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Driving in Europe - Requirements and Advice

When driving in Europe there are a number of rules and regulations you need to follow to ensure you stay safe and legal. Each country has its own requirements but there are a number of rules and certain essential kit you will always need to have.

Camperlands have put together a guide to help you understand the rules and make sure you are porperly equiped to enjoy your trip to the continent.

Beam Benders

Because we drive on the left in the UK our headlight beams point slightly to he left to avoid dazzling oncoming drivers and so need to be adapted for driving on the rest in the rest of the continent.

The legal requirement is to 'not dazzle oncoming drivers'. Beam Benders will do this for most vehicles although they are not suitable for all types of light. Check your vehicle handbook or with the manufacturer if you are unsure.

HID (High Intensity Discharge) and xenon headlights can sometimes be adjusted by a screw or lever at the back of the light unit but sometimes these will have to adjusted by a professional.

First Aid Kit & Fire Extinguishers

Each country has different rules on whether first aid kits and fire extinguishers are required, recommended or not needed, and the rules for visitors can vary from those for vehicles registered in the host country. However, the European Good Samaritan Law requires that every driver stop and provide assistance in the event of an accident so it is strongly advised to carry these items even in the UK.

GB Sticker

If you have a UK vehicle with a number plate which does not display the GB Euro symbol, you need a GB sticker for driving in Europe.

You always need a GB sticker for UK registered vehicles driving outside Europe.

This must be clearly displayed on the rear of your vehicle.

If you are taking a trailer or caravan remember to get one sticker for the towed vehicle and one for the towing vehicle for use when not towing.

Spare Bulbs

In most countries it is not a legal requirement to carry spare bulbs but it is illegal to carry on driving with a blown exterior bulb anywhere in Europe. While with some HID lights it is very difficult or even impossible for a non-professional to change the bulb unit, it is highly advised to carry spares for any bulb that can be changed by the driver/owner to ensure you can continue with your journey.

Driving License and Documents

All European countries require you to carry the original vehicle registration document (V5 or equivelent) as well as your driving license, and require that you have a minimum 3rd party insurance cover. Many countries will require you to carry proof of insurance.

If you are taking a company or hire vehicle and don't have the registration document you will need a letter of authorisation from the registered keeper and a Vehicle on Hire certificate (VE103b)

All UK driving licenses should be accepted in all European countries however you should consider the following additional advice;

  • If you have an older style, paper only (i.e. no photocard) driving license some countries also require that you carry photo ID such as a passport or citizenship card.
  • If you have an older style 'all green' driving license (issued between Jan 1976 and Jan 1986) some officials may not recognise it adn so you may wish to consider updating the license before you travel or applying for an IDP (international Driving Permit)

International Driving Permit

If you hold a full Uk driving license you do not need an IDP to drive in Europe. However, if you have an older style license which might not be recognised by officials you may consider getting one. It should be carried in addition to your drivers' license.

If you are travelling outside Europe you will need an IDP in addition to you full UK license.

If you need an IDP you can get one from the AA or the RAC. You will need to apply 3 months before travelling and it is valid for one year.

Warning Triangles

It is now compulsary to carry a warning triangle in almost all European countries and recommended in the rest with the following additionall requirement;

  • Spain - 2 warning triangles are required to be carried in Spanish registered vehicles while only one is required for visiting foreign vehicles. However, local officials may impose a fine to foreign drivers found to be only carrying one triangle regardless of the regulations so we advise taking 2 just in case.
  • Croatia - 2 warning triangles are required if you are towing
  • Switzerland - The warning triangle must be kept in easy reach inside the car i.e. in the passenger compartment rather than the boots or caravan/trailer.

Hi-Vis Jackets

The number of high visibility vests you are required to carry and the circumstances under which they should be worn varies from country to country, sometimes with different requirements for different types of road. Since these jackets are so cheap the best advice to ensure you stay safe and within the law is;

  • to carry one jacket for each occupant (legal requirement in spain),
  • ensure the jacket is always worn by any driver or passenger exiting the vehicle at the roadside, and,
  • to keep the jackets in easy reach (required in Spain) i.e. in the passenger compartment not the boot or trailer

Breathalisers

From the 1st July 2012 it is required for drivers of all motor vehicles to carry a working, unused breathliser in France. So far this rule only applies to France but it can be expected to be implemented further across Europe in future.

It must be an NF certified Breathaliser and must be working and unused. It is therefore recommended to carry 2 single use breathalisers in case one is used so you still meet the regulations.

Radar Detectors & GPS

Radar Speed Trap Detectors are almost universally illegal to carry in European countries. Many countries now also prohibit the use of speed camera Point of Interest features on GPS systems. So, if you want to remain legal, you should deactivate this function in your Sat Nav.

Further Advice

Following the guidance above will help you stay safe and legal when travelling in Europe this summer. However, the rules vary with each country and different rules apply for motorcycles and trikes.

For advice on requirements for specific countries you can download the AA driving requirements guide or visit theaa.com