Many UK families travel to Europe for their summer holidays. Whilst driving in Europe is much like driving in the UK, there are a few key differences you need to be aware of.
If you don’t know the rules and legislation, you could easily wind up on the wrong side of the law. Not exactly what you need on your holiday, is it?
If you are driving within Europe this summer, whether in your own car or a rented one, here are a few rules and tips to brush up on before you go to make sure you stay clear of accidents and fines.
Display Your Identification Sticker
EU rules require that all vehicles indicate their country of origin. If your car’s license plate includes the Great Britain Euro symbol, you’re safe. If your license plate lacks this, you should look to purchase a “GB” sticker.
If your vehicle is lacking the country-specific identification and you are stopped, you could face a fine. It’s worth noting that some countries require traffic fines be paid on the spot. In Portugal, for example, police even carry a card payment terminal so they can collect the fines immediately.
Adjust Your Headlights
Your headlights are configured for UK roads where we drive on the left. But in Europe, you’ll be on the right-hand side of the road. A headlight converter kit will adjust the angle of your headlights so you can see the road and spare oncoming drivers from the glare.
Be sure to check the laws for using lights as well. In some countries such as Denmark, you are required by law to have your lights on at all times when driving.
To be sure you are complying with local laws, why not keep the driving lights on at all times when driving?
Take Out Insurance
Amongst requirements for driving in Europe is car insurance. Before you go, check whether your policy includes international coverage. If it doesn’t, you could be on your own in an accident.
It’s also worth checking breakdown coverage so you can get a tow if your car breaks down. Most companies will allow you to pay extra to purchase the coverage you need. If that isn’t the case for your current insurance, you need to sign up for another short-term one that does include European coverage.
A proper insurance policy reduces stress, limits your financial liability in an accident and helps you get fast service in need. You need one, it’s a no-brainer.
Get an International Drivers License
Depending on where you are going, you may need an international driver’s license. Finland and France, for example, both require UK drivers with green licenses to get an international drivers license. Pink license holders can drive without additional documentation.
Put Together a Driving Kit
You should always check your driving kit before you head out on a long drive. While some countries have different requirements, there are a few things you’ll need for most European countries.
Likewise, the minimum driving age throughout Europe is either 17 or 18 so check the local laws if you’re travelling with any 17-year-olds to make sure they’re only behind the wheel when it’s legally safe to do so.
Working headlights are required throughout European countries and daytime headlights or passing lights are required in a handful of countries.
It’s compulsory to carry a first-aid kit in some countries, including Austria and Croatia. And to be completely frank, we think it’s always a good idea to carry a first aid kit in the trunk of your car.
In your driving kit, you will also need a warning triangle for breakdowns. This is a legal requirement in the vast majority of European countries. Several countries require that you have a reflective jacket as well so that other drivers can see you.
Aside from these items, you should already have what you need in your kit, including your vehicle registration and driver’s license.
Prepare for Emergencies
If you follow the tips for driving in Europe that we’ve listed above and drive safely, you should be well equipped for a grand holiday abroad.
That said, a lot of the time when accidents happen, it’s not always the driver’s fault. It can be a driver in the opposite lane, a deer crossing the road or a mechanical problem. Accidents are sometimes unpredictable and even though you consider yourself a great driver, you can end up in an accident.
Before any long journeys, it’s generally a good idea to have your car checked out by your local mechanic just to see if there are any maintenance needs or if there is anything that they think will be coming up over the new few hundred miles.
You want to carry jumper cables, a torch with spare batteries, bottled water and snacks, maps, sat nav and other essential gear in case you get stuck and need to wait for a tow. Take along medical insurance cards and purchase travel insurance, which covers unexpected emergencies that arise.
You should also leave a copy of your itinerary with a friend or loved one in case they need to get in touch with you for whatever reason. If you will be travelling on toll roads, you should take along cash to pay the tolls. Most crossings will offer card payment, but it’s better to be safe than sorry as the alternative will be turning around to get cash out.
And that’s the end of our driving to Europe checklist. If you make sure that you, your vehicle and your insurance are all sorted, there should be nothing stopping you from having a fantastic holiday.
Be safe, and enjoy.