Driving in a Foreign Country

If you're planning on taking your car abroad with you on holiday, it's important to get your car checked over and serviced before you go, making sure that your oil and coolant levels are topped up and your battery and tyres are in good condition. It's also worth going over your route beforehand to identify garages that you'll be able to stop off at if you have any problems or you need any spare parts. This is particularly important if you're going to be travelling in remote locations.

What You Need to Take

Many European countries require you to carry certain items in your car; whilst they may not be compulsory in all countries, it is still a good idea to take them along:

  • Warning triangle (compulsory in most countries; you must have 2 sets in Spain)
  • Headlight converters (compulsory in all countries that drive on the right)
  • Visibility vest for breakdowns (compulsory for the driver and passengers in Belgium, Croatia, Italy, Austria and Spain)
  • First aid kit (compulsory in Austria and Germany)
  • Replacement bulbs (compulsory in Spain)
  • Spare pair of glasses (compulsory in Portugal, Spain and Switzerland)
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Spare set of keys
  • GB sticker - compulsory if you do not have a Euro-plates (circle of 12 stars above the national identifier on blue background) or if you are driving in a non-European Union country.

You will also need to bring along a number of documents:

  • Vehicle Registration Document
  • Valid UK licence (if you do not have a photocard licence you will also need to carry your passport as photographic proof of identity)
  • International Motor Insurance Certificate (Green Card) from your insurer
  • International Driving Permit (IDP) - compulsory for some countries outside the European Union, and recommended for all others.

If you are not the registered owner of the vehicle, you will also need to carry a Vehicle on Hire Certificate (VE103B) and letter of consent from the owner stating that you have permission to drive the vehicle and over which dates.

You may also want to consider taking out breakdown cover, to reduce the inconvenience and stress of breaking down in an unfamiliar country. If you already have a breakdown policy in the UK, you may simply be able to extend your cover. Contact your agent for more details.

Toll Roads

If you're going to be driving in Europe, you should be aware that you'll need to pay a toll to use many of the motorways. The French motorways (autoroutes) and Italian motorways (autostrade) can be relatively expensive (some may cost up to £65), whilst the Spanish toll roads (autopista) are usually about half the cost. Make sure that you have enough money for your journey; although most toll booths will take credit cards, it's usually best to take enough cash just in case. You'll also need to remember that the pay booths will be on the left hand side of your car, which means that you may have to get out to pay if you don't have a passenger who can do it for you.