Everything You Need to Know About Driving in Europe

Head out on the highway. Just make sure you’re on the right side of the road.

Driving in Europe is a little different from driving in America. Some countries have driving laws that are different than American ones. But don’t overthink the differences.

You can drive much the same way you do in America. Understand the basics, and you can travel safely through Europe. Here’s a quick guide.

International Driving Permit

Your American driver’s license works in Europe, but you need additional documents. An International Driving Permit (IDP) is a United Nations-regulated legal document. You are required to hold an IDP to rent a car in many countries, in and out of Europe.

An IDP contains translations of your driver’s license. You apply for an IDP in the United States. Fill out some paperwork and pay a fee, and you can expect to receive your permit within a couple of weeks.

You carry the IDP with your license. An IDP is a photo ID, so use it as an alternative form of identification.

How to Rent a Car in Europe

You need an IDP to rent a car in Europe. Have all relevant documents on hand to give to your car rental company.

You want to reserve your car two months before your arrival. This provides time to process your order and payment. This also gives you plenty of time to make deals.

Most European cars have a manual transmission. Practice driving with one, or book further out for an automatic car.

A Europe GPS functions just like a GPS in America. Choose the best Garmin Nuvi for Europe or one of the TomTom and Magellan models. You may have to buy them separately from your car, but they feature easy-to-use navigation.

Make sure you have borderless insurance. Get coverage against physical damage, third party liability, and political violence.

Traffic Laws and Safety Tips

Each country has its own traffic laws. Go to the country’s travel page and see what their regulations are. But some laws are widespread across most or all European countries.

Everyone must wear a seatbelt, and children must have appropriate restraints. You cannot use a mobile phone without a hands-free set.

The maximum blood alcohol level varies by country, but most are very restrictive. Some don’t allow any blood alcohol at all. Be very careful drinking before driving.

Some countries require daytime running lights. But your lights cannot blind other drivers. Test and adjust your lights before any road trip.

Many countries require you to wear a reflective jacket. You must also place a warning triangle on your vehicle. Violations of these policies lead to hefty fines.

Before any travel, check the Department of State’s travel website for advisories. Print out copies of your passport and give them to people you trust. Follow the local news, and prepare for border closings and emergencies.

The Basics of Driving in Europe

Go looking for adventure. Driving in Europe is a great way to see the sights and explore new cultures. Make sure you know the differences so you can travel safely.

Get an International Driving Permit that doubles as a photo ID. Rent a car in advance, and purchase comprehensive insurance. Study the local traffic laws and follow basic safety tips.

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