Driving in Western Europe: What You Need to Know
Welcome to the JMW guide ‘Driving in Western Europe: What you need to know’, a resource to help you navigate the roads of the continent and make sure you stay on the right side of the law, wherever you are.
On this page, you will discover general advice from our solicitors that applies to the whole of Western Europe, and then, by clicking on the map below, you will find a country-by-country breakdown of specific laws for driving. These breakdowns will cover elements such as speed limits, use of lights and horns, seat belts and booster seats for children, motorcycles and how to drive in wintery conditions.
Western Europe includes:
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If you have had a road traffic accident while abroad that wasn’t your fault, you are entitled to make a claim for compensation. Our specialist solicitors have a wealth of experience with this tricky area of the law and the different requirements that a claim arising from an injury abroad may have, as opposed to a claim in the UK. Whether you were a driver or a passenger, our expert solicitors can help you through the claims process, providing excellent legal advice throughout so you can get on with what’s really important - recovering from your accident.
To speak to a member of JMW’s accidents abroad team, get in touch by calling us on 0345 872 6666 or by filling in our online form and we will get back to you.
General Driving Advice for Western Europe
Whether driving your own car in Europe, or hiring a local car once you’ve arrived, it is important to take a few basic steps to avoid falling foul of the law, stay safe and make sure you have a great holiday.
You could be asked to show your documents at any time and failure to do so could result in a fine, or even have your car taken away if they're not in order.
- When you’re behind the wheel, you may need to carry the following:
- Your valid full (not provisional) driving licence (including the paper copy)
- A copy of your DVLA driver record and a licence check code
- An International Driving Permit
- Your vehicle's registration document (V5C) (the original not a copy)
- Your motor insurance certificate
- Your passport(s)
- Your travel insurance documents
You may need a visa for certain countries too. We would always advise that you check what documentation requirements any country you are to be driving in has, before you travel.
Hired, leased or borrowed
If you're taking a hired, borrowed or company-owned car abroad then you'll need a letter of authorisation from the registered keeper as well as the original vehicle registration document (V5C) or a Vehicle on Hire Certificate (VE103).
Low emission zones and urban restrictions
Many cities across Europe now operate and enforce congestion charge schemes and low-emission zones, many of which affect vehicles bought in the UK. Some cities will require you to apply and register for a pass before you travel.
You must wear seatbelts in the front and rear of the vehicle, if fitted, in all countries in Western Europe.
If you become involved in an accident, assault or any other distressing situation, you can call the emergency number 112 from anywhere in the European Union. This number acts similarly to our 999.
Driving and use of a hand-held mobile is against the law in most countries.
Everywhere we have covered in this guide requires drivers to drive on the right. This can be easy to forget, and many drivers find it helpful to stick something on the dashboard or windscreen as a reminder.
You must display a GB sticker on your vehicle and without one, you could be issued with a fine. The only exception to this is if you have euro plates (number plates including the GB euro symbol), in which case you don't have to display a conventional GB sticker within the EU.
Many countries require all drivers to carry reflective jackets and wear them as soon as they exit a vehicle in an emergency or breakdown. In some countries, passengers as well as drivers must wear a reflective jacket. While some car hire companies do provide reflective jackets, not all do and so it’s worth checking in advance.
If you’re driving in the winter months, snow chains can be useful and, in some countries, are a legal requirement even if you've got winter tyres fitted.
Sat nav systems that show fixed-speed camera locations are banned in most countries and so you should disable this function if taking one abroad.
Using or carrying a police speed trap detection device is also illegal in most European countries.
- During the day you must use dipped headlights
- Riders must wear crash helmets