Stratstone Guide to: Driving in Europe

13th Mar 2019

A drive through Europe can be fraught with difficulty due to the differing rules and regulations that are enforced by each country's government. You may already have a rough idea of what you need for your journey onto foreign soil, but this list of handy tips and advice will ensure you are prepared for your drive through Europe.

Car Preparation

Before you even consider setting off for a drive into Europe, you need to ensure the car you will be taking is fit for purpose. It may sound painfully obvious, but you would be amazed how many motorists drive around with under-inflated tyres and low fluid levels.

Before you leave, we recommend giving your car a generous once over and ensuring it complies with the laws set by the country you will be driving in. For example, the minimum legal tread depth for tyres in the UK is 1.6mm, whereas in Germany it is 3mm.

Below is a basic checklist:

Check the tread depths on your tyres
Ensure all fluids are topped up and fit for purpose (when were they last changed?)
Check the condition of the brakes
Spare wheel and tools present and fit for purpose (if applicable)
All bulbs fully working
If you are not very mechanically minded, then your local Stratstone dealership will be more than happy to perform a health check prior to your trip.
Car check before a long journey.


There have been a number of reported cases where Brits have been pulled up in European countries and not been able to produce the documentation they have been asked for because they left them at home.

Here's what you need to keep with you:

  • Your valid full UK driving licence (not provisional)
  • A copy of your DVLA driving summary (this can be applied for online)
  • Where required, an International Driving Permit
  • Your vehicle's V5 registration document (not a copy)
  • Your motor insurance certificate
  • Your passport
  • Travel insurance documents
  • If applicable, a valid visa

It does not take long to prepare these documents for your journey into Europe. And in the event you do happen to get pulled over by the local authorities, it will make the process of getting you on your way again much easier.


Driving licence.
Understand the restrictions and local laws

This piece of advice incorporates a lot of basic common sense, because it is similar to putting together a piece of furniture from a certain Swedish manufacturer (ahem). After all, you would not tackle such a task without first understanding how the piece of furniture goes together, would you?

The point being is that you should take the time to understand the local laws and restrictions placed on motorists in the European location you are visiting. There is a wealth of information all over the internet, so taking the time to browse through those pages is something you will thank yourself later.

A lot of Europe's larger cities are cleaning up the air by restricting access to high emissions vehicles. Paris, for example, requires drivers to display a 'Vignette' sticker in their windscreens when travelling through restricted zones. Find out if any of these restricted zones exist on your route planner and plan accordingly.
Understanding the local laws and restrictions.

Extra equipment

We have it quite easy here in the UK, because we are under no legal obligation to carry additional equipment in our cars, regardless of the weather or terrain. However, some European countries require drivers to carry specific equipment, which can include (but aren't limited to):

  • Reflective jacket
  • Warning triangle
  • Snow chains or even winter tyres

Although it is pretty unlikely you will actually be caught without any of these items - unless it is winter and you don't have the appropriate tyres - you can land yourself a substantial fine from the authorities if you do. It is best to keep them packed, better to be safe and all that.

Again, the internet is your friend here. It is always worth double-checking on various forums and government websites to get a definitive list of what is a legal requirement in the country you are visiting since they can all differ substantially.

Red warning triangle behind a broken down car.
Insurance and breakdown

Although you are covered by your motor insurance to drive within the UK, you might be surprised to discover that your insurance policy may not cover you to drive in any country outside the UK.

Rectifying this issue is a simple one, all you need to do is give your car insurance company a call and let them know where you are travelling to you in Europe and when. Typically they will charge you a small fee to cover you during this period. If your insurance company don't cover European road trips whatsoever, then fear not because there are a number of other insurance companies that will cover you for your trip.

You also need to think about breakdown cover because being stranded a few hundred miles away from home in a foreign country is not what many would class as a fun experience. Thankfully, there are companies that will provide breakdown cover for a reasonable fee, giving you peace of mind.
White SUV broken down on the side of the road.
As stated at the beginning of the article, driving through Europe can be fraught with difficulty. The key word in that previous sentence is 'can', because travelling through Europe doesn't need to be difficult - it should be a wonderful and pleasurable experience. And by following the advice and tips given in this article, you will be making your life a lot easier.

At Stratstone, we are committed to taking care of our customers through all aspects of their motoring journey. If you are in doubt, then please feel free to send us a message on social media or contact our friendly and helpful team. We will happily answer any further questions you have about driving through Europe. Drive safe.