Taking your car to Europe

Hi Guys a little advice if you please.

Planning to take my Car to France, Belgium, Germany, to explore the battlefields of WW1 and WW2, Napoleonic wars.

Some questions, Petrol will they be using similar rating of petrol to us, in which case no need of modifications ?

What are the attitude of motorists and the locals in these Countries particularly the Police toward British plated cars ?

Anything to be aware of when driving round Europe ?

I quite like the idea of being able to drive through Europe without needing to show a passport ?

tho of course I would have to go through Tunnel immigration to get back to the UK.

I take it you have to let your insurance company know you are going to Europe.

Place I am planning to visit in France and Belgium, Waterloo, Mons, WW1 Trenches, Verdun, Normandy, Oradour-sur-Glane, the German Rhineland.

This is a taster for me so I can be more confident hopefully to travel further afield in Europe.

Thanks in advance
Anything to be aware of when driving round Europe ?
Yep, other side of t'road to us.

Sorry, couldn't resist.

On a serious note, you might want to check what the score is with winter tyres and lights where you are going. In some countries there's a certain date after which you have to have the winter tyres on and headlights on all the time - not sure if it affects France, Belgium et al (I'm thinking a little further North) but would be worth checking with the current conditions being what they are. Good luck!
The Germans have just changed the law making it a legal requirement to have winter tyres on when snowing, slush and black ice etc is around. I don't know how it effects tourists but the GCP were busy doing the squaddies last Thursday around Paderborn!
Roughly the same selection of fuel is available on the continent - 95 RON (labeled Sans Plomb in France and Bleifrei in Germany) 98 (super) and Diesel.

You'll need headlamp deflectors (like these: Halfords | Halfords Headlamp Converters ) or you can use black nasty to achieve the same effect. Also, remember a GB sticker if you don't already have one on the number plate.

If in doubt, call your insurers but you should be covered for driving in the EU by default.

Drive sensibly and adhere to local trafic regs and the Polizei will leave you alone.

Remember to take all insurance and V5 type documents and photocopies (incl. passport and driving licence).


Er, yeah. Have fun!
You might want to check with someone like the AA about the detailed rules, but a few pointers:
- Make sure you recognise the road signs - other countries have different ones and sometimes have different traffic priorities, identified by signs
- Some areas of Europe require that snow chains be carried or that winter tyres are mandatory in certain months.
- Many countries in Europe require the carriage of safety equipment and spare bulbs for all lights.
- Fuel will be fine - it will be identified by similar octane ratings to the UK
- Insurance will need to be informed.
- You might also wish to increase your roadside assistance cover unless you are confident of your ability to arrange garage support in whatever country you are in.
- Light modifications will be required (yours will be dipped to the left - not good if you are driving on the right.)
Oh yeh, just remember everything (speed limits especially) is in Km/hr. Bit of a bugger with a UK or US specced car where everything is in Mph.


But you can safely ignore speed cameras!
It is now seemingly the law in France that you must have a hi-vis jacket in your car. This must be in the car, not in the boot. There has been some recent coverage of les Flics fining those you do not comply. If you drop into Halfords they have a chart showing what items are essential in the key European countries by way of 1st aid kits, spare bulbs, etc.

The French used to be hot on enforcing the law of not crossing the line in the centre of the road when it is bold. My parents were fined for this some years ago. They paid the fine (equivalent to around £80 to £90) on the spot as required and were surprised to received a demand in the post for the same amount some months later. My Mother wrote back politely in French with a copy of the receipt and heard nothing more. The French cops on the roadside must have pocketed the cash.

