Driving Laws In Europe

For British tourists, driving abroad has never been easier. Sixt lets you book transportation well in advance, our rental cars can be driven from the airport as soon as you have landed. However, you may still need to research the different rules and behaviours of driving in foreign countries for a stress free drive.

 

For full details on driving in Europe and renting with Sixt, take a look at our Sixt European Car Hire page which has comprehensive information on Sixt hire cars, services and locations in Europe or read more for handy driving checklists, laws and tips.

 

If you are looking for more detailed guide of driving tips Sixt has driving guides for several countries check them out here: 

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.

Driving License

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 must produce a valid passport in Sweden if your license does not have a photo. If you are visiting Turkey, then you need an International Driving Permit.

 

European Rules Of The Road

The speed limits in EU countries are usually 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 on motorways. Always check in the country you are visiting, 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 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 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 have been sometimes known to 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, Portuguese police carry ATM-like technology in their cars for on-the-spot fines. If a tourist refuses to pay the fine or a deposit, the police can confiscate their driving license, registration documents and even vehicle.

 

Regulations

Most EU countries look down on speeding and drink driving is illegal. Italy has very heavy fines for speeding, and the charges are increased by a third if you are caught between the hours of 22.00 and 07.00. 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 accepted blood alcohol level is a low 0.02 percent. 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 percent. Tourists driving in France should be advised that 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 Sat Navs, are prohibitedin 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. 

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