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Driving Abroad: The Main Differences

Millions of people will be driving to Europe for a summer holiday this year, or renting a car abroad, but don’t forget to read up on all of the different rules and regulations of the country you’re visiting to ensure you’re prepared.

There are many differences when driving in the summer that you need to swot up on, let alone all of the motoring rules in other countries. Driving in unfamiliar territories can be a scary experience, so make sure you’ve done your research.

Here are the top things you need to know when driving abroad

Car Insurance

Are you covered? Don’t just assume that your car insurance will cover you while driving abroad.

Although many policies do include European cover as standard, often comprehensive cover will be downgraded, so that it only provides the minimum level of cover required for the country you are driving in.

This is really important as you will be driving in unfamiliar territory so the last thing you want to have is an accident where you are not covered.

Breakdown cover

Make sure that your vehicle breakdown cover can extend to driving abroad – you’re more likely to have an accident abroad as you’re driving in an unfamiliar country – often on the other side of the road.

Some car insurance policies include European cover, so check whether yours does before buying. If it doesn’t you may need to upgrade or change your policy.


You’ll need to take the following documents with you:

• Your valid full (not provisional) driving licence
• An International Driving Permit (when necessary)
• The original vehicle registration document
• Your motor insurance certificate
• Details of breakdown or travel insurance, and emergency contact numbers
• Your passport
• You may need a visa for certain countries too

If you’re taking a boat or going in a vehicle other than a car or motorcycle you may need additional documents.

Give yourself plenty of time to get these together so you’re not frantically searching your house at the last minute! If you’re hiring a car abroad then ensure you have the necessary documents that come with the car to hand.

Other kit and equipment to consider taking with you:

• first-aid kit
• tool kit
• red warning triangle
• reflective jacket
• torch
• fire extinguisher

European rules and regulations

Once you’ve got your insurance and breakdown cover sorted, it’s time to make sure you know the rules of the road in the country you are driving to.

When driving within the EU, it is compulsory to display a GB sticker on your car – if you’re caught without one, you could be hit with an on-the-spot fine. You should also carry a warning triangle in your boot, and reflective jackets for all passengers.

Remember too that you will need to have dipped headlights if daytime visibility is poor.

Local rules and customs

Each country has its own regulations that will be second nature to native motorists, but might catch British holidaymakers out when driving abroad. For example, you must park on a certain side of the road depending on the day of the week on some roads in Spain, while Some countries, including Belarus and Romania, penalise you if you drive with a dirty car, so a visit to the car wash may be in order before you leave British shores.

Other customs that might result in a fine or worse include:

Germany – Don’t overtake school buses that have their hazard lights on

Holland – Buses have right of way when leaving a stop in built-up areas

Macedonia – Passengers who are visibly under the influence of alcohol can’t travel in the front

Portugal – It’s illegal to carry bikes on the back of a car

Slovakia – Proof of medical insurance is a requirement when entering the country

Spain – Drivers who wear glasses, and this is noted on their licence, should keep a spare pair with them

Switzerland – Pedestrians have right of way and expect vehicles to stop if they step onto a crossing

Use the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) tool to discover the driving laws and recommendations for driving in individual countries.

General advice

It sounds obvious, but check you have up-to-date maps of the countries you’ll be driving in. Although you may have a sat nav, you need to be prepared with a good old fashioned map!

Also make sure you work out your route thoroughly in advance; check if any major roadworks are planned. Get to know the road signs and general road rules of a country before you set off. Take regular breaks when driving, but be careful when using rest stops along the road. Remember to lock your car doors, and avoid leaving your possessions in an unattended vehicle.

Make sure you also do the necessary car checks and take care of any easy repairs before heading off on your road trip – the same applies whether you’re hiring a car abroad or in the UK.

And most important of all – enjoy your holiday!

We hope these tips have helped, let us know if there’s anything we’ve missed off the list that you think may be useful to share, and if you are thinking of getting a new car for the summer, why not sell your car to Jack! All you have to do is enter your reg number and we’ll get back to you with a no obligation offer!


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