Top tips for driving in Europe when you are on holiday

Fri 21st Jul 2017

Are you preparing for a holiday abroad this summer? Sharon Parsons of Coodes Solicitors’ Personal Injury team shares her tips for driving in Europe.

If you going on holiday to Europe this year, it is advisable to know some of the regulations and what you legally need to carry in your car.

What to carry in your car

If you get stopped, particularly in France, you may be asked for photocopies of key documents. So, if you are taking your own vehicle to Europe it is a good idea to carry the original and two copies of:

  • Full valid driving licence
  • Proof of insurance
  • Proof of ID (passport)
  • Proof of ownership of vehicle (V5C Certificate)

In most European countries you will need headlight beam adjusters and in most countries dipped headlights are compulsory in tunnels. In France you also need to carry:

  • High visibility vest – 1 per passenger
  • Warning Triangle (also compulsory in Spain)
  • Breathalyser kit – although the French Government announced that the introduction of fines for not carrying these have been postponed indefinitely

Keep some loose change – many European countries operate toll roads (France, Germany and Spain especially) so make sure you have plenty of change. Some toll roads have automated booths and credit cards and prepaid currency cards do not always work.

In France it is illegal to use sat navs that indicate where speed cameras are located. You could be fined up to €1,500 for driving with a satnav or GPS system with this feature. The AA has some useful information on this here.

Drinking and driving

Be aware that in most European countries there is a lower drink-drive limit than in the UK. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, it is 80mg per 100ml blood. However, in most European countries, as well as in Scotland, it is 50mg per 100ml blood – almost half! Clearly, not drinking alcohol at all before you drive is the safest policy.

Other facts about driving in Europe

  • In France, Germany and Spain it is illegal to wear flip flops while driving and you face an on the spot fine if caught. Spain takes it further with a ban on backless shoes and even high heels
  • In some countries a driver who wears spectacles must carry a spare pair
  • In Italy you must only park in the direction of the flow of traffic
  • In more and more European cities you need an Environmental Badge
  • In Austria and Switzerland you need a Vignette (sticker) in all vehicles using the motorway
  • The Police in Spain can impose fines on the spot if you are caught speeding. Visiting motorists must pay their fines immediately or the vehicle will be confiscated until the fine is paid

If you are involved in an accident when driving abroad

Make sure you have a pen and paper to hand so you can take down details if you are unfortunately involved in an accident. If the accident involves a foreign car and caravan or a lorry and trailer make sure you check the licence plate on both parts of the vehicle. In some countries the car and caravan or lorry and trailer have different plates. It has been known for foreign vehicles to get away with insurance claims because only one licence plate has been taken. So check both ends of the vehicle and also take photographs of the damage and of the road conditions.

Spending just a bit of time familiarising yourself with rules and regulations and ensuring you are carrying everything you need to will help you avoid problems when you are on holiday. It is not as much fun as researching the best beaches or planning which restaurants you will visit, but it should help you feel more confident about driving abroad. Safe travelling this summer.

The RAC has detailed advice on driving in Europe here.

If you have been involved in an accident while abroad, please contact Sharon Parsons in the Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence team at Coodes Solicitors on 01326 213033 or

Fri 21st Jul 2017

Get in touch

Call us on 0800 328 3282, or complete the form below and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Search News & Events



Changes to Paternity Leave in April 2024: What do you need to know?

As of 6th April 2024, paternity leave will be changing to reflect a shifting attitude…

Read more


Suspecting a Power of Attorney of financial abuse: what can you do?

What steps should you take if you suspect someone is committing financial abuse as a…

Read more

Portfolio Builder

Select the legal expertise that you would like to download or add to the portfolio

    Download    Add to portfolio   

    Remove All


    Click here to share this shortlist.
    (It will expire after 30 days.)