Different laws when driving in EU countries

You might expect Europe to have similar rules of the road, but there are differences between different countries. The Netherlands has its own strange and unique driving laws and cultures as you may have found out. Well, so do other countries.

If you’re an expat in the Netherlands planning a road trip it might be worth learning a few of these different rules to avoid a hefty fine or worse.

The Netherlands

  • In The Netherlands bicycles always have right of way! Look out for bikes when pulling out and give way to bikes on the right.
  • Vehicles coming from the right always have priority, even if you are driving down a straight road you should give way to cars pulling onto the road on the right. This means there are very few road markings in the countryside. Only if you see a yellow sign do you ignore this rule, or if you see “sharks teeth” which means you give way on the left.

Belgium

While The Netherlands is very strict on breaking the speed limit and will issue fines for going at the limit +1km, in Belgium you will be fined if you exceed the limit by +10 kilometers per hour over the stated limit.

Germany

  • Some cities or areas have Environmental Zones. You are not allowed to drive in here without the correct environmental sticker (Umweltplakette). Do you have a European disabled parking card clearly visible behind your window? Then there is no entry ban.
  • In the event of an alleged traffic violation, you must pay a deposit equal to the amount of the fine. The final penalty may also be more severe.
  • You can already be charged with threats for giving light signals or raising your middle finger if the other road user makes a report.

Italy

  • Electronic toll collection introduced in Northern Italy. There are no toll booths and payment must be made via an app or via the internet. You must pay within 15 days of driving on the toll road. Do you want to know where electronic toll collection has been introduced and how to register and pay? Consult apl.pedemontana.com or download the APL Free Flow app.
  • In the center of a number of cities (eg Rome, Pisa, Milan and Florence) there is limited access for car traffic, the so-called Zona Traffico Limitato (ZTL). These zones are indicated by a traffic sign with the letters ‘ZTL’ on it. Within such a car-free zone you can incur several fines if you drive there without an exemption. If your hotel is located in a city center, you can often apply for an exemption through your hotel.
  • Your European disabled parking card is valid in Italy, just like in the Netherlands. You are allowed to park in disabled parking spaces, but you are not allowed to drive into the car-free zone to reach the car park. Before entering a car-free zone, you must report to the municipality.

France

  • In France, you must always carry an alcohol test for every person holding a driving license per vehicle. Are you going on holiday to France with 4 adults and they all have a valid driver’s license? Then you must bring 4 alcohol tests with you. No alcohol test with you? Then a fine can follow. It is the intention that you purchase the test yourself, this can be done online via various websites.
  • In addition, it is not allowed to have speed camera signals on your navigation system. This is also prohibited on other electrical devices, such as a mobile phone or laptop. Violation of the ban can result in a fine of € 1,500
  • Contrary to the basic rule in Europe that merging traffic must give way, merging traffic on the Périphérique has priority over traffic already on the Périphérique.
  • In Paris and some other major cities in France you now also need an environmental sticker. They don’t cost too much and avoid a hefty fine. You can purchase the Vignette Crit’Air online through the French government .
  • You are not allowed to participate in traffic with headphones on, so also not on a bicycle. That will cost you €135.
  • Driving with flip-flops is prohibited. You risk a fine of €90.

Austria

  • A toll vignette obligation applies on most roads. Inquire about the right place to attach this vignette. An incorrect confirmation may result in a fine.
  • Are the red and yellow traffic lights on at the same time? Then get ready to drive away. A green flashing light means: be ready to stop. Do you drive in a yellow light? Then this counts as a violation, unless you have come so close to the intersection that you can no longer stop.

Hungary

In Hungary, motorists have to pay tolls. This also applies to tourists traveling through the country in a passenger car. You can pay the toll at designated sales points, such as gas stations at or just across the border or online. After payment, you will receive a proof of payment and the point of sale will forward your registration number to the authorities. This is necessary to be able to check later whether you have paid toll. In some places in the country there are speed cameras that check whether you have paid toll. Keep your proof of payment for at least one year. It is possible that something can go wrong when submitting your registration number. If you are wrongly fined for not paying the toll, you can use the proof of payment to prove that you have paid toll.

Slovenia

A road vignette is also mandatory for this country. You can purchase the vignette at toll stations and at various petrol stations, supermarkets and kiosks in Slovenia and also at large petrol stations in neighboring countries in the border regions with Slovenia. It is recommended to purchase the vignette before entering Slovenia. And here too, confirmation in the wrong place can result in a fine.

UK

There are stretches of highway, tunnels and bridges where tolls have to be paid. Often there is no toll booth and payment has to be made via an app, via the internet or in advance with internet registration or digitally afterwards. Payment methods may differ per toll route. You will be warned that you are approaching a toll section and you can usually still leave the road. Are you once on the toll road? Then you will be flashed and fined for failure to pay toll. Do you want to know where to pay tolls? Please refer to  gov.uk/uk-toll-roads .

Switzerland

  • In Switzerland, on a motorway with three lanes in each direction of travel, you can only drive in the leftmost lane if you can and are allowed to drive at least 100 km/h. Are you driving a trailer or caravan? Then you are not allowed to use the left-most lane.
  • In Switzerland you have to adjust your speed before entering a tunnel. There is a speed limit in tunnels. Pay attention to this, because the speed limit is not always clearly visible. If you do not comply with this, a hefty fine may follow.
  • A toll sticker is necessary and must be attached in the correct place, otherwise you could be fined.
  • Fines for serious traffic violations will be determined by your income. If it is not known they will estimate this.

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