Signs of confusion found across Europe

European travel is booming in 2023, with the number of US tourists increasing by more than 50 per cent from 2022.

That means thousands more holiday-makers, particularly those opting for self-drive travel, must get to grips with some regional curiosities – the bizarre warning signs in many European nations.

“From ‘no trumpet’ signs to polar bear warnings, drivers should familiarise themselves with even the strangest-looking European road signs to ensure safety and avoid any danger,” John Charnock, the chief executive of car rental website said.

Travellers have reported for years struggling to interpret the “very confusing” signs as they road trip across the continent.

“We just drove around Sicily (May 2017) and found the same bizarre road signage of 70km/h followed straightaway by 50km/h sign and, to be honest, it made no sense whatsoever,” a TripAdvisor user wrote.

“The Sicilians didn’t seem to care at all about these speed signs, often overtaking us at about 100km/h, which made dropping back to 50km/h in a space of 40 metres almost dangerous.”


But this is one area where travellers are warned not to make like a local. European warning signs have a very serious intent – and disobeying them can bring a hefty fine.

Mr Charnock said ignoring road signs in France (for example) can be costly, with fines of up to €135 ($215), as well as a possible licence suspension.

“The EU is on a mission to improve road safety and will be penalising foreign drivers for mistakes, so visitors must familiarise themselves with traffic laws and signs to avoid hefty fines and penalties,” he said.

More than 20,000 people were killed on European roads in 2022 and the European Commission has proposed changes to traffic rules to try to improve road safety across the continent.

Watch out for these …

  • No vehicles carrying explosives: French sign alerts incoming traffic carrying explosives that it must not enter this areaNo Vehicles carrying explosives sign.
  • Moose warning: Norwegian favourite alerting drivers to the possible presence of mooseMoose Warning Sign
  • No use of car horn: Stay off from your horn if you see this in SpainNo use of car horns
  • Migrating amphibian warning: This German sign aims to keep wandering frogs safe – so slow downMigrating Amphibian warning sign
  • Danger of an accident: Warns drivers in Norway that this area has a higher possibility of an accident, and they should proceed with cautionDanger of an accident sign
  • End of snow chains and snow chains mandatory: Used in Slovenia in alpine areas to ensure vehicle safetySnow chains needed signEnd of snow chains
  • No wheelbarrows: Unfortunately no carts or wheelbarrows welcome in this area of the Czech RepublicNo wheelbarrow sign
  • Risk of fire: If a driver happens upon this sign in Slovenia, it’s probably smart to turn around Risk of fire sign
  • Polar bears travel on ice: If you see this in Norway it’s probably best to retreat Polar Bear warning sign
  • No vehicles carrying dangerous water pollutants: Carrying any pollutants? If so, you mustn’t enter hereNo vehicles carrying dangerous water pollutions sign
  • Not a toilet: Need to go on your road trip across Germany? Yeah, that’s not a choice here.No urinating sign
  • Priority road starts: On Spanish and most other European roads, this sign alerts drivers that they have right of way over oncoming and crossing traffic – the starting of a priority roadPriority road starts sign
  • No motor vehicles and animal-drawn vehicles: The most chaotic sign has the most simplistic meaning – no entry for driver operated or animal-drawn vehiclesNo motor or animal drawn vehicles sign
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