Driving Abroad — Make sure you're legal and know the rules
Driving abroad offers you freedom and can be the best way to explore a country. Driving through winding country roads or across breath taking mountain passes can offer you a sightseeing experience like no other.
But there's more to driving abroad than just getting a good deal on car hire or buying a ferry ticket. The local driving laws and rules of the road can differ to those in the UK. Before you get behind the wheel, it's important to do your homework.
Documents and insurance
- Make sure your driving licence is legal in the country you are going to.
- You can use your Great Britain (GB) or Northern Ireland driving licence in all European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) countries, and Switzerland.
- You may need to obtain an International Driving Permit if you are going further afield. You can obtain these from the AA, RAC or Post Office.
- Carry driving licence with you at all times.
- If you are hiring a car you will need to obtain a 'check code' from the DVLA so that the car hire company can see your driving record. (This replaces your paper license and allows companies to see if you have any current penalties.) Visit gov.uk for more information.
- If you are taking your own car make sure your motor insurance covers you to drive in Europe and obtain European breakdown cover.
- In addition to the insurance for your car you should make sure that yourself and all of your passengers have appropriate travel insurance for your trip.
Familarise yourself with the rules of the road
- Find out which side of the road you'll be driving on and ask yourself if you will be comfortable adapting to it.
- Be aware of that the legal age limit for driving may be different in different countries.
- Familiarise yourself with local road signs and the highway code.
- Remember in Europe and many other countries speed limits are in Kilometers per hour not miles per hour.
- Don't drink and drive- the drink drive limit varies in different countries and can be zero.
- Check for any other unsual laws, for instance in France it is illegal to have sat nav devices that can detect speed cameras- even if they are turned off.
- Carry ID with you in the car as the police might wish to inspect it if they stop you. Don't be alarmed by regular police stops that might occur in certain countries.
- It is a legal requirement in some countries to carry safety equipment in your car such as high vis vests (enough for everyone in the car), a first aid kit and a warning triangle.
- Snow chains can also be a legal requirement at certain times of year- particularly important to remember if you are planning on driving to a ski resort.
- If you are taking your own car make sure you have a GB sticker and apply headlight converters if you are going to be driving on the right.
More tips for driving abroad
- Consider sharing the driving with your travelling companion so that you can take regular breaks.
- Take a camera in the event of an accident so that you can photograph the evidence.
- Be extra careful on the roads - drivers in another country might behave differently.
- Try to avoid long journeys, especially if you are suffering from jet lag. You don't want to tire yourself out before your holiday has even begun.
- Wear your seat belt even if it isn't a legal requirement - it could save your life.
- If you are hiring a car choose a reputable company and check your flight arrives when their offices are open to avoid waiting around.
- Take plenty of small change with you to pay for toll roads.
- Make sure you can fit your luggage in your car and allow room for souvenirs.
- Driving on holiday can save you money, but remember to budget for ferry crossings and motorway tolls.
Where to find advice?
For more information about driving in specific countries contact the AA or RAC: