Driving abroad

Every year around two million British motorists take to their cars for driving trips to neighbouring European Union (EU) countries.* Now experts are predicting a boom in driving abroad, as people take to driving in a bid to reduce their air travel carbon footprints and avoid the mounting problems associated with air travel. If this is you, check out the useful tips in our blog.

Get your car serviced
If your vehicle is within a few thousand miles of its next service, it may be worth bringing it forward. Having the car thoroughly checked over about a month before you go will ensure that all niggles are fixed (and new ones don’t have a chance to arise).

Mechanical problems can be very stressful to get sorted when abroad. Check that your breakdown cover and motor insurance extends to you driving abroad as recovery bills can be very steep!

You should also have a GB sticker clearly visible on the back of your car.

Hiring a vehicle
Hire from a reputable company as the cheapest deal may not always be the best! Remember, it is your responsibility to tell the Hirer you are taking the car abroad and also check the vehicle for any damage before you hire it.

Car insurance cover is often limited to the legal minimum of the country or state you hire in, you could be held personally responsible for any claim for injury or damage over this limit. Ask your tour operator or insurer if they can provide top-up insurance to increase your cover. This may be cheaper than buying it abroad.

Wherever you are going, take the following documents with you:
· Driving licence, and the paper counterpart if you have a photo licence
· The original 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

Don’t leave any sensitive personal data or valuables including cash, credit cards or documentation in the vehicle though!

Drive on the right side of the road!
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, restaurants and driving around roundabouts.

Check the local 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. 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 reflective 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. Best to 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!

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 or you are diverted from your planned route due to accident or roadworks.

Emergency services
112 is a European emergency call number you can dial in the European Union in case of accident, assault or in any other distress situation.

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 £10.64**.

* Source – RAC

** Premium £10.64 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 (Sep 09) and are subject to change.

Majority of content in this blog is sourced from the AA website.