Your guide to driving abroad

The complete guide to driving abroad this summer

Summer’s almost here which means it’s nearly summer holiday time.

Each year around 70 million Brits head overseas for their holidays. And while many opt for the all-inclusive life and spend their time enjoying the unlimited perks of the hotel, there’s still a fair amount of people who opt to either take their car to the continent or fly off and rent one when they get there.

While a car can give you much more freedom on your holiday, there’s a lot of things to think about –  like driving on the right for the first time, the different road rules, or the fact that they use KPH not MPH – it can all get very confusing.

To help you out on your adventures driving abroad, we’ve put together a little guide to help give your confidence a little boost before you get behind the wheel.

Things to remember to pack

Before you jump in the car, take a minute to check that you’ve everything you need. Whether it’s important documents or an essentials pack for your car, you don’t want to get on the continent and realise you’ve forgotten something.

Important documents to take with you…

  • Full, valid driving licence and National Insurance number
  • Passport – you can’t get out of the UK without it
  • Proof of car insurance – only if you’re taking your own car
  • Travel insurance documents
  • European Breakdown Cover policy number and documents – only if you’re taking your own car
  • European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) – it’s free or gives your reduced-cost emergency care
  • In France you’ll need a Crit’air sticker – find out if you need one and which one you need here
  • Check your vehicle’s tax and MOT are valid and up to date – only if you’re taking your own car

If you’re taking your own car remember to bring…

  • Reflective jackets – one for each passenger, must be kept within the cabin of the car
  • Warning triangle
  • Headlamp beam deflectors – depending on your car, you’ll either need deflector stickers or have to adjust the beam manually
  • Breathalyser – compulsory in France
  • GB car sticker – only required if you don’t have a GB Euro number plate

Top tips for driving on the right…

It’s more than likely that if you’re driving abroad, you’re going to be driving on the right-hand side of the road, so it’s probably best to have a little practice in a quiet spot before you hit the traffic hotspots, but not in the UK, obviously!

So when you arrive overseas, try and find a sleepy suburb or a little-used country lane to get your head around driving on “the wrong side” of the road. After all, practice makes perfect.

And remember to adjust your headlamps for driving on the right-hand side of the road. It’s a legal requirement not to dazzle oncoming drivers. So be kind to them.

Different countries, different customs

When it comes to driving rules and regulations, don’t expect everything to be the same when driving abroad as it is in the UK.

Here are some of the main differences between the UK and European laws you should know:

  • In many European countries, such as Poland, Bulgaria and Serbia, you need to have your headlights on at all times
  • Some countries allow you to turn right on a red signal – there will be a sign or flashing light to show you it’s allowed
  • Many European countries ask you to carry an essential kit at all times, such as headlamp beam converters and a reflective jacket
  • Drink-driving limits vary greatly across Europe, from 0.0 grams per litre in Hungary and the Czech Republic to 0.5 in France and Germany and 0.8 in England and Wales. You can check the full list here
  • Penalties for mobile phone use behind the wheel are also very different depending on which country you’re driving in

Unusual driving laws from around the world

While some laws might seem fairly normal, there are, of course, some rather unusual laws that you might need to learn:

  • Make sure your car’s clean if you’re driving in Romania, as it’s illegal to drive a dirty car
  • As if parking isn’t already stressful enough, in some Spanish cities you can only park on certain days of the week
  • Your dreams of a hitchhike from Aberdeen to the Zheleznodorozhny (it’s in Russia…!) may be dashed as many European countries forbid hitchhiking… including Russia, Switzerland and Lichtenstein
  • Watch out when driving in Malta as it isn’t customary to indicate when changing lanes
  • In Slovenia your reverse lights are not enough – when reversing you must also put your hazard lights on

If you’re a fan of the weird and wonderful, why not have a look at 10 of the most bizarre road signs from around the world and see if you can spot a few when you’re driving abroad on your adventures?

Looking for some more information about driving abroad? Check out the gov.uk website, which has some more handy information if you’re planning to drive abroad this summer. So make sure you take a look before you head off.

And finally, if you’re taking your own car on your holidays, then have fun and drive safe. But for those of you who’re going to be renting a car, take a minute to read our guide to hiring a car abroad. You never know, it might save you a small fortune.

2 Comments

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