Planning a Europe road trip? Wondering what you need to be able to drive in Europe? What kit to carry and paperwork to take? Here’s everything you need to know about driving in Europe, whether you’re travelling by car, motorhome, campervan, caravan, bike or anything else!
Don’t forget to grab your FREE Driving in Europe checklist to help keep you organised.
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What do you need to drive in Europe?
When you’re planning a European road trip, it can all feel a bit overwhelming. There are questions over what documents you need to take, do you need a green card, what gear do you need in your vehicle and are breathalysers STILL a thing?
NOTE: This post has been completed updated in 2021 and takes into account all changes for driving in Europe after BREXIT and new French laws. There have been some changes to both gear you need to carry in your vehicle, and to paperwork you need to carry. Details on both are below and all checklists have been updated to comply.
Driving in Europe Checklist
When we planned our first driving holiday to Europe, there wasn’t an easy resource or checklist for a car, motorhome or campervan *cough, you know, like the one you can get below* and it all felt a bit overwhelming.
So, to make your life easier, here is a list of what you need to drive in Europe. Actually, there are some things you NEED to take with you (legally) and there are some you SHOULD take (because they make life more fun!)
Want to head to Europe with your motorhome?
Grab your FREE (printable) checklist and discover 25 things you NEED to take with you when you travel in Europe. Make your life easier today.
Essential Road Trip Accessories for driving in Europe
I’m sorry to say that most of the accessories you NEED in your Europe travel kit aren’t very sexy or fun. But they are aimed at increasing your visibility and safety and the police DO check if they stop you- and they do fine if you aren’t carrying everything you should be.
Things you need to drive in Europe- safety gear
Unlike in the UK, there are some things you legally MUST carry in your vehicle when driving in Europe. These are:
- Hi-vis reflective jackets – one per person (These MUST be accessible without getting out of the vehicle- ie, don’t keep them in the garage unless you can reach them from inside!)
- Warning triangle
- Headlight beam convertors– must be fitted before you drive in Europe.
- UK car sticker attached to the back of car or reg plates.
- First aid kit – compulsory in many countries, including France and Germany. Find out what we carry in our European first aid kit here
TOP TIP: Buy these essentials for driving in Europe in advance. One of the cheapest places is on Amazon. If you use somewhere like Halfords or wait until you’re at the ferry, you could spend two or even THREE times as much!
Do I need a breathalyser to drive in France or Europe?
Repeat after me- you do NOT need a breathalyser to drive in Europe.
It was a law France passed a few years ago… and then quietly removed for whatever reason. Many posts ranking highly in Google still list a breathalyser in their essential Europe driving accessories list, but I promise you you don’t need one.
Other recommended Europe driving kit to carry for safety
- Spare bulbs for all lights in the vehicle
- Fire extinguisher
- Blanket- useful if your passengers get cold! (Did you know you can buy a 12v heated blanket? It’s amazing!)
- Water and snacks- just in case you run into traffic or breakdown somewhere remote.
Road trip accessories you MIGHT need when driving in Europe
The following kit are things you might need to carry in your car, motorhome, caravan or campervan, depending on when and where you are planning your road trip in Europe.
- Snow chains/ winter tyres– check the rules on the country you are visiting and pay close attention to the DATES when the snow chain/ snow tyres rules come into force. If you’re not sure, read THIS. France passed a law in November 2021 about winter tyres and snow chains- read it in full here.
- Clean Air tax in some French cities, called Crit’Air. Here’s what you need to know about those.
- Blind Spot Stickers. If your motorhome is over 3.5 tonnes and you’re planning to visit built up areas in France, you’ll need to fit these Blind spot warning stickers.
- Motorway tax/ Vignette. These are enforced in several countries across Europe, including Switzerland and Austria. You must have them fitted on your vehicle before/ as you cross the border. You can buy them in garages very easily. Remember, if you are motorhoming in Switzerland in a vehicle over 3.5t, you might need more than a normal vignette.
- Beware of Portugal, where you need to carry a temporary toll device in order to use some of the motorways- read our guide to motorhoming in Portugal
- Red/ white warning board sign – for bike racks or anything overhanging the end of the motorhome or campervan. These are not currently compulsory in France, but they ARE compulsory if motorhoming in Italy or Spain. Get the more expensive aluminium one, like this one– the cheaper versions are not legal in Italy.
What documents do you need to drive in Europe?
If you’re driving in Europe, you need to carry the following documents:
- Passport (or identity card)
- Driving licence (check it is in date!)
- Vehicle Insurance documents- check you are covered for driving in Europe
- Breakdown cover
- Vehicle V5 logbook (which must show your correct address)
- Vehicle must be legally taxed and MOT’d
- Trailer certification (if required)
- Green card (if required- usually only for trailers. Check & get from your vehicle insurer)
- International Driving Permit if required
- Personal travel insurance
Do I need an international driving permit to drive in Europe?
Most UK citizens do not need an IDP to drive in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein if you have a card driving licence issued in the UK.
