When relocating in the EU, you need to renew your driving license in your country of residence. This is often a simple procedure where you pay the fees and exchange your old license for a new license.

I am currently holding a Belgian license, but I did my driving exam in the Netherlands. Still there are quite some differences in traffic regulations. One would expect that some one having a national license, is familiar with the local laws. Yet I am driving in Belgium and it took me some time to learn the often very slight differences. Regulations regarding fog lights are a nice example. In Holland you are suppose to use your fog lights, when the you have less then 50m sight, whereas in Belgium that is with 100m and with heavy rain. I can list a dozen of these small differences I noticed over time.

Local car association often issue brochures indicating the difference, but as I have learned these brochures are often extremely incomplete.

So when you relocate to a new country, where you simply exchange your driving license for a local one, is there an extensive EU-wide resource one could consult for an elaborate comparison? One could of course read the local road code, but I believe a comparison would be a better resource.

  • 2
    Yea. I know this is a massive pain in the ass, and I am being polite here. They should make people changing licens take a course so that people know how to drive properly in the new country. For example. People who drive in the Middle lane on 3 lanes in UK are breaking laws, but they don't know it. UK- Its not allowed to drive around with fog lights on in good visibility. Even I had problems understanding subtle rule changes, I had decided to read the test book my self and learn how to drive properly(lawfully) in this country.
    – Piotr Kula
    Mar 14, 2014 at 11:18

1 Answer 1


The majority of the laws and signs will be very similar on mainland Europe, as the traffic laws were somewhat standardized in the last century. That said there might be slight differences. There are a few pages where you can check some of the differences:

  • Probably your best bet is the widget by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which contains links for every country that will tell you the main differences.
  • The AA has a guide page for each country (it is also linked from the FCO page)
  • Wikipedia has a good comparison about the different road signs you might encounter

Also when entering the country you usually face a sign showing the major speed limits and some other laws (like whether you need to turn on your headlights all the time or not) using pictograms:

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Also note that in the UK and Ireland you have to drive on the left, and in UK the speed limits are shown in m/h and not km/h. Warning signs in Ireland are mostly different than in other European country.

If you do want to settle in an other country, then the best you can do is read the laws (or at least the book you would read when preparing for your driving test), to make sure you understand everything correctly, as there might still be subtle, but important gaps. For example in the UK there is no such thing as a crossing where each of the roads have the same priority. There is either a marked give way sign, or the crossing is marked as a (mini) roundabout, where roundabout laws exist (e.g. you have to give priority to the right). If you arrive at a crossing and you don't have the marked line or the give way sign, and it's not a roundabout, you can assume that you have the priority. On the other hand in mainland europe unmarked crossings without give way signs have the same priority, meaning that if you think you have the priority (as in UK you would have) you can get into serious accidents.

  • +1 but I am wondering where in mainland Europe do roads without markings have the same priority? Not in France or Germany for example, I think.
    – Gala
    Mar 19, 2014 at 12:18
  • @GaëlLaurans: My French is a bit rusty to read about it, but in Germany you don't need to put the "priority to the right" warning sign out in case the roads have the same priority, but this ususally happens on small roads. Also note that the three types of priority signs (Give Way, Stop and Priority road) all have distinct shapes (upside down triangle, octogon and lozenge) from all other road signs (usually rectangle, triangle or circle), so you can also distinguish them when they are facing you away.
    – SztupY
    Mar 19, 2014 at 13:31
  • My favourite example of a road that looks like it has priority but in fact is not is in my home country. It's a wide road that even has a separate bycicle way, so it seems like you have the prirority, but actually you still have to give way to the right.
    – SztupY
    Mar 19, 2014 at 13:33
  • I think I misunderstood you then, indeed priority to the right is the default rule. Same/no priority for me would be something like the four stop signs you see in the US.
    – Gala
    Mar 19, 2014 at 13:35
  • @GaëlLaurans: Yes, I did misunderstand you, sorry. It seems the four stop sign structure was piloted in Sweden, but is not really used according to a 2007 thesis. Excerpt: "The thesis discusses all-way-stop-controlled intersections and why it is not used more often in the Swedish road network."
    – SztupY
    Mar 19, 2014 at 13:40

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