Travelling by Automobile in Europe

Making it to the “harder to get-to places”

European roads are for the most part of a very high, if not exemplary standard, with freeway systems criss-crossing the continent and the UK. Car rental is thus often an option chosen by travellers from overseas.


Europe’s car rental infrastructure is excellent. Renting a car can be the best way to travel around the back-roads and sinuous coastal or mountain routes that may not otherwise be reached by public transport. While it may seem obvious, travellers are strongly recommended to reserve in advance. This assures not only a better price, but is also wise due to the fact that at various times of the year (not only in summer), rental agencies may be sold out.

It is recommended to choose a company that has agencies in all areas that will be visited, as in case of breakdown it will be much more convenient to change vehicle. In general, cars in Europe are smaller than in the US (as are the streets!) and generally come with manual transmission. Automatic cars are quite rare, and are rented at a premium.

It is very important for renters to remember to include their flight details on their reservation, as if their flight is delayed and they have not done this, they may find their reservation is no longer valid.

Renters will generally be asked for a valid international bankcard (even if they have prepaid) for the security deposit, which varies depending on the type of car and from whom they are renting. The deposit is just “blocked” – not withdrawn from their account. Travellers should check before leaving home that their card limit is sufficient for this. The card must be in the name of the person driving the vehicle, who must also of course have a valid driver’s licence and passport. Even if travelling as a couple, it is not possible to use a credit card other than that of the driver for the deposit (even if the rental is prepaid). This often catches travellers unaware, and is important to remember.


While Europe allows free passage between “Schengen” countries, the basic road rules in each European country differ in terms of speed limits, alcohol tolerance, accident reports, and so on. It is therefore essential for travellers to know and understand the rules before taking to the road. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse to break it, and local police will remind travellers of this in no uncertain terms. You will find a link in the “resources” section (Page 27) to Europe’s online “Road Safety” guide.


What is the speed limit on Spanish motorways? Do I need to wear a helmet when I cycle in Sweden? Travellers are now able to download a free European Road Safety App that contains all important road safety rules and some fun games. It is recommended that tourists travelling to Europe download it before leaving home, in order to save on roaming charges.