Driving Abroad: Everything You Need to Know
Before you hop behind the steering wheel abroad, you’ll need to know more than which side of the road to drive on in order to stay safe. Whether you’re visiting mainland Europe or travelling further afield, driving around a different country is a fantastic way to experience a new area, but UK drivers shouldn’t assume that it’s as straight forward as it might seem.
There are many things to keep an eye out for while you’re on the road, and plenty to read up on before you travel. Make sure you’ve got the right documents on your person, and understand the rules of the road by taking a look at our guide for drivers heading abroad.
Getting the basics right
Don’t get caught out when it’s too late – make sure you prepare before you get behind the wheel.
Documents you need to bring with you
No matter what country you’re travelling to, make sure you bring the following documents:
- A full, valid driving licence
- Your passport
- A copy of your DVLA driver’s record
- A visa, if required by the country you are visiting
- The original version of your car’s V5c
- A copy of your motor insurance documents
Check your insurance cover
Whether you’re driving or not, travel insurance is also a must. However, drivers in particular should make sure they’re covered in case they have an accident in a car.
Don’t forget to check if your car insurance provider and breakdown cover includes vehicles that travel abroad too – if you’re planning on driving your own car you might need to upgrade.
Know your left and right
This might sound silly, but try to learn basic directions in your destination’s language. Even if you’re taking a sat-nav, you might need to ask a local for help.
Of course, make sure you also drive on the correct side of the road too. Surprisingly, it can be very easy to forget about this, especially when doing something that feels like second nature, such as exiting a car park or using a roundabout.
Fill up your boot
Some countries require drivers to carry a specific list of items in their vehicle. It can vary with location, but most recommend each vehicle carries a first aid kit, a reflective jacket, spare headlight bulbs and a warning triangle. Drivers should clearly display a GB sticker on their car too.
If you’re in France you’ll need to display a Clean Air windscreen sticker (a Crit’Air vignette) and also have a personal breathalyser in your car at all times, while in Spain if you wear glasses to drive you’ll need to remember to carry a spare pair in your vehicle as well.
Remember to check the rules of every country you’re travelling through to ensure you don’t break the law.
Numbers to call
Be prepared for all situations, and research numbers for all appropriate services in each country you visit.
In case of an accident, drivers can call 112 if they’re anywhere in the EU to get in touch with emergency services. For travellers in America, dial 911.
Sometimes, it’s easy to overlook the obvious. Make sure your vehicle is in the best condition before you go away – check its tyre pressure, water and oil levels and if you’re aware of any other issues, fix them. For anyone visiting Europe, you will need to install headlight covers to adjust the beam on your car so it is appropriate for right-hand side driving.
Check the rules
Even if you’ve driven in a country before, don’t forget to re-familiarise yourself with its rules and regulations – they might have changed since your last visit. The AA has a fantastic resource for drivers visiting Europe. Organised by country, you can find everything you need to know about road safety simply by clicking on your destination’s allocated link – it even includes images of unusual road signs specific to that location. View the entire list here.
Don’t make mistakes
Measurements can vary in different countries and so many drivers get caught out thinking they’re travelling in mph rather than km/h, especially when taking their own vehicles abroad. In our recent survey, almost a fifth of participants admitted to falling foul of this – stick a note to your car if it’ll help you remember!
Apply for an IDP
If you plan on driving outside of the EU and the EEA, you might need to apply for an International Driving Permit. Check online to see if you’ll need this, and leave plenty of time for your application to be accepted. An IDP costs £5.50, and you can buy one from the Post Office, AA or RAC.
Find out if you will need to pay import duty on your car too. If this is the case, purchase a CDP Carnet instead. This is the most cost-effective method for drivers who want to travel outside of Europe for less than 12 months. Prices start at £210, and it enables drivers to travel cross borders easily without paying duty.
What About Lease Cars?
If you currently lease your vehicle, you should take two additional steps. Firstly, contact your finance provider and inform them you would like to travel abroad in the car. You will their permission to travel, and state the exact dates you will be outside of the UK.
Drivers should also fill in a VE103B form, which is basically the alternative for the V5C log book for drivers in a lease vehicle. It is a must-have, and necessary to confirm the details of the vehicle and the name and address of the driver.
Wherever you’re going, we hope our guide has made travelling abroad even easier. Remember, drivers can find loads more advice over on our blog – don’t forget to take a look!
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