I'm not saying the French aren't trustworthy, but at least we aren't going to be sharing aircaft carriers or important stuff like that with them. Oh, hold on.
Also in France now you need to carry a high vis vest (poss one per pass), a warning triangle, a spare bulb kit... think Belgium is the same , speed limits can change dependent on weather , the roads are better in general , less traffic unless in towns at rush hr , beautiful scenery , if you have sat nav make sure its upto date as we had a very nice drive down a lane and then a farm track through a wood and field before getting back onto a lane ( not a problem in a Landcruiser ) just down the road from Thiepval ;-) did pick up some nice shrapnel in the field though ... also found two unexploded shells !
Consider the ferrys instead of the tunnel ... breakfast on the ferry can be a nice break and standing on deck as you arrive in france makes you feel like you have traveled abroard ... for my money its much more nicer than sitting in a railway carrige in a hole in the ground and not that much slower unless you drive straight on the train and don't stop at the tunnel terminal... you can shop while you cross on the ferry not while you wait on the tunnel .
You will I'm sure find it a pleasent experiance and will want to go back again and again.
Not the best time of year to go touring IMHO. Only thing apart from driving on the wrong side to be wary of is the different countries traffic regs. Try doing the BFG driving exam, am pretty sure it includes France, Belgium, Holland etc. Oh and take a good phrase book and maps/Eurozone SatNaV
Make Oradour a whole day in itself. Arriving at noon won't do it justice.

Hi-viz jacket in the passenger compartment (don if on foot by major highways, people in rural areas will always stop to help), triangle, first aid kit. If you're normally in the UK, give your bank a call beforehand to let them know you'll be using plastic overseas. Embarrassing if it gets blocked due to 'change of spending pattern'. Dunno about western borders but compulsory to display passport when purchasing fuel in Basque region, if you get that far south of Oradour.

AA, Green Flag etc, etc, will offer European full cover breakdown service, small premium payable in advance.
Just sent you a PM, I want a photo from all the places I mentioned, or you don't get your 20 shiney pee.
Just sent you a PM, I want a photo from all the places I mentioned, or you don't get your 20 shiney pee.
Seems like blackmail to me. :?

In France, watch your speed within about 50 kms of Calais, the police can and will impound tourists' cars on the spot and let you walk home. They have a particular hatred for Brits towing caravans.

In Belgium be aware that directions and town names are in French when south or eastbound, but in Flemish if you're driving north or west. Tournai/Doornijk, for example, is confusing if you're tired.

Get a good atlas/road map book to help avoid toll roads in France (all the motorways) and use their A roads instead. There's generally far less traffic on French roads than in UK, relax and enjoy.

If heading north from Calais up the Ghyvelde corridor to Belgium, or returning that way, avoid the truckstops like the plague--they're crawling with illegals heading this way who will happily gas you, nick anything not nailed down and generally be a nuisance.

Also be very wary of "helping" people wanting you to bring parcels to UK--it's a drug running ploy wherein you'll be paid well the first time but grassed up the next, so Customs don't get used to seeing you too often.

There are no passport checks between France/Benelux/Germany, but Belgian and French Customs have mobile teams doing spot checks for all sorts of things in motorway services. If they stop you be very polite and helpful and you'll get no grief. In comparison, a Dutch trucker pulled by them after me kicked off---they took his truck to pieces on the forecourt then fucked off and left him to it.

Note that ALL European cops are armed, as are Border police, Customs, Security at Calais, and most other officials who may require you to stop. "Stop" is not a request, it's an order swiftly followed by the "kerching" of cocking weapons if you don't comply. Calais occassionally has troops reinforcing the port security guys, and having seen how they deal with recalcitrant drivers, well, just don't.

Belgians and Dutch can and will speak English. The French may be able to, at least in western France, but won't. Their gaff, their rules. In eastern France and Luxembourg many French also speak German. For entertainment try the mega-truckstop in Luxembourg and watch the young women in the shop and fuel tills switch effortlessly between about 20 languages in as many minutes.

Should you venture into Switzerland, be nice to the Border guards-- a colleague kicked off about them speaking only German, they kept him waiting, for 5 days.

Food is excellent, and cheap---French motorway restaurants will give you a 3 course dinner with a half bottle of house wine for under 20 euros, about what you'd pay for a Mars bar and a Coke in UK.

Belgian and Dutch radio stations are pretty good, but the French is abysmal. They do, though, have one channel that gives news and traffic info every hour or so in English.

Finally, if you're after Waterloo I believe they have a renactment every June--check with the tourist office.

