The Open Road is certainly still there to be found - but don’t assume that motoring on the Continent is necessarily much freer than here in Britain.

That includes less free in the sense of having to pay to use the road. Vignette schemes and other compulsory motorway charges are increasingly commonplace across Europe, and you must plan ahead and work out what to expect to minimise stress and maximise value for money.

You also need to be prepared for the increasing spread of
city centre restrictions, particularly in Germany and Italy

here to go the AA's advice on national safety regulations by country

There's a whole thicket of advice out there on the web on motorway tolls on the Continent. To be sure you're getting up to date information on costs and means of payment, and indeed on available routes (some additions to the network are still being made), best to go to the English-language versions of the national sites - for France and Spain (Italy currently not available in English) The charges on these big three established toll networks are now not that far apart, although France still comes out on top. The cost for a typical car for a lengthy (around 1,100km) trek across each country works out at:

  • France: Calais to Perpignan: €68.50 (even with 300km of autoroute south of Clermont Ferrand being free, but this does includes €6.40 for the stunning MIllau viaduct)

  • Italy: Chiasso (Swiss border) to Cozensa: €57.40

  • Spain: La Jonquera (French border south of Perpignan) to Malaga: €52.60

A further useful source of Government's own
advice on driving abroad from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

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You will of course need to check that your car insurance provides adequate cover for your Continental trip. You would almost certainly need to pay a small excess premium to get comprehensive cover rather than just third party. Check with your insurer some time ahead of the trip.

It's pretty unlikely nowadays that you'll need to get hold of a Green Card as well; only the most adventurous British motorists are likely to be hitting
the distant countries where this proof of third party cover is still required.