Are you planning a driving holiday in Europe this summer? You might have assumed that being part of the EU (for now) would mean that the rules around driving are pretty much the same across the continent (aside from the side of the road we drive on of course). However, there are a number of vital local differences you need to be aware of.
A new study by Best Price Financial Services has highlighted five of the more unusual local laws affecting motorists in Europe - and the price you could pay for breaking them
1. Breathalyser oddity in France
The second you get the other side of the Channel, the first of these odd laws kicks in, because when driving in France, the law states that you must always carry a valid breathalyser in your car. The breathalyser has to be unused, with the French "NF" mark of quality certification. Single-use ones have just a 12-month period of validity, meaning you'll have to stay on top of this apparently essential part of your car kit.
However, the strangest thing of all about this law, is that there is no actual penalty that can be imposed if you're caught without a breathalyser. This is since an announcement in 2013, in which the original €11 fine was postponed indefinitely. So, effectively, whilst it may be against the law to travel without a breathalyser in your car, the police can't penalise you for not carrying one.
It's against the law to eat or drink anything whilst driving in Cyprus - even a sip of water. If you get thirsty in the heat, you must pull over to quench your thirst - and don't even think about breaking open a bag of crisps at the wheel. If you break the rules, you could be fined €85 and get up to 4 points on your licence.
3. Headlight madness in Scandinavia
Throughout Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, it's a legal requirement to have your headlights on at all times of the day. Not using them can lead to an on-the-spot fine if you're stopped by the police, so stick to the law and leave your dipped headlights on around this part of the world.
This law may be due to the longer stretches of darkness experienced in Scandinavia's northernmost reaches. Why it's so vital to continue the practice all year round is less clear.
4. Parking rule oddities in Spain
In most major cities around Spain, there'll be regulations on parking which are tied to the day of the month. In some areas, parking may only be allowed on one side of the road for the days 1st to the 15th, with this swapping for the latter half of the month.
Similar but even more complex rules apply for one-way streets - on even-numbered days of the month, you're only permitted to park on the side of the road where the houses have even numbers, and the opposite for odd-numbered days.
If you're in doubt about the rules on the day, then just follow the lead of the locals, as contravening this law will see your vehicle being towed, with a fine on top for your troubles
5. Rigid about off-roading in Iceland
Throughout Iceland, there are loads of landscapes that seem built for mucking about on in a 4X4. However, it is illegal to drive your vehicle off-road unless in a clearly-marked area. This is actually pretty sensible, because it is designed to protect the country's flora and fauna, which is particularly vulnerable due to the country's harsh weather conditions.
The Icelandic government have therefore made it against the law to take your vehicle off-road, unless you're in a clearly marked off-roading area, or if there is a significant layer of ice and snow covering the ground. Contravention of this law can lead to a significant fine.
If you're taking your own car, then quite aside from the local laws, you also need to think about insurance and breakdown cover. Your policy may not include driving overseas, and even if it does, the restrictions may mean you only have the right to be towed to the nearest garage - at which point your plans to tour the continent may be scuppered even if you have stuck rigidly to the sandwich, breathalyser and headlight regulations.