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Driving in Europe - don't believe all the stereotypes

When you cruise off the ferry for an extended period of driving in Europe, it's best to leave your prejudices behind. Mostly you will find roads and manners are rather better than in the UK. That's not so say that a few of the stereotypes we cherish about European drivers don't have some basis in the truth.

Be wary on Portuguese roads

For many Britons, their first experience of driving in Europe comes in France. There they find that the popular tabloid stereotype of the French as rude and inconsiderate does not hold true. French roads tend to be fast and quiet, and drivers are usually very obliging.

The citizens of Switzerland and the Netherlands are the safest drivers in Europe. Swiss roads can seem to be regulated to an unnecessary degree of detail, and woe betide any driver whose vehicle falls foul of Swiss regulations.

Portuguese drivers have a reputation for recklessness. This isn't quite as noticeable on the motorways, but driving in Portuguese cities is not for the faint-hearted. There's a good reason that most Portuguese vehicles have a decent collection of dents.

Italians regard themselves as the most stylish drivers in Europe, and with marques like Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Lamborghini, you can understand why. Your Fiat hire-car is unlikely to attract much reverence or respect, and inching through traffic in Rome or Milan will demand confidence and assertiveness.

Those who enjoy smooth speed purr about the freedom of the autobahns in Germany. In theory there is no speed limit, but German drivers tend towards the sensible and economical application of the accelerator. Many motorists enthuse about Germany as their best experience of driving in Europe

Mind your language

The best advice when driving in Europe is to follow local habits when they seem sensible. Make sure you read up in advance about local idiosyncrasies and bureaucratic requirements. It can also help to have a little grasp of language, to recognise that exit is Uscita in Italian, Salida in Spanish, Sortie in French.

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