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What do you need to know before travelling to Europe by car?

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Whether it’s a European road trip or a business meeting abroad, if you’re considering driving on the continent, you’ll need to consider a few things quite apart from the fact that it’s the ‘wrong’ side of the road! Here are some vital tips for British drivers to consider before going abroad for that trip to the EU.

Fundamental requirements

First and most obvious things are sometimes easy to overlook. Make sure you bring a copy of all documents and make some backups to leave with family or friends, or take some photos to store in the cloud.

UK drivers licence

If you a full UK licence, you don’t require an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) to drive in the EU, as long as you’ve got the pink photocard. Here you can find the guidlines of the Non-member countries.


Insure your car for the trip to Europe as well as yourselves. Don’t forget the EHIC (European Health Insurance Card).

Vehicle registration document

Also known as a V5. Proof that you own the vehicle or have the right to drive it is essential.

Breakdown cover

The AA and RAC offer European breakdown cover which would no doubt save you a lot of hassle, especially if you don’t speak the local language fluently.

Before you go

Car roadworthiness

Check the oil, tyre tread and PSI, water and coolant levels and don’t forget your spare tyre!

Driving in Europe advice

See the AA’s European driver advice page. Latest things to watch out for when travelling in Europe such as fuel scarcity in France and other vital news.

Different country, different laws

Check the local road laws so you won’t get caught out. Quite apart from the difficulty of driving a car on the opposite side of the road, there are differing signs, speed limits and local quirks to deal with.

Carefully research the route…

…and don’t get caught out by sat nav failures or unexpected toll roads. Some countries require a tax sticker for highways.

Compulsory gear

In many countries, it’s illegal not to have a warning triangle or a reflective coat or vest. In France, it’s compulsory to have a breathalyser! Disposable breathalysers are cheap and easy to order online.

You must also have a GB sticker or number plate designation on your car. Failure to do so can lead to a spot fine.

Lights on – and converted

In some countries, it’s compulsory to have lights on low beam in the daytime. Also, you must change the light beam direction with a set of headlight converter stickers so that you don’t dazzle oncoming traffic.

Calling for help

If you’re in trouble, you should remember that the emergency number in the EU is 112. This will get you to the fire brigade, police and ambulance services on a free call.

And finally,

The idea of driving abroad can be daunting but with full preparation, the only thing you will need to really worry about is being on the correct side of the road and to help with that, you can try to find simulator games to download. Some of them even have realistic representations of major cities that you might find handy.

Oh and… don’t forget your passport!

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