Know before you go: driving in Europe part 1

Other than remembering to drive on the other side of the road, there are a few key things to keep in mind when you get off the ferry on your way to your next camping holiday. We’ve put together a helpful guide containing the need-to-know information for driving in Europe. This is part 1 of a blog series, so look out for part 2 with more destinations next week!

In all European countries, if your car does not have a euro license plate (the little GB symbol on the side of your number plate) you will need to display a GB sticker on your car.


There are a few extra things you’ll need to make sure your car is equipped with while driving in France.

Alongside your valid driver’s license, proof of ID, proof of ownership and proof of insurance, you’ll need the following extras:

  • Reflective jackets for each occupant of the car in case of a breakdown. Keep in mind, you may face an on-the-spot fine from police for not wearing one when you get out of the car.
  • Warning triangle.
  • Headlamp beam deflectors. These depend on your car – you either need stickers or will have to adjust your headlights manually.
  • Breathalyser/alcohol test – cheap single-use kits can usually be purchased at ferry ports.

Children under 10-years-old must sit in the back seats (even if they are prone to motion sickness). The exception to this is if there is no rear seat in the car. In France, the use of child car seats is determined on weight, not height as it is in the UK. Children up to the age of 10 must travel in a child seat or restraint.

If you are driving for a long distance within France you’re likely to come across tolls on most motorways. Tolls in France only accept payments in cash or with a Mastercard or Visa (Maestro and Electron are not accepted).

Something to keep in mind if you have a breakdown, as French motorways are privately owned, you are not allowed to request your own roadside assistance company to attend to you. There are orange emergency telephones located roughly every mile along main motorways and roads that you can use to phone the police or the official breakdown service operator of that area. If you cannot find one of these phone 112.

For 2017, France has introduced a clean air certificates program in some of its major cities, find out more here.


Spain’s rules of the road share some similarities to France, but there are also a few key differences.

You will need to carry in your vehicle (alongside your important documents of valid driver’s licence, ID, proof of ownership and proof of insurance):

  • Reflective jackets- although these are not mandatory as they are in France, if you are caught walking on the road or hard shoulder without a reflective jacket you may be fined.
  • Warning triangle.
  • Headlamp beam deflectors. These depend on your car you either need stickers or will have to adjust your headlights manually.

Children up to 12-years-old and measuring less than 135cm must be seated in a child restraint system if travelling in the front seat. If the child measures more than 135cm they may use an adult seat belt. If the child is under 135cm and travelling in the back seat they must also be placed in an appropriate child restraint system.

When it comes to tolls on Spanish motorways, most use an electronic payment system. You can buy a small transmitter from banks or petrol stations which you attach to the windscreen of your vehicle.


Alongside your documentation (valid driver’s licence, international driving permit, proof of insurance, proof of ID and proof ownership) you will also need to carry in your vehicle:

  • Reflective jackets, which must be worn if you are involved in a breakdown or accident.
  • Warning triangle.
  • Headlamp beam deflectors. These depend on your car you either need stickers or will have to adjust your headlights manually.

When travelling with children in your British car in Italy, follow the British legislation.

Tolls are enforced on most Italian motorways with payments able to be made in cash or by Eurocard, Mastercard and Visa. (Maestro and Electron are not accepted).


For further information on driving in Europe, the RAC website has all the information you need. If you are renting a car on a fly drive journey, be sure to double check whether you will be provided with the necessary equipment for your vehicle, or if you need to purchase it ahead of time.

Categories: Know before you go, Travel

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