Tips for Driving in Europe
Lots of people like to drive themselves around when visiting Europe and if coming from the UK it is quite easy these days to get there in a matter of hours. If you are considering taking your car abroad then ensure you are prepared. Look online at the FCO website, it offers lots of travel advice by country, you’ll also need to check what insurance and breakdown cover is required.
Europe can be a great place to explore by car, especially if you are heading to the countryside. Rolling hills, quiet roads, beautiful scenery, and you get to stop whenever and wherever you want. The road infrastructure is good in European countries and traffic isn’t a problem at most times of the year, apart from the cities of course. If you have to drive in the city it can be quite stressful, particularly if you are not sure of the road system and don’t know the areas. Try to avoid certain holiday seasons such as Christmas if you are nervous and new to driving on the opposite side of the road.
The FCO provides information on the driving laws of the country you plan to visit, including local speed limits, what you have to do to comply with the vehicle requirements of the country you are visiting, and whether you need an International Driving Permit. If you are required to get one then you only need your current driving license to apply and you can get it within 24 hours in the UK by applying online.
Not every country requires you to have an international driver’s license; however it is an internationally recognised document and can facilitate contact with the authorities in the event of an accident or traffic violation. It doesn’t replace your driver’s license however, and when travelling you will need to show both.
Always carry your travelling documents with you when driving abroad, this includes your passport, driving license, car registration papers, breakdown policy and insurance documents. Emergency helpline numbers should also be easily accessible if needed.
It’s essential you have insurance that will cover you for every situation, so give your insurance company a call before you travel to check you have adequate cover as well as breakdown recovery, and if they will cover any medical expenses resulting from an accident. Standard UK insurance normally only provides third-party cover outside the UK, so if you want fully comprehensive cover you’ll need to obtain the extra. Your insurer should provide you, free, with a European accident statement form to be filled in if there should be an accident.
It’s a good idea to get your car serviced before you go as if something goes wrong in a country where they may not speak good English it could be very frustrating and stressful.
There are a few important items that you should carry with you in case of an emergency, a spare set of car keys may well come in handy, if you lose yours then you could end up paying a lot just to get a replacement. Some other items that may be useful include a first aid kit, a tool kit, spare bulbs for the car and a warning triangle. In some countries, Spain for instance, you are required to carry 2 warning triangles which is why it is so important you check each countries individual requirements. A reflective vest is also compulsory in France, Italy, Belgium and Spain, sometimes one per passenger.
Driving your own car you need to have a GB sticker clearly visible on the back of your car. You’ll also need headlamp converters if you’re driving on the right hand side of the road to avoid dazzling other drivers. In Europe they drive on the right, which means that if your car is a right-hand drive, you have to adjust the direction of your headlamp beams for driving on the right, either by using the converters or adjusting the lights. This is particularly important if you drive at night as UK headlights dip to the left, which means that they dip into the view of oncoming traffic. Headlamp converters can be purchased online.