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Driving in Denmark – what are the rules?

Denmark is known for its persistent rain, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great place to see by car. Here’s what to check before you drive there.

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Thinking of a driving holiday in Denmark? The Scandinavian country is known for its persistent rain with no recognised ‘dry’ periods. but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great place to see by car. Here’s what to check, for you and your vehicle, before you drive there.

Denmark’s weather is generally wet, with around 25 inches of rain falling on average each year. Its grey skies and foreboding cloud cover might be among the reasons why you must always have your headlights on when driving on Danish roads. Ironically, the most rain falls in the summer months and into autumn – September to November.

But don’t let a bit of precipitation put you off visiting and enjoying this beautiful country by car. Its roads are good, there are lots of interesting places to visit on the mainland and across its many islands and the Danes are friendly (and speak very good English).

A high standard of living, low crime rates and a general feeling of well-being and equality (known as ‘hygge’ in Denmark) make the country a happy and pleasurable place to be. There are thousands of coffee shops and restaurants across the nation, many of which have covered outside areas so that you can enjoy the scenery – but stay out of the rain!

Flying in and hiring a car there is easy and all the major rental companies have offices and depots at major entry points such as Copenhagen Airport. The capital city is a great place to start your trip and from there you can go straight to the island of Zealand which, by the way, was not where the name New Zealand came from.

Copenhagen itself boasts museums, restaurants, a castle, churches and other attractions such as the Little Mermaid statue and the Tivoli Gardens. The city is busy with expensive public parking and a speed limit in the centre, of just 40 km/h (24 mph), so it’s not the greatest place to take a car.

Cyclists have the upper hand there too – Copenhagen has been voted the most bike-friendly city in the world and there are cycle-only bridges and car-free areas to be aware of.

Everywhere in Denmark there are reminders of the Viking era and many of these will be seen in other great Danish cities including Aalborg, Odense and Grenaa, which has a shark aquarium.

Away from city life, Denmark offers some wonderful roads to tour on. These can take you to sandy beaches, forest roads and enchanting hill routes, but you won’t find many mountainous regions in Denmark: the nation is pretty flat.

Driving in Denmark is a different experience from doing so in the UK – starting with the fact that the Danes use the right side of the road to drive on. But it’s more than that and planning a driving holiday or using a car on business while in the country, requires careful planning and a good understanding of what you can and can’t do there.

To get the most out of your visit it’s well worth spending some time planning your trip to ensure you have everything in place.

Here TheCarExpert looks at the most important elements to consider when planning to drive in Denmark, and we’ve included a handy checklist. As each journey is unique, always check that you have everything covered for your particular visit.

Basic rules

You must be 18 years or over to drive in Denmark and you should hold a full UK driving licence. Just the licence card will do, as the paper counterpart is no longer a requirement.

You’ll need to prove that you have minimum third party insurance cover if you are driving your own car in Denmark as well as documents that show the identity of your car, such as a V5C ‘logbook’.

The vehicle’s ‘home country’ must be shown on it by way of ‘UK’ letters and the Union Flag incorporated into your vehicle’s number plates. If you don’t have these on your plates, you must affix a ‘UK’ sticker to its rear. The ‘GB’ badge is no longer allowed, even within European ‘golden stars’ and the same goes for country badges such as the English, Scottish or Welsh flags.

If you’re hiring a vehicle, you must be at least 21 years old. Young or new drivers might be charged a higher rate by the rental companies, so check carefully before you book anything.

Always make sure you carry the rental company’s paperwork with you to prove you are entitled to drive. Whether you are renting or using your own vehicle, you should always have your personal ID or passport with you.

As in the UK, using a mobile phone is not allowed unless it’s completely hands-free.

Speed limits

Speed limits are shown in kilometres (km/h) rather than miles (mph). In built-up areas, the limit is 50km/h (31mph). Venture outside of the suburbs and on to major A-roads and the limit rises to 80km/h (50mph).

The speed limit on motorways will vary according to the region, so keep a close eye on local signage. The maximum will be between 110 km/h (68 mph) and 130 km/h (80 mph).

Police take a hard line on speeders and will issue on-the-spot fines for this and other minor road offences. The minimum speeding fine is likely to be 1200 kroner (£138) for a small breach of limit, rising to several thousand kroner for more serious offences.

There are only a small number of speed and traffic-enforcement cameras on Danish roads compared with the UK but there are no warning signs for them, and none are shown on maps or guides. You might come across a police van with a mobile camera in it. A bright flash will tell you that you have been caught, so best to slow down and avoid that…

Do not use any kind of police camera detection equipment in your car as it’s forbidden.

Blood alcohol limits

We don’t recommend any drinking of alcohol if you are going to drive but it’s worth knowing the limits. The drink drive limit is 0.5 g/l (also shown as 0.5 milligrams or 0.05%). For comparison, the limit is 0.8 g/l (0.8 milligrams, 0.08%) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, while Scotland is the same as Denmark at 0.5g/l.

Danish traffic police can demand a random breath test at any time, even if there is no reason or grounds for suspicion.

What to carry in the car

As well as your documentation, while motoring through Denmark it’s compulsory that you have a warning triangle in the car in case you have to get out of the vehicle by the roadside. You should also consider taking a reflective jacket, fire extinguisher and a first aid kit but these are not enforced rules.

