Driving in Europe

So you’re going on holiday; whether it’s for sunny Spain or snowy Switzerland, you must bear in mind that there are specific rules for driving in Europe. For starters, most European countries drive on the right hand side of the road. Yes, you probably knew that, but did you know that in certain countries you need two sets of prescription glasses? And in others, if you don’t have reflective jackets for all passengers you may get fined?

Well if not, here are a few top tips for you to follow so you don’t get caught short in Calais (or anywhere else)!

What do you need?

Driving around Europe is a lot of fun, but it does require some very specific items. We would suggest making a travel document pack and keeping all of the bulkier required items safe and together in case you need them. Keep in mind that if you hire a car some of the required safety items will not be provided, so make sure you carry your own, just in case.

Travel Document Pack:

• Valid full driving licence(s)
• Passport(s)
• Travel insurance – your normal insurance may not stretch to the EU, and it’s a must-have when driving in unfamiliar territory)
• Vehicle registration documents
• Motor insurance certificate
• Letter of authorisation – if your car is borrowed, hired or leased to you, you will need this from the registered keeper.
• EHIC – it’s free and it reduces the costs of medical treatment while you’re out there. Even if you end up not driving, it’s a handy little thing to have! And it means that some treatments are absolutely free!

Other Items:

• GB sticker – you’ll get extensive fines if you don’t have one. However, if you have the GB Euro symbol on your number plate you won’t need one.
• Reflective jackets for emergency/breakdown
• Breathalysers – it’s now illegal to drive in France without one breathalyser and two nozzles in your car.
• Headlamp beam pattern conversion system. Normally in the form of stickers, these let you adjust your headlamps to better suit driving on the right.
• Warning triangle
• Snow chains for winter trips – these are compulsory in the winter months where snow is heavy and thick. Any visits to Alpine European countries will require these.

We recommend that these should all be in your car anyway, but having a first aid kit, jack and wheel, tool kit, torch and blanket are all sensible items to carry if you’re driving in Europe. Just in case those long journeys tire you (or your car) out.

Advice for driving in Europe

There are several easy-to-prevent vehicular mishaps that can really get in the way of having a good time when you’re driving in Europe. Use this checklist to make sure your holiday gets off to a flying start!

Think RIGHT!

The most important thing is to always THINK RIGHT. It seems silly, but many people often forget to stick to the right hand lane, especially when they’re tired. Be aware of people in other lanes by constantly checking your wing mirrors (especially the left hand ones!) and drive cautiously and carefully.

Check your car

Before you leave for your epic adventure, check your car all over. Tyre pressure, oil and water levels and check that all of your exterior lights are clean and working. Just like you would for any other long journey. Also be careful that you haven’t overloaded your car! It’s tempting to take a lot of things on holiday, but you can be fined by the police in any European country if your car is too heavy (not to mention you’ll have no room for your souvenirs)! Check your vehicle’s maximum load and be sure you don’t exceed it.


If your car runs on leaded petrol, bring some along with you as it is not available in many European countries.


There are a lot more tunnels in Europe than in England. The longest is almost 15 miles so you need to know how to adjust your driving for these tight conditions. Before you go in, check your fuel and turn your headlights to a low beam. Take those sunglasses off, you won’t be needing them in there, and pay attention to what’s going on around you. Leave a distance of 5m between you and the car in front, and if traffic stops turn off the engine and remain in the car.

No matter what happens in a tunnel, never perform a U-Turn or reverse as that is dangerous for both you and your fellow drivers. If you are desperate to leave the tunnel keep an eye out for the emergency exits.

In the case of a breakdown or accident, pull over into a layby or as far to the nearside as possible. Turn off the engine but leave the keys in the ignition. Put on your reflective jacket and get out of the car to notify rescue/emergency services via the emergency telephones available.


Another thing Europe has a lot of is toll roads. Remember to keep all the spare change you get or have tucked away at home so that you’re not holding up the queue. You can also get toll tags for your car, so that means you don’t have to fumble for change and the toll will be charged to your card automatically. It saves time at the queues too!

Weird and wacky rules for driving in Europe

• Spain and Switzerland require a spare set of prescription glasses in the car
• If you’re in Spain never wear flip flops while driving
• In Italy only park in the direction of the flow of traffic
• Don’t stop or break on the Autobahn in Germany – it’s illegal!
• Before driving in Denmark, check under the car for children. We don’t know what they’re doing there either.
• Don’t drink water behind the wheel in Cyprus, you’ll get a hefty fine!
• Don’t beep your horn if you’re driving up a mountain (in any country) – people will think there’s an avalanche!

Hopefully you’re much clearer about driving in Europe, and all the rules and regulations involved. If you think your boot won’t fit all this extra stuff, or you just want a nice car to zoom around in, take a look at our new cars or get in contact with your local Perry’s dealership.