Driving your car into and around Europe is a popular excursion for many people, whether they are simply popping into France on a ‘booze cruise’ or going on a tour in a campervan. However, driving around Europe is not something that can be done without a little forward planning, so here we offer a brief guide to getting ready for your European road trip.
The first thing you need is a full UK driving licence of course! And make sure you carry it on you the whole time you are on your trip. You should also have copies of the following documents with you:
- Vehicle registration
- Breakdown cover (be sure you have cover for European travel)
- Car insurance
- European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
With regards to temporary car insurance, make sure you are covered for driving in Europe – many people think they are automatically covered when they are not. In most cases you could be covered for road traffic accidents, and maybe third party cover, but you should always check with your insurance provider before setting off.
Historically, Brits driving abroad have required a Green Card as proof of insurance. Since there has been closer integration of some European countries this is not necessarily the case, but it depends on which country you intend to drive in.
And while we’re talking about legal issues, remember that every country has different speed limits, alcohol limits (some have zero tolerance) and various other rules of the road. Therefore you need to know the laws of each country you intend to visit. It’s impossible for us to list every law for every country, but Confused.com does have some driving guides for different countries, which could help.
Many European countries have on-the-spot fines for driving offences so make sure you carry plenty of cash on you just in case. Although you wouldn’t break the law, would you?
If you intend to drive your own car around Europe it could be a good idea to get it serviced beforehand to make sure it’s in the best condition possible. You should also know how to check the basics such as water and oil levels, tyre pressure and tread, how to change a tyre, and how to fit new light bulbs in the headlamps, brake lights and indicators. To be honest, it makes sense to know how to do these things anyway.
If your car has the new Euro plates then you won’t need to display a GB sticker in EU countries. If you’re planning on driving into any non-EU countries then you will need a GB sticker.
Some European countries require, by law, that all cars contain high-visibility jackets (one for each passenger), a first-aid kit, a warning triangle, spare bulbs for headlamps, etc. and the necessary tools for changing the bulbs. Check if any of the countries you intend to drive in require these items before leaving. If you’re not sure it may be just as well to have them anyway as they are good things to have available.
You may not realise it, but your headlights point slightly to the left to help avoid dazzling oncoming traffic, but when you’re driving on the continent this means your lights will be pointing at the traffic, so you need to get anti-dazzle adhesive stickers. If you have modern high-intensity or xenon lamps your car may have a switch or a screw to move the lights. Check your cars manual to be sure.
And finally, remember you’re going to be driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road while on the continent so make sure you leave plenty of time for manoeuvres and concentrate on what you’re doing, especially if you are in your own car. Take care at junctions and when crossing lanes of traffic, and get your front-seat passenger to look out for potential hazards if you have to overtake.
But above all, enjoy yourself.
This article was written by Rob Powell from Confused.com, the car insurance price comparison website.