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What You Need To Know When Driving In Mainland Europe What You Need To Know When Driving In Mainland Europe

Driving & Road Safety

What You Need To Know When Driving In Mainland Europe

Published 11th September 2023Read Time 4 min

Getting ready for an adventure where you can really hit the road on the mainland will always be exciting. Getting to create new experiences on your terms, without having to worry about buses and trains, can make for memorable trips as long as you know what you’re doing.

If you’ve never driven over there before, aside from being on the “wrong” side of the road, what guidance can help you drive with confidence in mainland Europe?

As a leading provider of European breakdown cover, we know a thing or two about driving abroad. Let’s break down what you need to know, whether your trip will see you driving your car or you’re flying over to subsequently pick up a hire car.

If you’re driving your car in Europe

License Plate Clarity

It needs to be clear that you’re driving a vehicle with an Irish license. With Irish license plates already having the IRL symbol you’re covered, but if you’re towing any equipment without a plate, you might need to get a car sticker to display so it’s clear.

Know what equipment you need

Some countries will require you to have the likes of a first aid kit or fire extinguisher in the car at all times. This is often referred to as compulsory equipment. We have a nice breakdown of what you’ll need in your vehicle by country here.

You’ll need more mirrors

Because you’re driving on the right, it is recommended that you have some external rear-view mirrors to cover blind spots. Even if you think it looks silly, it will provide a safer drive for you and your passengers, especially if you’ve never driven on the right before. You might also want to consider getting headlight converters if you’re planning on driving at night.

If you’re driving a hire car in Europe

Check insurance options

Like how you would look at different providers here when shopping for car insurance, look online for any providers who will cover you fully for hire car insurance. Compare those rates with what options you’ll be given when picking the car up. Some car hire companies may try to charge a hefty premium on the day if you’ve not arranged anything.

Take lots of photos

When picking up your hire car, make sure to take photos all around the body and the interior. Email those photos to the hire company’s local address as proof of the car’s condition so you’re okay when leaving back. Even if there are minor scratches on the bodywork or just a little stain on the seats, you don’t want to end up arguing over paying fees or fines, so something that was already there.

Check you’re hiring from an ECRCS member

The European Car Rental Conciliation Service (ECRCS) is a free service for drivers who end up in disputes with dealerships. Many reputable car hire firms will be voluntary members of the ECRCS and adhere to a specific code of conduct to show they’re above board.

If the company you’re hiring from isn’t, double-check why that would be.

Do I need a permit to drive in Europe?

Almost all countries in the EU won’t require any special permit to drive. There are some countries in Eastern Europe that may require some form of International Driving Permit (the full of countries can be found here). The AA is the official supplier of IDPs in Ireland. You can find more information on getting an IDP here.