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Baby & child.

12 August 2021

Child car seats laws around the world

Get up-to-date information on car seats rules and regulations in top holiday destinations
HF
Hannah Fox
Car-hire-advice 1

Heading abroad for a family holiday, but unsure about the local rules on car seats? Find out all you need to know before you jet off. 

UK law states that children must use a child car seat until they're 12 years old or 135cm/4ft 5in tall, whichever comes first. But the rules and regulations for other countries can be different. 

To save you time and hassle, we've compiled the child car seat rules and regulations for some of the most popular holiday destinations, with the help of international car seat experts from other consumer organisations. 

And make sure you check our list of Don't Buy child car seats before you hire a seat abroad, so you don't get stuck with a seat we don't recommend.

Child car seat law by country

Family on beach

How to find the UN approval label

You'll usually find the car seat approval label on the back or the bottom of the car seat. Take a look at the picture above to see what it looks like. It will either say ECE R44.04 or UN R129. 

UN approved Child car seat labels

See which car seats did well in our crash tests in our child car seat reviews

Car seat regulations

The car seat regulations in the table above apply to everyone driving in that country, including tourists. And while it's debatable how strictly these rules will be applied to tourists, we still think it's worth knowing them.

Now test your knowledge in our car seat laws quiz

See how much you already know and what you've picked up from reading our advice, by taking our quick quiz that tests your knowledge on car seats laws, both at home and away.

Travel car seats: bring your own or hire?

If you're hiring a car abroad for your family, you'll need to decide whether to travel with your own child car seat or pay for one from the car hire company.

We've heard some horror stories from parents about the travel car seat they've been offered by car hire companies on arrival. These range from turning up to travel and finding no baby car seat available, to having to travel with a toddler car seat that’s the incorrect size for a child.

If you can manage with the extra baggage, and are travelling within Europe, we recommend taking your own child car seat if possible rather than hiring a travel car seat. But here’s what you need to consider to help you make your decision:

Top travel car seat tips

  • If you need to pick up a car abroad, check the cost of hiring a child car seat car seat in advance. It could be cheaper to take your own.
  • Even if you have to pay extra luggage charges as a result of bringing your own car seat, it may not be that much more expensive than the travel car seat hire fee.
  • Bear in mind that car hire companies normally say the provision of  car seats  is subject to availability.   
  • The only choice of travel car seat could be one that’s the wrong size or car seat group for your child. When you're given the car seat, make sure it's suitable for the age and weight of your child by checking the label on the back. If it's been a while since you've bought a child car seat, give yourself a refresher before you go with our car seat weight groups.
  • You might be offered a seat that isn’t in the best condition. Check the seat before you drive off to make sure that the harness isn't damaged or worn and the buckle works properly.
  • Hire a travel car seat and you might end up with an older model that doesn’t have the same safety innovations as newer models.
  • You could also end up with a Don’t Buy car seat. It could be a seat that we don’t recommend because of serious safety concerns. If you are going to hire a travel car seat, phone or email ahead to see what models of car seat are available.
  • You’re unlikely to get help fitting a travel car seat, so if you are going to hire one, make sure you make sure you have our guide to how to fit a child car seat handy.
  • In the unlikely event that it has been fitted for you, use our car seat fitting checks so you can double check and give yourself peace of mind that it has been installed properly.
Family at airport

Should I buy a travel booster seat or bring my full-sized car seat?

When you’re looking for a portable car seat for travel, it can be tempting to go for a booster seat for an older child. They are smaller and lighter to pack than a full-sized car seat.

But our car seat experts and many others warn that these backless cushions are not the best way to transport children.

If you’re looking for a travel car seat for a toddler, we’d recommend using a high-backed booster seat for older children instead, whenever possible. The booster seats we've tested have not proved as safe in our crash tests as high-backed booster seats with a full-length back and 'wings', as these provide extra protection for the head and chest in a side-impact crash.

Any child car seat is better than no car seat at all

Whatever you choose to do following our advice, remember that any child car seat is better than no car seat at all, both for safety and to prevent you breaking the car seat laws of the country you’re travelling to.

Don’t forget the UK car seat law for taxis and Uber to the airport

London black cab taxi

If you're taking a taxi or an Uber to the airport in the UK, the current law states that in a licensed taxi or minicab (private hire vehicles):

  • children under three can travel without a child car seat or seat belt, but only on the back seat
  • children aged three or older can travel on a rear seat without a child car seat if they wear the adult seat belt.

If you have a child under three, some experts feel the best option is to sit the child next to you on their own seat (if they are able to) rather than holding them on your lap, which isn't safe. In a serious crash, an adult's arms would not be able to hold on to a child, and your body weight could crush them.

Our advice is to call the taxi company in advance or check before you book an Uber. See whether it has an appropriate car seat available to use, or check to see if you can use your own (if taking it with you on holiday).

For young babies, where it's not possible to sit them on the seat and a car seat isn't an option, it may be possible to keep them in their pushchair in the back of a black London taxi (Hackney carriage).

Booster seats - are you breaking the law? If you absolutely have to use a booster seat, read our guide for top tips on the best way to use one in a taxi.