Driving to Italy from UK: Best Routes & Driving Tips

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The Best Routes to Italy from the United Kingdom

Are you desperate for some Italian culture but don’t want to fly? With great routes across Europe, a road trip from UK to Italy is easy, leaving you arriving refreshed and unstressed, ready to enjoy la dolce vita from the comfort of your own car.

We’ve spent the last five years full-time traveling in Europe and have driven from the UK to Italy more times than we can remember! In this guide for driving to Italy from the UK, we’re sharing the best routes, costs, and tips to help you have the best journey to Italy.

driving to Italy from UK

Summary of the best routes to Italy from UK

  • The quickest route is Calais – Reims – Nancy – Basel – Lucern – Milan
  • The toll free route is Calais – Lille – Luxembourg – Stuttgart – Kempten – Landeck – Resia
  • The best route through France is Calais – Reims – Troyes – Dijon – Lyon – Geneva – Turin – Genoa
  • The best route via the Netherlands is Rotterdam – Cologne – Coblenz – Ulm – Milan
  • The best winter route is Calais – Reims – Troyes – Dijon – Lyon – Avignon – Nice – San Remo
  • The most adventurous route is Calais – Reims – Colmar – Zurich – Davos – Stelvio Pass – Bormio – Milan
  • The “I want to see everything” route can take you to France, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland and even Monaco. Why not scroll down and check out the route?

Crossing the Channel

Before you pick the best route to Italy, you need to work out the best way to get to mainland Europe. These are the best options for crossing the English Channel:

Eurotunnel Le Shuttle

The fastest route is using the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle from Folkestone to Calais. The crossing under the channel takes 35 minutes, and with a fast check-in and loading process, you can be in France in an hour.

This crossing is Ideal if you are driving from UK to France with a dog, or just want to get to the other side as quickly as possible.

Dover to Calais

There is no direct car ferry from the UK to Italy. The quickest way by ferry is the Dover to Calais route, on which both P&O and DFDS operate up to 40 crossings between them in peak season. Taking just an hour and a half, you’ll have time on board for a meal or drink and perhaps a quick snooze.

Getting on and off can take a while though, as they have to piece all the vehicles together like a jigsaw puzzle. Not as quick as the shuttle, but very possibly a bit cheaper, especially if you can be flexible with crossing times.

Eastern England to the Netherlands

More expensive and quite a bit longer than the Dover-Calais route, the crossings from Harwich, Hull, and Newcastle to the Netherlands may prove to be cost-effective, but they are only a better option if you don’t live in the south of England.

The Stena Line Harwich-Hook of Holland route operates daily at 9am, with the crossing taking around seven hours. You’ll need to find an overnight stop on the other side as you won’t get through customs until well after 6pm, unless you can share the driving and go through the night.

If you cross from Hull to Rotterdam with P&O, their daily crossing departs at 8.30pm and takes around eleven hours, meaning you arrive refreshed and ready for a full day’s drive.

The DFDS Newcastle to Amsterdam crossing is also overnight but takes nearly 16 hours and is a bit more expensive, although ideal for those starting their Italian road trip in the north of the UK.

There are a handful of other routes out of Newhaven and Folkestone to the ports of northern France, which are also worth exploring.

The key here is to be flexible with dates and times to get the best deals, this is where you may just find a bargain.

Is this your first time visiting Italy? Get all the information you need in our Italy Travel Guide, including what to pack, the best time of year to go, getting there and practical tips to help you have the best trip!

The Best Driving Routes from UK to Italy

There are so many main routes to Italy from UK, it can be daunting working out which one to take. Depending on whether you’re doing a straight dash down, whether you’re going to meander and spend a bit of time sightseeing along the way, and your final destination, we’ve got all the best routes from UK to Italy for you.

All our routes routes assume one-way travel from Calais in a 2.5l diesel car and costs have been updated in January 2024. You can find your specific car’s toll costs and fuel consumption at ViaMichelin. For a return journey simply double the statistics, or maybe take a different route back to the UK.

TOP TIP: Make sure you book your hotels in advance, as popular and convenient accommodation with good reviews will be reserved well in advance during peak times.

