Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for the purpose of this review. I received no payment and was not required to write a positive review.
Driving in continental Europe is generally enjoyable and often eye-opening – outside the cities, the roads tend to be less congested and the scenery can be amazing, especially in mountainous regions, which dwarf anything we have in the UK.
On the other hand, there are certain extra challenges to driving in Europe – being on the wrong side of the road, not being able to understand every word on road signs, and the general unfamiliarity of it all. Traffic law and driving conventions can be slightly different and there can be additional equipment requirements for you and your vehicle that don’t exist in the UK.
You will find an introduction to driving on the continent in our European Driving Guide, but by far the best source of information that I know (and the source I always use myself) is The AA. You will find a whole section of The AA’s website dedicated to European driving, but they also publish the same information and more in book form.
If you are planning a European ski trip this winter or a summer holiday to Europe, I’d recommend having a look before you go.
The European Driver’s Handbook (RRP £9.99)
The European Driver’s Handbook is The AA’s definitive guide for British drivers driving in Europe. It covers 42 countries and contains the following sections:
- Before you go
- Driving requirements by country (42 countries)
- Tour routes – a selection of driving tours in western Europe
- Useful words and phrases in 9 languages
- Other useful information, including guides to ferry ports and mountain passes
The driving requirements by country are available on The AA’s website, but this book contains some additional information and allows you to have access to this information for all countries without needing a computer or internet access.
Each country guide includes information on subjects such as driving licences, insurance cover, drink drive laws, how fines are issued, and speed limits for the main types of road. Information on motorway tolls is included where relevant, as is information on winter driving conditions and whether winter tyres or snow chains are required.
The book also includes a list of compulsory equipment for each country – such as a warning triangle – along with border crossing information for non-EU countries and general country advice (Is the water safe to drink? What are the healthcare arrangements for visitors?).
The other sections of the book are also useful. Useful phrases and road signs are translated into nine different languages and are a small sample of what is available in The AA’s phrase books. A guide to Europe’s main mountain passes will also help you plan your route if you are travelling off season, when many are closed, or if you want to make them a highlight of your trip. Similarly, the selection of driving tours might inspire parts of your holiday plans – or encourage you to buy The AA’s Best Drives book!
AA European Travel Kit (RRP £39.99)
If you like the sound of The European Driver’s Handbook but would also like to purchase all the essential equipment you will need to prepare your car for European use, The AA’s European Travel Kit is probably the solution.
It contains all the equipment and accessories you are likely to need for most European countries:
- A set of universal headlight beam converters
- A folding hazard warning triangle
- A magnetic GB plate
- A reflective yellow vest
- First aid kit – dressings, bandages, latex gloves, etc.
- Universal spare bulb kit – contains the three most common types of headlight bulbs plus a selection of other bulbs and fuses
- A copy of The European Driver’s Handbook
The spare bulb and fuse kit seems well thought out for most cars, although you should of course check its contents against your car’s manual to ensure that you have the right bulbs for at least your headlights, tail lights, brake lights, reversing lights and all indicators.
The European Travel Kit comes in a tough, zipped case that can be chucked into your boot or tucked out of the way somewhere. It is on offer at £27.99 at the time of writing, which seems pretty reasonable for what you get.