Driving abroad – before you go

As consumer concerns about carbon footprints increase and with flight prices rapidly increasing, more and more holidaymakers are now looking at self-drive holidays. If this is you, check out the useful tips in our blog.

Get serviced
If your vehicle is within a few thousand miles of its next service, it may be worth bringing it forward. It is worth having the car thoroughly checked over about a month before you go so all niggles can be fixed (and new ones don’t have a chance to arise). Mechanical problems can be very stressful to get sorted when abroad.

It is also important to check that your breakdown cover and motor insurance extends to you driving abroad as recovery bills can be very steep!


Wherever you are going, take the following documents with you:

  • Driving licence, and the paper counterpart if you have a photo licence
  • The Vehicle Registration Document (V5)
  • Your Motor Insurance Certificate
  • Your Passport
  • Any Visa documentation you need for the country you are visiting
  • Your travel insurance documents and EHIC (European Health Insurance Card)
  • Your Breakdown insurance details
  • If you are towing a boat or caravan, any documentation relating to that

Don’t leave any sensitive personal data in the vehicle though!

Drive on the right
Sadly, being on the wrong side of the road is one of the most common causes of accidents among Brits driving abroad and it is very easy to do. Be particularly careful when setting off from petrol stations or restaurants on the left hand side of the road, and on roundabouts.

Check the laws
While every country in Europe has its own motoring laws, they vary widely even between neighbouring countries. So it is important to check the regulations for every country that you are planning to visit including speed limits, age limits for driving, and drink driving limits (remember in some countries you can be arrested if any alcohol at all is detected, and others prohibit alcohol in the vehicle at all if it has been opened). A comprehensive guide to each country can be found on the AA’s website.

Motoring laws abroad also extend to safety items that must be carried. Most of these items are useful to the motorist anyway so are worth the investment. In much of Europe you must carry a warning triangle, a hi-visibility waistcoat or jacket, a first-aid kit, and a spare bulb kit.

Many countries also insist on headlamps being adjusted to ensure you don’t dazzle oncoming motorists. This is easier said than done however, particularly if your car is fitted with halogen headlamps. Consult your garage before your trip.

European Tolls
In much of Europe, car tax is cheaper than in the UK. The shortfall is made up by motorway tolls where you pay to use particular roads. Although most tolls take credit cards these days, make sure you have plenty of cash (including coins) on you for these, just in case!

Taking the scenic route and not using the motorways will probably be slower but cheaper, and you will often travel through beautiful countryside. Again the AA website has a detailed guide to fee-charging roads throughout Europe.

Know your route
If you have a Sat Nav make sure it works abroad for the country you’re visiting. Also take a good European road atlas just in case your Sat Nav fails to work.

Travel Insurance
Even if you are only visiting the continent for a day, make sure you take out travel insurance as emergency medical expenses abroad can be very expensive. 24/7 travel insurance offers cover for 3 days in Europe for a family from just £8.77*.

*Premium £8.77 includes Insurance Premium Tax; based on two adults aged under 55 and their two accompanying children aged under 18 taking out a “Standard” Single Trip policy for 3 days in Europe excluding personal possessions cover and purchased within 14 days of departure date. Cover details and prices are correct at time of going to press and are subject to change.

Content in this blog sourced from the AA website