If you feel daunted by the drive, you could explore the motorail option. This means transporting your vehicle by train whilst you enjoy the journey in a sleeper coach. This is a fantastic way to travel, but an expensive experience.

We took our touring bike from Dusseldorf to Verona (one of the few routes still operating) and saw lots of classic cars being transported this way. Motorail is a great option if you don’t want to add mileage to your vehicle.

You can find out more about European motorail routes with the Man in Seat 61.

RELATED POST: 19 Helpful Long Distance Driving Tips

UK To Italy Driving Routes Map

driving to Italy from UK map
Thanks to Google Maps

The Quickest Route

Calais – Reims – Nancy – Basel – Lucern – Milan

  • Distance: 1026km
  • Driving Time: 11 hours 30 minutes
  • Toll Costs: €103
  • Fuel Costs: €139

The quickest drive to Italy from England is the straightest, and probably also the most scenic! Within 2 hours from Calais, you’ll be leaving the flat plains of northern France behind.

This travel route from UK to Italy via Switzerland passes through some of Europe’s most spectacular scenery, especially as you approach the Alps, and snakes between Lake Como, Lake Maggiore, and Lake Lugano en route from Lucerne to Milan.

You could take a few extra days and stop along the route. Pretty Colmar, the tri-national medieval city of Basel, and elegant Lucerne with its gorgeous lake are all worthy of a stop-over.

Driving from France to Italy on this route, you’ll find excellent motorways and national roads as you pass through France and Switzerland before using the free Gotthard Tunnel, Gotthard Pass, or Furka Pass to enter Italy.

UK to Italy by car
The Gotthard Pass Switzerland

The Toll Free Route

Calais – Lille – Luxembourg – Stuttgart – Kempten – Landeck – Resia

  • Distance: 1047km
  • Driving Time: 12 hours
  • Toll Costs: €0
  • Fuel Costs: €149

This the perfect route for those looking to avoid the French tolls and requirement for an Austrian vignette. This route is especially good for anyone in a large motorhome over 3,500kgs where tolls costs are higher and a GoBox is required to travel on Austrian motorways.

Head east from Calais using the toll free A16 and A25. Head south through toll-free Belgium and Luxembourg, before driving into Germany. All the autobahns in Germany are toll free for motor caravans, even those over 7,500kgs.

From Langenau, pick up the A7 heading south until you cross the German-Austrian border through the Grenztunnel where the road becomes the B179 Fernpass, then follow these directions for a toll free transition through Austria.

  1. Continue on the Fernpass B179 past Reutte and over the actual pass to Nassereith.
  2. Just past Nassereith take the B189 in the Imst direction. 
  3. At Imst take the B171 (being careful not to go onto the parallel A12 toll road) in the direction of Landeck. 
  4. At Landeck take the L76 to Fließ then the B180 south in the direction of Reschenpass/Reschen/Resia and then into Italy.
Lake Blindsee on the Fernpass

The French Route

Calais – Reims – Troyes – Dijon – Lyon – Geneva – Turin – Genoa

  • Distance: 1384km
  • Driving Time: 15 hours 30 minutes
  • Toll Costs: €186
  • Fuel Costs: €131

If you want the convenience of the fast French autoroute (motorway) all the way on your drive from England to Italy, and a straightforward trip, then this is the best way for you.

The section from Lyon as you skirt around Lake Geneva is also incredibly picturesque, and it’s a good place to stop if you’re not doing the drive in one long stretch.

Utilizing the Mont Blanc tunnel to get through the Alps is also a good route if you’re planning a northern Italy road trip, heading for the Italian Riviera, the historic city of Turin, or driving to Tuscany from UK, but you’ll pay for the privilege with higher French motorway tolls and a hefty €46.30 one way for the tunnel.

RELATED POST: Driving in the Alps: Top Tips & Best Routes

road with a view of vines and a lake with mountains in the background
The route along Lake Geneva

The Netherlands Route

Rotterdam – Cologne – Koblenz – Ulm – Milan

  • Distance: 1176km
  • Driving Time: 13 hours 40 minutes
  • Toll Costs: €4
  • Fuel Costs: €118

If you’re leaving from one of the eastern England ports, then traveling down through Germany is super cost-effective as their autobahns are free of charge, unless you’re a commercial truck driver!

