June 22, 2015

Prepare Yourself with our Complete Guide to Driving Abroad to Ensure a Hassle-Free Holiday

Driving abroad can be dangerous if you’re not focused or properly informed. This guide to driving abroad addresses some of the key motoring concerns when on holiday to make sure you’re ready for this summer.
Prepare Yourself with our Complete Guide to Driving Abroad to Ensure a Hassle-Free Holiday Header Image

With the holiday season finally upon us, many of you are planning an escape to a foreign land. Hopefully, it will be everything you want and more. However, it’s important to be prepared. Driving abroad can be dangerous if you’re not focused or properly informed. This article addresses some of the key motoring concerns when on holiday to make sure you’re ready for driving abroad this summer.

Permission to Drive

When driving in the European Union (EU), you’re allowed to drive using your UK driving licence. This means you’ll need to take your full UK driving licence with you. Unfortunately, the DVLA has recently abolished the paper counterpart of your licence (read our article on the driving licence change to find out more). This means you’ll have to print off your own driving history record from the Gov.UK site.

Here are the countries that are in the EU or the European Economic Area (EEA), each of which you can drive in using your UK licence. You can also drive in Switzerland using your UK licence.

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

When visiting countries outside of the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you may require a driving permit. You should investigate whether or not this will be necessary for the country you’ll visit. You can obtain a driving permit from the Post office’s website, but you’ll be charged a fee of £5.50.

Driving in another Country

The experience of driving abroad can differ greatly compared to the UK. In some countries it may seem chaotic and overwhelming. This can often be a major obstacle for some drivers. However, in other countries it can be the absolute opposite with completely empty roads.

You should understand what the infrastructure will be like in the country you’ll be visiting. Some countries, especially 3rd world and developing ones, have poor road infrastructure. This could make driving a challenge if you’re used to the UK’s high quality of roads and driving standards. If you think our pot holes are bad, you may be in for a big surprise.

You should also be aware of which side of the road you’ll be driving on. This may seem basic and obvious, but many drivers find themselves driving into oncoming traffic, or going the wrong way round a roundabout. Discover which side of the road you’ll be driving on here.

Another thing you’ll need to be aware of is the minimum driving age. Although it’s 17 in the UK, it may vary in other countries. For example, in some, you may need to be 21 years old to drive. You should check what the minimum driving age is in the country you’re visiting if it may affect you.

Driving Equipment

Some countries, including European ones, legally require drivers to have specific equipment on them while driving. This can include safety triangles, high-vis jackets, first aid kits and even breathalysers. Here is a list of compulsory equipment for when driving in the EU.

The majority of this equipment is required to improve the safety of you and other road users. Safety is critical when driving in any country, but in some it is enforced more strictly than others. You should look into the local driving laws and rules of the country you’re visiting.

A major safety issue in most countries is drink driving. The limit for drink driving will vary depending on the country, and sometimes the region, you’re in. Some countries will even punish drink drivers with hefty fines and an arrest. We strongly recommend that you don’t drive at all if you’ve been drinking. If you are going to be drinking, get a taxi or nominate a designated driver.

Insurance when on holiday

Many insurance policies will have the option of European cover, which can sometimes be extended to the rest of the world. This allows your insurance to cover you while on holiday, depending on the country you visit and your policy. Otherwise you will need to arrange holiday or temporary car insurance.

If you’re unsure as to whether you have such cover, we suggest contacting your insurance provider. This way you will definitively know and can arrange alternative cover if needed. Why get temporary car insurance when your existing policy already covers you?

You should also ensure that you’ve arranged the appropriate travel insurance. This is essential in the event of a car accident where you need hospital treatment. Otherwise you may need to pay for any service out of your own pocket. Because travel insurance starts from so little, there’s really no reason not to get covered.

If you’re getting a hire car and will need to arrange temporary holiday car insurance, you may be in for an uncomfortable ride. Some hire car companies may refuse to loan you a car because of the DVLA’s licence change. Learn how to avoid any disruptions to your holiday in our article ‘Don’t let Driving Licence Changes ruin your Holiday’.

In the Event of an Accident while on Holiday

When travelling to another country, you should make sure you learn the emergency contact numbers. In the EU, this is commonly 112. This should only be used in the event of an emergency or accident.

If you’re involved in a car accident, you should immediately report it to the local authorities. This should be followed by contacting your insurance provider. If you can, you should also take some photos of the incident site, to use as proof if needed.

More information

We have compiled some useful information, including driving norms and standards of a number of different countries here. This may help you better prepare for driving while on your holiday. Alternatively, you could review the local driving rules by country here.

Keith Michaels wish you an enjoyable and safe holiday, and hope this article has helped you prepare for driving abroad. Remember to stay alert and drive safely.