European driving and local laws

By Tom Bentley
on August 13, 2019 11:45:46 AM BST

European driving and local laws

By Tom Bentley
on August 13, 2019 11:45:46 AM BST

With the summer in full swing, many holidaymakers will be packing up their car and heading off to European holiday destinations. It is estimated that over 400,000 cars will travel through the channel tunnel over the summer, but drivers should be aware that their trip could cost more than they bargained for.

France, Spain and Italy are the three favourite destinations for Brits driving abroad, but new rules across Europe mean it is much easier for local police to stop and fine drivers breaking the laws in their countries.

We've put together some of the most important things to be aware of to help make sure drivers don’t hit any bumps in the road.

Required kits for driving abroad

By law, UK drivers in France must carry certain items in their car. These include a GB sticker, spare headlight bulbs and a high-visibility or reflective jacket. Any drivers caught without these items face an on-the-spot fine of £135. 

French law also states that drivers must carry breathalysers in their car.  As well as carrying a breathalyser, drivers should be aware that drink driving laws in Spain and France are much stricter than in the UK, with the European countries enforcing a limit of 0.5mg (a small beer) vs. the limit in the UK of 0.8mg (a pint).

As it is compulsory in Austria, France and Germany, drivers must carry first aid kit in their vehicle compartment. Drivers must also carry warning triangle and at least one reflective jacket within the passenger compartment of the vehicle and must put it on before the driver gets out in an emergency or breakdown situation.

As well as having the right kit, drivers should also be aware of some of the more unusual overseas laws. In Spain, drivers can be fined up to €200 for driving while shirtless and driving in flip-flops is also against the law.  In France, it is illegal to drive with headphones on.

Spare tyres

In Spain, it is compulsory to carry a spare tyre and the tools to change a tyre including protective gloves, in addition to a warning triangle and reflective jacket. Drivers who wear glasses to drive should also carry a spare pair when driving in Spain.

Some cities may ban certain cars during heatwaves so beware of additional rolling vehicle bans that may be brought in during the summer. The best way to check is to look online for official emissions schemes or local news to see if additional restrictions have been imposed.

If you’re thinking of driving long distances, be sure to factor in public holidays e.g. 15th August in France, Belgium, Spain, and Italy because businesses and shops may not be open throughout the national holiday. It is advisable to check your tyres before you go and always carry a spare tyre and repair tools.


Check if your insurance will cover you when driving overseas. This is one of the most overlooked aspects of taking a car abroad as most drivers believe their insurance will offer the same over when driving abroad. Not all insurance policies will offer this cover, so it’s important to check before you head on your trip. It is also important to travel with insurance documents, as this will save a lot of time and hassle should drivers need to make a claim.

Under EU rules, UK car insurance policy provides third-party cover for when you drive within the EU or EEA i.e. your provider will pay out if you damage another car, but not if you damage your own or if it gets stolen. However, UK breakdown cover is rarely valid overseas, so check before you go anywhere and contact your provider to upgrade your cover to Europe.


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