English EN
Blog Car hire tips ROAD SIGNS


When you drive your car daily to your work and back, you might take road signs for granted, because you think nothing can surprise you on the road you know. But, if you are planning to travel somewhere new, (un)familiar road signs are extremely important. 

Before you pack your suitcases and hire a car, we suggest you check what kind of road signs can stand on your way. 

Table of contents

When were road signs invented? Tell me more…

Believe it or not, road signs date back all the way to ancient Rome. The Romanians used stones, which have been placed aside the road to show the travellers the distance to Rome. In those times all roads led to Rome, literally. The proverb referred and still refers to the road system, which is positioned in the centre, and any traveller can reach it from anywhere he starts. 

Later, in the 1400s multi-directional signs appeared aside the roads to give directions to travellers on how to reach different towns. Only in the early 1900s when the motorization began, and the automobile industry grew bigger the first need for standardization of the road signs appeared. Before the implementation of the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals in 1978 many attempts on a regional and national level were cut short, because governments couldn’t reach uniformity throughout Europe. Anyway, Rome wasn’t built in a day neither were the road signs. They have come a long way, and they won’t be going away anytime soon, so better respect them while driving.

Why are road signs needed?

Road signs are international rules that must be obeyed when driving your own or rented car. They can warn you of possible hazards, inform you about the speed limits or road changes and even guide you while you are driving on an unfamiliar road. But hey, they can also inform others of what the BEEP-BEEP you’re experimenting on the road while driving. They are seriously needed, trust us. So, before you hire a car, take some time and prepare yourself! 

On the other side of a street, I knew, stood a sign I wish a knew.

While writing this blog and listening to famous song Drive By, Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals has currently 67 parties – as you have figured it out is not even close to uniform the whole wide world.  

Even though road signs are mainly regulated by the convention, some countries have a bit of a free choice in the implementation of special regulation signs. Unique road signs that appear in the following counties will be presented to you further on – all you have to do is just click on the country you are interested in travelling to. 

SPAIN road signs

If you hire a car in Spain, please be advised that Spaniards don’t know how to use flashing lights while turning right, left or even when they are leaving the roundabouts. If you want to know more about driving in Spain and the road signs that you can encounter there, you can do so here >>

FRANCE road signs

If you hire a car in France please note that even though you are driving a car during the day, you will have to turn on your lights after passing the round blue sign with ‘allumez vos feux’ phrase. You just entered the area where driving lights are mandatory at all times of the day. If you want to read more about road signs in France, you can find it all here >>

ITALY road signs

If you hire a car in Italy please be prepared that road signs or additional panel underneath them can be written not just in Italian language but also in German (South Tyrol), French (Aosta Valley), Slovenian (border with Slovenia), Friulan (Friulli historical region) and Sardinian (Sardinia). 

GERMANY road signs

Did you know that Germany is the only country without a general speed limit on its highways? When renting a car in Germany fasten your seat belt, because it will be a hell of a drive. To read about it more, you can check all the details here >>

EU road signs

Throughout the whole of Europe, you can find many differences between traffic signs. In this case, we refer first to language text and colour-coding of horizontal sign backgrounds. As a road-user, you have to be careful also about graphic design details and local regulatory significance that differ from region to region.

How many different types of road signs we have?

The Vienna Convention defines six different types of standard road signs, which we found worth mentioning. As a road-user, you must be familiar with danger warning signs in a diamond shape, which are placed at such distance from the danger point as will make them the most effective by day and night. Priority signs are diamond-shaped, coloured in white with a yellow diamond inside which mainly indicates the order in which vehicles should pass the intersection. The most common priority signs are »GIVE WAY« and »STOP« sign, which can differ only in language varieties depending on the country you are driving in. The third group of road signs we found important are restrictive signs which are used to prohibit certain category of vehicle to enter the road. Drivers can find them aside from the roads in circular shape with white, yellow, but mostly blue backgrounds which have symbols or inscriptions on it. Mandatory signs tell road-user what is obligated to do in a specific area. Generally, they are round, coloured in blue with white border and white symbols. Note that you must obey only the signs that are appropriate for your vehicle. Guide signs (information, facilities or service signs) are provided to assist you when you are driving on unfamiliar roads and you are looking for a gasoline service station, parking area in city centre, someplace to eat etc. As a driver you can usually find these signs in blue, with no specific border colour. Finally, direction, position and indication signs can serve you like additional information for navigation while driving in a foreign country. Note that these signs are the only group of road signs that can vary both in colour and in shape. They can indicate temporary conditions on the road, such as work on the road, constructions sites near your stay or even closed road because of a traffic collision. 

Teach me how to read additional panels.

Additional panels show and help you as a driver to understand in some cases the distance from the signs to the beginning of the dangerous section of the road or in other cases give you important additional information under danger warning, priority, restrictive and/or mandatory road signs. We like to imagine that additional panels advise drivers on how to act if they are not familiar with a road sign. For example, alternative plates under the road sign can indicate when the vehicle is prohibited to excess in the neighbourhood (they give you some kind of a schedule for entry) or that only disabled drivers are able to park in this specific parking area. Additional panels can tell you also that stopping on the shoulder of the city centre road is not allowed (this one is pretty common, remember our words) or even that you have to slow down because there may be frogs crossing the road (yeah, yeah usually in October they enter in their breeding season - don’t complain, it is the circle of the nature). 

Learn how to read road signs and understand additional panels and we promise you your car hire experience in a foreign country will be as smooth as possible. Good luck on the road!

Rated 4.9 / 5
Based on 1132 customer reviews