If you’re driving from England to Germany before traveling on to Venice or Lake Garda, the most easterly of the Italian Lakes, head for Innsbruck from Ulm and cross into Italy via the beautiful Brenner Pass for an extra cost of €10 in toll fees.

RELATED POST: Road Trip on a Budget: 36 Tips to Save Money in Europe

empty motorway surrounded by green fields and trees
Sweeping and empty roads in Germany

The Winter Route

Calais – Reims – Troyes – Dijon – Lyon – Avignon – Nice – San Remo

  • Distance: 1412km
  • Driving Time: 15 hours 45 minutes
  • Toll Costs: €98
  • Fuel Costs: €142

Almost all of the Italian border is mountainous. If you’re traveling to Italy in the winter but don’t fancy the weather conditions or crossing the mountain roads of the Alps to get there, then you need to drive right down to the Cote d’Azur on the south coast of France and turn left.

The coast road is simply stunning, and in winter won’t be rammed with tourist traffic. You’ll cross into Italy, just west of Menton on the infamous SS1 road, sections of which were used in a James Bond movie.

This is the best route in winter to avoid the big mountains, but you’ll still need to fit winter tires or carry snow chains to satisfy the French mountain law.

view from a high point over a rocky landscape and blue sea
View from the Grande Corniche France

The Adventurous Route

Calais – Reims – Colmar – Zurich – Davos – Stelvio Pass – Bormio – Milan

  • Distance: 1317km
  • Driving Time: 17 hours 45 minutes
  • Toll Costs: €27
  • Fuel Costs: €131

This route is the best option if the road trip to Italy is more important than the destination. Crossing three breathtaking passes, surrounded by the might of the Alps as you head east from Davos, the highlight of the route is the incredible Stelvio Pass, beloved by motorcyclists, classic car enthusiasts, and even the occasional motorhome. 

This route is only suitable for the summer months, even crossing as late as June you may still find snow right at the top of the passes. From May to September, the roads are likely to be clear, but it always pays to check the weather before you set off when driving in northern Italy.

RELATED POST: Stelvio Pass: The Best Mountain Road in Italy?

drive to Italy from UK
The Stelvio Pass Italy

The “I want to stop and see everything on the way” Route!

This is a much harder-to-define route because it depends so much on what you like doing and the type of sightseeing you enjoy. Here are some ideas of the best places that could be along a route to Italy!

  • Colmar – a small French town in Alsace, close to the France-Germany border, and known for its colorful half-timbered medieval buildings.
  • Dijon – in the heart of the ancient French Burgundy wine district, a perfect stopover for wine-tasting tours and vineyard visits.
  • Luxembourg – one of the world’s smallest countries, it is also the second richest!
  • Cologne – a historic German city, known for the filigree spires of its splendid cathedral and world-class museums.
  • Lyon – a stunning city, Lyon is at the center of France’s food scene and boasts thousands of years of history among its UNESCO sites.
  • Basel – the Swiss city is full of contract, with the vibrant and modern art scene set against a rich historical backdrop.
  • Mont Blanc – Europe’s highest mountain on the French-Italian border is the perfect place for adrenalin seekers and hikers to stop.
  • Monaco – the tiny principality nestled into the south of France landscape is a beautiful magnet for the rich and a fantastic place to people watch!
  • The Black Forest – one of Germany’s most famous regions, the Black Forest is packed with activity and adventure, especially for families.
  • Lake Lucerne – this Swiss lake is simply stunning, a deep turquoise body of water encircled by dramatic mountains.
  • Lauterbrunnen & Grindelwald – two stunning Swiss towns in the Bernese Oberland region that are within a few miles of each other and surrounded by the mighty Alps in every direction.
map of Europe

Make sure you have travel insurance you can trust when driving to Italy. We recommend True Traveller for their 5-star TrustPilot reviews, variety of cover options, best activities cover as standard, great prices, and excellent service.

Onward Travel in Italy

You’ve arrived! Generally speaking, driving in northern Italy is a pleasure, the roads are in good condition and well-maintained.

However, the further south you venture, the worse the roads become. Once south of Rome, you’ll find worn and potholed A roads and autostrada, but take it easy, follow our Italy driving tips, enjoy the gorgeous scenery and you’ll soon feel at home.

