RSS Feed

Related Articles

Related Categories

Driving to Europe this winter? Be prepared says AA

30th December 2014 Print
Road trip

The start of the ski season can best be described as chaotic – firstly no snow when the ski conditions should have been good; then too much of the stuff: leading to piste closures as well as long delays on French and central European motorways.

As a result, some heading for the slopes by car may have not only fallen foul of local motoring rules when travelling, but have been delayed en-route and have found either too little or too much snow when they arrive, according to the AA.

Rosie Sanderson, head of AA International Travel says that driving to winter sports resorts appears to be increasing in popularity.

“It can be an economical option for a family or small group while a car offers greater flexibility to carry skis and equipment. 

“But those driving abroad in winter shouldn’t just jump in the car and go.  They need firstly to ensure that their comprehensive car insurance doesn’t stay behind as they cross the channel and do a little homework in advance of a trip to make sure they’re properly prepared and equipped for their journey..

“We can’t do much about the weather and there’s no guarantee that you’ll enjoy good ski conditions when you get to your resort, but you can ensure you’re on the right side of the law before you set off.”                                                  

European ski slopes can easily be reached by car, including some of the developing resorts in countries such as Slovakia, the Czech Republic or Bulgaria which offer great value winter holidays.  But the equipment required for car travellers in each country differs.

Rosie Sanderson also says that winter sports travel insurance is a must.

“For example, while travel insurance won’t cover the cost of your holiday if you are unable to ski, if the pistes at your resort are closed you can typically claim up to £200 per person (without an excess) as compensation or to pay for travel to a nearby resort where conditions might be more favourable.                                           

“Insurance will also cover those who go by public transport if they are delayed en-route, but that doesn’t apply to drivers – so taking care to prepare well is all the more important if you are travelling by car.”

“AA research last year suggested that 18% of winter sports travellers didn’t take out specialist travel cover while 11%  thought the free EHIC card was a substitute,” she says.  “But this won’t cover the £30 per minute cost of a mountain helicopter rescue, for example, while winter sports travel insurance will.

There is extensive driving advice on the AA’s website but here’s a quick guide to what’s required in some European destinations:

General requirements:

The drink-drive limit in most European countries is 0.05% (compared with 0.08% in England and Wales).  Some east European countries have a zero tolerance, mentioned below.  Never drink and drive.

In most European countries any device that indicates the location of speed cameras is prohibited – this facility must be removed from your sat-nav or disabled. In all of the below countries road traffic offences are subject to on-the-spot fines at a minimum. 

Winter tyres are compulsory in some countries or areas subject to snow and / or low temperatures, as are snow chains when conditions dictate.  AA strongly recommends fitting winter tyres before travelling and ensuring they have a good tread depth – the legal requirement varies between 3mm and 4mm depending on the country and they may need to have additional markings such as a snowflake symbol on the wall.

In addition, avoid carrying UK specification diesel fuel in a spare can as this won't have the same extreme low temperature capability as local fuel at your destination.  Diesel fuel capable of operation down to at least -20 degrees C is normal in the popular winter resorts whereas UK winter diesel ensures operation down to a minimum temperature of -15 degrees C.


Speed limits: Lower speed limits apply in adverse weather – and also at all times to visiting motorists who have held a driving licence for less than three years

Winter preparation: Snow chains are compulsory and must be fitted when driving over snow-covered roads where signs dictate, maximum speed 50km/h (31mph).  Winter tyres are recommended and must have a minimum tread depth of 3.5mm

Equipment: Vehicles must carry a warning triangle; a reflective jacket must be worn if exiting the vehicle in an emergency; and ‘NF’ certified breathalyser


Winter preparation: Winter tyres are compulsory ‘during wintry conditions’ including ice, snow, slush, hoar frost – effectively meaning that a car with standard summer tyres can’t be driven when such conditions persist. This applies to visiting as well as resident vehicles.  On snow-covered roads snow chains may be required; indicated by road signs.

Equipment: Warning triangle (strongly recommended as all drivers must signal their vehicle in the case of a breakdown); reflective jackets; and first-aid kit are requirements for residents’ vehicles and are recommended for visitors, together with replacement bulbs


Winter preparation: All vehicles must be fitted with winter tyres between 1 November and 15 April and must have a minimum tread depth of 4mm.  Snow chains advisable on heavily snow-covered road surfaces

Equipment: Warning triangle, first aid kit and reflective jacket which must be used if emerging from the vehicle in the event of a breakdown. 

Other requirements: All vehicles must also display a vignette if driving on motorways and expressways, can be bought at the frontier and some other places such as filling stations and post offices.


Winter preparation: Winter tyres are recommended while snow chains must be used when road conditions or signs indicate

Other equipment: Warning triangle; spare bulbs and reflective jacket


Winter preparation: Winter tyres may be required in certain provinces while snow chains are compulsory in the Val d’Oasta area between 15 October and 15 April and in other areas dependent on weather – ie they must be carried and used when conditions and / or road signs dictate. Maximum speed when using snow chains is 50km/h (31mph).

Equipment: Warning triangle; reflective jacket


Winter preparation: Snow chains compulsory where indicated by road signs.  Winter tyres not compulsory but are recommended.  The driver of a vehicle not so equipped that causes a traffic hold-up may be fined

Equipment: Warning triangle

Other requirements: All vehicles must display a vignette if driving on motorways and expressways, can be bought at the frontier and some other places such as filling stations and post offices.  Dipped headlights must be used at all times.

Czech Republic

Winter preparation: Winter tyres compulsory on all vehicles from 1 November to 31 March and at other times if the temperature is below 4 degrees C.  Minimum tread depth is 4mm. Snow chains may only be used where roads are completely covered by snow.

Equipment: Warning triangle; reflective jacket(s) which must be worn when exiting the vehicle outside urban areas in the event of a breakdown and there should be sufficient for all passengers; first-aid kit; set of replacement bulbs and a set of replacement fuses

Other requirements: Dipped headlights compulsory at all times.  Motorway tax sticker required which can be bought at the frontier and certain other places such as filling stations and post offices.

Drinking and driving: Zero tolerance. Drink-driving is a criminal offence and dealt with severely


Winter preparation: Winter tyres with a minimum tread depth of 3mm compulsory on compacted snow or ice.  All snow and ice must be removed from a vehicle before driving off.  Snow chains may be used where surface snow is sufficiently deep not to damage the road surface

Equipment: Warning triangle; first aid kit

Other requirements: Medical insurance for visitors (ie as provided by travel insurance) compulsory.

Drinking and driving: Zero tolerance. Drink-driving is dealt with severely


Winter preparation: Snow chains must be carried between 1 November and 1 March and used when relevant road signs are displayed.  Winter tyres are compulsory for resident vehicles and strongly recommended for visiting vehicles

Equipment: Warning triangle; first aid kit; reflective jackets for any person emerging from a vehicle in an emergency; fire extinguisher

Other requirements: Dipped headlights compulsory at all times

Full information about what’s required in each country can be found on the AA’s website under 'touring tips'.

More Photos - Click to Enlarge

Road trip