Drink drive limit guide: Scotland, Spain, France & more

By , 16 October 2023

It's wise to educate yourself on the drink driving limits Europe has in place. Whether you’re driving up to Scotland or taking a plane to Italy, you should be aware of what could land you in trouble.

We have compiled the ultimate Europe drink drive limit guidelines, detailing the blood alcohol levels (BAC) which will result in serious penalties across the continent.

Drink drive limit in Scotland

Back in 2014, Scotland imposed legislation that made its drink driving limits different to those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The drink drive limit Scotland has in place is 0.05%. If you are convicted of drink driving, then you will be subject to penalties such as:

Drink drive limit in Spain

You may be tempted to get into your hire car after half a pitcher of sangria during your Spanish holiday, but be careful as drink-driving laws are stricter in Spain than they are in the UK.

The drink drive limit Spain has imposed involves the police actively checking blood alcohol levels while drivers are out on the road.

The legal limit is 0.05% if you have had your license for a minimum of two years. However, it’s even stricter if you’ve been driving for under two years – you can only have 0.03%.

What’s more, the penalties can be severe. If you are caught, you can receive a minimum fine of €1,000 if you are two times over the limit.

You will also be banned from driving for one to four years in all cases. The other punishments can include:

Drink drive limit in France

Hopping over the Channel via plane or Eurostar can be exciting, but you won’t be smiling if the French police stop your vehicle and carry out a random breath test. If you’ve been downing red wine, you may want to consider taking the Metro back to your hotel.

That’s because the drink drive limit France implements is 0.05%, like Spain. However, those who have less than three years of driving experience are given a limit of 0.02%.

It’s easy to think you won’t be caught or stopped, but the reality is that French police will test 108 drivers per every 1000 of the population per year, according to data from the European Transport Safety Council.

You could face the following punishments:

Drink drive limit in Greece

If you have been out in Athens or Santorini for meze washed down with ouzo, the anise-flavoured liquor which is popular in this part of the world, then think twice before driving yourself back to your hotel to sleep it off.

That’s because the drink drive limit Greece makes people follow is nearly the same as in France. In other words, the general limit is 0.05% and if you have been on the roads for less than two years then your maximum blood alcohol level is 0.02%.

If you are stopped by police in Greece and asked to undergo a breath test, failing to comply is not a good idea as you could end up with a fine, having your license taken away or even a prison sentence.

If you have over 0.11% then you could end up in jail for up to two years, plus you’ll be given a serious fine and your license will be revoked for six months.

Drink drive limit in Northern Ireland

You may fancy a road trip to Belfast or a visit to the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim, followed by some beers in a local pub, but consider walking to bed after your drinks so you don’t get in trouble with the police.

The drink drive limit Northern Ireland citizens are used to following is the same as you’ll find in England and Wales. In other words, the limit is 0.08%. You will be facing the following punishments if caught:

Drink drive limit in Ireland

Once you cross the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the rules change slightly. If you decide to take the 2 hour drive from Belfast to Dublin, you will need to consider more than getting out adequate cover such as car hire excess insurance.

That’s because the drink drive limit Ireland has in place is 0.05%, with a lower limit of 0.02% for both learner drivers and those who have had their license for less than 2 years.

You can expect a two-year ban and a fine of €1,500 if you are convicted of drunk driving.

Drink drive limit in Italy

While Italian food is world-renowned and worth travelling for, your holiday will grind to an abrupt halt if you fail a breath test.

The drink drive limit Italy has made law starts out with zero tolerance for drivers with less than three years of experience – they will be punished for having any in their system.

What’s more, Italy has placed multiple tiers of punishment in place depending on the blood alcohol level you are caught with:

Blood Alcohol Level (BAC) Punishment
0.05% to 0.08% €543-2170 fine, 3-6 months’ license suspension
0.08 to 0.15% €1500-6000 fine, 1-2 years’ license suspension, 6-12 months in prison, Vehicle seizure and confiscation

If you refuse to comply with a police request for breath testing, you will be given the higher tier of punishment.

Drink drive limit in Portugal

Don’t run the risk of ruining your holiday in sunny Portugal by hopping behind the wheel after a few drinks on your hotel balcony or by the sea.

The drink drive limit Portugal has applied is 0.05%, which is adjusted to 0.02% for private drivers if:

About the author

Dom has loved cars since he was five years old. He has worked as a mechanic for years, relishing the opportunity to be around vehicles and keep them in top shape.

Dom trained as a driving instructor once his daughter got her first car so he could help people to stay safe on the roads.

Now he takes every chance he can to share his knowledge of cars with the general public, focusing on vehicle maintenance and safety.