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Learning the basics: Driving overseas

From bike racks to breathalysers, sat navs to speed limits

Driving overseas can be daunting for both experienced tourers and newcomers because of the wealth of differing laws and regulations of the road. Whilst the European Union has meant that some laws are uniform across the continent, others still remain specific to certain countries. So here we learn the basics of driving overseas.


A-frames

Towing a car behind your motorhome abroad? We would advise that you use a trailer, with all four wheels of your car off the ground. Although most countries do not have a specific law banning A-frames, they do have a law which prohibits a motor vehicle towing another motor vehicle.

Bike racks

You have two options for carrying bikes on your vehicle. If you choose to mount them on the roof of your car, they must be securely attached to an adequate bike rack and the total height of your vehicle and mounted bikes must not exceed 4m. Alternatively, you may choose to mount them on the rear of the vehicle. They must not obscure your lights, indicators or number plate. 

If you're travelling through Portugal, ensure your bikes are mounted at the rear of your caravan or motorhome, not your car. In Spain and Italy, overhanging loads must be indicated by a reflecting red and white diagonally striped square panel measuring 50cm x 50cm. In Spain, these panels can be made of either aluminium or plastic but in Italy they must be aluminium.

Bike racks can only rest on the towbar if the maximum weight on the towbar is not exceeded.

Breathalysers

Once a legal requirement in France, breathalysers are now not a requirement but it is advised that you have one to hand. Make sure your breathalyser is NF approved.

Fire extinguishers

Although no compulsory, carrying a vehicle fire extinguisher is recommended in the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

Headlights

Given that most of Europe drives on the right, and in the UK drives on the left, it is vital you adapt your headlights so you don't dazzle oncoming traffic. You can do this manually or by using headlight converters. Eurolites are available from most motor accessory shops or online (find them on Amazon) and are compatible with over 600 different vehicle types and clear lens, projector and xenon headlights.

Large outfits

Travelling in Spain? Does your outfit exceed 12m? If the answers are yes, you are required to fit marker boards to the back of your vehicle. You can either have two small boards or one large board but they must be placed at the back of the outfit between 50cm and 150cm off the ground. The marker board must have a plain yellow centre with red outline, be made of aluminium and manufactured to the ECE70 standard.

Travelling in France? Does your vehicle exceed 3,500kg? If yes, you must have a sticker showing the position of blind spots, visible on the sides and at the rear of your vehicle. This regulation has been in force since January 2021. 

The stickers:

  • Must be visible from the sides and rear of the vehicle, and be positioned at a height between 90cm and 150cm from the ground
  • Be glued, painted on the bodywork or affixed by reverting or any other means of fixing
  • Must be placed so as to be visible at all times
  • Must not obstruct the vehicle's number plate or lights, indicators or the driver's field of vision
  • Mist comply with the model set by the decree of 5 January 2021
  • Foreign vehicles passing through France are also subject to this signing obligation

You can find out more at securite-routiere.gouv.fr or visit Amazon.

Low emission zones

Low Emission Zones are special areas within urban spaces that regulate the most polluting vehicles by placing restrictions on when or if they can enter the zones. LEZs affect most vehicles except public transport, motorcycles and electric vehicles so its worth being aware of them so that you're not caught out when driving in cities.

Find out more

Number plates

British number plates have changed since the UK's withdrawal from the European Union. This doesn't require you to change your number plate but if your plate doesn't display a 'UK' wordmark, then you'll need to purchase and display a UK sticker on your vehicle. UK stickers replace GB stickers. You should remove any GB stickers from your vehicle as they are now invalid. Find approved UK stickers here.

UK number plates

Sat navs and dashcams

Car navigation systems that actively search for mobile speed cameras or interfere with police equipment are illegal in nearly all European countries. Those that actively search and warn of fixed speed cameras are illegal in France, Germany and Switzerland. You must disable this function in those countries. 