Italy Travel Ideas

Driving on the Continent

Whichever route you choose, driving from UK to Italy means crossing through one or more other countries in Europe such as France, the Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland. This means you need to familiarise yourself with the rules of driving in each country.

Thankfully, there are some common laws and regulations across most European countries for visitors from the UK and elsewhere. Make sure to carry the correct documentation and understand EU driving rules.

  • You must have at least three months remaining on your passport (issued in the past ten years) at your intended departure date from Italy.
  • You must have at least 3rd party insurance for your vehicle. A green card to prove you have vehicle insurance cover when traveling in Europe is not required if your vehicle is registered in the UK or a country of the European Union.
  • You must display a UK sticker on the rear of your vehicle, instead of a GB sticker, unless you have a new-style UK number plate that displays the Union Jack flag.
  • You must have a valid UK license. This allows you to drive in all EU countries for up to six months. If you only have a paper driving license or a license issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey, or the Isle of Man then you will need an International Driving Permit.
  • Headlight beam converters must be in use unless you can adjust your headlights automatically.
  • Wearing seatbelts is compulsory in all vehicles throughout the EU. Under EU law, drivers and passengers must wear a seat belt in any seat fitted with one.
  • Under EU law, car seats must be used for all children up to 36kg, 1.35 m, or about 12 years old.
  • It is illegal in all countries of the EU to use a mobile phone when driving. In addition, in France, you are not even allowed to use a mobile phone using a hands-free device, which you are permitted to do in the UK, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. On-the-spot fines are applicable in all countries if you are caught using a phone at the wheel.
  • Unleaded petrol is called petrol or benzine. Regular unleaded petrol is marked as ’95’ while super or premium gasoline is marked ’97’ or ’98’. Diesel is known as gasoil, gasol or gazoil.
  • Every EU country apart from Ireland drives on the right-hand side of the road. This means that when you’re at a junction or roundabout, the oncoming traffic from the right has priority over the traffic coming from the left unless other signage is in place.
  • All the countries you may drive through on your way to Italy are members of the Schengen Area, meaning borders between both countries are open. However, you may find that random roadside checks are in place at border crossings due to the number of undocumented migrants traveling through Europe. Make sure to have your passports on hand when approaching country borders.
  • If you have an accident you’ll need to complete the EU Accident Statement, which you can find to download in English in our free resource library if your insurer hasn’t provided one. Stop safely and alert other drivers with your hazard lights and warning triangle. Exchange details (a translate app comes in handy here) and take lots of photos to add to your form when you submit it to the insurers. If the other party won’t give details or there has been an injury, you should call the police on 112.
  • Make sure to check what safety equipment you need in your vehicle as all countries have different requirements. As a minimum, you should carry a reflective hi-vis jacket, a warning triangle, and a first aid kit. If you’re driving a rental car, check with your car rental company that you have all the right safety equipment before setting off as not all hire car companies will provide safety equipment.

RELATED POST: Driving in Europe – Everything You Need to Know

Europe road signs

Don’t forget your road trip essentials! Our free road trip checklists help you remember everything, including road trip snacks, podcasts, and road trip songs for the journey!

Driving in Italy

The quality of the roads and the abilities of Italian drivers are mixed, especially outside of the major cities. The further south in Italy you go, the more the road network requires investment.

So, I hear you ask, is driving in Italy safe? Yes! the important thing is to be aware of the challenges and obstacles and go slowly until you find your feet. Do that and you’ll be perfectly safe.

  • Stick to the speed limits in Italy which are strictly enforced by the Italian authorities. Unless you see a sign indicating otherwise, the speed limits in Italy are 130km/h on highways like the Autostrada and range from 50km/h to 110km/h on other roads. 
  • You must carry a reflective jacket (not mandatory to carry but you can be fined for not wearing one if you’re on the hard shoulder!), a warning triangle, a spare wheel, and the tools to change a wheel, or a tire repair kit.
  • You must not carry or use a radar detector. If you’re caught you will be fined and the device will be confiscated by the Italian police.
  • Headlights or daytime running lights must be turned on at all times.
  • There seem to be an inordinate amount of one-way streets in Italy! Look for a blue rectangular sign with a white arrow to indicate the road is one-way only.
  • If you’re on the motorway, emergency telephones linked to an SOS telephone network are installed at 2km intervals. There are two types of emergency telephone on Italian roads, from which you either connect to the emergency call center and speak directly to an operator or the type where you press a ‘spanner’ button for mechanical assistance or a ‘red cross’ button for medical aid. A red light will then let you know your request has been received. 
  • Many gas stations in Italy have two prices, one for self-service and one for serviced fuel. The latter can cost as much as 15c more than self-service. Be cautious when entering service stations as an attendant may try and direct you to the serviced pumps.

