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Tips for Driving Abroad

Hiring a car on holiday can give you the freedom to visit out-of-the-way places or just spend more time at an attraction than an organised trip would offer.

However, when hiring a vehicle you do need to make sure that you’re aware of the local driving laws and regulations.

Here’s our guide to driving abroad:

  1. Firstly, make sure you are fully aware of the driving laws of the country in which you will be driving. 
  2. Check which side of the road you need to drive on. In Europe, most countries drive on the right-hand side of the road, however, Cyprus, the Irish Republic and Malta all drive on the left.
  3. If you’re driving on the right, don’t forget you’ll be travelling anti-clockwise around the roundabout – make sure you get your head around this before you set off.
  4. Check national speed limits which vary from country to country.
  5. Check alcohol limits. France, for example, has a limit of 50mg per 100ml compared to the UK’s 80mg per 100ml. Some countries have lower limits.
  6. Driving license – you will be required to carry both parts of your license: the photocard and the paperwork. You may also be required to carry an International Driving Permit.
  7. Many highways on the continent are toll roads and you’ll need to pay to use them, so make sure you have a good supply of loose change to pay any charges.

Taking your own vehicle

  1. If you plan to take your own vehicle, make sure you know what equipment you MUST carry. France, for example, requires you to carry a fluorescent warning triangle and a portable breathalyser. In Spain and Switzerland, if you wear prescription lenses, you must carry a spare set.  The AA has a full list of required equipment here.
  2. Your vehicle will require a GB sticker, unless you are travelling within Europe and have an EU number plate (a circle of 12 stars on a blue background). You risk an instant fine if it isn’t obvious which country your car is registered in.
  3. Adjust your headlights. As you’ll be driving your own UK vehicle, your headlights will be incorrectly angled and very bright for oncoming drivers. This isn’t permitted when driving abroad, so make sure you have headlamp converters correctly positioned over your lights.
  4. Get your car serviced before your holiday; check your tyres, top up washer fluid etc.
  5. Breakdown Cover - even if you don’t have breakdown cover for the UK, ensure you have cover when you are driving overseas.  This will ensure that if the worst should happen then you will be recovered to safety. It will also be cheaper than calling out an emergency breakdown service.
  6. Insurance  - make sure you have sufficient insurance for driving abroad.  You will need to inform your insurance company that you are planning to drive overseas.  It’s likely that you will need to upgrade your policy and pay an additional surcharge.
  7. Whilst we’re on the subject of insurance, ensure you have sufficient medical insurance too when going overseas. You should also make sure you have an up-to-date EHIC card that will give you access to free state healthcare in EU countries, or reduced rates.  An EHIC card is an addition to travel insurance, not a replacement. Each person in your travelling party should have their own EHIC card.