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Martin Turner
March 9, 2021

Driving Abroad

Behind the wheel of your own vehicle, the roads of Europe and beyond are your oyster. Driving your car abroad is a convenient choice for business trips, road trips and holidays. However, you must make sure that you’re completely prepared for the experience.

What do you need to prepare?

Before driving abroad, it’s important to make sure that your car is properly maintained. In fact, this is also something to do before any long journey at home.

Make sure that your windscreen wash, oil and other liquids are all at appropriate levels. Check the condition of your tyres. If you’ve been ignoring a maintenance or warning light, now is the time to get it checked.

Dealing with a breakdown in another country will add a lot of stress to your visit. You could also end up on the wrong side of the law for not properly maintaining your car. When you don’t know the roads, it’s more important than ever to stay safe and in control of your vehicle.

Are driving laws different in other countries?

In some countries, you’ll need to carry equipment that isn’t compulsory in the UK.

For example, drivers in France must carry a warning triangle, a reflective jacket and their own breathalyser. The breathalyser needs to be certified by French authorities, and have an ‘NF’ number.

In some countries, you may be required to carry a fire extinguisher and/or a first aid kit. If you use contact lenses or glasses, many countries’ road laws also require you to carry at least one spare pair.

How can you find out what you’ll need?

If you’re planning to drive abroad, the AA guide to Compulsory Kit is a sensible starting point.

What else should you consider when driving abroad?

As well as making sure that you’re carrying the right equipment, you will need to consider other laws.

If you’re travelling with children, be aware of varying car seat laws. The seat that you use day-to-day may not be legal on a different country’s roads.

Countries will also have varying rules regarding drinking and driving. For your own safety, and to avoid any confusion, it is best to avoid this completely.

Keep an eye on speed limit signs, whilst you’re driving around. Limits will not be the same as in the UK and may be written in km/h.

What about fuel?

Before travelling, make sure that the country you’re visiting has the right fuel for your vehicle. Remember to read signs carefully, and check the fuel nozzle colours. In some other countries, these colours are the reverse of the UK standard. Always ensure that you have valid payment cards or cash before you add fuel to your car.

Will you need to change your insurance?

You should always travel with a valid MOT certificate and your car ownership documents. Also make sure that you have appropriate car insurance, covering you in your chosen country.

In many countries, comprehensive insurance is a legal requirement.

Staying safe when driving abroad

In case you are stopped, you should always ensure that you have as much ID as possible. Carry your passport and driving license, as an absolute minimum.

Be aware of your surroundings. If you are asked to stop, you should only do so in a built-up area. Have the country’s emergency service number where you can access it easily, in case you need to report a crime or don’t feel safe pulling over when asked. 

Keep doors locked whilst you travel.

Driving your car abroad should be as safe and enjoyable as driving a vehicle at home. But, you should always prepare to avoid any accidental law-breaking.

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