Driving In Europe by:Stuart Johnston
If your holiday in Europe involves driving this year, make sure you are aware of all the important information that's available to you, before you travel.
Throughout the EU (European Union) driving rules and regulations may be different to that of your Country of residence, so as a responsible driver you will need to familiarize yourself with the latest information so as to avoid breaking any laws in the countries that you are visiting, or even just driving through. The following essential guidelines are provided to assist you prior to your departure, but it is best to check the specific laws for each country which you intend travelling through.
Compulsory Motoring Equipment
All vehicles must display a number plate in EU style with the ring of stars containing the country code, or a small plate/sticker with your country code (eg: GB, etc) which should secured to the rear of the car. Vehicle headlights should be adjusted correctly so as not to 'dazzle' oncoming drivers. Warning Triangles and Reflective jackets were made compulsory in France last year, so if it's your first visit or you haven't been for some time, check each Country you wish to visit, as many EU Countries require that reflective jackets be fitted and worn before leaving a vehicle if a breakdown occurs, or you need to walk to a phone box. One or sometimes 2 Triangles must be carried in vehicles and some insist on their use during breakdowns or when repairs are required. Spain already has these rules in place, but other countries adopting this policy are: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Slovakia and Slovenia. Motorists may face an on-the-spot fine for a breach of these laws. If you wear corrective glasses for driving in Spain, you must have a spare pair with you in the car at all times.
These documents need to be carried at all times when driving:
A valid Passport and any applicable Visa.
The original Vehicle Registration form.
A Full current Driving Licence.
The original Motor Insurance Certificate (Check the Policy covers your travel arrangements)
An IDP - International Driving Permit where required. (Available from Post Offices)
General Driving Tips
Driving on the right hand side to your holiday accommodation in Europe can feel strange, so if it's your first time and you're on unfamiliar roads, it's best to be cautious at the start. Although road signs in Europe are the same take notice in city and town centres, where Parking and Restricted Access Zones may differ or prohibit certain types of vehicles. Parking meters and wardens are commonplace even though you may not realize it, so be prepared to 'pay to park' as normal. Finally, check the destination (local) roads & transport authority for any specific rules that may apply.
Never leave any valuables in your car when it's unattended. It only takes a minute for a thief to cause havoc for you by stealing possessions from your car or motor-home. The loss of goods is bad enough, but if your documents or bank cards go missing it takes quite a time to report and sort out the mess, let alone the loss of holiday enjoyment time. Always think twice about what's left behind when you park and lock the car! You may not realize that some types of Chip & Pin cards are not recognized across Europe and as such, when you go to pay for goods or services, only cash may be accepted. Beware when re-fueling your vehicle by automatic pump which does allow card payment, don't depend on your card, but always keep some spare cash handy.
Always drive within the permitted speed limits, as speeding motorists who get caught in Europe often face an on-the-spot fine. Apart from the danger to you and your passengers, this can also disrupt your journey significantly and delay your expected holiday destination arrival time. Although Sat Navs are permitted and very useful too, speed camera warning devices are not allowed in some countries and could result in fines or imprisonment for drivers if found in your vehicle.
Drinking and driving in Europe is not tolerated and with much lower or zero limits, some countries impose very severe penalties on guilty drivers! If drinking alcohol, leave the car behind - however short the journey may be! Using taxis or local buses may seem inconvenient, but it's far safer for everyone that way.
Driving with children
Driving to your holiday rentals in Europe destination inevitably means long journey times and that often spells 'boredom' for kids and teenagers. As soon as you plan your journey, think about the children and how they will feel stuck in the back seat for 8 hours or more travelling to your holiday accommodation in Europe. Be creative with your ideas and devise a number of interesting things for them to do or look out during the journey. Avoid the potential for arguments by taking a light-hearted view of whatever's going on. Involve the children in choosing some dedicated locations for rest periods, where everyone can unwind or expel any pent-up energy before you set of again. Picnic spots and Rest Areas are frequently spaced out along major routes and motorways, often well signed in time for you decide if it's right for a break. Tiredness affects both drivers and passengers, so if anyone is feeling uncomfortable, then a comfort stop at least is due to stretch your legs and refresh for a while.
Whatever country(s) you decide to visit, allow time to research the areas beforehand that you will be driving in and adjust your arrangements accordingly. Check out self catering holiday villas in Europe.
About the author
Stuart has spent many years travelling throughout Europe, America and the Caribbean. More recently trips have included Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Fujairah in the UAE. Stuart also enjoys travel writing and the daily management of http://www.holidayrentalcentre.co.uk/