Make sure your lights don’t dazzle oncoming drivers. You must have beam deflectors fitted (or the ability to manually adjust your lights) and you must switch dipped lights on all the time, day or night, summer and winter. You can be stopped and fined for not showing dipped beams.

A tow rope, spare bulbs and jump leads are also useful additions if you are planning any sort of road trip. Specialist suppliers, such as motoring organisations, sell ‘European driving kits’ for around £25, which contain most things you are likely to need for a holiday driving trip.

Winter tyres are not compulsory in Denmark, but it can get very cold in the winter months, and they are recommended by the authorities.

Seatbelts

Seatbelt rules are the same as in the UK: if your car has them, they must be worn. Children under three years old and less than 135cm in height must use an appropriate car child seat for their size and infants must be in a correct baby seat. If it’s rear-facing and on the front passenger seat, you should switch the airbag off.

Driving

Keep to the right-hand lane as much as possible but if you are overtaking do so on the left. Priority is usually given to vehicles approaching you from the right unless advised otherwise. The same goes for emergency vehicles and trams, of which there are a few.

Aarhus has a tram system called Letbane connecting the city centre with outer suburbs while Copenhagen is rebuilding its tram system which is scheduled to open next year (2025).

There are plenty of buses everywhere and if one signals to pull away, you must let it out.

Don’t use your horn in built-up areas unless absolutely necessary, for example to prevent an accident.

Traffic signals are red, amber and green and follow a similar pattern to the UK although you might see a green arrow rather than a light which means you can go in the direction it’s pointing. Don’t enter a junction unless you can get right across it without blocking other traffic.

Copenhagen’s traffic light system is ‘smart’ and allows waves of traffic to continue unheeded as the lights change green in sequence to allow a freer flow. However, the lights in the capital city are designed to allow faster movement for the legions of cyclists there, plus public transport vehicles, so keep a wary eye out for both.

Across the country there are lanes reserved specifically for certain vehicles, such as goods vehicles or slow movers. These will be sign-posted, and drivers should use the lane specified for their use. If you see a queue ahead you must switch on your ‘hazard’ lights to warn other road users.

If you are towing a trailer or caravan, ensure that your car and the rig don’t exceed 18.75 metres in length, 4 metres in height and 2.55 metres in width. Make sure you can see clearly behind you with the use of two wide rear-view mirrors.

When towing a trailer, the speed limit is 80km/h (50 mph) on motorways and 70 km/h (44 mph) on normal A-roads. On some stretches of motorway, you are not allowed to overtake between 6am and 6pm if you are towing.

Road signs

Warning signs are mostly triangular with a red outline, apart from the stop sign which is an octagon in red with the word ‘Stop’ written in English. Mandatory instructions are given on round blue signs, usually with pictures for ease of understanding, while signs prohibiting you from actions are mostly in red circles.

Directional signs are yellow or white, in Danish and with distances shown in kilometres. General information signs are usually blue, with some exceptions.

Fuel availability

Petrol and diesel are widely available throughout the country from service areas called ‘benzinstation’ or ‘servicestation’. Many are self-service and some don’t even have a shop attached. Almost all take internationally recognised credit cards, but you will find some that accept cash. There’s no change given though – so be sure on how much fuel you are hoping to take.

Toll roads

There are no toll roads in Denmark and but there are fees to use the Storebaelt and Oresund bridges. The latter links Denmark with Sweden.

Parking

Parking is permitted on minor roads, but you must leave your car facing the direction of travel. In some areas you can park with two wheels on the pavement but check that local police regulations permit it. Parking is not allowed on main roads.

Car parking is strictly controlled and there can be on-the-spot fines for violations. The length of permitted stay will be marked on signposts. In Copenhagen parking is permitted only in marked bays.

Park badly, or for too long and your car could be towed away. There will be a fine to pay for a vehicle’s release plus costs for the towing. Never stop and leave your engine idling for more than three minutes.

Do not park closer than five metres from a pedestrian or bicycle crossing, 10 metres from an intersection, or 12 metres from a bus stop. The kerb will be painted yellow in this case.

Emergency number

In Denmark as with most of Europe, you can dial 112 and make contact with emergency services such as fire, ambulance or police, 24 hours a day. Operators will speak English, French and other European languages.

Checklist

Must haves:

  • Driving licence
  • Vehicle insurance
  • MOT certificate (if relevant)
  • V5C or vehicle ID
  • UK sticker or number plate markings
  • Rental firm agreement (if hiring)
  • Passport
  • Warning triangle
  • Headlamp beam deflectors

Options:

  • Hi-viz jacket
  • First aid kit
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Spare bulb kit
  • Winter tyres (some months)
  • Screen wash
  • Bottled water
  • Map or satnav
  • Phone power bank
  • Torch
  • Fuel can

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Tom Johnston
Tom Johnstonhttp://johnstonmedia.com/
Tom Johnston was the first-ever reporter on national motoring magazine Auto Express. He went on to become that magazine’s News Editor and Assistant Editor, and has also been Motoring Correspondent for the Daily Star and contributor to the Daily and Sunday Express. Today, as a freelance writer, content creator and copy editor, Tom works with exciting and interesting websites and magazines on varied projects.