Driving abroad

Documents to take and general advice before you take your car abroad

You may be required to produce your documents at any time - make sure they're in order before you go

You may be required to produce your documents at any time - make sure they're in order before you go

You may be asked to produce your documents at any time. Make sure that they are in order and readily available to avoid the risk of a police fine or even having your car taken away.

It is your responsibility to ensure that you have all documentation needed to comply with the requirements of immigration, customs, health and other relevant regulations.

If you are travelling in a vehicle other than a car or motorcycle, or you are taking a boat, you may need additional documents.

Documents to take

  • valid full (not provisional) driving licence
  • driving licence paper counterpart – if you have a photocard licence
  • an International Driving Permit (when necessary)
  • vehicle registration document (V5c) – the original not a copy
  • motor insurance certificate
  • passport(s)
  • your travel insurance documents

You may need a visa for certain countries too.

Check with your motor insurer to make sure you have the cover you expect when driving abroad. They may ask to be notified when you travel abroad or provide only third party cover when you do.

Borrowed, hired or leased

If you are taking a vehicle abroad that is company owned, hired or borrowed you will need a letter of authorisation from the registered keeper.

In addition you will need to take either the original vehicle registration document (V5c) or a Vehicle on Hire certificate (VE103).

The VE103 is the only legal alternative to the vehicle registration document and can be obtained from BVRLA/All fleet services on 01452 881037.

In an emergency

112 is the European emergency call number you can dial anywhere in the European Union in case of accident, assault or in any other distress situation.

Crime

Don't leave handbags or other attractive items in view at any time, even when you are in the car.

Contact the Foreign Office Travel Advice Unit for crime and personal safety advice before you travel.

Drinking and driving

There is only one safe rule – if you drink, don't drive. Laws are strict and the penalties severe.

Breathalysers in France

1 March 2012 – the French government confirmed that from 1 July 2012 drivers of all motor vehicles and motorcycles (excluding mopeds) must carry a breathalyser. The regulation was to be enforced from 1 November 2012 (later postponed to 1 March 2013) and anyone stopped after that date who fails to produce a breathalyser when requested was to receive an on-the-spot fine of €11.

January 2013 – the French government announced that the implementation of the sanction (fine) for drivers not carrying a breathalyser – a fine of €11 – has been postponed indefinitely.

So you are still required to carry a self-test breathalyser when driving in France but there is no current legislation demanding a fine for non-compliance.

The original official announcement stated that one unused, certified breathalyser must be produced showing the French certification mark NF. The breathalyser produced has to be in date – single-use breathalysers normally have a validity of 12 months.

Medical treatment

If you’re going to a European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland, make sure you’ve got a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

The EHIC card entitles you to reduced-cost, sometimes free, medical treatment in most European countries but the cover provided under the respective national schemes is not always comprehensive – and the cost of bringing a person back to the UK in the event of illness or death is never covered so you should make sure you have adequate travel insurance as well.

Read the Department of Health booklet 'Health Advice for Travellers'

Apply for a European Health Insurance Card

Credit cards

UK issued credit cards are not always accepted at stores or petrol stations in other countries. Check with the card company before you go, particularly if you plan to rely on the card for payments.

Mobile phones

Use of a hand-held mobile phone while driving is prohibited in many countries.

Pets

Contact the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) helpline on 0870 241 1710 if you are planning to travel with a pet.

Show your card

An AA personal membership card includes the 'show your card' symbol on the reverse which gives access to hundreds of discounts in Europe and the USA.

Spectacles

Take a spare pair of spectacles if you wear them – especially if you are the sole driver.

Think right

It's easy to forget to drive on the right, particularly after doing something familiar, such as leaving a petrol station or car park.

GB stickers in the AA Shop

GB sticker

You must display a GB sign - failure to comply could result in an on-the-spot fine.

If your car has number plates that include the GB euro-symbol (Europlates) you don't have to display a conventional GB 'sticker' within the EU.

In some countries outside the EU a GB 'sticker' is required even if you have euro-plates, so it is always safer to display one.