Toll Roads in Italy

Italy’s motorways are called autostrada, and you’ll notice that the Italian road signs for motorways are green and not blue. Not all autostradas have tolls or only have them on some sections.

Toll roads in Italy are much cheaper than they are in France and as a general rule, it is far cheaper, easier, and quicker to take the toll roads in Italy. This is because of the sometimes poor construction of country roads, although we did see potholes on toll roads on occasion!

Italian toll roads are pay-as-you-go at toll booths. Use the correct money or your credit card as often there is no change at the machine.

Alternatively use a Bip&Go, Tollbird, or Telepass device that allows you to pass without using the non-barrier lanes and pay via a linked credit card.

Low Emission Zones in Italy

Italy has many different low-emission zones with differing standards, time periods, and enforcement methods. You’ll find these mainly in northern Italy, but also in mid-Italy and Sicily. In Milan and Palermo, these schemes combine LEZ and urban road tolling schemes. Check here what the requirements are if you’re planning to visit a city centre.

In parts of Italy, the historical centers of large cities and major towns restrict traffic from entering areas known as ‘Zone a Traffico Limitato’ or ZTLs. You can expect to receive a fine by post if you drive your car into a signed ZTL as only residents are permitted to use these old town roads, so don’t go there!  

In Cinque Terre, along the Amalfi Coast, and in many of the small villages of Tuscany and Umbria, cars are banned altogether from entering towns and villages. The good news is that the municipality usually provides free parking, and if the historic center is not within walking distance, a shuttle bus.

Winter Tyres in Italy

Winter tires are surprisingly not always mandatory when driving Italy, but if you see a sign with ‘obbligo di pneumatici invernali o catene a bordo’, you must either be using winter tires or snow chains.

Whether the signage is in place is determined by local authorities and it can be difficult to know where tyres and chains may be required in advance.

There are a number of exceptions to this ‘sign rule’. Between 15th October and 15th April Italian law makes winter tyres mandatory in the Aosta Valley. If you have summer tires fitted in this area, you will need to carry snow chains between 15 October and 15 April. In addition, you must use winter tires from 15th November to 15th April in South Tyrol, the municipality of Bozen, and the Brenner motorway. 

Parking in Italy

It is important to note the different coloured spaces when parking in Italy.

Yellow lines are for disabled parking, white lines mean the parking space is for residents, and blue lines indicate paid street parking.

HELPFUL TIP: If you intend to park your car overnight, check local signs which indicate when street cleaning is done. Cars left in a street where cleaning is scheduled will be towed away!

road lined with Cypress trees through a typical rural Italian landscape
Driving through Italy’s stunning Val d’Orcia

Looking for the best SIM card deals in Europe for your trip? Check out our guide to the best data SIMs in Europe and get the best deal for your trip to Italy.

Driving in France

Driving from UK to Italy through France is easy, with well-maintained roads and generally considerate and well-mannered drivers.

On the downside, France is one of the most expensive countries in which to drive and travel in Europe due to the high fuel costs and expensive tolls, especially if you’re traveling in a larger vehicle like a camper van or motorhome.

There are also regular disruptions and fuel blockades due to political tensions, so make sure you check the current situation when you leave home. 

Follow these tips for a safe and easy transit through France on your road trip to Italy from England.

