General advice before you drive abroad

The documents to take and things to do or check 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 required to produce your documents at any time - make sure they're in order before you go

Before you venture across the channel it's a good idea to familiarise yourself with the rules of the road where you're going. They're not the same as at home and you won't want to get caught out.

Wherever you're heading, here's our general advice.

Documents

You may be asked to show your documents at any time and could be fined or even have your car taken away if they're not in order.

You must carry:

  • Your valid full (not provisional) driving licence
  • A copy of your DVLA driver record and a licence check code if needed.
  • An International Driving Permit (when necessary)
  • Your vehicle's registration document (V5c) (the original not a copy)
  • Your motor insurance certificate (Your insurer may ask to be told when you're going abroad and only provide third party cover when you do.)
  • Your passport(s)
  • Your travel insurance documents
  • You may need a visa for certain countries too

If you're taking a boat or going in a vehicle other than a car or motorcycle you may need additional documents.

Borrowed, hired or leased

If you're taking a company-owned, hired or borrowed vehicle you'll need a letter of authorisation from the registered keeper as well as the original vehicle registration document (V5c) or a Vehicle on Hire Certificate (VE103).

The VE103 is the only legal alternative to the V5c and you can get one from BVRLA/All fleet services on 01452 881037.

Low emission zones and urban restrictions

Many cities across Europe now operate low emission zones, congestion charge schemes and other restricted access schemes.

Many of these affect foreign-registered vehicles and  some require registration before you travel.

Travel insurance

It's always a good idea to take out travel insurance so 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.

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

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

The EHIC entitles you to reduced-cost (sometimes free) medical treatment in most European countries but the cover provided is not always comprehensive.

The cost of bringing you home in the event of illness or death is never covered so you should make sure you have adequate travel insurance as well.

Apply for a European Health Insurance Card

Credit cards

You could find that your UK-issued credit cards are not always accepted at stores or petrol stations in other countries.

We recommend that you check with the card company before you go, particularly if you're going to rely on using the card.

Pets

If you're planning to travel with a pet, make sure you're familiar with official rules and advice.

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.


Your safety

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

Emergency number

You can call 112 anywhere in the European Union in case of an accident, assault or 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.

Drinking and driving

Legal limits do vary and are explained in our country-by-country touring tips but there's only one safe rule – if you drink, don't drive. Laws are strict and penalties severe.

Mobile phones

Using a hand-held mobile phone while driving is prohibited in most countries.

If you need glasses for driving

Take a spare pair of glasses, especially if you are going to be the only driver

Think right

Bear in mind that 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

Your vehicle

GB sticker

You must display a GB sign and could be fined if you don't.

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

Outside the EU, some countries still require a GB sticker even if you have euro-plates, so it is always safer to display one.

The letters must be black on a white, elliptical background.  They must be at least 80mm high with a stroke width of 10mm.

Reflective jackets

Many countries require all drivers including visitors to carry reflective jackets and wear them as soon as anyone gets out of a vehicle in an emergency or break down.

We recommend carrying at least two reflective jackets/waistcoats – one for the driver and one for a passenger – in the passenger compartment. They must meet EU Standard BS EN 471: 1994 Class 1 or 2. 

Our country-by-country advice includes specific national requirements.

Car hire companies don't always provide reflective jackets or other compulsory equipment as standard so you should check with the hire company before you go.

Headlights

The legal requirement is to 'not cause dazzle to oncoming drivers' rather than specifically to adjust or convert your headlamp beam pattern to suit driving on the right.

But you can't always predict delays and bad weather so even if you're only going for a short trip and don't expect to drive at night we still 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 – you might need to get a dealer to make an adjustment for you.
  • Beam converter kits may not be suitable for all types of headlight so check carefully.
  • Make sure you remove headlamp converters as soon as you return to the UK.

Warning triangle

We recommend that you always carry a warning triangle. It's compulsory in some countries as shown in our  country-by-country advice.

Leaded petrol

Leaded petrol and Lead Replacement Petrol (LRP) are not 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

You could be fined for driving an overloaded car. It's dangerous too and could invalidate your insurance.

Booze cruises

Carrying five cases of wine is equivalent to having another passenger in the car, and breakdowns caused by overloading are common, particularly around Christmas. burn out the clutch

Rear-view mirrors

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

Servicing

You should get your vehicle serviced well in advance to reduce the chance of a breakdown while you're away.

Tyres

You should check all tyres for condition, pressure and tread depth before you go.

Most countries have the same (1.6mm) minimum tread depth requirement as the UK but bear in mind that tyres wear out quickly when they get down to 3mm so if they're this worn think about new tyres before you go.

Depending on the time of year you might have to get winter tyres fitted.

Snow chains

Snow chains are important for any winter trip and are compulsory in some countries even if you've got winter tyres fitted.

Radar detectors

Using or carrying a police speed trap detection device is illegal in most European countries and penalties can include a fine, driving ban, or even imprisonment.

Some countries also ban you from using a sat nav system that can show fixed speed camera locations so you might have to disable the function before you go.


(updated April 2016)

 

 

European breakdown cover

Driving in Europe? We can help if you break down

European breakdown cover

Check rules and regulations abroad

Select country

Select country

AA Travel Money

AA Travel Money