Driving abroad

Driving abroad – what you need to know

Find out about local customs and the documents you need to have when driving on holiday

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There’s more to driving abroad than sticking to the other side of the road — depending on where you’re going you could be obliged to travel with all manner of kit.

For example, in France you must carry a breathalyser on board, while a first aid kit is a standard requirement in Austria and Croatia.

Most countries recommend carrying a warning triangle, high visibility vests for all passengers, and spare light bulbs, as one or more of these items will invariably be required in the most popular destinations.

Local rules and customs

Each country has its own regulations that will be second nature to native motorists, but might catch British holidaymakers out when driving abroad. For example, motorcyclists must wear reflective jackets in France, while anyone driving in Romania or Russia will get a fine if caught driving a dirty car.

Other customs that might result in a fine or worse include:

Germany – Don’t overtake school buses that have their hazard lights on
Holland – Buses have right of way when leaving a stop in built-up areas
Macedonia – Passengers who are visibly under the influence of alcohol can’t travel in the front
Portugal – It’s illegal to carry bikes on the back of a car
Slovakia – Proof of medical insurance is a requirement when entering the country
Spain – Drivers who wear glasses, and this is noted on their licence, should keep a spare pair with them
Switzerland – Pedestrians have right of way and expect vehicles to stop if they step onto a crossing

Use the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) tool to discover the driving laws and recommendations for driving in individual countries.

Driving abroad


Key documents to carry

Wherever you drive, you need your driving licence, vehicle registration document and motor insurance policy.

UK policies will protect you for driving abroad in the EU, the EEC and Switzerland, but this tends to amount to third-party cover only — if you want more comprehensive car insurance with extras such as breakdown cover, speak to your provider about an upgrade.

Some countries will require foreign drivers to carry a ‘green card’ – a form of ID you can get free from your insurer. If you are intending to drive abroad outside of the EU, you should also check to see if you need an International Driving Permit — annual permits cost £5.50 and can be bought from the Post Office, the AA and the RAC.

Child safety and alcohol limits

Different countries have their own rules on how to ensure children travel safely — so be sure to check what individual country requirements are.

Alcohol rules tend to be stricter for driving abroad than they are here. The UK limit for drivers is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, while it’s often 50mg per 100ml or lower in the EU.

Generally speaking, the police in most European countries are able to give on-the-spot fines or confiscate your car if you infringe their driving laws and fail to pay up, so it pays to be aware of the local laws.

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