The experience of driving a hire car in a new country can be stressful and understanding the rules around parking can be confusing. Parking regulations and rules in Italy, France or Germany can be very different from what you may be used to in the UK. Sometimes what applies to a single yellow line in one country is completely different in another.
Before you travel to Europe, it’s worth familiarising yourself with the finer details of parking in each place.
What parking rules do I need to know before driving in Europe?
Regulations between European countries differ wildly – a solid yellow line in the UK, for example, means an entirely different than it does in Italy – so we’d recommend getting clued up on the specific regulations for the country you’ll be visiting. There are, however, a couple of overarching rules and some general parking etiquette to make note of wherever you’re traveling to in Europe:
- Generally, a sign that has a blue circle, a red border and a red slash through the middle means ‘No Parking’. A blue sign with a red border and two red slashes through the middle like in an X formation means ‘No Stopping or Parking’.
- Park within the lines assigned to a specific space to avoid a ticket.
- Leave a reasonable space in between your car and the cars around you. In some countries parking too close to another car is prohibited.
- Don’t steal the space from a driver who was waiting.
Parking in Italy
- On-street parking: where you can park on the streets in Italy is defined by different coloured lines on the roads. A single yellow line means the space is off limits as it’s reserved for residents, deliveries, taxis or those who hold a handicap permit. A blue line means metered parking; you’ll need to find the machine, which should be close to the space, and pay for the length of time you’d like to stay and then place the ticket on your dashboard. White lines mean you can park there for free, however, if the sign reads ‘Solo Autorizzati’ or ‘Solo Residenti’ the spaces are only for authorised residents. Pink spaces are for pregnant women or parents travelling with infants.
- Tickets: these can be issued and placed on the windscreen as they are in the UK with a usual reduction if you pay within a set time.
- Limited Traffic Zones: in Italy, these zones are called ‘Zona Traffico Limitato’ or ‘ZTL’). You’ll recognise these zones as the signs will read ‘ZTL’. Be careful of entering these zones without the appropriate authorisation, which is usually restricted to inhabitants and cars driving to a hotel within the restricted zone. If you drive into a ZTL without authorisation, a camera will take a picture of your number plate and you could be fined sometimes quite considerably (over 100 Euros), either directly or the authorities will inform the rental car company. To gain authorisation, speak to your hotel and they should be able to arrange access for you.
- Tip: always carry change with you as many of the older parking meter machines only take cash.
Parking in France
- On-street parking: this is limited, with long-term parking reserved for car parks. It’s also strictly regulated in built-up areas and is permitted only in spaces that are painted white.
- Car parks: most cities in France have modern and secured parking. Rates in car parks are usually higher than if parking on the street and using a meter.
- Paid parking: if the space is painted white with the word ‘payant’ written on it, a fee for parking must be paid. You can buy tickets from the machine. Once you’ve bought your ticket, you have 15-20 minutes to put it in the car from the time that you parked. Tickets must be visible from the windscreen on the driver’s side.
- No parking restrictions: parking in areas marked with yellow curbs are for commercial and official vehicles only. You can, however, drop off or pick up passengers if there are dotted yellow lines. There is no parking permitted at all on red routes or ‘axes rouges’. It is also forbidden to park for longer than 24 hours in the same place, unless otherwise stated.
- Blue zones: in the blue zones (which are marked on the street) you can park for free for one hour in the morning from 9am till midday and from 2pm till 7pm Monday to Saturday. There are no restrictions between those times, however you do have to display a valid blue disc. These are available from most local shops, information centres and police stations and will either be free or cost a small fee. To activate, set the time you arrived in the left-hand box and the time you’re going to leave in the right-hand box.
Parking in Germany
- Off-street parking: the lots are called Parkplatz, while above-ground parking is called Parkhaus. Underground garages are called Tiefgarage.
- Parking regulations: on one-way streets, you should park in the same direction as travel. Metered parking spaces use a machine and usually only accept coins. Metered parking is free of charge at night and on Sundays, however double check on the sign close to your space to make sure. Parking is not allowed 5 metres from a crossing, 10 metres in front of traffic lights, or within 15 metres of exits or stop signs.
- Residents parking: zones with signs reading ‘Anwohnerparken’ or ‘Anliegerfrei’ are reserved for residents.
- Parking disc: some areas require a ‘Parkscheibe’, which can be bought from petrol stations. You will recognise these areas as you will see a blue sign with a white ‘P’. The cardboard disc will have a dial that you set to show the time you parked and should be displayed in your windshield.
- Parking for disabled drivers: spaces are reserved for handicap card holders who can display a valid European Blue Card for disabled drivers. Parking is not allowed in bays marked with a specific licence plate number or someone’s name. You can park in a restricted zone, but only if you are in a pedestrian area and are not causing an obstruction or danger.
- Low-emission zones: if you’re seeking a space in a low-emission zone you will need to have a badge or sticker to show that your car has low enough emissions to enter. You can apply for an environmental badge directly online or through your car hire company.
What should I do if I get a parking ticket in Europe?
If you get a parking ticket in Europe:
- You usually have 60 days to pay or appeal.
- The amount can double if you don’t pay.
- The DVLA are obliged to pass on your details, so fines can and will be followed up.
- You are liable to pay the fine, not the car rental company. They will more than likely add on administrative charges on top of the fine.
A parking fine will not affect your insurance as there is no need to declare it unless the police were involved in some way, such as if the car was abandoned or left somewhere illegal.
Purchasing car hire excess insurance before you go abroad to Europe can help with excess costs should things go wrong.
This is a marketing article from insurance4carhire.