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We can all romanticise a European road trip and whether it be somewhere cold for skiing or somewhere sunnier to soak up the rays you may decide to drive rather than fly.

Whether it’s Germany, France, Spain, Italy we’ve got some tips for travel and how it differs to driving in the UK.

Each European country has different emergency numbers but you can dial 112 anywhere in Europe and you will be connected to the nearest emergency service.


Before you set off, you’ll need to make sure you’ve packed a few things. Let’s start with the boring, but crucial, documents.

  • Full UK Driving Licence (Valid)
  • Proof of ID (passport)
  • Motor Insurance Certificate
  • V5 Reg Document
  • Breakdown Cover Documents

There are a couple of stickers you’ll need too. The GB sticker changed to a UK sticker in 2021 so make sure you have one displayed clearly on the rear of your vehicle- if you haven’t got ‘UK’ on your numberplates.

Like many European countries, Germany has a clean air zone system that is coded using stickers or ‘Umweltplakette’. You will need a sticker before you drive in built-up areas of Germany and each area has different emission standards and signs will indicate where you are permitted using a traffic light system corresponding to the colours of the stickers. Each sticker costs around €6 so make sure you apply for this before you set off. The sticker will take up to 14 days to arrive.

Stuff to take with you

There are German laws which dictate what you need to take with you in your car but we’ve added some other useful items to the list too.

RAC European Driving Kits are handy ways of hitting multiple birds with one stone.

The kits include:

  • Two Hi Vis vests
  • Two Warning Triangles
  • 22pc First Aid Kit
  • Bulb Spares and Replacement kit
  • Headlamp Deflectors
  • UK Stickers
  • Torch

If you are driving in wintry conditions, you will be required to have all-season or Winter tyres fitted to your vehicle.

  • Sun Cream
  • Engine oil and water
  • Up to date Road Map and/or Sat Nav
  • Refreshments and Water
  • Extra medication
  • Blankets
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Photocopies of important documents
  • European Health Insurance Card


As well as things you will need to take with you, there are also a few things that you cannot take. Due to differing meat and dairy standards between the UK and Germany since leaving the EU, you are not permitted to take any into Germany. When it comes to fruit, veg, plants and plant products you will need to pay for a ‘phytosanitary certificate’ as an inspection excluding: bananas, coconuts, dates, pineapples and durians).

On the Move

Once you have packed your car for driving in Germany, you’ll need to know how the German driving law differs to the UK.

The first thing to remember is that motorists drive on the right and traffic from the right tends to have priority at crossroads and junctions. When it comes to roundabouts, vehicles on a roundabout have right of way over those entering a roundabout. You should indicate when leaving a roundabout, but you should not indicate upon entry.

There are restrictions on height, length and width or trailers and caravans in Germany and if you are carrying expensive items within the caravan, then an inventory may be required.

Similarly to France, it is illegal to have a GPS or Sat Nav system that notifies the driver to the whereabouts of speed cameras. The alcohol-blood limit is the same in Germany as it is in France too (0.05%), which is less than in the UK (0.08%) but it is important to remember that there is a 0% tolerance for drivers with less than two years of experience and under the age of 21.

Unlike France though, there aren’t any toll roads for private cars. It is illegal to wear headphones/earphones whilst driving in France and whilst it is not technically forbidden in Germany, you cannot impair your ability to hear. If your earphones impair your ability to hear, then they are not permitted.

Like in the UK, using a mobile phone whilst driving is not permitted and you can be fined at least €100 but this will be much higher if an accident is caused.

Speeding fines are generally less severe in Germany than in the UK. There is a sliding scale between €10 and €680- the upper limit is for exceeding the speed limit by more than 70km/h or 43mph.

Speed Limits

Urban Areas


Outside Urban Areas



130km/h (Recommended)

There are also roads in Germany called ‘Autobahn’ which don’t have speed limits on them. This isn’t the case for all stretches of the Autobahn as speed limits of 120km/h apply in most areas apart from the unrestricted zones.

All that’s left to do after all that packing and planning is enjoy the ride. Tick some of the essential packing off your mind with a Family European Driving Kit.

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