Driving to Europe this winter?

Winter tyres and/or snow chains are a legal requirement in many areas

Winter sports travel insurance is a must

Winter sports travel insurance is a must

The start of the ski season can best be described as chaotic – firstly no snow when the ski conditions should have been good; then too much of the stuff: leading to piste closures as well as long delays on French and central European motorways.

As a result, some heading for the slopes by car may have not only fallen foul of local motoring rules when travelling, but have been delayed en-route and have found either too little or too much snow when they arrive, according to the AA.

Driving to winter sports resorts appears to be increasing in popularity and can be an economical option for a family or small group while a car offers greater flexibility to carry skis and equipment.

Do your homework

Those driving abroad in winter shouldn’t just jump in the car and go.  They need firstly to ensure that their comprehensive car insurance doesn’t stay behind as they cross the channel and do a little homework in advance of a trip to make sure they’re properly prepared and equipped for their journey.

European ski slopes can easily be reached by car, including some of the developing resorts in countries such as Slovakia, the Czech Republic or Bulgaria which offer great value winter holidays.  But the equipment required for car travellers in each country differs.

if the pistes at your resort are closed you can typically claim up to £200 per person as compensation

Rosie Sanderson, head of AA International Travel

Winter sports travel insurance

Rosie Sanderson, head of AA International Travel says "We can’t do much about the weather and there’s no guarantee that you’ll enjoy good ski conditions when you get to your resort, but you can ensure you’re on the right side of the law and properly insured before you set off.

"Winter sports travel insurance is a must, for example, while travel insurance won’t cover the cost of your holiday if you are unable to ski, if the pistes at your resort are closed you can typically claim up to £200 per person (without an excess) as compensation or to pay for travel to a nearby resort where conditions might be more favourable.

Insurance will also cover those who go by public transport if they are delayed en-route, but that doesn’t apply to drivers – so taking care to prepare well is all the more important if you are travelling by car.”

Don't rely on the EHIC alone

AA research last year* suggested that 18% of winter sports travellers didn’t take out specialist travel cover while 11%  thought the free EHIC card was a substitute.  But this won’t cover the £30 per minute cost of a mountain helicopter rescue, for example, while winter sports travel insurance will.


General requirements

The drink-drive limit in most European countries is 0.05% (compared with 0.08% in England and Wales).  Some east European countries have a zero tolerance.  Never drink and drive.

In most European countries any device that indicates the location of speed cameras is prohibited – this facility must be removed from your sat-nav or disabled. In all of the below countries road traffic offences are subject to on-the-spot fines at a minimum. 

Winter tyres are compulsory in some countries or areas subject to snow and/or low temperatures, as are snow chains when conditions dictate.  AA strongly recommends fitting winter tyres before travelling and ensuring they have a good tread depth – the legal requirement varies between 3mm and 4mm depending on the country and they may need to have additional markings such as a snowflake symbol or M+S on the sidewall.

In addition, avoid carrying UK specification diesel fuel in a spare can as this won't have the same extreme low temperature capability as local fuel at your destination.  Diesel fuel capable of operation down to at least -20 degrees C is normal in the popular winter resorts whereas UK winter diesel ensures operation down to a minimum temperature of -15 degrees C.



* In an AA-Populus study of 2,000 AA members who were planning to take a winter holiday in 2013, 18 per cent say they don’t buy travel insurance.  In a separate poll, 11% said they thought the free EHIC card was a substitute for insurance.

(31 December 2014)


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