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Driving abroad - what do you need to know?

Added: 27 March 2018

Driving abroad can make a holiday even more special, allowing you the freedom to explore more remote places that you might not otherwise be able to get to.

On the other hand, a driving offence is a quick way to ruin any trip abroad, so it’s important to prepare for driving abroad before you travel. Wherever you’re heading, here are some things you should do before driving in any foreign country.

Know the local driving laws

It’s not just driving on the right you have to worry about; every country has slightly different driving laws, so make sure you’re clued up on the destination(s) you’re heading to. As well as learning the local speed limits, you’ll want to familiarise yourself with drinking limits, which side of the road you should drive on and any laws that do not exist in the UK. For example, you must used dipped headlights during daylight hours in Bulgaria and you can be fined for not stopping at an amber light in Malta.

The AA has created PDFs of the driving laws for every country in Europe that you can download and keep with you as you go.

Get insurance for driving abroad

Some UK motoring insurance policies will cover you for driving abroad, so it’s worth checking whether you have the minimum legal cover in the countries you’ll be driving in before you splash out on separate insurance.

If you do need to purchase separate insurance - or extend your current policy - before driving abroad, make sure you check the requirements in the country you’re visiting. Many will only need third party cover, but other countries will want proof of more extensive cover - especially if you’re planning to rent a car.

Carry the right documents

Just like in the UK, there are certains documents you should have with you while driving abroad. This includes your original vehicle registration document (V5) and a copy of your DVLA driver record. In Europe, you should also carry your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

You can use your Great Britain driving licence in all EU or EEA countries apart from Switzerland, but many countries will require you to have an International Driving Permit (IDP) in addition to this. Your IDP can be obtained from the Post Office, lasts for 12 months and can be used as many times as need in the 12-month period. It usually takes around a week to arrive so make sure you apply in plenty of time before your trip.

It’s also a good idea to keep your passport, visa (if needed), motor insurance and travel insurance with you at all times while driving in a foreign country.

Prepare your car

If you’re planning to driving your own car abroad, there are a few extra steps you’ll need to take.

If your car doesn’t have euro-plates with the GB euro-symbol, you’ll need to display a GB sticker while driving abroad. If you plan on driving outside of the EU, you might need a sticker even if you have euro-plates, so it’s always helpful to have one just in case.

If you’re heading to a country that drives on the right, you might also need to buy a beam converter kit to avoid dazzling oncoming drivers.

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