First Time Drivers in Europe

First Time Drivers in EuropeMany U.S. travelers driving in Europe for the first time get quite the shock as they watch cars scurry through heavy traffic and roundabouts, and the prospect of navigating unfamiliar streets can seem to be a little overwhelming. But relax! Driving in Europe isn’t that bad, at least after you’ve learned a bit about how to do it safely and according to local laws.
Knowledge of European driving before arrival offers peace of mind while helping you transition onto the roads with ease, just be sure you know about these important factors before renting a car abroad:

Legal Driving Age
In most countries in Europe, drivers must be a minimum of 18 years old. Many rental car agencies rent only to those aged 25 and older, or charge a young driver surcharge for rentals to individuals under this age. Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Greece, Ireland, Serbia, Netherlands, Switzerland, Slovakia, and Spain all require drivers to be 19 years of age or older to drive and rules can vary depending on specific rental car age requirements.
In addition to a legal minimum driving ages, there are a few European car rental companies that mandate a maximum driving age. Usually at the age of 75 driving restrictions are put into place. Only in Hungary, Ireland, Greece, Bulgaria, Croatia and Finland will you typically find maximum age requirements.

Driving Permit
In most European countries, drivers are required to carry their International Driving Permit with them at all times. This license is nothing more than a translated copy of your country’s driver’s license. This permit alleviates trouble should you be pulled over by a police officer or become involved in an accident. This permit is also necessary to pick up a rental car in many European countries. It is a good idea to learn if you’ll need to carry a permit at your intended European destination before departing. The driving permit is attainable online but be sure to allow plenty of time to receive the permit in the mail.

Tips for Safe Driving the European Way
While in Europe, roundabouts are going to become your friend. A roundabout is an area in which traffic flows around a center island in a circle; traffic that is in the roundabout has the right of way. When exiting, exert confidence and merge at the proper exit to get onto the freeway.
In many European countries the rules are much different than what you’re accustomed to in the U.S. For example, in Rome, a red light is a discretionary light. You may not talk on your cell phone while driving, and generally it is required that your headlights be on whenever the car is running. Children under the age of 12 must ride in a booster seat if in the front seat, although a few countries ban this all together.
Rather than take your car into the big city, park and walk to your destinations. Most cities are put together so that you can enjoy several attractions at one time. Driving in major traffic areas can be quite the headache. Some cities, such as Rome, won’t allow driving in city centers (restricted driving areas in Italy are known as ZTL zones). Avoid rush hour, and use the expressway whenever possible. There are toll fees for almost all expressways in Europe, so have your coins and money ready to pay.
Driving safety is paramount, but follow these few simple tips and you should have nothing to worry about on your next vacation abroad!

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