Dashcam usage is also restricted in some EU countries. They are illegal in Austria, Luxembourg and Portugal. In Belgium, France, Germany, Norway and Switzerland they are legal but with strict conditions so it's best to research this before you travel. 

Dashcams are unrestricted in Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and, of course, the UK.

Speed limits

When touring abroad, whether in a car towing a caravan or in a motorhome, it’s important to know the speed limits within each country.

CountryVehicleMotorwaysOther roads
AustriaCar + caravan under 3.5t100km/h (62mph)80km/h (50mph)
Car + caravan over 3.5t80km/h (50mph)70km/h (44mph)
Motorhome under 3.5t130km/h (81mph)100km/h (62mph)
Motorhome over 3.5t80km/h (50mph)70km/h (44mph)
BelgiumCar + caravan under 3.5t120km/h (74mph)90km/h (56mph)
Car + caravan over 3.5t90km/h (56mph)90km/h (56mph)
Motorhome under 3.5t120km/h (74mph)120km/h (74mph)
Motorhome over 3.5t90km/h (56mph)90km/h (56mph)
CroatiaCar + caravan under 3.5t90km/h (56mph)80km/h (50mph)
Car + caravan over 3.5t90km/h (56mph)80km/h (50mph)
Motorhome under 3.5t130km/h (81mph)90-110km/h (56-68mph)
Motorhome over 3.5t90km/h (56mph)80km/h (50mph)
Czech RepublicCar + caravan under 3.5t80km/h (50mph)80km/h (50mph)
Car + caravan over 3.5t80km/h (50mph)80km/h (50mph)
Motorhome under 3.5t130km/h (81mph)90km/h (56mph)
Motorhome over 3.5t80km/h (50mph)80km/h (50mph)
DenmarkCar + caravan under 3.5t80km/h (50mph)70km/h (44mph)
Car + caravan over 3.5t70km/h (44mph)70km/h (44mph)
Motorhome under 3.5t110-130km/h (68-81mph)80-90km/h (50-56mph)
Motorhome over 3.5t70km/h (44mph)70km/h (44mph)
GermanyCar + caravan under 3.5t80km/h (50mph)80km/h (50mph)
Car + caravan over 3.5t100km/h (62mph)80km/h (50mph)
Motorhome under 3.5t130km/h (81mph)100km/h (62mph)
Motorhome over 3.5t100km/h (62mph)80km/h (50mph)
FranceCar + caravan under 3.5t130km/h (81mph)80km/h (50mph)
Car + caravan over 3.5t90km/h (56mph)80km/h (50mph)
Motorhome under 3.5t130km/h (81mph)80km/h (50mph)
Motorhome over 3.5t110km/h (68mph)80km/h (50mph)
IrelandCar + caravan under 3.5t80km/h (50mph)60-80km/h (37-50mph)
Car + caravan over 3.5t80km/h (50mph)60-80km/h (37-50mph)
Motorhome under 3.5t120km/h (74mph)60-100km/h (37-50mph)
Motorhome over 3.5t80km/h (50mph)60-80km/h (37-50mph)
ItalyCar + caravan under 3.5t80km/h (50mph)70km/h (44mph)
Car + caravan over 3.5t100km/h (62mph)80km/h (50mph)
Motorhome under 3.5t130km/h (81mph)90-110km/h (56-68mph)
Motorhome over 3.5t100km/h (62mph)80km/h (50mph)
LuxembourgCar + caravan under 3.5t90km/h (56mph)75km/h (47mph)
*In adverse weather
conditions, limit reduces
to 110km/h (68mph)
Car + caravan over 3.5t130km/h (81mph)*90km/h (56mph)*
Motorhome under 3.5t130km/h (81mph)*90km/h (56mph)*
Motorhome over 3.5t130km/h (81mph)*90km/h (56mph)*
NorwayCar + caravan under 3.5t80km/h (50mph)80km/h (50mph)
Car + caravan over 3.5t80km/h (50mph)80km/h (50mph)
Motorhome under 3.5t110km/h (68mph)110km/h (68mph)
Motorhome over 3.5t80km/h (50mph)80km/h (50mph)
PortugalCar + caravan under 3.5t100km/h (62mph)70-80km/h (44-50mph)
Car + caravan over 3.5t100km/h (62mph)70-90km/h (44-56mph)
Motorhome under 3.5t120km/h (74mph)90-100km/h (56-62mph)
Motorhome over 3.5t100km/h (62mph)70-90km/h (44-56mph)
SloveniaCar + caravan under 3.5t80km/h (50mph)80km/h (50mph)
Car + caravan over 3.5t80km/h (50mph)80km/h (50mph)
Motorhome under 3.5t130km/h (81mph)90-100km/h (56-62mph)
Motorhome over 3.5t80km/h (50mph)80km/h (50mph)
SpainCar + caravan90km/h (56mph)80km/h (50mph)
Motorhome under 3.5t120km/h (74mph)90km/h (56mph)
Motorhome over 3.5t90km/h (56mph)80km/h (50mph)
SwedenCar + caravan under 3.5t80km/h (50mph)70-80km/h (44-50mph)
Car + caravan over 3.5t90-120km/h (56-74mph)

