Driving abroad this summer? We’ve got some top tips to keep you and your travelling party safe and sound
It’s that wonderful time of year when we begin to count down the days until summer getaways. Whether you’re taking the Eurotunnel to soak up French culture or planning an American road trip, you need to make sure you’re prepared if you are going to drive abroad.
Worryingly, the number of drivers involved in crashes across Europe has risen 160% in five years. To avoid such circumstances, it is essential you know the correct driving regulations and plan for the journey ahead.
1. Document your journey
If you are renting a car or driving your own car abroad it’s essential you take the necessary documentation. Just like at home, you could be pulled over and asked for your documents at any time. Failure to show the right ones could result in a fine or worse – you could be hauled off the road.
You will need the following documents:
- A valid driving licence (not provisional)
- The paper part of your driving licence is no longer needed, though a pre-1998 paper license is still valid.
- The original copy of your vehicle’s registration document (V5C)
- Your motor insurance certificate (inform your insurer when you’re going abroad to ensure you are covered)
- Documentation of European cover on your warranty policy through a company like Warranty Direct
2. Know the rules of the road
Don’t assume UK laws and regulations will apply in a foreign country. Every nation has its own set of driving regulations and ignorance won’t cut it with foreign authorities if you are caught breaking their laws! England and Wales have one of the highest drink-driving limits at 80mg of alcohol per 100mg of blood. However, most of Europe is 50 or less. If you are driving it is safest to steer clear of alcohol completely.
Check before you leave home for unexpected necessities. Forward planning could save you a lot of unwanted hassle. For example: did you know it is illegal to drive in France without a high-vis vest and a warning triangle? Not having these things could leave you with a hefty €135 fine. A first aid kit, fire extinguisher, warning triangle, headlamp beam reflectors or spare lamp bulbs are also compulsory in some areas of Europe.
3. Keep the change
Many European countries operate toll roads, including popular tourist destinations like France and Italy. Make sure you have plenty of loose change in the correct currency to cover toll costs. Urban road tolls like the London congestion charge are also now present in 14 European countries so plan ahead if you want to avoid additional charges!
Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland require a vignette (a form of road tax) sticker to drive on motorways. Costs vary from country to country, but these can be purchased from petrol stations along the route.
4. Take your time!
Most European countries drive on the right-hand side of the road (except in the UK, Irish Republic, Cyprus and Malta), meaning you’ll be negotiating roundabouts in the opposite direction. With such differences, confidence behind the wheel abroad can take time.
Stay in the slow lane until you feel ready to move into one of the faster lanes on a motorway and don’t try to overtake until you feel safe to do so.
Driving abroad can be a fantastic way to explore a foreign country, but in order to enjoy the experience, it’s essential to know the rules of the road in every location you visit and make sure you’re prepared for your journey in every way possible.