimate reason the back seat cannot be used e.g. no back seats or they are already occupied by other children under the age of 10
  • There is a €135 fine for not transporting a child properly secured in France. Children between 135cm to 150cm require a booster seat and children less than 135cm are required to be secured in a child’s safety seat
  • The legal age for driving in France is 18 even if you have a full driving license at 17 in the UK
  • The requirement in France is that you carry your car insurance documents, registration documents and driving license at all times when driving. This is a good rule of thumb for any of the European destinations

To ensure you meet requirements for driving in Europe it is a good idea to carry a Total Travel Driving Kit For France With French Breathalysers which consists of:

  • A warning triangle
  • A high visibility vest
  • A set of headlight beam converters
  • A GB identification plate
  • A set of spare light bulbs (required for France and Spain)
  • A French breathalyser kit
  • First Aid Kit (not included with the kit above, but required for Austria)

These are the minimum requirements for a RH drive car but it is also recommended that you carry a fire extinguisher if you want to be ultra equipped for driving in Europe and to meet all the driving in Europe requirements.

Since the 1st July 2012 you now also need a Certified French Breathalyzer for France. In fact the rule of thumb is to carry 2 of these per vehicle but since their introduction the rules around carrying breathalzyers have been relaxed and if you do not have them it is very unlikely there will be any action taken as the fines for failing to do so have been posponed.

For a comprehensive guide for travelling by car in Europe or worldwide you can have a look at the European Drivers Handbook (AA Drivers Handbook) the handbook details information on skills, advice, safety and laws.

Road Safety Overseas – from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office

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