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Driving in Europe

7th July 2016

Driving abroad can be a daunting experience with different laws, speed limits and traffic signs to contend with. A small amount of research beforehand, however, can make your journey a lot less stressful!

Merityre Specialists have put together a guide on driving in Germany, Spain, Italy and France. We would recommend that you use this as a starting point and you should also research traffic signs and other laws when you are considering driving abroad.


Germany

In Germany, cars drive on the right hand side of the road and you must remember that all speed signs are in kilometres, which may be confusing if you plan to drive your own vehicle which displays speed in miles.

Traffic lights work in a three light system. When a red light with a green arrow displays, motorists may turn in direction of the arrow as long as they give way to other road users and pedestrians.

Speed Limits

The speed limits in Germany, unless otherwise signposted, are:

50 km/h (31mph) in built up areas

100 km/h (62 mph) outside built up areas

130 km/h (80 mph) on dual carriageways

130 km/h (80 mph) on motorways

In bad weather the maximum speed limit is 50 kmph.

To Carry

It is recommended that you carry the following items when driving in Germany:

  • A warning triangle as it is compulsory that you signal your vehicle if you break down
  • A reflective jacket which you must carry if driving a German-registered vehicle
  • First aid kits are recommended

Other Information

  • Speeding can be punished by on the spot fines
  • There are no tolls to pay on German motorways


Spain

In Spain you must be over 18 years old to drive, regardless of the legal age to drive in the country you hold a licence. You must drive on the right hand side of the road and be aware that speed limits are displayed in kilometres.

Most Spanish motorways are toll roads and these can be paid in cash or credit card at toll booths positioned along roads where tolls are levied or you can rent a VIA-T box, register a payment and drive through toll roads without stopping.

Speed Limits

The speed limits in Spain, unless otherwise signposted, are:

50 km/h (31mph) in built up areas

90 km/h (55 mph) outside built up areas

80 km/h (49 mph) on dual carriageways or motorways in built up areas

120 km/h (74 mph) on motorways

To Carry

When driving in Spain you must carry the following items or you may face a fine:

  • One warning triangle, however, it is recommended that you carry two
  • A spare wheel and tools to change it or a tyre repair kit
  • A reflective jacket carried in the passenger compartment – you must wear these if you leave your vehicle on a busy road or face a fine.

Other Information

  • Speeding is heavily monitored and you can receive a hefty fine for being as little as 1km over the limit


Italy

In Italy cars drive on the right hand side of the road and speed limit signs are displayed in kilometres. Like in Spain, you must be over 18 years old to drive a vehicle.

Italian motorways are frequently toll roads and will charge a fee dependent upon distance. You can pay these fees at the tollbooths situated at different points on toll roads. Alternatively, Europeans may register online for a Telepass which will connect to your bank account and automatically pay the tolls for you.

Speed Limits

The speed limits in Italy, unless otherwise signposted, are:

50 km/h (31mph) in built up areas

90 km/h (55 mph) outside built up areas

110 km/h (68 mph) on dual carriageways
130 km/h (80 mph) on motorways

In wet weather, speed is restricted to 90kmph (55mph) on dual carriageways and 100kmph (62 mph) on motorways.

To Carry

When driving in Italy you must carry the following items or you may face a fine:

  • A warning triangle
  • A reflective jacket or waistcoat
  • Snow chains (or winter tyres) must be used between 15 October and 15 April

Other Information

  • City centres in Italy tend to be ZTL zones which are exclusive for residents. Watch out for signs as entering these zones can result in fines

France

In France cars drive on the right hand side of the road and speed limit signs are displayed in kilometres. You must be over 18 years old to drive a vehicle, except for a motorcycle up to 80cc which you are allowed to drive from 16.

French motorways are privately owned and most are toll roads. Tolls can be paid by cash or credit card. You can register for the electronic liber-t télépéage tag, however, you will need to pay an application fee and a refundable security deposit.

Speed Limits

The speed limits in France, unless otherwise signposted, are:

50 km/h (31mph) in built up areas

90 km/h (55 mph) outside built up areas

110 km/h (68 mph) on dual carriageways
130 km/h (80 mph) on motorways

If you have been driving for less than three years or in wet weather, speed is restricted to 80kmph (49mph) outside built-up areas, 100kmph (62mph) on dual carriageways and 110kmph (68 mph) on motorways.

To Carry

When driving in France you must carry the following items or you may face a fine:

  • A warning triangle
  • At least one reflective jacket or waistcoat
  • Snow chains
  • Single use breathalysers which have been approved by the French government

Other Information

  • Driving with headphones and headsets is prohibited in France
  • If you break down on a French motorway, you cannot arrange your own breakdown cover, instead, you will need to use the orange phones situated every 2km.

Things you must carry when driving in any European country:

  • Passport
  • Driving licence
  • Travel insurance documentation
  • Copy of breakdown cover
  • Contact numbers
  • European Health Insurance Card
  • International Driving Permit

Stay Safe

We would also recommend that you carry spare bottled water in case you need to top up your engine coolant whilst driving, an in-car mobile phone charger and a paper map in case you run in to difficulty on the road.

If you are driving in your own vehicle it is your responsibility to ensure that it is in good condition. This means checking the pressures, condition and tread depth of your tyres and ensuring that your lights and brakes are in working order. In addition, you should also check that all engine fluids are filled sufficiently.