As the school holidays end and Brits head home, it’s the perfect time for taking an autumn break and driving abroad before winter sets in.
Picture yourself driving under the wild Spanish sun, through the Black Forest of Germany, or along the coastline of the French Riviera.
Windows down, you can feel sunshine on your face and a warm breeze, with your favourite playlist on full blast. Europe is home to some of the best road trips in the world, and it’s simple enough to hop on a ferry and travel there from the UK.
To add to the different laws of the road in mainland Europe, there are also cultural differences that mean some European countries have their very own unspoken driving rules.
To help you plan ahead and be ready for anything, Goodyear has pulled together the top tips you should know ahead of your European road trip and you should check for the latest information on health and countries requirements on the UK Government website :
1. Look at least twice before you overtake
Some people drive very fast in Europe. If you’re getting ready to overtake and check your review mirror and see a car far back, don’t just assume that you have time to overtake. Check your mirror once, and check it again after a few seconds, to gauge how fast that car is approaching. You may or may not have time to pass – use your judgement to stay safe.
2. Avoid toll roads for a scenic drive
Rarely are toll roads and major highways the most beautiful route to take if you’re looking for breathtakingly beautiful European views. If you can, build more time into your itinerary so that you can enjoy the countryside, make leisurely stops in small towns, or visit a beach on your journey.
3. Be prepared for unexpected oncoming overtakes
This especially applies to drivers cruising Italian roads. You can be driving on a single carriageway and an oncoming car might decide to overtake someone in front of them. The unwritten rules of the road in Italy essentially say that it’s your responsibility to hug the right side of the road and create three lanes. Once you’ve made it to your destination, enjoy the scenery – Bellissimo!
4. Watch where you turn
Look out for ‘turn right to go left’ signs and roads in Spain. You might find a solid white line in the centre of any road, preventing you turning left. If you come across one, you’ll need to exit the road to the right, onto a short looping road that brings you round to a ‘Yield’ line. Look carefully both ways, then cross both sides of the two-lane road you were just driving on, a little like on a crossroads. Pause in the generous space in the central reservation for safety.
This confusing system is designed to stop drivers exiting from the fast lane straight onto what is often a rural village access road, so keep an eye out is there are any picturesque villages on your itinerary.
5. Be aware of the ‘Droite Prioritaire’
In France, drivers have the ‘Droite Prioritaire’ which gives cars entering your lane from the right priority. This is mostly seen in villages, towns, and cities, where you’ll spot French drivers pulling out into your road without stopping. But how do you know when it’ll happen?
Well, if you don’t spot a yellow diamond (right of way sign) and there isn’t a clear ‘stop’ sign or white ‘give way’ line painted on the road, you must assume that people might pull out from your right and that you should give them right-of-way.
6. Convert your miles to kilometres
In Europe, everything’s measured in kilometres (including distance and speed limits). For a rough conversion, one kilometre equals a little more than 0.6 miles — so just divide the speed or distance in miles by half and add on ten percent. It’s particularly important to keep an eye on your speed to avoid any hefty fines – tickets can make their way back to the UK!
7. Purchase a toll card in advance
In Spain, France, and Portugal, you can buy a toll card online before you head off for your journey. Just display this toll card on in the centre-top of your windscreen and you’ll be able to whizz through every toll gate, cash and hassle free.
In Italy and France, most of E-roads (motorways registered by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) have tolls, so keep a bank card handy if you don’t have a pre-paid card. Other countries, like Germany and Sweden, only require tolls over certain bridges, while smaller countries like Liechtenstein, Malta and Monaco offer a toll-free driving experience.
8. Go at your own pace
In Germany, an autobahn is an unrestricted zone where there’s effectively no speed limit if you see a black and white de-restricted sign. While it’s recommended that drivers stick to around 130km/h, video clips and stories of cars accelerating to speeds of more than 200km/h on the autobahn have made the roads famous all over the world.
If high-speed motoring is your worst nightmare and the idea of driving on an autobahn makes you nervous, it’s okay to go at your own pace. The autobahn still has rules in place to ensure everyone uses the road safely, which are strictly policed.
Craig Sprigmore, Retail Director at Goodyear Tyres UK Limited, highlights that driving abroad is a fun and eye-opening experience compared to our usual motorway. It’s also a great opportunity to reach local towns and villages with less tourists to find true authenticity. For a hassle-free road trip, Craig recommends checking your tyre pressures and tread depth before setting off, to reduce the risk of a puncture and help you get to your destination safely.
Below is a list of things you must keep in your car when driving in Europe:
- V5C certificate
- European breakdown cover policy number and document
- UK car sticker– GB car sticker is not accepted anymore, make sure to switch your sticker to UK if it’s GB
- Crit’air sticker if you are driving in France – make sure to have a clean air sticker.