How to drive your car abroad
Millions take their cars abroad each year for holidays, but how much do you know about the laws of the road in the country you're driving?
As such, it’s unlikely that there will be any changes to the current way of doing things until the UK formally leaves, either with or without a deal.
Whatever the outcome, the below information will be updated once the UK leaves the EU.
- Travel insurance documents
- Valid driving licence
- Vehicle registration certificate (original, not a copy)
- Motor insurance certificate
If you’re hiring a car, you’ll also need a personal code from the DVLA. You can request this up to 21 days ahead of your trip.
Outside of the EU, you might require an international driving permit and a visa, depending on the country. You can check if that’s the case here.
Remember that your physical driving licence card needs to be updated every 10 years, and the photo needs to be up-to-date on each renewal. Your driving licence should also include the correct address and correct name, if yours has changed. You can update your address for free here.
Just remember that, in most European countries, you must drive on the right. You may therefore find driving easier in a left-hand drive hire car.
Aside from the initial confusion of knowing which side of the road and adapting accordingly, right-hand drive cars are likely to have headlights that point in a direction that will dazzle oncoming traffic. Some modern cars will have a feature in a menu somewhere to fix this, but in most cases, it’s worth investing in deflector strips, which blank out the offending parts of the headlight.
If you’re driving in the EU, you’ll need a GB sticker on the car unless it has an EU number plate. If you’re going outside of the EU, however, it’s advisable to have the sticker on anyway.
Make sure you take a copy of your insurance certificate, so you can prove you are covered.
If you’re travelling to non-EU countries, you may need a “green card” from your insurer. A green card is basically an international insurance certificate that can help prove you have minimum cover on your policy.
The green card should be free, but you may be asked to extend your cover if the insurer sees fit. If you do need to extend your insurance, make sure you include all the countries you’ll travel through (e.g. driving through Spain to get to Portugal).
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Germany’s network of Autobahns are wrongly thought of as being a high-speed free-for-all, with no speed limits. In fact, most of the motorway network in Germany is now limited.
Large sections are still de-restricted, with an advisory limit of 130kmh (81mph), but it’s very important to be certain that you’re on a de-restricted stretch, as speed limits are rigorously enforced and heavily punished.
Also mandatory in France are warning triangles (to be placed behind the car in the event of a breakdown) a fire-extinguisher, reflective jackets – which must be easily accessible and therefore not in the boot – and replacement light bulbs for your car, as it is illegal to drive with any of your lights not working.
Many roads in other countries, particularly parts of Europe, have toll gates. French tolls (péages) are almost ubiquitous and will involve stopping to pay for your journey. You can either pay using spare change, or you can fit an electronic tag which communicates with sensors in the booths and debits your bank account every time you use it.
This tag also allows you to use separate lanes which are often less busy and sometimes non-stop, lifting the barriers automatically as you drive through slowly.
Make sure you know the rules of the road in the countries you’re going to and, above all, don’t give the local law-enforcement any excuse to book you – it can be much more expensive and much more sudden if you get caught doing something wrong in Europe. Lastly, and most importantly, don’t forget to drive on the other side of the road!