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Summer holiday driving - the European regulations you need to know

Summer holiday driving - the European regulations you need to know

Taking your own car on holiday is a fantastic way to save money. Not only does it spare you the cost of hiring a car, you also can pack in as much luggage as possible without any risk of excess baggage fees.

However, driving in Europe isn't as simple as remembering to drive on the other side of the road - every country has different regulations you need to be aware of. For many countries, there are lists of items you must carry or else risk a fine. To help you plan for your holidays, we've rounded up the things you need to know about driving regulations in Europe.

Austria

Need to carry:

  • Warning triangle.
  • First aid kit in a strong dirt-proof box.
  • A reflective jacket for the driver to wear in the event of a breakdown.

Be aware:

  • You must have winter tyres on your car between 1 November - 15 April.
  • You must display a motorway toll sticker. These can be purchased from petrol stations close to the border and cover up to ten days, two months or one year. You'll be fined a maximum of 120 Euros if you don't display it.
  • Dash cams and radar detectors are not allowed in Austria.
  • The use of the horn is not allowed in Vienna or in the vicinity of hospitals.
  • It is compulsory to form an emergency corridor whenever traffic congestion occurs on motorways or dual carriageways and highways, regardless of whether emergency vehicles are already in the vicinity or not. 
 

Belgium

Need to carry:

  • A reflective jacket for the event of breakdown/accident or if stopped where parking isn't allowed.
  • Warning triangle.
  • It's recommended that you carry a first aid kit and fire extinguisher, as it's compulsory for Belgian nationals to do so.

Be aware:

  • Parts of Antwerp are deemed low-emission zones and as such, there are limits on which cars can enter so check before you travel.
  • It's prohibited to use cruise control on congested motorways and some motorways during road works. 
  •  Most roundabouts have signs showing that traffic on the roundabout has priority. If there is no sign present (very few roundabouts), traffic joining from the right has priority. 
  • Any stationary vehicle must have its engine switched off, unless absolutely necessary. 
  • A car navigation system with maps indicating the location of fixed speed cameras is permitted, but equipment which actively searches for speed cameras or interferes with police equipment is prohibited. 

France

Need to carry:

  • Warning triangle.
  • Snow chains, which must be fitted on snow-covered roads in accordance to local road signs.
  • At least one reflective jacket within the passenger compartment of your vehicle.
  • One unused breathalyser which must be in date and not damaged.

Be aware:

  • Parts of Paris, Grenoble and Lyon have been declared low-emission zones and require you to display a CRIT-Air sticker. You can apply to get one before you travel.
  • Carrying a spare set of bulbs is recommended.
  • You must not use headphones or headsets or any device that is attached to your ear when driving.
  • You must not use your horn in built-up areas except in cases of immediate danger. 
  • Any GPS navigation system with maps that show location of fixed speed cameras must be deactivated or ideally removed.
  • You must not overtake a stationary tram when passengers are boarding or getting off. 

Germany

Need to carry:

  • Winter tyres, which must be used during winter weather conditions.
  • It's recommended that you carry a warning triangle as it's compulsory for German nationals to do so.
  • It's also recommended you carry a spare bulb kit.

Be aware:

  • If you have a GPS or Satnav system that can show the location of speed cameras then this function must be disabled. 
  • You must not overtake or pass a school bus that is approaching a stopping point - you could be fined if you do.
  • This sign means that you must not drive faster than walking pace. The walking pace speed has not been legally established but it's no more than 7kph. 

Ireland

  • It's not compulsory to carry any equipment.

Be aware:

  • You are not allowed to use your horn between 11.30pm - 7am.
  • Some level crossings have manual gates which you must open and close. 
  • The M50 Dublin is a barrier-free toll road, so you need ensure you have paid your fee at any Payzone outlet by 8pm the next day.

Italy

Need to carry:

  • Warning triangle.
  • Reflective jackets for drivers and passengers - all will need to wear one in the event of a breakdown.
  • Snow chains (or winter tyres) which need to be used between 15 October - 15 April.

Be aware:

  • If you have an overhanging load, such as a cycle carrier on the back of your car, you need to display a fully reflectorised square panel measuring 50cm x 50cm - you can get them from most camping shops.
  • There is a pollution charge payable in the centre of Milan if you enter on a weekday.
  • You must not use your horn in built-up areas except in cases of immediate danger. 
  • In many historical centres and major towns, traffic is restricted from entering areas known as 'Zone a Traffico Limitato' or ZTL's. View Italy Access Regulations. 

Norway

Need to carry:

  • Warning triangle.
  • Reflective jackets in the passenger compartment. You should wear them if you or your passenger need to exit the vehicle.
  • Winter equipment - winter tyres or snow chains.
  • It's recommended you also carry a first aid kit, fire extinguisher and a set of replacement bulbs.

Be aware:

  • You must use dipped headlights during the day.
  • If you are towing a caravan you are required to have special extended rear-view mirrors in place.
  • You will have to pay tolls on some roads, bridges and tunnels, as well as city tolls in Bergen, Haugesund, Kristiansand, Oslo, Stavanger, Tonsberg and Trondheim. You have to pay city tolls before entering 'the zone' and can do so at the nearest Esso station. 
  • You must always give way to trams. 

Portugal

Need to carry:

  • Reflective jacket.
  • Photographic proof of identity at all times.
  • Temporary Electronic Toll Device (DEM) or Pre-Paid Tolls. Find out more.
  • Warning triangle for use when in an accident or breakdown.

Be aware:

  • You are not allowed to carry bicycles on the back of your vehicle - they must go on a roof rack as long as the total height isn't more than 4m.
  • No dash cams are allowed in Portugal.
  • You must not use spiked tyres or winter tyres. 
  • You must not use your horn in a built-up area during the hours of darkness except in the case of immediate danger. 
  • Make sure to top up a Temporary Electronic Toll Device before you go away on your trip, since many tolls in Portugal now only have this option to pay. Calculate your toll costs here.
  • An EASYtoll card is the simplest solution, and can be purchased on entry to the country. It will be used to cover the automatic charges that are incurred through automatic number plate recognition at tolls. You can find a dispenser just past the border town of Salamanca.

Spain

Need to carry:

  • Spare wheel and the tools to change it.
  • Warning triangle - one is compulsory but two is recommended as officials could fine you for only using one in an accident or breakdown.
  • Reflective jacket - anyone getting out the vehicle on a motorway, main road or any busy road must wear one.
  • If you wear glasses to drive, you should carry a spare pair.

Be aware:

  • If you are carrying one or more bicycles on the rear of your vehicle you must fit a 50cm x 50cm reflectorised panel, which you can buy from most caravan or motorhome accessory shops. 
  • You must not use your horn in an urban area except in an emergency, but may flash your lights. 
  • It is recommended that you use snow chains in appropriate conditions - the police can stop you for not doing so. This usually applies from November to March. 
  • If you use a phone while driving it must be fully hands-free. You must not use earpieces or headphones while driving and could be fined ?200 if caught doing so. 
  •  Alternate side parking operates in some cities. This states you can only park on the side with the even numbered houses on even days of the month and on the side with the odd numbered houses on odd days of the month! 
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