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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 ULEZ and CAZs in the UK, Spain has Zonas de Baja Emisiones (ZBE) and to drive in certain urban areas of Spain you will need a sticker which states the emission levels produced by your vehicle. You will need to display this on the rear window of your vehicle. You can register here and it will take up to 15 working days to be approved- so make sure you do it well before you are set to go. If you have forgotten to do this then call the ZBE helpline. Following this a sticker will be dispatched to you- which can take up to 12 days. Without a sticker, you may be pulled over by the Transport Police.

Stuff to take with you

There are Spanish 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

It is important to remember that in the event of a breakdown, warning triangles must be placed at the front and rear of the vehicle.

There are some obvious other things to take with you such as:

  • 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

On the Move

As with most European countries, motorists drive on the right and overtake on the left. There are some key things to remember regarding distances as if your vehicle exceeds 10 metres in length and or 3.5 tonnes then you must keep at least 50m between you and the vehicle in front. This rule does not apply in built up areas or when there are several lanes in the same direction.

When it comes to roundabouts, drivers in the UK will be accustomed to giving way to the right. In Spain, the rule for roundabouts is first-come-first served as motorists at the roundabout have priority over those approaching. Motorists on secondary roads must give way to vehicles coming from either direction when entering onto a main road.

Similarly to France, flashing your lights should be used as a warning over use of the horn and horns should not be used in urban areas unless in an emergency.

Another Spanish driving law that is similar to French driving law is where headphones/earphones are concerned. It is illegal to wear headphones or earphones whilst driving as well as use of a mobile phone- both of which carry a penalty of points and a fine. Hands-free calls are legal but only through speakers.

Unlike France though, it is not illegal to have a GPS or navigation device that notifies the driver of speed cameras. Speeding fines are up to €500 and a minimum of €100 so make sure you don’t incur any hefty penalties and ruin your holiday budget.

The drink driving limit is lower in Spain than it is in the UK. For drivers who passed their test more than three years ago, the limit is 0.05% compared to 0.08% for the UK.

Speed Limits

Residential Areas


Urban Areas


Outside Urban Areas




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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