Driving In Europe: Caution & Care

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When thinking about driving in Europe, many of us will undoubtedly have an image similar to the infamous driving scene from National Lampoon’s European Vacation come to mind.

In this scene, a group of timid Americans are eternally stuck in a roundabout, surrounded by aggressive French (or Italian or British) drivers who won’t let them out.

It is true that driving in a strange country might be intimidating at first, particularly if you are not familiar with the driving regulations in Europe; yet, driving is sometimes a need for tourists who rent a villa or apartment outside of the big towns. This is most especially the case in Europe.

Therefore, unless you have managed to persuade your traveling companions that hiring a full-time chauffeur is the solution to your difficulties when driving in Europe, you are going to require some assistance. The following is a list of some general principles concerning driving in Europe, provided for your education.


First, let’s speak about something called “driving aggressiveness.” When compared to drivers in the United States, those in countries such as Italy, France, and England are often more confident and responsive behind the wheel. When I was online browsing, I came across the website of a British woman who had traveled to the United States. She had been impressed by how, at a four-way stop, everyone came to an orderly standstill and waved each other through. Even if many people in the United States are aware that this is not usually the situation in their country, the point is nonetheless made!

When you first start driving in Europe, you can discover that you become angry easily when other drivers “cut you off” or fail to utilize their turn signals. On the other hand, you need to be more quick-witted since the speed at which people drive in Europe is faster. There are many instances in which an opening between automobiles is only there for a little period of time, and if a motorist takes the time to signal, he will have missed his opportunity.

The important thing is to not hesitate. Don’t act rashly, utilize your signals even if no one else does, but when the time comes, move fast and don’t second-guess your decisions. In addition to that, you shouldn’t be hesitant to utilize your horn! In unfamiliar surroundings, it’s tempting to become too cautious, yet hesitating is likely to bring you more troubles than anything else might.

Be courteous even if you have to travel slowly because traffic is heavy. When a driver behind you flashes their lights at you, they are pleading with you to stop the vehicle so that they can pass. What is my input? Do it! Being unyielding about where you want to be on the road is highly impolite, and if blinking doesn’t work, other drivers may resort to blasting their horns, yelling, or even more extreme measures.


Now, let’s take a look at the roundabout, which is something that you will most likely come across when driving in France. Realizing that vehicles that are already “in” the circle have the right-of-way and that you are required to allow them out is the most essential component of this scenario. Before you “go for it” and join the flow of people, you are going to have to wait for a break in the traffic first. The benefit of using a roundabout is that it is possible to complete the circuit an unlimited number of times; hence, it is not a problem if you fail to locate your exit on the first attempt.


You should be familiar with the set of standardized road signs that European countries are currently using since the Union. These signs may be found on roads across Europe. When you’re behind the wheel in Europe, keep an eye out for these popular examples of international traffic signs:

  • The phrase “NO ENTRY” is shown by a white dash inside of a red circle.
  • The symbol for YEILD is a white triangle with a crimson border that is inverted.
  • INFORMATIONAL content is denoted by an upright triangle with a red border. On the inside, there will be a sign that represents bumps, merging lanes, or any other possible risks. This symbol will be pretty self-explanatory.
  • NO PARKING is indicated by a red circle with a slash in the middle of a blue backdrop.
  • A white circle that has a red border around it indicates that the area is closed to all vehicles.
  • It is against the law to pass an automobile that is either black or red if it is parked inside a circle that is colored red.
  • The right of way is denoted by the use of a yellow diamond.
  • A white circle inside a blue circle with numbers on it denotes the SPEED LIMIT (in kilometers!).
  • ROUNDABOUT is the term used to describe something that has arrows arranged in a circle.


Parking is not often an issue in more rural or countryside regions; nevertheless, locating parking in London, Paris, Rome, or any other big city in Europe may be a challenging and time-consuming endeavor. The majority of drivers in the United States are woefully unprepared to deal with the terrible traffic conditions.

It is my recommendation that you park at a garage on the city’s outskirts and make use of the public transit system once you are within the city. You may try to find a parking location that doesn’t cost anything, but places like that are hard to come across.

Finding a parking spot is not only difficult but also dangerous in an unknown town because much of it is reserved for residents only and the police are fast to issue citations.

Even if you try to evade payment and get away with it by driving a rental car, the company will find you and make you pay. It might take a year or it could take much longer… but they will locate you!


It is a good idea to take some cash with you whenever you drive in Britain or France, regardless of where you are going.

There are three factors contributing to this result: To begin, some of the more established gas stations may only accept cash payments. Second, there are a good number of toll roads, and you will need to have cash on hand to pay for them.

And thirdly, traffic citations are sometimes issued “on the spot” in many countries, such as France. This means that if you are pulled over, the officer will expect you to pay him instantly if you do not already have the money in your possession. It is always best to be ready for everything, even if it turns out that your worst fears were unfounded.

Be brave now that you have a better understanding of how driving works in Europe. It’s possible that drivers in Europe come across as careless and hostile, but the truth is that they’re just used to doing things in a certain manner. You should not have any problems as long as you follow the regulations, pay attention, and pull over when you are instructed to do so.

Oh, and one more piece of advice for those of you Americans who are going to be driving in Europe: NEVER turn right on a red light.


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