European Driving Tour

Looking for the open road? You can find it in Europe

Driving in Europe is fun. In the countryside there are long, well-maintained roads with barely another car in view, and hundreds of places just waiting to be discovered by you and your family. But before you go it's wise to ensure you're legal, and in the unlikely event of a problem know you can get it sorted out.

So here's the AA's guide to help you on your way.

Will my insurance cover me for driving in Europe?

It's very important to check with your insurer that you do have comprehensive cover when driving outside the UK. Many insurers have withdrawn this cover to reduce costs, and either don't offer it at all or charge an additional premium.

AA comprehensive insurance is among the few policies that do include up to 90 days comprehensive cover across EU countries without charge. And you don't need to tell the AA when you are driving in Europe – others may want to know when you are travelling.

If I don't have comprehensive cover, is it illegal for me to drive in Europe?

No. If you are travelling to an EU country, provided your car is insured in your home country (comprehensive or third party) then you can legally drive in most European countries including those not in the EU (such as Norway and Switzerland).

EU law states you will have the minimum legal level of cover in the countries you drive through, which in most cases is third party only. So if you have a crash that's your fault, you will be covered for the injuries you cause to anyone else and for damage to cars or property you hit, but not damage to your own car. You'll end up having to foot the local bills for getting your car removed, repaired or repatriated or scrapped – quite apart from costs for onward travel, hotel bills and so on. So, it's vital that your vehicle insurance is in place before you go.

How do I cover myself if I do have an accident or break down?

Taking out European Breakdown Cover is a must. 'Gives you real peace of mind' is a much-misused term, but in this case it's true. Help is provided 24/7 through the AA's call centre in Lyon, where the multilingual staff are waiting to assist you. If your car breaks down or you do have an accident miles from home, you need to know that you will be rescued and your car repaired. Or else, you can continue your journey and enjoy the rest of your holiday while the car is sorted out or repatriated. In the event of a crash, AA European Breakdown Cover will talk to your insurer about repair or recovery.

What if I have a crash in another country?

A collision should be handled in much the same way as in the UK.

  • Make a note of the Europe-wide emergency number – 112 (the equivalent of 999) – it works in the UK too. This will enable you to contact the police and ambulance services. It's compulsory in some countries to call the police in the event of any accident, no matter how minor
  • Get names, addresses and details of those involved; note where you are and distinguishing features; and make a note of registration numbers and the makes/colours of the cars. (A European Accident Report Form may be available from your insurer.) And take photos if you can, using your mobile phone if necessary. Also, get a report from the police who attend. Tell your insurer as soon as possible, and call AA European Breakdown Cover using the number provided with your documentation

What else should I take to Europe with me?

  • Check local road traffic rules before you go – you'll find a host of motoring advice at the AA. Look up the speed limits, which can vary when it's raining, and road signs (which are mostly familiar although there are some you won't see in the UK). And remember, never, ever drink and drive – alcohol limits in almost all European countries are a lot tougher than in the UK
  • You will need your insurance particulars, although most countries no longer require a 'green card' which does the same thing. Check with your insurer
  • Don't forget your driving license – both the pink card and the counterpart
  • If you are towing a caravan, make sure that your caravan insurance extends to the countries you are visiting. Most policies do, and some provide very comprehensive overseas touring cover year-round (thus covering ex-pats as well)
  • Make sure you have your European Breakdown Cover documents
  • Take your vehicle registration document
  • Take your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC – used to be E111). It's free from ehic.org.uk. The card provides for reciprocal medical treatment in EU countries, although you should take out travel insurance too. An EHIC doesn't necessarily mean that treatment will be free
  • You will need travel insurance. Remember, if your home insurance covers your personal property outside the home anywhere in the world, then you won't need baggage cover on your travel insurance. Ask for this to be excluded and for the premium to be reduced accordingly
  • Check you have your tickets and passports. You'll be amazed how many people get to the ferry or Eurotunnel terminal and find they've left them behind
  • Check what car equipment you legally require for the country or countries you are driving through. In most cases this includes a GB plate, high-visibility jackets (kept in the car not in the boot) and a warning triangle. You can get European Travel Kits from the AA Shop, which include these things as well as headlight beam converters, a spare set of car bulbs, a first-aid kit, and a useful AA European Driver's Handbook. Or you can buy the items individually at the AA Shop, along with a great range of guide books and atlases to help you on your way

It's easy in the excitement of arranging your trip to miss something vital – print this page as a reminder.

But especially, don't forget your camera and have a really great time enjoying the local culture and cuisine.

Bon voyage!