If you’re heading to Europe, make sure you have the correct insurance and other road essentials for your trip.
More pressingly, when the UK leaves the EU, your plans to drive in Europe may be affected – so make sure you have the correct documents in place to avoid breaking the law.
5 Considerations When Driving Abroad
1. Curb Your Speed
It’s advised that you take your time when driving on unfamiliar roads, as it’s often in the opposite direction than you are used to. You must be especially wary of speed limits, where congested cities enforce a much lower speed limit of 25mph and speed signs may not always be visible. For this reason, it is always a good idea to do your homework, getting familiar with your planned routes, road signs, and restrictions or using the sat-nav to guide you.
2. Pack Your Kit
Whether you are taking your own car abroad or hiring a car on arrival, always make sure you are carrying the required safety kit supplies, should you break down. This should include reflective warning signs and high-visibility jackets for all passengers, as well as essential GB car stickers and first aid kits.
It used to be mandatory in France to carry a breathalyzer kit but laws have recently changed and it is no longer required. So it is important that you do your research before arriving to make sure you are abiding by local laws.
Aside from that, always pack supplies such as water, sunscreen, a torch, blanket, essential medications, important documents, and a trusty sat-nav or road map.
3. Rethink Your Drinking
Following local laws on the Continent are crucial regarding drinking, as limits when driving are much lower than in the UK. A single beer or glass of wine could mean you test positive in some countries, while others (Scandinavia) do not even allow you to drink for 24hrs prior to driving. Being aware of what is acceptable, or more sensibly avoiding any risk of being over the limit at all, is the best option when driving in Europe.
Pull over, kick back and enjoy the local tipple, but leave the driving until tomorrow!
4. Upgrade Your Insurance
If you are taking your own car abroad check with your insurer that you are covered and do not assume you will be in every destination – making sure you upgrade your cover to the appropriate specification is essential.
Hiring a car on arrival and all necessary documentation and insurance details should be covered by the hire company on arrival. You will often be offered to pay an additional daily ‘car hire excess fee’ to avoid higher excess costs should you have an accident, which is down to your discretion.
5. Handle Your Accident
Should the worse happen and you are involved in an accident, be careful not to admit fault without caution, as you are more likely to be blamed simply for being the foreigner. In worst cases, involve the police – but take photos and gather as many details from witnesses and those involved at the scene. Contact your insurer immediately to report the incident.
Driving Abroad: Most Common Q&As
Can I drive my own car aboard?
You can take your own car to Europe, making sure you have the correct GB registration plate or GB sticker. UK-registered cars will need to display a GB sticker when driving in any of the 27 EU countries including the Republic of Ireland.
Don't risk invalidating your insurance in Ireland or elsewhere in Europe by buying a European Driving Kit containing a GB sticker and other legally required items for driving abroad.
Do I need European breakdown cover?
Breakdown cover is important wherever you are! Check that your policy already covers you for European Breakdown Cover, or if not, that you can upgrade your policy to ensure that you get assisted and back on the road should you have a problem.
Do I need a green card to drive abroad?
A Green Card is an internationally recognised document that acts as proof of insurance cover when driving in Europe. It is recommended by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and it will make things easier should you need to make a claim or deal with the police abroad.
Does my travel insurance cover driving abroad?
You will need to make sure that your car insurance covers you to drive abroad. Check with your provider, making sure you have the required legal cover in the EU, as you may need to pay an additional premium to extend your cover.
Your insurer should give you a Green Card if you’re driving in Europe, which will act as proof of your European cover.
Will Brexit impact me driving abroad?
Driving in Europe post Brexit may affect your license requirements. Based on the government’s advice, you should obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP), available via the Post Office for your £5.50. Note: You need to be aged over 18 and have a full UK driving licence.
An Insurance Green Card is also advised – which will need to be obtained for both your car and any additional trailer if you are towing one. Make sure you leave sufficient time to request the correct documentation before travelling in Europe. For more information you can visit Gov.UK.
Above All: Make Sure Your Car Is Safe To Drive
Just like you would do before setting off on a road trip in the UK to the coast or for a long weekend, prepare your car before your trip by making sure it is in good running order and is ideally recently serviced.
For more information on the things you should make sure you check your car for, read our essential guides: