Essential Guide to Driving in Europe
If you are planning a trip to Europe, make sure you are well prepared before you travel. Our handy guide lists some of the main things you may need to be aware of for a smooth and trouble-free journey.
Driving through Europe will be a very different experience from driving at home in the UK. For a start, a lot of European countries drive on the opposite side of the road, which can be a daunting experience the first few times you try it.
We have also put together a guide to popular European destinations, with estimated mileage and travel times, which you can see Here.
Some European countries also have a minimum requirement for equipment that you must carry with you in your vehicle, such as high visibility reflective jackets and warning triangles. To see more information, check our article on European Driving Requirements.
Our handy guide below lists some of the main things you may need to be aware of for a smooth and trouble free journey.
European Breakdown Cover
Make sure that you have adequate Breakdown Cover in place before you travel. If anything goes wrong, you can get it sorted quickly and with a minimum of hassle. Have a look at the European Breakdown Cover
available on this website.
Most UK credit cards are accepted in Europe. However, this is not guaranteed so be sure to check with your card provider before you travel. It is also important to tell your bank that you are travelling so they are aware you will suddenly be making transactions in a foreign country, as a lot of banks have fraud security measures in place that could leave you with a blocked account.
Most places you travel to will need to see the following documents:
- A valid full driving licence
- Your motor insurance certificate
- Your passport
- Visa, if applicable
- The original vehicle registration document
It is your responsibility to ensure that you have all documentation that you may need to comply with customs and other relevant regulations.
Drinking and Driving
All member states of the European Union have very severe penalties and fines on drink driving. The simple answer is: Don’t.
Drive on the Right
It's easy to forget to drive on the right, especially after a break. Try sticking a reminder note on the centre of the steering wheel and another on the dashboard in front of your passenger. Ask other passengers to stay alert and remind you if you start to stray!
Emergency Contact number
In Europe, the emergency contact number to call in case of accident or distress is 112. Add this to your phone before you travel so that you are prepared.
Displaying a GB sticker is compulsory in Europe. If you have a Euro-plate registration plate on your car then this is unnecessary, however some countries outside of Europe do still require a standard GB sticker on the rear of the car alongside these types of number plate. If you fail to display a GB sticker you could receive an on the spot fine from police.
GPS/Speed Trap Detection
In most European countries the use or possession of devices to detect police radar is illegal. Penalties can include a fine, driving ban, or even imprisonment. Some countries now also ban the use of GPS which have maps showing the location of fixed speed cameras, and you may have to deactivate the 'fixed speed camera PoI (Points of Interest)' function.
If you're driving to Europe then you must adjust your vehicle headlights to suit driving on the right hand side of the road, so that the dipped beam doesn't dazzle oncoming drivers. This can be done by moving the headlight settings themselves, or you can buy special adjustment stickers to block part of the headlights.
Make sure you inform your insurance provider before you travel. Most insurances will give free cover for around 90 days, but this can vary so be sure to check. You will also need to contact your insurance company to request a green card, if needed.
You can normally get urgent treatment from health authorities that have links to the UK whilst abroad. Details are available from most post offices in the Department of Heath booklet ‘Health Advice for travellers’. This is not normally as good as UK cover so make sure you have adequate travel insurance for yourself and your party. Remember, in Europe, the emergency contact number to call in case of accident or distress is 112. Add this to your phone before you travel so that you are prepared.
Similar to the UK, most European countries prohibit the use of a mobile phone or similar whilst driving. Being caught driving with a mobile phone could lead to points, a fine or even a driving ban. If you need to make or receive a telephone call, pull over to a safe location and stop the vehicle first.
If travelling into a country where you are not familiar with the language, then having the correct phrase book with you may prove invaluable if stopped by local police or in an emergency.
Here at Compare Breakdown cover we have produced a handy guide of some common phrases and their translations into most European languages, Handy Phrases and Translations. It may be worthwhile to print out the relevant sections and keep them handy in case of emergency.
Most European countries require at least one warning triangle to be kept in the vehicle. If you break down it should be placed at least 30 metres behind your car. Some countries require 2 triangles, be sure to check before you travel.
We have put together a list of common European Driving Requirements" to help make sure you have what you need.
Most European countries require you to keep a hi-visibility reflective jacket or vest in the car and wear if you have to leave your vehicle in an emergency or breakdown. It must be kept in the main car, (not the boot) and a popular idea is to hang it on the back of the driver’s seat – where the police can see it. More than one may be required by law, and it is always a good idea to keep spares for your passengers to wear. See our European Driving Requirements"
guide for details.
Some countries will require either winter tires or wheel chains in certain areas, especially if you are travelling during winter or snowy weather. Make sure you have everything you need before you travel.
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