Car Driving Guide in Europe for Tourists

If you want to go on holiday in Europe and hire a car, you must be aware of the local driving rules.  This is essential in order to avoid heavy court fines and, in the worst case scenario, even losing you  license.  There are different rules for all the different European countries, but we will only take a look at some of the most popular tourist destinations here.  If, however, you are planning a holiday in any other European country, why not let us know and we will provide you with the relevant information?

Driving in France and Monaco

Car Driving Guide in Europe for TouristsIn order to drive in France, you must be at least 18 years old, although you can drive a motorcycle up to 80cc when you are sixteen.  Petrol and diesel is available, however there is no leaded petrol.  Speed limits depend from one place to another and change regularly according to the weather.

The general rules, however, are that vehicles without trailers can drive up to 50 km per hour in built up areas, 90 km per hour outside built up areas, 110 km per hour on an urban motorway and 130 km per hour on a motorway.  The speed limit lowers by 20 km per hour in wet weather.  If you break the speed limit by more than 40 km per hour, your license will be confiscated on the spot.

You must wear your seatbelt in both front and rear seats.  Children under the age of 10 must travel on a child seat and cannot travel in the front.  The permitted blood alcohol level is 0.05%, or 0.02% for coach drivers.  The penalties for breaking these laws are severe and may include a jail sentence.  On the spot fines are also very high and can be issued for various reasons.

One very interesting rule to keep in mind is that you now have to carry a breathalyser with you.  However, there is little clarity about when this will become an enforced rule as it was going to be the 13th of March 2013, but this has now been postponed.

Some things to know:

  • “Priorité a droite” means you have to give way to the right.  Other signs can be “vous n’avez pas la priorité” (you don’t have right of way) and “cédez le passage” (you must give way).  Traffic on a roundabout always has priority, unless otherwise stated.
  • You are not allowed to use your horn in built up areas.
  • You may not use radar detectors for risk of losing your car.
  • Remember that France has many toll roads, where you will have to pay “payage” in order to proceed.  It is often very difficult to get off one of these roads, so make sure you always have some Euros with you.

Why not hire a car if you want to see France and Monaco?

Driving in Belgium

Car Driving Guide in Europe for TouristsThe speed limits are slightly different in Belgium.  Built up areas have a limit of 50 km per hour, outside of these it is 90 km per hour.  Motorways and dual carriage ways have a limit of 120 km per hour.  The minimum speed on these roads is 70 km per hour, unless a traffic jam takes place.

Child restraints have to be in place for children under the age of 18 who are less than 1m 53cm tall.  The permitted level of alcohol in the blood stream is 0.049%.  Fines and rules as a consequence depends on how much above the levels are and how long a license has been held.  There are numerous roads where cruise control is not allowed to be used.  Almost every level crossing in Belgium is equipped with a camera.  If the crossing is crossed on red, an immediate fine will follow.

These are but a few of the rules to follow if you want to hire a car in Belgium.

Driving in Germany

Car Driving Guide in Europe for TouristsThe speed limits in Germany are always interesting, because everybody knows about the autobahns which have no speed limits.  There are some limitation in place, however.  In a built-up area, it is 50 km per hour.  Outside of this, it is 100 km per hour.  On the autobahn, there is no limit, but the recommendation is 130 km per hour.  Cars must be able to drive at least 60 km per hour in order to be permitted on the autobahn.    If it rains or there is poor visibility, the limit is 50 km per hour.

The permitted drug alcohol level is 0.05%.  Fines depend mainly on the age of the driver and the length of time a license has been held.  Interestingly, there are no such things as wheel clamps in Germany.  However, a vehicle can be towed away.

It is not permitted to use spiked tires in Germany.  It is, however, obliged by law to use winter tires during the winter and using summer tires during this period of time can result in immediate fines. Germany is also very green, which means there are numerous emission zones, which means you may have to carry a “vignette” to show in which category your vehicle belongs.

Why not explore a larger part of Germany by hiring a car?

Driving in Greece

Car Driving Guide in Europe for TouristsThe minimum age at which someone can hold a license in Greece is 17. Speed limits are often complicated to understand and depend on the weather, the type of road and whether you are driving a car or other type of vehicle.  There is clear signage, however, so make sure you pay attention. The alcohol percentage here is 0.05%, but for those under the age of 21 or those who have held their license for less than 2 years, the percentage is 0.02%.

Illegal parking is taken very seriously, and your license plate can be removed if you are found to be illegally parked.  You are not allowed to use your horn in cities or towns.

Why not go island hoping in your own vehicle by hiring a car in Greece?

Driving in Spain

Car Driving Guide in Europe for TouristsDriving in Spain is very similar to other countries.  The alcohol percentage is 0.05%, but drivers under the age of 21 or those who have only held their license for two years have a limit of 0.03%.  Fines are on the spot and vehicles can be clamped or towed at any point.  Just as in Greece, the speed limits can seem confusing, so pay attention to the signs and try to find out what the limits are for your type of vehicle before you go.

Drivers with glasses should carry an extra pair of glasses with them.  You may not sound your horn in built-up areas.  You are not allowed to use spiked tires anywhere in Spain.  There is a very interesting rule for parking in one way streets.  On uneven days of the month, cars should be parked on the uneven numbered side of the street and vice versa on even days.  There should be signs explaining this,  but it may leave you to have to check first the date and then the house numbers before you park up.

You will be able to see much more of mainland Spain if you choose to hire a car.

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