12 unusual European driving laws you need to know

Much of Europe is once again open to travellers from the UK thanks to the introduction of travel corridors and easing of quarantine restrictions.

With many holidaymakers expected to take advantage of this and head to the Continent in coming weeks, it’s worth making sure you stay on the right side of the law, whether you take your own car or hire one at your destination.

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Most major road laws are fairly common across all countries, although speed limits do vary. However many countries also have less obvious regulations which, if ignored, could land you in trouble with local police.

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Here are 12 of the more obscure rules you may not be aware of.

Remove your headphones (France and Spain)

Drivers in France aren’t allowed to use their vehicle with any sort of headphones in, regardless of whether they’re connected to music or for phone calls.

Mind your manners (Cyprus and Germany)

British motorists who make a rude or offensive gesture towards another road user could be punished with a steep fine in both Cyprus and Germany, so calm any road rage.

Carry spare glasses (Portugal, Spain and Switzerland)

Britons planning to drive on the Iberian Peninsula or in the Swiss Alps are required by law to ensure they always have a spare pair of glasses in the car, if they require glasses whilst driving.

Reversing hazards (Slovenia)

Drivers who are reversing in Slovenia are legally required to put their hazard warning lights on, to keep the roads safe.

While major road laws are fairly similar across Europe each country has its own lesser-know regulations (Photo: Shutterstock)While major road laws are fairly similar across Europe each country has its own lesser-know regulations (Photo: Shutterstock)
While major road laws are fairly similar across Europe each country has its own lesser-know regulations (Photo: Shutterstock)

Get a permit (Italy)

Holidaymakers who wish to take their vehicle through some specific historical areas must acquire a special permit, according to Italian law.

Steer clear of snacks (Cyprus)

Cypriot road rules specifically prohibit drivers from eating or drinking anything while they’re behind the wheel.

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Keep well fuelled (Germany and Portugal)

On autobahns – German motorways that often have no speed limits – it’s illegal to run out of fuel and the offence carries a heavy fine, whilst carrying cans of petrol in cars is banned in Portugal.

No driving off-road (Iceland)

To protect vulnerable plants and wildlife, Icelandic law prohibits driving beyond the boundary of a road unless there’s a specific parking area.

No smoking (Greece)

Tourists travelling in their own car or a rental during a Greek holiday should stub out their cigarette before starting the engine.

Carry rope (Serbia)

All drivers in Serbia are required to carry a tow bar and three metres of rope in their vehicle, in case of a breakdown.

Carry a breathalyser (France)

In France it’s the driver’s responsibility to carry a device that’s capable of checking their blood alcohol content, for safety purposes.

Engines off by the railway (Germany)

German law states that drivers must turn off their engines while queuing at a level crossing for a train to pass.

A spokesman for StressFreeCarRental.com, which complied the list said: “Now the government has released a list of exempted destinations in which Brits are permitted to travel to, many families will be looking to book a last-minute trip for some much needed sunshine and relaxation.

“Most car hire firms are still operating, allowing you to hire a car whilst abroad, so it’s worth learning about the different road rules that apply in different countries.

“Ultimately, operating a car is no different on the continent but some rules of the road certainly are, so you should be careful.”