  • In recent years there has been a significant increase in speeding fines issued by French authorities to British citizens. Many get home from a holiday or road trip to a nasty surprise in the post. Be aware and stick to the speed limit when driving in France.
  • You must carry at least one reflective jacket within the passenger compartment of your vehicle and must put it on before you get out in an emergency or breakdown situation You must also carry a warning triangle.
  • France has very strict drink driving laws compared to the UK. The UK maximum legal limit is 0.8 mg/ml and the French maximum is 0.5 mg/ml of alcohol per liter in your blood. If you are tested and found to be over the limit, you may face up to a €4,500 fine, have to appear in court, and possibly even be given a prison sentence.
  • All vehicles over 3,500kg are required to display infographic ‘angles morts’ or blind spot stickers. Stickers must be visible on both sides and at the back of the vehicle and must be placed between 0.90m and 1.50m above the ground. Stickers must be placed in such a way that they don’t cover the vehicle’s regulatory plates and inscriptions, or any of the lights or signals, and don’t hinder the driver’s field of view. Find out more about motorhome driving in France here.
  • As of January 2013, the French government announced that the introduction of an €11 fine for not carrying a breathalyzer/alcohol test had been postponed indefinitely. However, the law still states that drivers must have an alcotest ready for use in their vehicle even though no penalty will be imposed if they cannot present one during a police road check.
  • Motorway petrol stations in France are hideously expensive. For the best prices, come off the main route or motorway to find a petrol station in a local town or village.

Mountain Law in France

On 1 November 2021 the Loi Montage II or ‘mountain law II’ came into force in 48 French mountainous departments within the Alpes, Massif Central, Jura, Pyrenees, and Vosges regions.

Anyone traveling in a vehicle through one of these areas between 1 November and 31 March will be obliged to fit four approved winter tires or carry at least two snow chains or socks in the vehicle. You can find out more about France’s mountain law here.

Motorway Breakdowns in France

French motorways are privately managed and you’re not allowed to request your own assistance company to attend to you if you break down.

If you do break down, you should use the orange emergency telephones that are situated every 2km along French motorways to call the police or the official breakdown service operating in that area. Alternatively, if no orange telephone is available, you should call the emergency services by calling 112.

You will be towed to a safe designated area where you can make onward arrangements for your own breakdown insurer to assist if you have it. Otherwise, the towing company will be able to provide support or signpost you.

Charges for assistance on a motorway are fixed by the government and are reviewed and revised each year. Many of the government-appointed towing services allow large insurers to pay them directly, but this is at their discretion and will depend on who your European breakdown cover is with. 

If this is not the case, you should pay directly and then seek recompense from your insurer.

Motorway Tolls in France

Driving through France can be hideously expensive if you only use toll roads, but they do allow you to travel through the country to your destination quickly. 

You may want to consider carrying an electronic toll tag, like Bip&Go or Tollbird, both of which cover you in France and Italy, and deduct the fees from a credit card automatically, meaning you don’t have to stop at a booth or barrier.

Crit’Air Vignettes

France has introduced ‘clean air’ windscreen stickers as a legal requirement in many of its cities, towns, and their peripheries, to identify a vehicle’s emissions levels and to restrict access in order to improve air quality. 

This six-category sticker system is designed to identify what emissions vehicles produce, and are categorized based on your vehicle’s Euro emissions standard. These are known as Crit’Air stickers and you may need one for your vehicle, depending on where you visit or stop as you transit through.

If you intend to travel close to a city or use its ring road, it’s worth getting the sticker, which costs €4.61 from the official website. Find out more and purchase Crit’Air stickers from the official certificat-air.gouv.fr website.  

RELATED POST: France Road Trip – 13 Amazing Itineraries

road in france lined with lavender and flower fields
Driving through the South of France

Don’t forget your road trip essentials! Our free road trip checklists help you remember everything, including road trip snacks, podcasts, and road trip songs for the journey!

