Europe road rules · Road rules in Europe
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Road rules in Europe
Road rules in Europe
There are no uniform speed limits across the union, the fabled limitless German autobahn is now limited to mostly rural sections. The majority of motorways/freeways have a 110-130 kph (70-80 mph) speed limit, while the limit on undivided highways varies between 80 and 100 km/h (50-65 mph). For North Americans, a major difference is the left lane on highways, which are not the "fast lane" you're used to, but rather the "passing lane", it's illegal to overtake on the right, so you should only occupy the outer lane when you are overtaking someone; stay there, and you will have other vehicles tailgating while flashing their lights in annoyance and traffic police eager to fine you. Remember to use turn signals when changing lanes.
Except for priority streets (check the symbol in the table) there is a general duty to give way to traffic from your right in crossings and intersections that are not marked, and other drivers have every expectation you adhere to this. This also applies to unmarked T-intersections, unlike in North America where the ending road should normally yield to the through road even if unmarked. But in the ubiquitous roundabouts (circles) you find everywhere across the continent, cars already in the circle always have the right of way, don't give way to incoming drivers while in the roundabout, or you will mess up the system, potentially causing some nasty accidents. Finally, don't do right turns on red lights (unless the light features a green right arrow sign, in which case right turns on red are permitted), it's illegal, and because it's not common practice, also dangerous.
Markings and signs are similar throughout Europe but variations in design and interpretations exist so it may be very practical to research each country individually before you travel
Avoid large cities if you are not used to driving in Europe. Most city centres were built long before the introduction of the auto-mobile, and were not meant to cope with the levels of traffic common these days. So for the most part it may be a slow, frustrating and potentially dangerous experience, and even then, finding a parking spot can potentially take a long time and cost an arm and a leg when you find it. Streets in the old city centres also tend to be very narrow and difficult to drive on. In addition, Instead Park at the outskirts of town, where it is often free, and use the, usually extensive public transit system instead. If you are renting, try to work around having a car while visiting large cities.
Age: Almost everywhere, especially in the EU, you need to be 18 years old to drive, even supervised, and in countries with Learning schemes, it's usually an exhaustive procedure to get a permit, and rarely applicable to foreign citizens anyway. Exceptions include Portugal, Ireland and the UK.
- A warning triangle is compulsory nearly anywhere, and so is using it in case of breakdowns.
- Hi-Visibility (reflective) vests are compulsory in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Portugal and Spain and gaining popularity elsewhere.
- Headlamp Adjusters are also compulsory equipment in most countries, but in the U.K. and Ireland only if you are driving a continental car.
If you plan on renting a car for driving across Europe, it often makes sense to check the rates in different countries rather than just hire a car in the country of arrival. The price differences can be very substantial for longer rentals, to an extent where it can make sense to adjust your travel plans accordingly. I.e. if you plan on travelling around Scandinavia by car, it will often be much cheaper to fly into Germany and rent a car there. Compared to North America, you should be prepared for smaller, but more efficient cars, and automatics are rarely available ant at extra cost, never expect one without requesting it while placing your order.
In any case driving in Europe is an expensive proposition, gas prices hovers around $7-8 per gallon (€1.30-1.50 per litre) in much of western Europe, while often slightly cheaper in Eastern Europe. Rentals are around 2-3 more expensive than in North America, Highway tolls are very common, city centre congestion charges increasingly so, and even parking can work up to €50 ($70) per day in the most expensive cities. Driving can be an enjoyable and feasible way to see the countryside and smaller cities, but most Europeans would find a vacation to say, Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam, in a rented car completely laughable.
- Original Registration Document is compulsory
- Motor vehicle insurance certificate is compulsory
- A black and white, 1-3 letter country identity sticker is compulsory for cars without EU license plates.
- International driving permit, while it's not compulsory for certain nationalities in some European countries, it's cheap, and could potentially save you from nasty incidents with authorities.
The Most Frequently Asked Travel Questions about Europe
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Europe Travel Guide from Wikitravel. Many thanks to all Wikitravel contributors. Text is available under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0, images are available under various licenses, see each image for details.