From North America to Europe

This is a page meant to help North American travellers understand the differences and similarities of European countries, knock down some stereotypes and confirming others.

Travelling to Europe isn’t as easy and straight forward as going from USA to Canada or vice-versa. The link between Canada and USA is strong, smooth and at times hardly noticeable. That makes travelling between two countries a rather easy process, obeying the same rules, and being guided by the same social and cultural norms.

Europe on the other hand is made of 50 countries with a lot of differences and many more similarities. While English (the North American version) is widely understood and spoken on continental Europe, having a grasp of another language will make a lot of friends for a North American tourist. Which is the whole point of travelling…

Driving in Europe

  • Most cars including rentals are equipped with manual transmission. Automatic transmission cars are available at a higher price and sometimes need to be ordered in advance.

  • SUVs and pickup trucks are extremely rare.

  • In major cities, one way streets are fairly normal as well as jaywalking.

  • No right turn on red light.

  • Yield to traffic is very common in Europe unlike the STOP sign.

  • Majority of traffic intersections are handled with roundabouts. The traffic already in the roundabout has priority except in Paris where right hand traffic has priority.

  • UK and Ireland, Malta and Gibraltar drive on the other side of the road than rest of Europe.

  • Country roads in UK are mostly one lane only with several “pockets” to allow opposite direction traffic to pass thru.

  • Speed cameras are common on country roads.

  • Parking is hard to find in cities and street parking is quite common. Parallel parking skills need a brush up when travelling to Europe. Same as parking uphill or downhill.

  • Speed limits vary from country to country. Check before you drive.

  • Fines for traffic and parking offences are strictly enforced. Watch out in Switzerland where a traffic offence could even come with hefty fine or even jail time.

  • Legal alcohol intake limits when driving vary from country to country. Some have 0%.

  • Winter tires are mandatory in several countries in Central and North Europe.

  • Gasoline is a lot more expensive (almost double the price) than US and Canada