70-100km/h (44-62mph)

Motorhome under 3.5t90-120km/h (56-74mph)70-100km/h (44-62mph)
Motorhome over 3.5t90-120km/h (56-74mph)70-100km/h (44-62mph)
SwitzerlandCar + caravan under 3.5t80km/h (50mph)80km/h (50mph)*
*If the caravan weighs over
1,000kg, speed limit reduces
to 60km/h (37mph)
Car + caravan over 3.5t100km/h (62mph)80-100km/h (50-62mph)*
Motorhome under 3.5t120km/h (74mph)80-100km/h (50-62mph)
Motorhome over 3.5t100km/h (62mph)80-100km/h (50-62mph)
The NetherlandsCar + caravan under 3.5t90km/h (56mph)80-90km/h (50-56mph)
*Unless a lower limit
is indicated
Car + caravan over 3.5t80km/h (50mph)80km/h (50mph)
Motorhome under 3.5t130km/h (81mph)*80-90km/h (50-56mph)*
Motorhome over 3.5t80km/h (50mph)80km/h (50mph)

Winter driving

In some countries it is a legal requirement to use winter equipment such as snow chains or winter tyres. We also recommended that, in addition to the information provided, you take a snow shovel and add antifreeze to your vehicle's windscreen fluid.

Find out more

Requirements by country

CountryFirst aid kitHi-vis vestWarning triangleDaytime lightsWinter equipment
AustriaYesYesYesNoRequired
BelgiumNoYesYesNoNo
CroatiaYesYesYes (2x if towing)Yes (in winter months)

Required

Czech RepublicYesYesYesYesRequired
DenmarkRecommendedRecommendedYesYesRecommended
FranceNoYesYes

Recommended

Required
GermanyNoNoNoNoRequired
IrelandNoNoNoNoNo
ItalyNoYes

Yes

YesRequired
LuxembourgNo

Yes

Yes

RecommendedRequired
NetherlandsNoNoRecommendedNoNo
NorwayRecommendedRecommendedYesYesRequired
PortugalNoRecommendedYesNoNo
SloveniaRecommendedYesYes (2x if towing)YesRequired
SpainNoYesYes (2x if towing)NoRecommended
SwedenRecommendedNoRecommendedYesRequired
SwitzerlandNoNoYesYesRequired

United Kingdom

No (but recommended)NoYesNoNo

We advise buying a driving in Europe kit which includes a first aid kit, hi-vis vests, warning triangle, headlight converters, UK stickers, breathalysers and other tools. We recommend the Gadlane kit on Amazon.

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