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Speeding or driving without the proper equipment in some European countries can lead to hefty on the spot fines. Sometimes, if you can’t pay these fines, your car will be confiscated so it’s worth swotting up on the rules for driving in Europe.

Carrying the proper equipment in Europe

Firstly, it’s a very good idea to do some research on the specific road laws of the country you plan to visit. If your vehicle was registered before 2001 or for whatever reason you do not have a GB label on your registration plate it is important to attach a sticker to the back of your car and caravan.

Rules on carrying fire extinguishers and first aid kits vary from country to country but it would be a good idea to carry these items anyway, as much for your own safety as staying inside the law.

High-visibility vests or jackets are often required to be carried in the event of an accident. Spain, Belgium and France enforce this, while in Italy it is compulsory to carry it within the driver’s reach. In some countries you must carry a hi-vis jacket for each occupant of the car. Again, it is better to be safe than sorry; research the laws for where you’re going and, if you’ll be travelling through a number of countries or you are unsure of the laws, cover yourself by leaving nothing to chance.

Warning triangles are a good safety item to carry anyway, particularly in winter, but they are compulsory when driving in Europe. Two warning triangles are required when towing a caravan in Spain, Croatia, Slovenia and Turkey.

In some countries including Spain, it is compulsory to have wing mirror extensions though these would be advisable anyway. Also, as most European countries drive on the right, you will probably need to adapt your headlights. Many garages or dealers offer this service or sell kits for you to do it yourself.

  • Example of the unacceptable left dip.
  • Lowering the beam of the left dip is still unacceptable.
  • The corrected and acceptable left dip.
  • The best outcome; using a correctly adjusted right dip.
Image of

When towing your caravan in Europe you may need long vehicle marker boards attached to your outfit. In Italy these are compulsory while in Spain reflective markers are required for combinations over 12m long. You should also be careful when carrying bicycles as some countries require further reflective markers.

European speed limits

Another important piece of information which is easily overlooked is the fact that speed limits in European countries are measured in kilometres per hour. Train yourself to look at the kph scale on your speedometer instead of the mph.

If you are unsure of the conversion, a rough guide is that 50kph is approximately 31mph, 80kph about 50mph and 120kph around 75mph.

When driving in many European countries it is illegal to use speed camera detection devices, including those on sat-navs. Although this may be difficult for authorities to spot or enforce it would be wise not to use them just in case and always stick to the speed limits.

A lesser known law is that cruise control is not allowed on motorways in Belgium. It’s always worth thoroughly researching the laws for where you’ll be driving, especially as speed limits and parking laws can differ from region to region.

A number of European cities have green or low-emission zones where only certified vehicles displaying the correct stickers can drive. This is something you should look into before planning your route.

Here are a few speed limits for popular European caravanning destinations. All limits are listed in kilometres per hour but are subject to change. Make sure you check up to date laws before driving.

Country/
Vehicle

Towns

Single carriageway

Motorway

France

     

single car

50

90

110-130

towing caravan under 3500kg

50

90

130

towing caravan over 3500kg

50

80

90

Germany

     

single car

50

100

130

towing caravan

50

80

90

Spain

     

single car

50

90

120

towing caravan

50

70

80

Netherlands

     

single car

50

80

120

towing caravan

50

80

80

Italy

     

single car

50-70

90

130

towing caravan

50-70

70

80

Ireland

     

single car

50

80-100

120

towing caravan

50

80

80

You should remember that these limits are not always definite. For example, in France limits are lower in adverse weather conditions while on Germany’s autobahns there are no strict limits, although this is different when towing a caravan. You should always heed local road signs.

All of this information is subject to change so it’s very important you check before embarking on your trip. Caravanning abroad can be a great adventure as long as you don’t fall foul of European road laws.

Take a look at these sites for up to date information. If you can’t find what you’re looking for you can always contact the relevant authority or embassy for guidance.

The AA's overseas advice: http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/overseas/countrybycountry.html

Ireland: http://www.rotr.ie/rules-for-driving/index.html
France: http://www.autoroutes.fr/index.htm

Editing contributions by John_b_45.

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