Driving abroad: what you need to know

Taking your car abroad is a great way to explore and gives you the freedom to set your own schedule and move at your own pace. But do you know what’s allowed?

Before you travel, make sure you know the rules and you have everything you need to drive safely and confidently in Europe and beyond. Here’s our top tips for driving abroad:

  • Check international driving laws – Before you go, do some research about the driving laws in the country you’ll be visiting. Take note of what side of the road they drive on, drink drive limits, average speed limits and any other restrictions that might be different from Britain. You can find a full overview of local rules by country on the AA website. 
  • Know emergency numbers – Across the EU emergency services can be reached by dialling 112. Familiarise yourself and anyone you’re travelling with about how to call emergency services while abroad in case of an accident. Many smartphones also have emergency numbers pre-programmed so you can quickly access them. 
  • Be mindful of urban access regulations – Certain cities across Europe have congestion charges or are designated low emission zones, creating access restrictions for driver. You can check if there are any restrictions where you’ll be travelling from this website detailing urban access restrictions in Europe.
  • Update your license – Check your driver’s license to ensure it’s valid and replace your photocard if it’s been lost or stolen. You can use your UK driving license to drive within the EU and EEA, but if you’re driving elsewhere you may need an International Driving Permit, which is available through the AA or the RAC. 
  • Have the proper documentation – When driving abroad you often need more documentation than just the license photocard that you carry with you in the UK. Ensure you have a valid driving license and the paper counterpart or a printed version of your driving license record from the DVLA website. It’s also worthwhile to carry a copy of your vehicle registration document and your car insurance certificate and travel insurance documents. If you require a visa to travel, make sure you have your passport and visa on you at all times as well.
  • Check your insurance – Check your car insurance policy documents to ensure you’re fully covered while driving abroad. If your current policy doesn’t include overseas cover, you may need to extend your cover to be compliant with international driving rules. For example, in the EU the minimum legal cover is third party only. You can also ask your insurer to issue a Green Card if you’ll be driving in Europe, which acts as proof of your European cover.
  • Consider breakdown cover – A car breakdown is stressful at any time, but can be particularly challenging when you’re in a foreign country and car trouble as unexpectedly disrupted your holiday. Check your existing policy to see if you have European or international cover included as part of your policy. If not, it may be worth an upgrade or purchasing some temporary breakdown cover for while you’re away.
  • Carry the recommended kit – It’s always a good idea to service your car before a long journey and can help give you peace of mind before you hit the road. Remember that driving conditions will be different in other countries; make sure your water, oil and coolant levels are topped up and that tyre pressure is good. In Europe, it’s also required that you carry a red warning triangle with you in case of a breakdown. In France, it’s also required by law that drivers carry a portable breathalyser.
  • Use a country identification sticker – When driving abroad your car must display a country sticker with the appropriate identification letters – in the case of the United Kingdom this is a white sticker clearly labelled GB. If your number plates already include the GB Euro symbol, you don’t need an additional sticker. 

Do you have any other tips for driving abroad?