Driving Laws In Europe
For British tourists, driving abroad has never been easier. Sixt let you book transportation well in advance, our rental cars can be driven from the airport as soon as you have landed. However, many Britons do not research the different rules and behaviours of driving in foreign countries.
Norway Drink Driving Limit: 20mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
Toll fees can add up in Norway; if you're traveling on a tight budget be prepared to take much longer as you will have to avoid motorways, bridges and tunnels
Ireland Drink Driving Limit: 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
Drive slowly when out of town, especially during lambing season. Sheep with suicidal tendencies commonly throw themselves in front of unsuspecting traffic
Denmark Drink Driving Limit: 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
Sidewalk safety is held with such high regard in Denmark, pedestrians have been actively encouraged to wear ‘walking helmets'
Czech Drink Driving Limit: 35mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
Keep your wits about you - many drivers don't bother with indication, stopping at T-junctions is an inconvenience and there's a relaxed approach to giving way
Austria Drink Driving Limit: 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
A ‘Toll Sticker' is required for any vehicle traveling on the motorway in Austria. These cost from 8 Euros for a ten day pass
Netherlands Drink Driving Limit: 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
Watch out for trams in Amsterdam. To avoid your car becoming an unwelcome bumper decoration ensure you always give way to trams
Swiss Drink Driving Limit: 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
Watching your speed requires military precision; just 5kmp/h excess speed can result in an immediate fine
Sweden Drink Driving Limit: 20mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
Sweden is the birthplace of the 'Scandinavian flick' - a rally technique we would rather you didn't practice in our hire vehicles
Poland Drink Driving Limit: 20mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
Poland suffers a road death rate 3 times that of the UK - it might be wise to take it easy when driving
Spain Drink Driving Limit: 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
On the spot fines are common place; keep to the speed limits or you'll be spending your sangria budget on fines
Italy Drink Driving Limit: 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
Basic safety is not included in the Italian driving test; if you can't handle agressive driving it might be best to stick with other modes of transport
Germany Drink Driving Limit: 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
Take heed; don't wash your car in the street on Sundays - it's illegal!
France Drink Driving Limit: 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
Be careful when braking suddenly - French drivers don't believe in leaving a suitable ‘breaking distance'
UK Drink Driving Limit: 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
New drivers of a nervous disposition carry a green P sign - avoid them at all costs!
Croatia Drink Driving Limit: 0mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
The Dalmatian coast line provides some of Europe's best and most scenic driving roads. Contrary to what many people think, Croatia is a very safe country to visit and travel through.
Cyprus Drink Driving Limit: 22mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
The Republic of Cyprus has never published a Highway Code – it's still in the draft stages.
Portugal Drink Driving Limit: 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
People rave about the perils of driving in Portugal – try driving in Italy to gain some perspective!
FCO travel alerts:
Breathalysers - latest
The implementation of the sanction for drivers not carrying a breathalyser – a fine of €11 – has been postponed from 1 November 2012 to 1 March 2013. (October 2012)
Driving in the European Union can be different from the roads in the UK, and failure to abide with laws and regulations can cause legal problems, as well as serious accidents. Sixt also has driving tips for other countries in Europe and Worldwide see our Abroad Driving Tips here.
A full UK driving license is accepted in most EU countries, but the minimum age for drivers differs. In Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Malta, Norway, Sweden and Turkey, the minimum age for UK drivers is 18. In Greece, Portugal, Denmark and Ireland, the minimum age is 17. Those travelling to Sweden and Turkey must be advised that licenses that do not have a photograph must produce a valid passport in Sweden and an International Driving Permit in Turkey.
Rules On The Road
The speed limits in EU countries are mostly the same: 50 km/h in built-up areas, 90 km/h outside of built-up areas, 110 km/h on dual carriageways and 130 km/h (in USA its MPH) on motorways. Always check in the country you are driving, however, as there can be some variations. Sweden is unique as there are no set limits and speed is determined by the quality and safety of the road. Tourists are advised to be cautious and always check speed signs, as the speed limit can change several times on different parts of the same road. In Portugal, Germany, France and Italy, reduced speed limits are imposed for newer drivers (drivers under 21 years of age or drivers who have been had their license for less than three years).
Germany and Sweden have emission zones where motorists are charged a levy for driving through busy cities and towns (similar to London's congestions charges). These don't apply to foreign visitors in Sweden, though. In bicycle-heavy Denmark, motorists must yield to cyclists and in Norway trams have right of way.
Police and Corruption
The police can be much more vigilant in some EU countries, and some officials do not look kindly on foreign motorists. In Greece, police can confiscate the number plates of illegally parked vehicles and, although they are supposed to only do this to vehicles that have been registered in Greece, they will do it to tourists. In Portugal, foreign drivers under the age of 18 may encounter problems with the police even though the minimum driving age is 17. Also, Portegeuse police carry ATM-like technology in their cars for on-the-spot fines. If a toursit refuses to pay the fine or a deposit, the police can confiscate their driving license, registration documents and even vehicle.
Most EU countries look down on speeding and drink driving. Italy has very heavy fines for speeding, and the charges are increased by a third if drivers are caught between the hours of 2200 and 0700. In France, extreme speeding can result in on the spot license confiscation and arrest.
In Norway and Sweden, random breathalyser tests are carried out on drivers and the blood alcohol level is a low 0.02 per cent. In Portugal and Turkey the level is 0.05, but if you are towing a trailer or caravan it is nil per cent. In Germany, Greece and Ireland, the blood alcohol level is also 0.05, but for drivers under the age of 21 or drivers who have had their license for less than 2 years it is nil per cent. Tourists driving in France should be advised that from 1st July 2012, all drivers and motorcyclists have to carry a certified, sealed breathalyser. Failure to carry one will result in a 11 Euro fine.
Radar and speed camera detectors, even in GPS systems, are prohibited in Italy, France, Germany, Portugal, Denmark, Sweden and Ireland. Some EU countries require vehicles to carry equipment in case of a breakdown. Italy advises drivers to carry a warning triangle and first aid kit, but in Greece and Turkey it is compulsory to carry these items as well as a fire extinguisher. In Denmark, Norway and Ireland it also compulsory to carry a warning triangle when driving, and in Portugal it is compulsory to carry photographic proof of identity at all times, as well as a reflective jacket.