We made a road trip from Ireland to Serbia in 2014 and are currently in the process of planning an even longer trip for Spring 2016. If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments and I will try to find an answer for you. If I have made any mistakes or you have better suggestions, please let me know. I have only done road trips in Europe as an EU resident (Ireland). This post will be continually updated as we come across new information.
Can I Legally Drive in Europe?
EU citizens and residents: If you have a valid driving licence issued by an EU country, it’s recognised throughout the EU.
European countries that are not members of EU in 2016: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Kosovo, Liechtenstein, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Norway, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, Vatican City. Some of these countries will require you to carry an International Driving Permit in addition to your driver’s license.
Non-Eu citizens: Many countries in Europe require only your passport and a valid driver’s license from your home country. However, some European countries require an International Driving Permit (IDP) and may issue an on the spot fine if you do not have one. You will need to check the requirements of each country you plan to drive through. Since an IDP is not expensive and is valid for 12 months, I recommend getting one. Apply for an IDP not more than three months in advance of the date of travel.
Countries that are known to fine drivers for not carrying an IDP: Italy (75 euro fine), Spain. This list is not yet complete.
Renting, Buying, or Leasing a Car in Europe
Rent a Campervan:
Ship Your Own Vehicle to Europe: Yes, this is possible but it is a very expensive option.
- Motorcycle – It is possible to ship a motorcycle by air freight like this guy did or by a container ship. One company I have seen recommended for shipping by sea is International Motorcycle Shipping & Transport Services.
- Car – How long are you going to be in Europe? If the answer is under 3 months (because of Schengen visa rules), it really doesn’t make much sense to do this. There is a lot of paperwork, hassle, and money involved. You might want to consider renting a car only in the countries where you really want to go off the beaten track and covering other distances by train or bus. If you have a longer trip planned, the cost of shipping might work out cheaper than car rental. Here is a good blog post I found on how to ship your car to Europe that gives you an overview of what is involved.
- Recreational Vehicles – Motorhomes, caravans, campervans. If you plan to ship a motorhome, please keep in mind that the huge bus style motorhomes and 5th wheel trailers that are popular in the United States are completely inappropriate for the smaller roads in Europe and you will find fewer campsites that can accommodate them. Again, it does not make sense if you are only going to be travelling for a couple of months. If you are just trying to find a way around the residency requirement for registering a vehicle in Europe, look at the car leasing section below.
Buy a Car in Europe: The short answer is that if you are not an EU citizen or legal resident, you can’t buy and register a car in the EU. Your only options are to rent a car or lease a car from one of the few companies that will hold the registration for you and buy the car back at the end of your trip.
Vehicle Lease/Buy Back Option: If you are dreaming about driving a campervan or small motorhome around Europe for an extended period of time and can’t legally buy and register one as a foreigner, this is your best option. At the end of your trip, these companies will either buy back your camper or sell it on consignment (longer wait for money). There are not many companies I have found that will hold the registration and insurance like this for you.
Leasing a car short term: Company holds title and registration. Here are the 3 companies that I know will do this: Renault, Citroën, and Peugeot.
Insurance Needed to Drive in Europe
If you have car insurance in an EU country, your policy probably includes minimum 3rd party cover in other EU countries for a short period of time. Usually 30-45 days. If you want comprehensive cover (damage or theft), you will have to pay an extra premium. For longer trips, you will need to take out extended cover. Some insurance companies may refuse to cover you for periods over 60-90 days. Check your policy. You will also need to inform your insurance company that you are taking your car out of the country.
Some countries will require you to carry an insurance Green Card as proof that your vehicle has the minimum insurance required in those countries. These countries are: Albania, Belarus, Bosnia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia, and Ukraine. Note: Serbia did not ask to see this in 2014.
Your insurance company should issue this IF your policy covers these countries (most won’t?) The card should be free but some of them will find a way to charge an additional small fee (12-15 euros).
Some countries will not be covered by your insurance policy. It may be possible to take out insurance (also called Green Card) at the border of these countries. I have been told this is possible for Albania, not sure about the others yet. I will keep updating this page as I find out.
Albania: car insurance available at border, minimum duration 2 weeks. Costs reported in 2015: €50 (car).
Bosnia and Hercegovina: available at Metković border. 15, 30, or 90 days. Costs reported in 2015 at the Bijãca border: €20 for 7 days.
Required Equipment for Driving in Europe
- Magnetic country sticker – that white, oval sticker or magnetic plate that marks the country where the vehicle is registered.
- Warning triangle
- Reflective jacket
- First aid kit
- Headlight/Headlamp adjustment
- Breathalyser – only required in France
More Updates Coming Soon: I’m going to go ahead and hit publish on this post because I really want your feedback and suggestions. We are still planning our trip and I will likely be updating this post all next week, especially the insurance section.