Have a good trip.
This is from UK Campsites. It is the "sticky" with advice for driving on the Continent Driving advice and requirements There's quite a bit to read but it is pretty sound advice

You are required to have a Hi Viz vest for each person in the vehicle.
You do need a spare set of bulbs
You do need a fire extinguisher
You do need a first aid kit
You do need a warning triangle (two for Italy)
If you wear glasses you are required to carry a spare set
All the vehicle documents including MOT, Insurance certificate and registration document
GB sticker - even with the new number plates it can save a bit of trouble (not a requirement, just a personal view)

Radar detectors are banned in France. Even the possession of one is enough for a massive fine and/or imprisonment
CB radios may be illegal in Italy - it seems to be a very grey area.

Supermarkets are the cheapest for fuel
UK credit and debit cards may not always be accepted in "pay at the pump" fuel pumps

Speed limits are rigidly enforced although you wouldn't believe it with the way some French drive. Between 12 Noon and 2pm can be the worst time to be on the road in France: Never stand between a Frenchman and his stomach.

Take a TomTom or Garmin GPS for driving directions plus a map. The Via Michelin maps are good and the cheapest place to buy them is from a Super or Hypermarket.
In France, watch your speed within about 50 kms of Calais, the police can and will impound tourists' cars on the spot and let you walk home. They have a particular hatred for Brits towing caravans.
Not disputing this or encouraging speeding, but from my experience driving back to the UK in convoy whilst we were driving 100+ we passed a French copper still doing 85+, no bother from him.

We weren't towing caravans though...

I did get 2 flashes from speed cameras in Germany though, try and beat that!
One thing that hasn't been mentioned is the new Eco-sticker for Germany.

Driving into most major cities is now regulated by colour coded stickers that you must display on your car, in some places (Berlin for instance) cars not meeting the higher level of emission control are banned from the city center.

Fines etc for non-display.

Umweltplakette/Feinstaubplakette - Informationen und Bestellmöglichkeit
Some good advice given above...

...and some not so good!

I regularly drive throughout Europe on business, either in rentals or a (Hungarian/Czech/Polish) company car, as well as going for the odd rally and tour in my own car.

To add to the above:

1. As stated, take all car documents. Originals and a photocopy of everything. Police will only accept the originals in most countries and will appreciate a copy as it makes their life easier. European police do not accept '7 days to produce' and will impound you and your car until documents can be produced. If the car is not yours, then a notarised copy of a letter of approval from the owner giving you permission to drive the car in that country (including notarised copy of owners passport). Hire car documents must also show (for UK cars) that you have approval to drive in mainland Europe. Green Card: makes life a lot easier, but most UK insurers are too lazy to issue one.

2. Safety equipment: you can never have too much. Hi-viz vests and fire extinguisher in the cabin, warning triangle(s), spare bulbs, tyre puncture repair kit, tow rope and towing eye in boot. If you have a locking alloy wheel nut then don't forget to bring the socket key! Place the hi-viz vest on your back parcel shelf and it stops the plod from stopping you to see if you have one.

3. Speeding and fines: carry a couple of hundred euros in cash on you as it is a crime in France not to carry enough cash (though they rarely get shirty and just take you to an ATM). Cameras: don't drive past them like a loon. Though the UK has attempted to scupper the deal on data sharing, eventually this will happen (within 2-3 years). The information about your speeding offence will not go away and they will get you eventually! Also if you are nicked at any time by the roadside, then the police computer will show you have an outstanding fine (plus penalties). A nasty surprise waiting for many. In Spain they now have cameras which recognise foreign plates and send a message to the nearest police car who comes and nicks you and takes you to the local magistrate. This can waste a day (or two). In Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Poland the camera details from the main motorways are sent automatically to the border where a police car will stop you.

Borders: though you no longer have to stop and pull over, there is still a region where you have to slow down and drive through the old checkpoints. These are favourite places for local plod to hide with a laser gun.

France and Fuel: petrol can be impossible to buy in the evening and nighttime unless you are on a toll motorway. Most petrol stations in the night are automated and require a CB card (Carte Bancaire). You Visa/Mastercard/Amex will not work. A few stations will take cash (feed 40 EUR into a machine, tell it which pump and then go and put the fuel into your car), however these are few and far apart and have a reputation (deserved) for taking your cash and not giving you fuel.

Fuel quality: avoid Shell in southern France as they water their fuel down massively. Total, AGIP, ELF, BP stations are ok. Fuel quality in northern Europe is normally excellent across the board with no reason to worry. Everything is very clearly signposted. It is almost impossible to buy leaded fuel.

