What do I need to know about driving in the Schengen Area ?

Everything you need to know about driving in the Schengen Area

If you are traveling to the Schengen Area, a cheap and flexible way to travel, especially if you want to see places outside major cities, is to drive - either with your own car or a hire vehicle. However, there are many important things you need to know before driving in the Schengen Area.

What documents will I need to drive in Europe?

To drive in Europe, you will need your full, not provisional, driving license. If you are traveling from outside the Schengen Area you will need to check that your driving license is recognized both in the Schengen Area and the country you are traveling to. You will also need your passport, other valid travel documents, and visa, should you need one, as well as travel insurance documents. If you are using your own vehicle, you will also need your vehicle registration certificate, or logbook, and a motor insurance certificate. It is also useful to book breakdown cover, or upgrade an existing policy, to ensure you get help should you break down.

RELATED ARTICLE : Which driving license do I need to drive in Europe ?

Do I need anything more if I am hiring a car?

You may need a check code from your home country’s vehicle licensing agency, so your hire car firm can check to see if you have any points on your license or have incurred a driving ban.

Do I need to take anything else in my car when traveling in Europe?

In many Schengen countries it's compulsory to have certain items in your car at all times, such as a reflective jacket or a warning triangle for breakdowns. Another requirement, especially in countries with mountain roads, may be snow chains or winter tires. While it is unlikely you will be pulled over, doing so could be costly - as you could face a fine for failing to have the right equipment in your vehicle. In Belgium, this can reach as high as €1,500.

A new regulation in some countries, including France, is a requirement to have an emissions sticker. This shows authorities how polluting your vehicle is, as some older cars may be banned from city centers or specific areas at certain times of day.

It is also worthwhile taking some change in your car as the highways in many European countries may require you to pay a toll with cash such as Portugal. Almost all major routes these days will take a credit or debit card - but it’s worth ensuring you have some change should you either lose it or if it stops working for whatever reason. That way, you will ensure you are never stuck.

One other thing to bear in mind is whether you drive on the same side of the road as drivers in the country you are visiting - and not just because forgetting and going the wrong way could cause a nasty accident! If you usually drive on a different side of the road than the country you’re driving in, you will need headlight converters to ensure you do not dazzle other drivers or you could again face a fine. Malta is the only country in the Schengen Area where drivers keep to the left side of the road - although three other European countries do so too - the U.K., Ireland, and Cyprus. Also, try to research or speak to locals about any specific motoring rules in the country you plan to visit - such as who needs to give way at junctions - as local knowledge will make for a safer and easier drive.

If I hire a car, will I need to take anything?

Vehicle hire firms will usually provide you all the necessary equipment, but it's technically your responsibility, not the company's, to ensure you have the right gear. So check before you set off, and if anything is missing, ask the hire company to provide any items gone awry.

What are the speed limits in the Schengen Area?

Speed limits vary across Europe, so it is worth checking the standard speed limits for highways and major roads, as well as ensuring you look out for signs telling you the limit while you are driving. One should also bear in mind that European countries use kilometers, rather than miles, per hour.

Frequently asked questions about driving in the Schengen Area

What should I do if my license is lost or stolen during my stay in the Schengen Area?

If your driving license is lost or stolen while you are traveling abroad, contact the local police and your consulate or embassy to report the matter and they will likely be able to provide you with a temporary replacement allowing you to drive. AXA’s Europe Travel insurance also covers the costs of obtaining replacement documents.

Are car accidents covered in my AXA travel insurance policy?

AXA’s travel insurance for the Schengen Area will cover injuries incurred in any kind of accident, but a claim for damage to your vehicle should go via your car insurance provider. If you are using a hire car you should refer to your contract.

If I drive outside the Schengen Area, will I still be covered on my AXA Schengen policy?

Doing so will invalidate any claim on your insurance policy - if you are planning to drive outside the Schengen Zone you should check with us for an affordable, bespoke policy.