Driving in Europe

When travel writers compile lists of the best road trips in the world, driving in Europe features heavily. It’s not hard to see why: this amazing continent is full of diverse destinations and dramatic scenery, connected by some of the world’s greatest roads. While most countries in the European Union use similar signs and speed limits, all these countries have their own driving quirks, with some unexpected rules of the road. Our guide will help you prepare for driving in Europe.

Roads in Europe

The hierarchy of roads in Europe is much the same as in the UK, with the obvious difference being that the names change between languages. Almost every country has an equivalent of motorways, A roads, B roads and so on (although some, like Montenegro, don’t yet have a motorway). While most countries in Europe use similar signage, there are some minor differences in design. For this reason, it’s best to familiarise yourself with these before getting behind the wheel.

How to drive in Europe

The biggest difference for British drivers in Europe is that most countries drive on the right-hand side of the road. If you’re hiring a car in Europe it will be left-hand drive, so it should just be a case of adapting. If you’re taking your own car overseas, remember to adjust your rear-view mirrors, as passing traffic will appear at a very different angle.

The best advice on how to drive in Europe is simply to take a defensive approach until you feel comfortable. You should follow the rules of the road closely and get familiar with local driving customs. It’s also sensible to plan your route in advance, so you can give your full attention to traffic.

Europe driving rules

By and large, Europe’s driving rules are much like the UK's, although certain countries have specific laws to follow. To help you out, we have guides on driving in some of Europe’s most popular destinations on our website.

If you follow the guidelines below, they will help you to stay safe and on the right side of the law in the country you are visiting:

Where doesn’t drive on the right in Europe?

Almost every country in Europe drives on the right, apart from:

Who has right of way in Europe?

Road in Rome, Italy

In almost all cases, drivers on the main road have right of way in Europe.  These is an exception to this for in a (gradually decreasing) number of locations in France, where priorité à droite still exists. This is an odd rule to get your head around, but it allows the traffic entering the road at certain junctions to go first. You can spot these junctions by their red-edged triangular signs that have a black cross on a white background.

Some European cities have tram systems, which almost always have priority over car traffic – and often buses also get the same privilege. It’s also worth brushing up on cycling laws, as in some countries like the Netherlands, bicycles have priority over motorised vehicles on roundabouts.

Finally, watch out for local customs. In Spain, for example, the side of the road you can park on might switch depending on the day it is. In Italy, you may not be allowed to drive in a city’s ‘old town’ on certain days. On-street signage should alert you to these peculiarities.

What is the speed limit in Europe?

The speed limit in Europe is largely the same across the continent, but with certain idiosyncrasies:

Driving in adverse conditions in Europe

While much of Europe has a temperate climate, northern Europe deals with heavy snow in winter and limited light throughout the day. Also, driving in mountainous regions, such as the Alps, may require different behaviour behind the wheel:

Driving hazards in Europe

While Europe’s roads are mainly well-maintained and enjoyable to drive on, there are a number of hazards to watch out for:

If anything does go wrong, get directly in touch with your car hire company. If there’s been an accident, you can call the emergency services anywhere in the EU on 112.

Europe driving tips

Here are some driving tips to make sure your journey around Europe is hassle-free:

More information

Your experience of driving in Europe should be an odyssey to remember for years to come. More information about driving in Europe can be found at:

If you’re hiring a car in Europe, it’s recommended that you take out car hire excess insurance. Learn more about UK & Europe Car Hire Excess Insurance before hiring a car.