Renting a car for a trip through Europe gives you access to beautiful countryside, a flexible schedule and an appreciation for more of your host countries’ cultures. It can also put you at the mercy of more aggressive drivers and at risk for expensive accidents. To prepare yourself for driving in Europe, start by getting an International Driving Permit and car insurance.
International Driving Permits
Getting an International Driving Permit (IDP) gives you peace of mind when traveling throughout Europe. The IDP is valid for a year when paired with your valid US driver’s license, which you must carry with you as well.
You won’t need a permit in every European country, but it is required in many. Even if the countries you plan to visit don’t necessitate an IDP, the agency you rent your car from may require you to have it.
One of the benefits of an IDP is that it translates your driver’s license into 10 languages, including French, Italian, Swedish, German, Spanish and Portuguese. This can help you communicate with local law enforcement.
Car Insurance Abroad
Before traveling to Europe, determine whether your car insurance at home will cover an international rental. You may need to purchase separate car insurance. Even if your insurance is valid in Europe, the countries you visit may require additional coverage. Make sure you’re not underinsured by purchasing an additional policy for your trip. You may be able to do so through your current insurance provider, your credit card company or the rental agency.
Tips for Driving in Europe
Driving in Europe is similar to driving in the US. Keep these tips in mind to keep your companions safe and your trip on-track.
- Drive on the right, except in the UK, Ireland, Malta and Cyprus.
- In general, don’t take a right on red.
- Prepare for toll roads with lots of coins.
- Reserve a car with an automatic transmission ahead of time if necessary.
- Know whether your rental car uses diesel or gas.
- Use public transportation in city-centers.
- Be aware of aggressive drivers, who may only yield at stoplights and drive quickly.
- Don’t use your mobile phone or headphones. Some countries limit eating while driving as well.
- Know where your rental car can go. Some can’t leave (or enter) the EU or Eastern Europe.
- Keep your lights on at all times.
- Understand the passing rules for the country you’re in.
- Don’t drink and drive; BAC limits are much stricter in Europe.