Driving in mainland Europe can throw up scenarios and challenges that you may have not considered before setting off. To help you negotiate any obstacles you may encounter and to ensure your trip is an enjoyable one, we’ve put together a brief guide of things to look out for and a few do’s and dont’s.
As this is only a summary, make sure you’re familiar with the driving laws for the specific European country or countries you plan to visit.
The right side is the right side
The vast majority of European countries drive on the right-hand side of the road (Ireland, UK, Cyprus and Malta are the exceptions). Where this can become tricky is negotiating roundabouts, which you must drive round in an anti-clockwise direction, not clockwise. For those of you driving your own car abroad, it’s worth noting that overtaking is considerably more difficult in a right-hand drive car on right-hand drive roads, so exercise extra caution and save this for an open stretch of dual carriageway.
Your licence is valid
Your existing Irish driving licence is valid for driving in all EU countries provided you’re 18 years old (17 in Austria, Hungary and the United Kingdom).
Don’t shine as bright as usual
Dazzling oncoming drivers with your heads light is against the law in most European countries, so make sure you adjust them for driving on the right-hand side of the road. This can be done by buying a headlamp converter kit (stickers that go over your headlights), which are available from most good motor supply retailers.
Map out your journey (with an actual map!)
It may be 2018 and most of us have sat-nav functionality on our mobile phones, but it’s also worth planning your journey with an old-fashioned map which shows the area in greater detail (plus they never run out of battery!). If you are using a sat-nav, bear in mind the different requirements in each country. In France for example, it is illegal to use one which tells you where fixed speed cameras are located.
Keep the pennies in your pocket
There’s often a temptation to get rid of the foreign coins as soon as possible, but hold onto them to pass through the many toll roads located across Europe. Having some spare money in the car is also useful for any unexpected costs that may come up.
Expect the unexpected
Local driving habits in foreign countries can be very different to what you’re used to so drive carefully and cautiously at all times. The Foreign Office advises to drive defensively when abroad and expect the unexpected.
Obey the rules
Stick to the rules and regulations of the road. The obvious ones would be speed limits and not drinking and driving, but some European countries have slightly unusual ones too (e.g. don’t drive with flip-flops in Spain or only park in the direction of the traffic in Italy). As mentioned above, familiarise yourself with detailed driving laws in each country in advance.
Watch out for thieves
A fairly obvious point, but when you’re travelling abroad it’s evident to the locals you’re not from these parts. As a result, your car is more likely to be targeted by thieves, so don’t leave any valuables in sight (even better, take them with you). Double check it’s locked properly and park it in safe, well-lit areas.