A European road trip should be on your summer list for 2023 if it isn’t! Beautiful country roads, fast paced highways, quaint small hamlets and towns, great highway services and so many more reasons YOU need to get behind the wheel.
Of course if you’re headed from India, the most common thing to always remember is that you’re now driving on the other side of the road! But here are some more nuanced tips.
We drive through Europe every year and each time, there is a new experience that leaves us wow’ed! But before all that, here are our top 7 tips to driving across countries in Europe-
Driver’s License: Just because it’s all EU does not mean that the rules are all the same. This applies even if you can drive with an Indian license or need an international one. Countries like France, Denmark, Germany etc accept your Indian driver’s license while others like Italy, Austria, Czech need you to have an International Driver’s Permit as well. So make sure you read up about the country(ies) you’re headed to! To be safe, get your International Driver’s Permit before you travel.
Speed Limit: While speed limits on highways and cities vary country by country- the usual rule that you must keep in mind is that the speed will drop significantly within cities and more so around schools. So look out for the signs because there is usually a speed gun around reduced speed zones. Some countries also have weather dependent speed limits with reduced speeds during wet weather. These signs can sometimes be confusing, so brush up before you take the wheel.
Using Hazard lights the right way: No, you don’t turn hazard lights on in a tunnel! Use them only when YOU are being a hazard on the road. If you’ve had to stop on the road due to an unavoidable circumstance OR usually on a highway when a car brakes suddenly due to a hazard on the road, the blinkers come on. Rule of thumb is, if the car ahead of you breaks suddenly and turns it’s blinkers on – you do too. It’s a chain reaction to inform drivers behind you to slow down.
Keeping Distance: Always keep a car’s length between you and the car ahead of you and make this 2 car’s distance of highways with higher speeds. Sometimes you may need to brake suddenly at high speeds and it’s also a matter of driving etiquette to not be sticking to the car ahead of you.
Parking: Parking can be a tricky one especially if you’ve never used the parking disk before. Most rentals come with a manual disk which needs to be set to the time you park your car – it’s used in places for example – which have free parking for 2 hours etc. If you forget to set your disk, you can get a ticket! Some cars come with automatic disks which set themselves each time you park. Most larger garages have automated parking sensors and you pay for your parking before you exit in the parking ticket pay booths located in life lobbies usually (pay before you get into your car)
Driving on the other side: This can be tricky! We know! What usually helps us align is always keeping in mind that you, as a driver, have to be next to the divider and away from the curb. Especially helpful when you turn into undivided roads. Make sure you keep checking the right side rearview mirror to see the lane lines in them – this ensures you’re not drifting out of your lane. Many cars come with lane driving assist, use this if your rental does.
Following the rules: Make sure you brush up on rules! Some common ones are –
- To always give way to the car on your left at a roundabout, you must always yield!
- On a highway, the left most lane is the slowest so it’s best to be in it while you get acquainted but also keep in mind it is the one with the exits and entries so it may be best to settle into the middle lane to avoid changing lanes while you get accustomed to driving.
- While exiting a highway, make sure you get in the exit lane well in time and slow down once you’re on the exit ramp as speed zones drop quickly.
- If there is a car entering the highway, they will give a lane change indicator to come into the leftmost highway lane and you must give them way by speeding up/slowing down or changing lanes.
- Lastly, If you’re at a traffic light and turning left – you cannot blindly turn left on green. You must yield to oncoming traffic and only turn when it’s clear.
There are of course, so many more so make sure you read up and get comfortable with them all.
PS: Do not honk! Reserved only to be used in case of a likely accident avoidance or more commonly to cuss at someone who has broken the rule. So if you hear someone honking at you, make sure you aren’t drifting out of your lane or breaking any other driving rules or etiquettes.