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Driving abroad – what you need to remember

Driving abroad – what you need to remember

Over the coming summer months tens of thousands of Britons will head for UK ferry ports and the Channel Tunnel with the intention of driving their car, van, motorbike of motorhome abroad.

However, in the rush to get away it’s easy to overlook what you need to do and take to legally drive your vehicle overseas. Here are the key points to consider:

  • International driving permit – You might need an IDP (International Driving Permit) in the country, or countries, you plan to drive in. The RAC and other organisations offer online checks, and a quick Google will allow you to check.

  • Check your licence – Make sure yours is in-date and valid and hasn’t expired (which, as most people don’t check that often, is easy to miss!).
  • Get a DVLA code if you’re hiring – If you’re hiring a car, some companies require the code to check for points on your licence (although in practice most don’t). You can request this from the DVLA up to 21 days in advance.

  • V5C (vehicle registration certificate) – You need to take the original, not just a copy.

  • Motor insurance certificate – A ‘green card’ might be needed for some non-EU or EEA countries, which proves you have at least minimum cover for driving abroad. Ask your insurer for one in advance of your trip.

  • Breakdown cover – Breakdown cover for abroad, as within the UK, is often separate to your fully comprehensive car cover and costs extra. The breakdown cover you might have for the UK in all likelihood won’t also cover you abroad.

  • Emissions sticker – Some countries, such as France or Germany, require you to display an ‘emissions’ sticker, otherwise you could be fined.

  • Extra equipment requirements – In many European countries, it’s a legal requirement to have certain safety items in your car, such as a high-visibility jacket, warning triangle and breathalyser (in the UK it isn’t). You could face fines of over 1,000 Euros if you haven’t got them.

  • Headlights – You must adjust your vehicle’s headlights to make sure you don’t dazzle oncoming drivers as you’ll be driving on the other side of the road from the UK (i.e. the right!). Most people use the stickers you can buy from many retail outlets.

  • GB stickers – You could be fined if you don’t show the identification letters of the United Kingdom in a sticker on your car. Unless your number plate includes the GB ‘euro symbol’ that is.

  • Passport validity – It’s no good getting all your car documents in place if your passport isn’t valid! For most countries, your passport must be valid for six months from the date you arrive in the destination country.

  • Take copies – It’s a good idea to take photocopies of original documents and keep them separate for reference in case you misplace the originals.

  • Get your car checked – There are few motoring experiences worse than being in a collision abroad or breaking down, so it’s a good idea to get your car serviced or checked over before you go.

Policy Expert

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Published 16th May 2019