Driving abroad: Know the local rules

Chris Lee
Written by: Chrissie Lee
Posted on: 1 September 2015

There's more to driving abroad than just making sure you’re on the right side of the road, there are laws to obey no matter your destination.

For example, make sure you have your licence, insurance and vehicle registration documents with you wherever you travel.

Cars must also be equipped with GB stickers and headlight beam converters.

It’s also a good idea to keep your passport with you; you’ll need ID if the police stop you.

There are other rules particular to specific countries though, so here’s a rundown of what to do when driving in Europe.


Each car should have at least one unused breathalyser displaying the French NF certification mark. You can’t be fined if you don’t have one, but it’s always best to play safe where the law is concerned.

Speed camera warning devices are banned in France, so if your sat nav has this function, disable it before you start driving.

Speed limits and safety kit: The speed limit on the motorway is 130kmh (110kmh in the wet), open roads are 90kmh (80kmh in the wet) and towns 50kmh. Make sure you have a warning triangle and a reflective jacket in the cabin of the car. It’s recommended dipped headlights are used during the day, whatever the weather, but be absolutely certain they are on when there is poor visibility.

Bear in mind...

The French police can fine you on the spot. They do take credit cards, but for extreme offences you could have your licence confiscated. If that happens, and there isn’t another driver with a valid licence in the vehicle they will impound the car.


Like France, there are a variety of recommendations for travelling in Germany. Make sure you have a warning triangle and a first aid kit, and use dipped headlights or daytime running lights while driving. Again, you won’t get into legal trouble if you don’t do these, but we advise sticking to the rules.

Speed limits and safety kit: Ignore the myths: only 20% of the German motorway (Autobahn) network has unrestricted speed limits. When there is a speed limit, it’s shown and is usually 130kmh. On roads out of town, the limit is 100kmh, and in built-up areas it’s 50kmh.

Bear in mind...

If you’re driving in Germany during the winter, you must have winter or all-season tyres fitted. There’s a 60 Euro fine for violating that law which rises to 80 Euros if you hold up other drivers because your tyres aren’t suitable.

  • Cobbled street with road signs
  • Dashboard and steering wheel


The motoring law most commonly broken by Brits in Italy is straying into a Zona Traffico Limitato (ZTL). These are areas usually in town and city centres, and are either totally prohibited to cars or limited to residents with permits. Enter one without permission and you’re likely to end up with a fine.

Speed limits and safety kit: Italy has a speed limit of 130kmh on the motorway (110 in the wet). On single carriageway main roads it reduces to 90kmh (80 in the wet) and is 50kmh around towns. Italian law says drivers must keep a warning triangle, reflective jackets and replacement light bulbs in their car. During the day, dipped headlights should be used outside built-up areas, irrespective of the weather.

Bear in mind...

Stay calm - it’s illegal to use your horn in built-up areas.


The rules of the road are strongly upheld in Spain. For example, not indicating when changing lanes on the motorway is a big no-no, and drivers can be given on-the-spot fines if they don’t do it.

Speed limits and safety kit: The speed limit on the motorway 120kmh; it’s 90kmh on open roads and reduces to 50kmh in built-up areas.

Cars must carry one warning triangle (two are recommended) and drivers should carry reflective jackets and spare spectacles if glasses are required for driving. You must also have a functional spare tyre or a tyre repair kit.

Bear in mind...

Spanish police can issue on-the-spot fines. Tickets should have an explanation in English on the back of them, and drivers have up to 15 days to dispute any fines. The dispute can be conducted in English too.

Just like Italy, it’s against the law to use your horn in a built-up area.


Like France, speed camera warning devices are illegal. Keep a reflective jacket plus spare bulbs for your external lights in the car’s cabin, and if you wear glasses or contact lenses, make sure you’ve got a spare pair in the car.


Keep a warning triangle and reflective jacket in the car – you can be fined if you don’t have them.


Keep a reflective jacket in the car as well as a warning triangle and first aid kit in a dirt-proof box.


Warning triangles, spare light bulbs and reflective jackets are compulsory in Andorra.


Drivers must use dipped headlights during the day and cars must carry a set of replacement fuses as well as replacement bulbs. A warning triangle, first aid kit and a reflective jacket are also essential.

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