Whether this blog comes in handy for ensuring that you don’t catch the attention of foreign policeman or is more a source of fun facts when making friends on your European adventure, we hope that you enjoy it. For a comprehensive summary on the more usual driving laws and regulations that you should be aware of when travelling in Europe, check out Sixt’s Guide to Hiring and Driving in Europe.
So, from the sublimey ridiculous and unnecessarily bizarre to the just plain boring hassle, here is our round up of the strange driving laws that Europe entertains:
Packing for your trip…
- A useful one for our UK roadtrippers who take their cars to Europe, in most European countries they like to be able to easily spot you and require you to have a GB sticker on your vehicle (unless your number plate already includes a GB symbol).
- If you wear glasses or contact lenses and you’re driving in Spain, Portugal or Switzerland then remember to dig your spare pair out to take with you as drivers are required to carry an additional pair when driving.
- Leave the jerry can at home and beware of running out of fuel without a petrol station near when driving in Portugal as it is illegal to carry a can of petrol in the car at any time.
- A common one that most people are aware of: when driving in France all motor vehicle and motorcycle drivers are required to carry a self-test alcohol breathalyser. Still worthy of including in this blog because France is the only country in the world to require this. Plus, a short time after the law was created, there was a somewhat back-track with the announcement of the indefinite postponement of any penalties for non-compliance (which is a whole €11!). This is a relatively cheap penalty for France, where breaking traffic laws can be punished with up to €375 fine or even vehicle confiscation.
Enjoying yourself on the road…
- Sticking to the drinking and driving theme, front seat passengers in Macedonia are not allowed to be visibly under the influence of alcohol.
- And Cyprus operates a zero tolerance policy – on all drinking at the wheel, including non-alcoholic drinks like water. This extends to eating too, with a fine of €85.
- Whilst smoking when driving is illegal in Greece.
Driving like a local…
- Your dreams of a hitchhike from Aberdeen to the Zheleznodorozhny (its in Russia…!) may be dashed as many European countries forbid hitchhiking… including Russia, Switzerland and Lichtenstein.
- Roundabouts are always tricky but take extra care when driving in the Netherlands, as on some roundabouts you have right of way when you’re on it and on others you have right of way when coming onto it. Look out for signs at roundabouts when driving in France, they will show that traffic on the roundabout has priority, however if there is no sign present then traffic joining from the right has priority instead. Similarly in Germany, traffic on the roundabout has right of way, except if there is a sign indicating otherwise. Drivers must not indicate when entering a roundabout but don’t forget to do so when leaving it.
- Watch out when driving in Malta as it is not customary to indicate when changing lanes.
- Scandinavian and some Baltic countries require headlights to always be on whilst driving – even when in bright daylight.
- In Slovenia your reverse lights are not enough – when reversing you must also put your hazard lights on.
- Spain likes to mix it up with their parking laws – in some cities cars must be parked on different sides of the road according to the day of the week, whilst on some on-way streets you can only park on the side of the road where houses have uneven numbers on uneven days of the month and on the side of even numbers on even days. Whereas Belarus treats parking a little more relaxed, with no marked disabled parking bays and no parking meters.
- In Switzerland don’t leave your car keys inside the car with the door unlocked or you could face a fine.
Looking after your baby…
- More European Governments than expected take a keen interest in vehicle cleanliness, and it is illegal to drive a dirty car in countries such as Bulgaria, Belarus and Russia.
- In Switzerland you are not allowed to wash your car on Sundays. Germany had the same law but modified it to allow car washing on Sundays after midday (so your church going time is not disturbed). Although you are not able to do this car washing with water and detergent on the street, even if it is your own property.
- Children under 10 in France need to be in a child seat, the type of seat and positioning in the car (front or back facing) depends on the child’s weight. Children under 10 are not allowed to travel in the front seats of vehicles without a child seat, unless there is no rear seat in the vehicle or the rear seats are already occupied (with children under 10) or there are no seat belts. But no seat belts are illegal too!
And a final word…
- Sneaking in a weird driving law for the UK seems only fair, although the most outrageous is one that applies only to Hackney carriages: all Hackney taxis must carry a bale of hay and bag of oats in their vehicle!
- And to round up, a special mention to Saudi Arabia, although not in Europe, where it is illegal for women to drive.
For more information on renting with Sixt and driving in Europe, take a look at our Europe Car Hire Page.