These 10 tips for driving through Europe will help you prepare for a safe and fun European road trip.
Sometimes just visiting a city in Europe isn’t enough. Road trips or just driving through different countries can bring an additional layer of interest to your travel experience.
Driving through different areas can be a bit confusing; they all have different rules and standards for driving on their roads.
Check the rules before renting a car in Europe
Renters make sure you check all the rules for the countries you’re planning on driving through. USA Today lays out a 6 step process to help people rent cars in Europe. Most rental companies will have summaries of pertinent laws and rule available.
The main thing to check on is insurance requirements on the rentals; coverage requirements will vary from country to country and vehicle to vehicle. Your agent or the van insurer you select should advise and recommend accordingly.
Keep a Warning Triangle for breakdowns
Have a warning triangle in the vehicle. The majority of countries in Europe require the placement of the triangle behind broken down vehicles.
Navigate with Technology
Bring a GPS or Satnav. As you drive through different countries with different languages, it can become difficult to know where you are or easy to miss turns.
According to an article from Aviva, “Some countries now also prohibit the use of GPS based navigation systems which have maps indicating the location of fixed speed cameras meaning that you must deactivate the ‘fixed speed camera’ PoI (Point of Interest) function.” So check with the rental companies or with hotels, or read more here.
Familiarize yourself with signs and symbols
Know the different road signs. Almost all of the signs are different than they are in the US.
Check speed limits
Check the speed limits. The speed limit signs are the ones with a number circled in red. The numbers will be the speed limit in kilometer per hour, unless in the UK.
Have cash/credit card on hand
Keep cash or a card on you. Why? “Be aware that in certain countries—Italy, France, and Spain among them—police will charge you traffic fines on the spot, so be sure to carry ample cash or a credit card or you could face impoundment,” as Travel and Leisure puts it. So again be mindful of traffic rules.
Be aware of areas with restricted areas
Be aware of areas with traffic restrictions. Some major cities in Europe have rules against or fine for entering a specific area in a city. Central London visitors can be charged for entering the area. Athens has restrictions where only even numbered car license plates can go in on even numbered days, and vice versa.
Drinking and driving is a risk you don’t want to take
Even one beer can have consequences. Most countries have comparable standards to the US or UK, but Russia, Czech Republic, and Slovakia do not allow there to be any alcohol in your system.
Another “fun” alcohol related tip is France requires a certified Breathalyzer to be with all drivers. Certified Breathalyzers will have an “NF” on them.
Gas station requirements vary
You may need an adapter to pump your gas, or have to add an additive to the gas.
What do locals do?
Check with locals to find out about the unwritten rules of the road. Rick Steves wrote, “In Rome, red lights are considered discretionary. On one trip, my cabbie went through three red lights. White-knuckled, I asked, “Scusi, do you see red lights?” He said, “When I come to light, I look. If no cars come, red light stupido, I go through. If policeman sees no cars — no problema. He agreed — red light stupido.”
Now do not let these little speed bumps prevent you from hitting the road through Europe. I know they can make the trip seem like it’s more of pain than it might be worth, but it’s not. There’s not going to be a better way to see Paris, London, Berlin, and Prague all in a single trip, because this allows you to hit all the smaller towns along the way, including those that the trains miss.
Written by Brendon Hall, a road trip & car enthusiast, whose favorite trip included: driving from Atlanta, visiting Raleigh before heading up to Washington DC, just to wake up the next morning to drive to Philadelphia, drive back to Richmond before heading back to Atlanta, all in four days.