Plod: they tend to treat people as they find them. I have been stopped many times by French, German and Belgian police (something about driving an Italian V12 at 3am) and found them almost all to be very polite and professional. A few words in French or German (to the right nationality) will help massively, as will having all your documentation in pristine order in a nice file to hand over to them. Be polite throughout your interaction with them and you should be ok. Gob off to them and you will enter a world of very expensive pain.

Rest stops: be wary of these in France and only stop at petrol stations and restaurants where there is a significant number of people. Avoid deserted parking areas like the plague. Don't chat to anyone at these places (especially if they come to you and start talking in English, despite them not being English). For sleeping, only stay in hotels/motels, ideally with a secure car park. If you pull into an empty truck stop then be prepared to loose your car and possibly a lot more (especially in southern and central France).

Your car: depending on the age of the car, and what kind of driving you normally do in it, dictates the work you need to do to it. Apart from the obvious stuff (headlights), make sure you have winter tyres fitted (they make a massive difference) and your car has been serviced recently. If doing a long run in a short time, then clean oil, filters, new brake pads and a general once-over by a mechanic are essential (checking especially the running gear and power train).

Extend you AA/RAC cover to Europe. It is worth it as very often to fix a UK car in Europe can take a long time and cost a fortune. That said when my Esprit V8 died in Paris a couple of years ago the mechanic refused to charge me for 3 hours work as he enjoyed the experience!

Borrow a TomTom from someone: GPS makes life soooooo much easier if you are driving on your own. Before setting off, enter your entire itinery into the GPS as this will save much time later. It also allows you to add/find alternate addresses if the GPS doesn't recognise the one you have entered; rather hard to do at 9pm in the middle of nowhere with no internet connection.

Have fun and don't forget to pack your ear trumpet you deaf cúnt!
Just to add, I have found ADAC, the German recovery people, to be more efficent than AA/RAC European cover. When you phone them just ask for an English speaking operator ADAC link
Dread, you must be a very bad lad because I have never had the problems that you seem to have had! I take on board what you say about isolated stopping areas - France is a big country and I always feel a bit twitchy about pulling over into an 'Aire' when there is no one about, even if only stopping for a slash and then back on your way. The 24 hour unattended pumps all seem to take UK credit cards now. There was a period when the French had gone to chip and pin and the pumps wouldn't recognise UK credit cards but that seems to have passed now (although I am still a bit wary and will use attended pumps where poss.).

I have only ever been pulled over by the French police once, for not stopping at a STOP sign. Fortunately, Madame mnairb (who is French) worked her charm and told them that I was merely a stupid Englishman who didn't understand French! I was lucky - it was the day of the World Cup final in France and I think that 'Les Gendarmes' were after bigger fish, my brother-in-law told me he had been done 100 Euro for the same offence. Police (in my experience) seem to leave UK registered cars alone as long as you are not doing something dangerous or stupid and, although I have heard the story that they are 'out to get Brits within 50k of a channel port' have never seen it in practice. As usual, if stopped, be polite and friendly, not belligerent and rude - it just gets their backs up.

UK Immigration is now done in Calais and they can be real fascist pigs (hence the long queues for check-in as they scan every passport) so leave at least half an hour to get through.

French motorways are mainly toll, which can take quite large chunks out of your holiday budget. Unfortunately, there is therefore no incentive to drastically improve the Route Nationale (RN) alternatives and you are often forced to use the motorways just to get to your destination in a reasonable time. The exceptions are: Caen to Nantes, and, in fact, all of Brittany (the Bretons refuse to have toll roads). I have started to use this route from Dieppe to La Rochelle (although it is a bit further) as the new motorway from Rouen via Le Mans and Angers takes 35 Euros off you in tolls alone. Northern France, Calais up to Dunkirk then skirting the Belgian border through Lille is also free and is a useful route for heading through the battlefields to eastern France. Also, some of the RNs in central France where it is not financially viable to build a toll road have been improved to motorway standard in many places (the RN10 from Chartres to Bordeaux comes to mind). As mentioned before, get a good book of maps (Michelin are excellent) and PLAN YOUR ROUTE!

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