Whether you’re travelling on the autobahn, en route to France or cruising down Spanish streets, there’s a lot to consider while driving on European roads, especially if you’ve never done it before. For a start, there’s all kinds of different road rules to contend with, from driving on the correct side to kilometre speed limits to adhere to. Throw in the pre-holiday red tape you’ll need to get sorted before you hit the road, and the list of considerations is starting to look pretty hefty.

To help you navigate your journeys as smoothly as possible when you’re abroad, we’ve put together this helpful guide. We’ll cover the permits and insurance you’ll need, essential items and just how Brexit is going to affect driving abroad in the near future.

First things first, you’ll need to make sure that your insurance covers you outside the UK if you want to drive in another country. Check with your insurer to see whether your existing policy applies to overseas travel. If you’re looking for a higher level of protection, then see if your insurer will upgrade your existing policy, and double check to see whether you need to pay extra.

Just be sure to read the small print for any exclusions on your policy, as some put a cap on the number of days you’re fully insured while in Europe.

Permits and Documents

Obviously, make sure your driving licence is valid. For now, Great Britain and Northern Ireland driving licences can be used in all countries in the EU and European Economic Area (EEA), though this may change after Brexit.

Bringing a Green Card with you is always a good idea too, though it’s not essential. Recommended by the Association of British Insurers, it’s internationally-recognised document that acts as proof of insurance in Europe. If you need to make a claim or exchange details with another driver or the police, it helps make the process a whole lot easier.

Other documents you’ll need to bring with you in order to drive in the EU:

  • Your national insurance number
  • Your passport as proof of identity
  • Proof of vehicle insurance
  • Proof of vehicle ownership (V5C certificate)
  • Travel insurance documents
  • Up-to-date MOT certificate and vehicle tax

Note: if you’re driving in France, you’ll need a GB sticker unless your registration plates include the GB-Euro symbol.

Items You Need to Take

As well as the usual creature comforts you pack for long journeys, there are a number of items that are mandatory to have in your car when driving in certain European countries. For example, reflective jackets are mandatory; there must be one for each passenger and each jacket must be kept within the cabin of the car.

Warning triangles and first aid kits are compulsory in most countries, while breathalysers will definitely be needed when driving through France too. And though it may seem unlikely that you’ll be caught without the necessary equipment, by not carrying it, you’re effectively breaking the law. Belgium, for instance, levies these infractions with fines of up to €1,500, so the required equipment is a small price to pay in comparison.Text here ...

Local Laws and Unwritten Rules

Even between neighbouring countries, driving laws can differ massively across Europe. Infamously, there’s no speed limit on Germany’s autobahn, which can be a pretty hairy experience for first-timers. In France meanwhile, wet weather means its motorways’ speed limits reduce from 80mph to 68mph. Knowing local laws and speed limits can help you navigate these unfamiliar roads, so it’s wise to heed the following:

  • In many European countries, Poland, Bulgaria and Serbia for example, drivers are required to keep their headlights on at all times.
  • Some countries allow you to turn right on a red signal, a sign or flashing light will indicate if this is possible.
  • If you’re prone to slamming your car doors, then take note: Germany, the practice is banned. (Along with unnecessarily revving your engine).
  • If you wear glasses for driving, then in Spain, you must keep a spare pair with you in the car.
  • In Greece, if a driver flashes their headlights, they’re warning you that they’re coming though.
  • Planning on cycling through Portugal? Make sure your bikes are attached to the roof; it’s illegal to carry them on the back of your car.

Driving on the Right Side of the Road

Of course, one of the most notable differences about driving abroad is getting used to doing everything on the other side of the road. It can be daunting at first, but here a few things you can do to help you master it:

  • If you find yourself on a narrow lane, pull over to the right to allow for oncoming vehicles to pass.
  • On motorways and dual carriageways, the overtaking lane is on your left side.
  • Be careful when overtaking in a left-hand drive car as you might not be able to see the traffic around you properly. If you have to, wait for a stretch of dual carriageway before you overtake.
  • On roundabouts give way to the left and drive anti-clockwise. In some countries where biking is popular, like Holland, their roundabouts are structured to include bike lanes, so watch out for cyclists.
  • If road signs are facing you, then you’re definitely on the correct side of the road.
  • Remember: after you’ve finished a familiar task, such as stopping for petrol, be careful not to slip back into your UK driving mindset.

Driving in Europe Post-Brexit

In the event of a no-deal Brexit on 31 October, the documents you’ll need to carry while driving through Europe will change. If the UK leaves without a deal, then you’ll most likely need an Insurance Green Card and an International Driving Permit.

Those in possession of a UK Photocard licence won’t require an IDP for shorter visits in:

  • Austria
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovenia
  • Span
  • Switzerland

Travellers with only a paper licence won’t require an IDP for short visits in:

  • Belgium
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Iceland
  • Luxembourg
  • Portugal
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Switzerland

You’ll also need to have at least six months on your passport, excluding months over 10 years added if you renewed it early, if you wish to travel abroad. For extra information on the matter, click here for the latest Government advice.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this article. Looking for more from Brindley Garages? Head here to check out more news from the motoring world, or if you’re in the market for a new car, see how we can help on our homepage.