You might need one if you have:
- a paper driving licence only
- a licence issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man
(If you do need an IDP, here’s an in-depth guide on how to get an International Driving Permit and which one(s) you need from a UK post office.
Planning to take your motorhome to Europe?
Driving in Europe- Other useful things you might need
We’ve been touring Europe in our motorhome for several years. We’ve tried all sorts of kit- some useful, some not so much.
Here is a list of things we highly recommend when driving in Europe, but which are NOT essential:
- WiFi– learn our favourite way to get internet on the road
- Toll pass (see below)
- TV- If you’d like TV in your motorhome or camper, here’s how to get it.
- An awesome road trip playlist!
Motorhome/ Camper travel accessories for Europe
If you’re travelling Europe in a motorhome or camper, here are some extra things you might find helpful:
- ACSI Camping card– great value if you’re travelling outside of peak season.
- Motorhome sat-nav– get one you can enter your motorhome dimensions into, like these
- Refillable gas bottles– here’s how we fitted ours. One of the best things upgrades we’ve done to our motorhome.
- Motorhome security camera– this thing is GOLD for allowing us to go exploring and leave the van for a short time.
- Solar panel- perfect if you want to wild camp in Europe
- Inverter- a wild camping essential
Tolls in Europe
Most countries in Europe which don’t have vignettes have tolls. Normally, the tolls are automatic and take card payments, but if you can carry change you’ll find the queues for those lanes are generally shorter.
It’s a little box which sticks to the windscreen and each time we go through a toll it adds itself to our bill, which is emailed to us at the end of the month. Payment is taken automatically if that’s what you prefer. They have similar systems for Scandanavia as well- we used BroBizz when we were over 3.5 tonnes on our motorhome holiday to Norway
It’s not an essential motorhome accessory, and you can happily tour Europe without it, but it really does help.
Driving in Europe- things to do before you leave
Don’t forget to do these essential vehicle checks before you leave in order to make sure you don’t have any unpleasant surprises on your journey!
Basic vehicle maintenance:
- Check tyre pressure
- If the vehicle hasn’t been started for a while, start the engine and give it a run, just to be sure!
- BRAKES. Check your brakes and brake fluid. Please. Halfords do a free brake check and after our horrible experience of driving down a mountain in Switzerland without any brakes, we check ours regularly!
- Tyre tread. If your tread is very low and you’re about to set off driving around Europe, consider doing the same. If you’re going for a couple of weeks and your tread is ok, you should be fine until you get back. If you’re not sure, ask your local garage.
- Windscreen. Check for chips, cracks or other imperfections. You may be covered by insurance in Europe, but if it cracks completely, it’s going to eat into your holiday time. Better to get it sorted now and not have to worry about it.
- Lights. Make sure all your lights, indicators etc are working. It’s scary how many motorhomes and caravans we’ve seen with indicators or brake lights which aren’t working correctly. Don’t give the European police an easy reason to fine you. (And those fines are on the spot!)
- Washer fluid
- Water levels in radiator if you have an older motorhome/ campervan.
- Battery- if you are in any doubt about the starter battery or motorhome domestic battery (or any other battery you may have), get it checked and replace if necessary
- Check fluid in washer fluid reservoir
- Check windscreen wipers
- Check anything fixed to the outside of the motorhome is secure
- Check door locks- much easier to get it fixed now than later! We fitted an additional motorhome door lock for security.
- Check to ensure bolts haven’t worked loose on bike rack
- Check towbar and all electrics
- Check straps for fraying
- Check tread on trailer tyres
- Check brakes if it’s a braked trailer
- Check fixings on roof boxes/ external luggage carriers to ensure they are still properly fitted.
- If you’re planning a motorhome, campervan, RV or caravan trip, check as many vehicle systems as possible- heating, air con, fridge, solar panel, water, toilet, batteries… if you find a problem now you still have time to fix it before you travel if you need to.
What to do if you are renting a vehicle for your European road trip?
If you are hiring a motorhome or camper in Europe, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure the vehicle has the required safety equipment. The on-the-spot fines apply to you as the driver, not the company. Check in advance with the company what kit they will provide with the vehicle and what you will need to bring.
Take a list of what is legally required with you and check it off one by one as you are given the handover. Do not drive until you are happy you comply with the local laws.
Make sure you have proof that you can take the vehicle across a border into another country if that’s what you’re planning to do.
I hope you now feel better prepared for driving in Europe.
Other Europe Travel tips you might find helpful:
- Unmissable Europe road trip ideas
- The best places to see the Northern Lights in Europe
- Best cities to visit in winter in Europe
- Warmest places in winter in Europe
For more information, visit our Europe travel section for advice, destination ideas and more.
Kat never planned to buy a motorhome. She also never planned to quit her job as an air traffic controller, go touring around Europe in said motorhome, start one of the UK’s largest motorhome travel websites… or get a cocker spaniel.
If you’d like to connect with Kat, send her an email or follow her adventures on social media.