If you are planning a trip to Europe the smart way to go is the good old American way — by car. For a journey by car across Europe, you will need to carry the following documents:
• your valid full driving licence (not provisional),
• paper counterpart if you have a photo-card licence,
• an International Driving Permit (International Drivers License or international translation of your native driving licence) where necessary,
• he original vehicle registration document,
• your European breakdown cover certificate,
• your passport,
• the relevant visa (for certain countries)
You may be asked to produce your documents at any time, so to avoid a police fine and/or confiscation of your vehicle, be sure that they are in order and available for inspection. If you're travelling in a vehicle other than a motor car or motorcycle, or towing a boat, make sure you have the necessary documentation. Make sure that you have adequate European breakdown cover.
Before you can drive in Europe you are going to need a drivers license.
Home State Driver's License
A valid driver's license is required to operate an automobile, motorcycle, or moped in Europe. Your home state driver's license is sufficient in most countries, often up to 180 days. In some countries operation of anything other than a normal sedan requires a special license. For example, you may need a special license to ride a motorcycle in Europe.
International Driving Permit
It would be a good idea to have an International Driving Permit (IDP) when driving in Europe. It is required in Italy and some other countries. Even if you do not plan to drive in Europe, get an IDP. It is a handy additional piece of identification which can sometimes be left as deposit when renting a bicycle or a deck chair. You don't want to leave your passport.
European Driver's License
For those planning to live overseas, it is a good idea, if not a requirement, to apply for a local driver's license.
I obtained a license in Holland simply by presenting my California drivers license. As long as your home state license is valid, you can obtain a Dutch license without taking expensive lessons and a rigorous test.
Obtaining a driver's license in Germany was not as simple as in Holland. You must make application within a year of taking up residence, and take an eye examination at a regular optometrist's office. They use sophisticated instruments to check your eyes, not one of those simple wall charts. Unfortunately my test resulted in determining that I needed eye glasses. Not for me again, I decided, and talked the doctor into changing the results of the exam based on the fact that I had been partying the night before at local Fasching events and couldn't see straight yet. He bought my story and gave me an OK to drive without glasses. The technician who gave me the test was not happy. She gave me one of those looks. By the way, Fasching is a time when Germans drink and party hard. It's one of the German names for Mardi Gras, known in some countries as Carnival.
Some basic rules apply across the continent, such as: In some countries outside the EU a conventional GB sticker is required even if you have euro-plates, so it is always safer to display one. Drinking and driving is illegal and carries severe penalties.
Check with your credit card company that the cards you plan to use are accepted at your destination. Speaking on a hand held mobile phone while driving is prohibited in most countries. If you wear spectacles remember to take a spare pair along, especially if you are the only driver. Also take care to remember to drive on the right side of the road, in the correct countries