Getting pulled over isn’t a great way to start your holiday. Whether you’re cruising down Route 66 or just driving from the airport to your hotel, it’s always worth checking local rules and regulations before you hit the road.
For more info, see the Foreign Office website. It’s packed with handy motoring advice for holidaymakers, with info on various laws around the world as well as tips on what you’ll need to bring along with you. That said…
We’ve found 15 of the most surprising, strange and downright silly driving laws so you don’t get caught out.
1. Bring your own breathalyser (France)
If you’re pottering down to Poitiers, be aware that ‘drivers of all motor vehicles and motorcycles must carry a breathalyser’. This strange law was introduced in 2012 and, although the €11 fine has been postponed indefinitely, you still need to show the gendarme yours when you’re asked for it. Make sure it has the French certification mark (NF) and is in date: most expire after 12 months.
2. Slap on a GB sticker (EU)
In Europe, unless your car has got number plates that include a GB symbol, you’ll need to pop a GB sticker (or magnet) on your chassis. Photograph of the Queen on the dashboard is, of course, optional.
3. Keep the kids in the back (France)
In France, children under 10 aren’t allowed to travel in the front seat of a vehicle without a special child restraint. The only exception is if the vehicle has no back seats (so they’re okay in your Lotus), no rear seatbelts (isn’t that illegal?) or if the rear seat is already occupied by children under 10… wearing seatbelts, presumably.
4. Turn right on red (USA)
One of the first things we learn when we start driving is that a red light means stop. But over in the USA, you can turn right on a red as long as the road is clear of pedestrians and traffic. Welcome to the land of the free!
5. Don’t toot your own horn (various)
Whether you’re saying hiya to your mates or trying to encourage the distracted driver ahead of you to pay attention to the changing lights, peeping your horn is part and parcel of driving. That’s why it might be a surprise to find out that in a lot of countries, including the UK, horns are banned at night and in urban areas. Maybe try breathing exercises instead…
6. Make way for the trams (Norway)
In Norway, trams always have right of way – even if they’re approaching from the left. You could try testing this, but we really don’t advise playing chicken with 33 tonnes of metal. And not just because it involves breaking the rules of the road.
7. Turn on the lights (various)
While leaving your lights on sounds like a recipe for a flat battery, in countries such as Sweden and the Czech Republic, where daylight hours are short in winter, you must leave them on at all times. Yep, even if the sun is shining.
8. Boozy buddies in the back (Macedonia)
Drinking and driving is illegal everywhere. But in Macedonia, they take it one step further: if you’re ‘visibly under the influence of alcohol’, you not allowed to sit in the front seat at all. Presumably not just because you’ll be useless at navigating.
9. Don’t bring your own beer (USA)
In the USA, driving laws vary from state to state. In some it’s an offence to keep alcoholic beverages in the ‘cab’ of a car. So if you’re cruising down Skyline Drive, with the wind in your hair and John Denver on the stereo, stick that six-pack of Bud Lights in the boot – which is known as the ‘trunk’ when you’re Stateside, FYI.
10. In fact, don’t drink at all (Cyprus)
We’re not even talking about alcohol anymore – in Cyprus, just a swig of orange squash at the wheel could land you in trouble. If you’re thirsty, which could be quite often in the Cypriot summer, you must pull over to take fluids on board.
11. Don’t smoke, either (Greece)
While smoking is banned in work vehicles in the UK, and with under 18’s on board, it’s otherwise perfectly fine to tan a packet of Silk Cut between Knutsford and Tebay. But puffing in your car is outlawed in Greece, so if you’re driving from Alexandroupolis to Athens, it might be worth picking up some nicotine patches.
12. Careful where you hitchhike (various)
Hitchhiking holds a certain romance – flinging your backpack into the cab, trucker on the CB, Waylon Jennings on the radio – but double check the laws before you stick out your thumb and raise a cardboard sign. In many countries, including Russia, it’s illegal both to hitchhike and pick them up.
13. Keep it clean (Bulgaria)
While it is a badge of honour in Britain to be able to write CLEAN ME on your white van, in Bulgaria this would land you in trouble. A mandatory car wash upon entry into the country quashes potential for amusing messaging. In Costa Rica you have to get your car fumigated before you’re allowed in.
14. Don’t stop at pedestrian crossings (China)
Although we’re used to giving way to pedestrians at crossings, the same can’t be said for drivers in China, Beijing in particular. Here it’s illegal to stop at pedestrian crossings – and you risk a fine or a warning if you do. Go figure.
15. Look out where you park (Spain)
In one-way streets in some Spanish cities you can only park on the side of the road where houses have uneven numbers on uneven days of the month, and on the side of even numbers on even days. Got it?
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