Driving advice European driving

Make sure you know everything you need to know about driving in the European country you'll be visiting, including what precautions you may need to take and specific items you may need to carry in your car with you.

Read our hundreds of car reviews to find out which cars have the best boot capacities for transporting suitcases and everything else required for a holiday abroad.

Driving in Austria, France, Italy, Portugal or Spain

Driving abroad: the rules
 Austria aFrance bItaly cSpain d
Valid UK driving licence insurance and vehicle documentsCompulsoryCompulsoryCompulsoryCompulsory
Minimum age18181818
Passport carried in carNot compulsoryNot compulsoryNot compulsoryNot compulsory
Reflective JacketsCompulsoryCompulsoryCompulsoryCompulsory
GB/NI sticker eCompulsoryCompulsoryCompulsoryCompulsory
Warning triangleCompulsoryCompulsoryCompulsoryTwo are required (front and back)
Breathalyser fNot compulsoryCompulsory (2 required)Not compulsoryNot compulsory
International Driving Permit (IDP) required for UK licence holdersNo (unless you have the older style green UK licence)NoNo (unless you have the older style green UK licence)No (unless you have the older style green UK licence)
Headlight adjustmentYesYesYesYes
Tolls (Mororway)YesYesYesYes
Radar/Laser speed camera detectors gProhibitedProhibitedProhibitedProhibited
GPS speed camera locators gPermittedProhibitedPermittedPermitted
Mapping based speed camera locators gPermittedPermittedPermittedPermitted
Replacement bulbsn/aRecommendedRecommendedYes (and the tools to change them)
Spare wheeln/an/an/aYes
Seat beltsCompulsory for front and rear (if fitted)Compulsory for front and rear (if fitted)Compulsory for front and rear (if fitted)Compulsory for front and rear (if fitted)
First-aid kitYesNoNoNo
Fire extinguisherNoNoNoNo
Spare petrol cann/an/an/an/a
On the spot finesYesYesYesYes
Snow chains/winter tyresYes hYes hYes hn/a

Table notes

  1. If you are using the Austrian motorways (autobahn) and ‘S’ roads, you must display a ‘Motorway Vignette’ – a sign that you place on the inside of the windshield (which you can purchase at some petrol stations in neighbouring countries). If driving in wintry conditions, it is recommended that you fit either winter tyres or snow chains.
  2. You need to obey the ‘priority to the right’ rule that gives way to vehicles joining a road from the right (even if they have stopped at a road junction). Exceptions to this include motorways, roundabouts, and if there are orange diamond and white road signs. Also trams have priority.
  3. Private and hire cars are not permitted to enter historic centres of many Italian cities without an official pass
  4. Be wary of 'bogus' Spanish police – all traffic-related police officers should be in uniform, and unmarked vehicles will have flashing 'Policia' signs.
  5. In some countries outside the EU a sticker is still required even if you have euro-plates
  6. French rule came into force 1st July 2012, with 'soft' introduction meaning fines will start being levied from November 2012
  7. The rules in France prohibit any device that informs the driver in real time, of the presence of a fixed or mobile or a police check
  8. Snow chains must be fitted when using roads covered in snow only

Requirements in other popular countries

Australia

You’ll need your driving licence and passport with you in the car at all times when driving in Australia.

Greece

You’re required to carry a fire extinguisher if driving in Greece.

Russia and Belarus

It is reportedly against the law to drive a dirty car in both Belarus and the Russian Federation.

USA and Canada

In some US states and in Canada (except parts of Québec), it’s okay to turn right on a red light – you can ‘jump’ the lights as long as no other vehicle is approaching. Rules can vary from state to state.

Other sections in this guide

  1. Overview
  2. What you should take with you
  3. Driving abroad advice
  4. European driving
  5. Car hire abroad