20 tips for driving in Europe

tips for driving in europe

1. Passport validity check

Your passport must be valid for six months after the date you travel and be less than 10 years old.

2. Adjust your headlights

Make sure you adjust your headlamps ready for driving on the right-hand side of the road.

It is a legal requirement not to dazzle oncoming drivers.

3. Buy a UK sticker

Don’t forget that your vehicle must display the appropriate country identification letters (e.g. UK).

Failure to do so may result in an on-the-spot fine, but if your number plates include the UK Euro symbol, you do not need a sticker within the EU (except in Cyprus, Malta and Spain, where stickers are needed no matter what is shown on your number plate).

3. Make a travel documents pack

Create a travel documents pack containing all the appropriate documentation you will need to comply with the legal requirements of the country you are visiting and to help if you get into difficulties.

In addition to your passport and driving licence this may include your vehicle registration document (V5); motor insurance certificate; International Driving Permit (if required or advised); breakdown policy and contact numbers; travel insurance documents, and any emergency helpline numbers.

4. Check your breakdown cover extends to Europe

European breakdown cover isn’t a legal requirement. But it can save you stress, time and money if you break down while you’re away. For example, you’ll be covered for some or all costs for roadside assistance and garage labour, depending on the cover level you pick.

Check latest information about breakdown cover in France. 

5. Check your car insurance

Make sure your car insurance covers you to drive abroad. Check with your insurance company that you’re fully covered to drive abroad.

If you don’t have overseas cover, you will only have the minimum legal cover (usually third party only) in the EU and you may need to pay an extra premium to extend your insurance cover.

If you’re hiring a car, don’t forget to cover your hire excess. In the event your rental car is damaged or stolen, or if you put the wrong fuel in, your rental company will expect you to pay to repair or replace the vehicle. Car hire excess insurance protects your excess, meaning you can claim back any charges.

6. Need a visa?

Make sure you’ve got correct visas for the country you are visiting and that your passport is valid. 

Since Brexit, citizens of the UK have not needed a visa to visit any European Union member states. Passengers arriving in EU countries can enter using only their British passport. From November 2023, UK travellers will be able to apply for an ETIAS visa waiver to enter EU countries.

7. First time abroad?

All first-time adult passport applicants must now attend an interview to verify their identity. It now takes up to six weeks to get a first passport. For more information please visit DirectGov.

8. Photocopy your passport

Take photocopies of your passport and other important documents and keep these separate from the originals when you travel and/or store them online using a secure data storage site.

9. Emergency contact

Make sure you fill in the emergency contact details in your passport. This will make it much easier for the emergency services to contact someone in case of an emergency.

10. Share your trip details

Tell a friend or relative where you are going and for how long for – give them some idea of your itinerary if possible and an emergency contact number.

11. Emergency funds

Take enough money for your trip and some back-up funds in a mix of cash.

12. Travel guide

Invest in a good travel guide to help you plan your trip.

Yes, be spontaneous, but there’s nothing more frustrating than walking round in the heat for hours looking for the nearest good restaurant or cashpoint and a guide can point out these with ease.

13. Duty free allowances

Check HM Revenue & Customs Travel website for information on duty-free allowances and any banned goods etc.

14. Vaccine check

Visit a travel health centre or your GP to find out what vaccinations or medication you may need before your trip – do this early as some destinations require vaccinations months in advance of your trip.

15. International Driving Permit

Check whether you need an International Driving Permit in the country you plan to visit.

16. Find the nearest embassy

Check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s website to find out where the nearest embassy is, what services they offer and their opening times – you never know when you might need to contact them and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

17. Don't travel without travel insurance

If you become seriously ill or injured abroad, you will need full travel insurance to cover any medical bills, otherwise you could be left with a hefty bill after you get better – most countries will even charge you if an ambulance is called out.

Also make sure your insurance covers you for any activities you are likely to undertake such as water sports and you are covered should you decide to ride or be a passenger on a motorbike or moped.

A European health card isn’t a substitute for travel insurance, but it does entitle you to free or reduced-cost emergency care in some instances.

To find out more about what they cover, visit the NHS advice page

Also remember, you need to call 112 to contact the emergency services in any EU country.

19. Make sure your car is in good running order

Prepare your car before your trip by making sure everything is in good condition such as tyre.

20. Expect the unexpected

Drive carefully and cautiously, taking extra care to be really observant.

Remember the local driving style may be very different to that of the UK.

The advice from the Foreign Office is always to drive defensively when abroad and to expect the unexpected.

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