By Dom at Reduce My Excess,
20 October 2023
We all spent months – or in some unfortunate cases, years – learning to drive in the UK, and felt that glow of pride when we were told we’d passed our practical tests.
However, what we learned about the rules of the road here may not apply in other parts of the world.
If you’re planning on taking a trip abroad, whether you’re driving your own vehicle into Europe or getting a hire car, here are some of the most popular questions which get asked.
Do you need a breathalyser in France?
This is a confusing one, so let’s clear it up.
Before 2020, it was a legal requirement to have a breathalyser kit in your car in France. What’s more, it had to have at least two disposable testing units.
However, this law no longer applies. That being said, many people do carry them, just to make their lives easier if they do get stopped by the police.
The rule was repealed in January 2020, and if you’re fluent in French, you can check out the official legal documentation here.
If you do want to be on the safe side and carry a breathalyser France has approved, then you’ll be looking for an NF-approved product.
NF stands for Norme Francaise and this means the breathalyser complies with French regulations.
What do I need to drive in France?
This item isn’t the only one to think about when it comes to driving in France.
Here’s your driving in France checklist:
- First aid kit
- High visibility vest (one per vehicle occupant)
- Universal spare bulb set
- Warning triangle
- Headlamp beam deflectors
- UK sticker
- Snow chains or winter tyres (if you are in a ‘snow zone’ between 1st November and 31st March)
Do I need winter tyres in Germany?
Another question that comes up a lot is - do you need winter tyres in Germany?
Winter tyres on snowy or icy roads are required during certain months of the year. Generally, this is between October and April, but rules can be slightly different depending on the region.
The general rule is that winter tyres are necessary if the situation demands it. This doesn’t just apply to snow and ice, but also if the temperature is under a certain degree. Under such conditions, summer tyres will not have the same braking power as winter tyres.
When booking a hire car in Germany, ensure you state which regions you are travelling to and whether you are crossing borders. You should be equipped with the right tyres, but make sure you’ve done your research beforehand too – car hire excess insurance can be a useful add-on in such situations.
Snow chains are required when local signs indicate they need to be applied. When road conditions become more dangerous due to the weather, drivers should use their common sense and put the chains on.
It’s recommended to practice applying snow chains before travelling in Germany - simply having them in the back of your car won’t be enough if you have to apply them and don’t have any idea how to do it!
What other road laws are there?
France and Germany aren’t the only places with road laws to swot up on before you head abroad. In fact, other countries around the world have some weird and wonderful rules that need to be followed. Here are a few examples...
It is illegal for drivers to pick up hitchhikers. What’s more, if you’re seen hitchhiking, it’s likely the police will put an end to it, ironically by picking you up.
The people of Belarus have made it illegal to drive around in a dirty car. How ‘dirty’ is defined is unclear...
The Cypriotes have a zero-tolerance policy on all drinking at the wheel, that’s ALL drinks. Not even water is allowed. This extends to eating too.
Whenever you reverse in Slovenia, you have to put your hazards on.
In Switzerland you’re not allowed to wash your car on the Sabbath.
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.