The distinguishing sign for vehicles travelling in International Traffic is governed by the 1949 Road Traffic Convention, annexe 4 of which stipulates the size and appearance of the sign - one to three letters in capital latin characters with a minimum height of 80mm (3.1in.) and a stroke width of 10mm (0.4in.). The letters shall be painted in black on a white background of elliptical form with the major axis horizontal.

Reflective jackets

Many countries require all drivers including visitors to carry reflective jackets.

In Norway and Portugal they are compulsory for residents only but we still recommend you carry them.

The AA recommends that you carry at least two reflective jackets/waistcoats in the passenger compartment - one for the driver and one for a passenger. Our country-by-country advice includes specific national requirements.

Reflective jackets must conform to EU Standard BS EN 471: 1994 Class 1 or 2.

Car hire companies don't all provide reflective jackets (or other compulsory equipment) as standard in their cars. Check with the hire company before you go.

Reflective clothing for motorcyclists

January 2013 – a law that made reflective equipment compulsory for motorcycle riders and passengers in France from 1 January 2013 has been abolished.

The requirement was to have been that clothing must have a minimum reflective surface of 150cm2 (approx 23in2) in total, either in one piece or in several pieces, and must be worn between the neck and waist.

Headlights

Adjust the beam pattern to suit driving on the right so that the dipped beam doesn't dazzle oncoming drivers.

The legal requirement is to 'not cause dazzle to oncoming drivers' rather than specifically to adjust/convert headlamp beam pattern.

Delays and bad weather can't always be predicted so even if you're only making a short trip and don't plan to drive at night we recommend that you at least carry a set of headlamp beam convertors with you – unless your lights can be adapted without them.

  • Don't leave it to the last minute to find out what you need to do – it might be necessary to have a dealer make an adjustment for you.
  • Beam converter kits may not be suitable for all types of headlight – check carefully.

High-intensity discharge (HID), halogen or xenon headlights

  • Some headlights have an internal 'shutter' that can be moved into place by a screw or lever adjustment at the back of the headlamp unit, but others are less convenient and the dealer will need to make the adjustment.
  • Some headlamp beam converter kits are suitable for these types of light too.

Remove headlamp converters as soon as you return to the UK.

Warning triangle

Warning triangle

Many countries require visiting motorists to carry a warning triangle. Check our country by country advice before you go.

Leaded petrol

Leaded petrol and Lead Replacement Petrol (LRP) are no longer generally available in northern European countries. You should be able to buy antiwear additives but it's best to take a small supply of the additive you use at home.

Overloading

Don't overload the car as, safety risks apart, this can incur fines and possibly invalidate your insurance.

Booze cruises

Breakdowns caused by overloading are common, particularly around Christmas. Carrying five cases of wine is equivalent to having another passenger in the car and if you overload you could pay more in repair bills than you saved on your shopping.

Overloading can:

  • damage suspension
  • burn out the clutch
  • cause punctures or uneven wear on tyres

Rear-view mirrors

A door or wing-mirror on the left-hand side is very helpful when driving on the right. Get one fitted if your vehicle doesn't have one.

Servicing

Service your car well in advance to reduce the chance of expensive breakdowns while you're abroad.

Speed-trap detection devices

The use or possession of devices to detect police radar is illegal in most European countries. Penalties can include fine, driving ban, and even imprisonment.

Some countries now also prohibit the use of GPS based navigation systems which have maps indicating the location of fixed speed cameras meaning that you must deactivate the 'fixed speed camera' PoI (Point of Interest) function.

Travel insurance

It's always a good idea to take out travel insurance for your trip abroad to ensure that you're covered for accidents and emergencies. For a competitive quote for travel insurance, including special trips such as skiing, backpacking and weddings, go to AA Travel Insurance.

Tyres

Check all tyres for condition, pressure and tread depth before you go.

Most countries have the same requirement as the UK - a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm over the central three-quarters of the tread and around the whole circumference.

Tyres wear out quickly after they get down to 3mm so if they are this worn think about getting them replaced before you go.

Some require winter tyres at certain times of the year in which case a minimum tread depth of 3mm is generally required (the Czech Republic now requires 4mm).

Snow chains

Snow chains are important for any winter motoring and compulsory in some countries even when using winter tyres.

(2 July 2014)

 

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