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What you should know about laws in different EU countries

Knowing the local laws is one of the first things you should do before going to a new country.

World map

Europe is an incredible continent full of diversity in culture, language, and people. Even though most countries within Europe are under the European Union, this doesn’t mean that their laws are similar. It’s important to know where each country stands on the following rules before you visit them. Ignorance isn’t a defence in most cases, so doing extensive research can save you from a lot of legal trouble. Here are four laws you should pay attention to when you’re travelling around Europe.

Gambling Laws

There are no standardized gambling laws throughout Europe. The difference can be so vast that you can be in a country where it’s legal to gamble while the adjacent country will prosecute you for the same reason.

You’ll find that eastern Europe has stricter gambling laws, while western Europe is more liberal with them. There are some exceptions, like Germany, which until 2010, gambling was illegal throughout the country. In Spain, you’ll need to apply for a gambling licence, in France, most gambling, including online gambling, is legal, and Italy contains very liberal laws.

Finland, Norway, Denmark (and Sweden currently) all have a license-based system. Iceland is unique in Scandinavia as they have no state gambling operator. Finally, Denmark has strict rules for what gambling rules are legal and what isn’t. Still, online gambling is popular in Denmark, with Casumo casino being a solid choice if you find yourself vacationing there.

Drug Laws

No country in Europe has completely legalized drugs (yes, even the Netherlands) and all have vastly different laws for punishment. Speaking of the Netherlands, they don’t consider the use of drugs to be an offence, but possession is. The sentence for possession remains more relaxed than the rest of Europe – at most you’ll get a fine. Spain and the United Kingdom both consider drug use a crime, but for Spain, it’s only for public places.

Slavic countries like Latvia have stricter laws that include jail time if you possess illegal drugs. However, in Estonia, you can possibly be excused with a misdemeanour. Slovakia has some of the most strict laws when it comes to possession. If you are caught in possession, you can be put in jail for up to 10 years.

Privacy Laws

General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR accounts for the biggest ever change in privacy law in 20 years. Europe’s internet is a lot different than the rest of the world, but we mostly want to talk about the Right to Access and the Right to be Forgotten. If you intend to sell anything in the EU, it’s essential to have a disclaimer that allows the customer to accept marketing from you or else you’re in a breach of the rules.

The UK is unique in its internet laws in the way that it’s the most strict in the western world. UK’s internet users can’t search for porn unless they call into their internet provider to remove the block. You’ll also have to deal with a significant amount of censorship as multiple websites are blocked entirely.

Traffic Laws

The UK is well known for driving on the left side of the road instead of the right. If you plan on renting a car you’ll have to adjust to this if you’re from anywhere else in Europe but Ireland, Malta and Cyprus. In France, you’ll need to have a breathalyzer in the car with you. Car rental places will give you one when you rent a car anyway, just make sure not to throw it out.

In Spain, the side of the road you can park on will change depending on the day. In Italy, you’re not allowed to drive in a city’s ‘old town’ during certain days. Another thing to watch out for is Germany’s Autobahn, which is said to have no speed limit. However, this isn’t the case. There is a recommended speed of 130km/h.


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