Driving in Germany

  • Even though speed is not limited on 70% of the autobahn network, the roads are often so full that a de facto speed limit has been established. The main cause is stop-and-go traffic jams and congestion around urban areas, so don’t expect to be barrelling down the German autobahn at 200kph on your drive to Italy from UK!
  • If you see hazard lights up ahead on the autobahn, this means there is a traffic jam. Slow down and activate your hazard lights also, if the person behind you is traveling at high speed they will appreciate this courtesy and be able to stop in time.
  • German law requires drivers to pull over when there is a gridlock on the motorway. This is mandatory to allow emergency vehicles to get through in the event of an accident.
  • Check your mirrors frequently; if a German driver wishes to overtake you or let you know they are coming up fast behind you, they will flash their lights and indicators to show their intent.
  • If you have a GPS navigation system that shows you where any fixed-speed cameras are, you must deactivate this function. It’s illegal to carry or use any radar detection equipment when driving through Germany.
  • All vehicles turning right have to give priority to bikes (on their inside) going straight on.
  • You must carry a warning triangle, reflective jacket (for the driver and all passengers), spare wheel and the tools to change a wheel or a tire repair kit.
  • If you wear glasses for driving you must carry a spare pair.
  • We recommend you carry a first aid kit, although this is only compulsory for four-wheeled vehicles registered in Germany.
  • Germany has regulations requiring all passenger cars and motorbikes to be fitted with winter or all-season tires in wintry conditions.

Germany Motorway Tolls

There are no tolls to pay on the motorways, making autobahn routes through Germany a really cost-effective way to access Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein, the Czech Republic, and Poland.

If you are traveling in a massive motorhome camper that is over 7,500kg, like an RV, overland truck, or converted lorry, then you are exempt from the tolls placed on commercial lorries over this weight.

Low Emission Zones in Germany

There are currently 75 umweltzonen or low emission zones in more than 70 cities and built-up areas in Germany.

To enter LEZs in Germany you will need an umweltplakette or environmental sticker which you place on the windscreen to show the level of your vehicle’s emissions. This determines whether you can drive into the LEZ areas in your vehicle.

To purchase these environmental stickers, you must be able to evidence that the vehicle meets the Euro 4 standards for a green sticker, by providing copies of the V5C for newer vehicles (manufactured after January 2006), or a Certificate of Conformity provided by the manufacturer.

Head to the Umwelt-Plakette.de website for more information and to get your sticker – you will need to do this at least six weeks before departure to give it time to be processed and arrive in the post.

RELATED POST: Five Unmissable Germany Road Trip Routes

road in germany across mountains and a lake
Driving in the German Alps

Driving in Switzerland

Traveling in Switzerland by car is a pleasure. The roads in Switzerland are well maintained and the drivers are courteous and measured. The engineering of the mountain passes and complex tunnels and bridges that ribbon across the landscape is a real marvel.

  • It is compulsory to carry a warning triangle inside the car, not in the boot.
  • If you wear glasses for driving you must carry a spare pair.
  • If you’re planning a winter road trip to Switzerland, you must carry snow chains. Road signs will let you know when you need to put them on the car.
  • If you have a GPS navigation system that shows you where any speed cameras are, you must deactivate this function. Carrying or using radar detection equipment is illegal when driving through Switzerland.

Toll Roads in Switzerland

Switzerland requires you to purchase a vignette (a type of sticker) to use their motorway systems. A vignette sticker can be purchased at fuel stations or online here in advance of your trip.

Buying your vignette online is a good idea, even with your satnav set not to use motorways, you can easily find yourself on one as you pass through without even realizing it, and fines for non-compliance can be large. You need an extra vignette for a trailer and a different type for motorhomes and campervans over 3,500kg.

road alongside a turquoise lake with a boat sailing on it
The road along beautiful Lake Thun Switzerland

Driving to Italy FAQ

Is it possible to drive to Italy from UK?

Yes, you can easily drive to Italy from UK. You’ll need to take a ferry or the channel tunnel train to get to Europe before picking one of our tried and tested routes to Italy.

Is it cheaper to drive or fly to Italy from UK?

It’s very hard to say because there are so many variables. If you have the time, then driving will be more cost-effective than flying and hiring a car on arrival in Italy. If you’re relying on public transport in Italy or only visiting one location, then flying may be cheaper.

What is the fastest route from UK to Italy?

The fastest route from UK to Italy is via Calais, Reims, Nancy, Basel, and Lucern before you cross into Italy using the Gotthard Tunnel. This route is 1026km (638 miles) and will take around 11 to 12 hours of driving time.

How long does it take to drive to Italy from UK?

There is no really quick way of driving from England to Italy. It can take a minimum of 11 hours from Calais to a couple of days by the time you’ve accounted for rest stops unless you’re traveling with someone who can share the long hours at the wheel. 

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driving from uk to Italy guide
driving to Italy from UK guide
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