Driving in continental Europe

Driving laws are different depending on the country you are sailing to so please make sure you check the rules of the road for all the countries you intend to visit on your trip, including those that you are just driving through.

Here is our check list for taking your vehicle on the ferry to France, the Netherlands or Spain.

  1. Before travelling to the ferry terminal you need to make sure you have the following items in or on your vehicle:
  • your valid UK driving licence
  • V5C registration document
  • Motor insurance certificate
  • European breakdown cover
  • Reflective warning triangle (compulsory in every vehicle with four wheels or more in France and Spain)
  • High-vis jackets (in France they are needed for each occupant)
  • Headlight beam converters (to be fixed to your headlights before disembarking)
  • Emission stickers (permits) needed for some French and Spanish cities
  • Winter snow tyres or snow chains (if travelling in the winter months)
  • A UK sticker fixed to the rear of your vehicle

2. Remember to drive on the right and overtake on the left.

3. Check the speed limits for all roads before you drive. Speed limits are in kilometres per hour (kph) not mph.

4. Crash helmets are compulsory for motorcyclists and their passengers. In France all helmets must display reflective stickers on the front, rear and sides in accordance with the requirements of Regulation 22.

5. Motorcyclists must use dipped headlights during the day and at night in France and Spain.

6. Fixed speed camera detectors are illegal in France and the Netherlands so this function needs to be disabled on your GPS navigation system.

7. Check whether you are going to be travelling through any cities with low-emission zones These may require you to register your vehicle in advance to obtain an emissions sticker either before leaving the UK or before entering the city.

8. Seat belts must be worn by all passengers in the car. If you are travelling with children check the rules on when your child will need a booster seat or child restrait system.

9. Check the drink-driving limit in the country you will be driving in. The blood alcohol content limit for drivers of private vehicles is usually 0.05% but may be lower for new drivers in some countries. This is the same as the limit in Scotland, but lower than the limit in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

10. Most French motorways (A routes) have tolls. These can be paid with by cash or VISA / Mastercard. Some Spanish motorways also have tolls. The toll booths are designed for left-hand drive cars, so right-hand drive cars may find them hard to navigate without the help of a passenger.

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