Driving abroad: unexpected international driving laws

Driving abroad: unexpected international driving laws

Hiring a car when you go abroad can give you added freedom on your trip. But there may be other factors to consider other than the side of the road to drive on. There’s a whole host of driving laws around the world that will surprise you and some that you really need to keep in mind.

Keep your headlights on in Norway

It’s compulsory in Norway to keep your headlights on 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Even in the middle of summer, where the sun doesn’t set in some parts of the country, it’s a legal requirement to have them on.

Local driving tip:

Norway has close to no-tolerance of drinking and driving, with a legal limit of 0.2%. This means you can’t even have half a pint before getting behind the wheel.

Anne Line Kaxrud, Visit Norway, visitnorway.com

No eating or drinking behind the wheel in Cyprus

If you find yourself driving in Cyprus make sure you’re well fed and hydrated before you set off. There’s a hefty fine for anyone caught drinking even a bottle of water whilst driving. Pull over if you’re in need of a drink or a snack.

Local driving tip:

Take a drive to the highest peak in Cyprus, Mount Olympos in the Troodos Mountains, at 1,952 metres to enjoy the wonderful views (snow-capped in winter).

Lillian Panayi, Cyprus Tourism Organisation, visitcyprus.com

Turn off satnav and speed camera alerts in France

Devices capable of detecting speed cameras and warning drivers of their locations are illegal. Before driving in France you need to disable these alerts on your satnav. If you’re caught with a working device, or break any French driving laws, the French police can confiscate your license and impound your vehicle.

Watch out for wildlife in Finland

There are a number of big animals that roam the countryside in Finland. Should you be unfortunate enough to have an accident involving a reindeer, elk or any other large animal it’s illegal not to report it to the police. Also avoid using your horn when driving in Finland as it’s illegal unless you’re in danger.

Local driving tip:

Winter conditions add an additional challenge to driving, but with proper winter gear and caution, anyone can manage on the Finnish roads.

Eva Kiviranta, Visit Finland, VisitFinland.com

Extreme speed limits on the German motorway

The autobahn in Germany, the equivalent of our motorway, has lengthy sections with a 130 km-per-hour speed recommendation. This is still just a recommendation but bear in mind that it’s illegal to stop even if you run out of petrol on the motorway.

Local driving tip:

Tailgating is a no-no – and is often strictly enforced. Also, in Germany, Good Samaritan laws require drivers to stop and offer assistance if they encounter an accident scene.

Chuck Emerson, How to Germany, howtogermany.com

You need two pairs of glasses to drive in Spain

If you usually wear glasses or contact lenses to drive then make sure you have a spare pair with you in Spain. If you happen to be caught without then you could have to deal with a fine.

Don’t be a passenger to a drunk driver in Japan

The Japanese believe that if you agree to get into a car with a drunk driver, you’re just as bad. You’ll be prosecuted just as harshly as the driver in question. Also be warned that splashing pedestrians in Japan will result in a penalty.

Local driving tip:

If you wish to drive a car while in Japan, you must obtain an International Driving Permit prior to departure. You will also need to be in possession of your national license while driving in Japan.

Kylie Clark, Japan National Tourism Organisation, seejapan.co.uk

Make sure your car isn’t dirty in Russia

It’s against the law to drive a dirty car in parts of Russia, just how dirty is too dirty is entirely up to the policeman on the scene. If your car is deemed not to be clean enough then you’re likely to have your license confiscated or have to pay a penalty fee.

Local driving tip:

The best is to enter Russia through the border with Latvia, Estonia or Finland, as all of them belong to same economic area (EU), which means less hassle.

Andrew Jelatancev, Russian National Tourist Office, Visitrussia.org.uk

Keep your shirt on in Thailand

Just in case the heat was all getting a bit too much it’s illegal to drive topless in Thailand. It’s punishable by law and you could land yourself in prison or dealing with a large fine.

It’s unlikely that you’ll break the more obscure of these laws. But it’s not just breaking the speed limit or wearing your seat belt that you need to keep an eye on. Be aware of changes in driving regulations when you’re abroad so that you can relax and make the most of driving on your trip.

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