Driving abroad

Foreign and Commonwealth Office and AA advice before hitting the road

Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is partnering with the AA to remind drivers to do their research before they hit the road

Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is partnering with the AA to remind drivers to do their research before they hit the road

The October half-term is a popular time for families to holiday in Europe.  With thousands predicted to travel by car or motor home for the half-term break next week, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is partnering with the AA to remind motorists to do their research before they hit the road.

The FCO and the AA have created a checklist with useful advice for motorists intending to drive abroad.  It aims to help ensure that British holidaymakers understand the road conditions, driving standards and local laws in Europe before they set off.

This follows research* by the AA which reveals that more than two-fifths (43%) of drivers say they drive outside the UK at least occasionally, with nearly a quarter of those doing so at least once per year or more (12% overall). 

Top worries when driving abroad

Research** from the AA also showed that the top worries for British drivers on European roads are:

  • suffering an accident (19%)
  • not knowing the rules of the road (13%)
  • breaking down (10%), and
  • dealing with the language barrier (7%)

While getting lost and being a victim of crime both worry 5% of motorists.

Adequate preparation can go a long way to helping ensure a safe and enjoyable trip

John Heppenstall, FCO Head of Consular Campaigns

An incredible experience

John Heppenstall, Head of Consular Campaigns at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said:

“A driving holiday overseas can be an incredible experience.  But as the AA’s research shows, it can also be daunting for drivers, particularly for those driving abroad for the first time.  Adequate preparation can go a long way to helping ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.

“Simple steps like checking what documents you need to take with you and researching the local driving laws, along with ensuring you have the proper car, travel and breakdown cover, can help you stay on course.”

If you’ve familiarised yourself with local rules there’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy the freedom of the often less-congested roads of Europe

Rosie Sanderson, AA Head of International Motoring

Savvy drivers

Rosie Sanderson, Head of International Motoring at the AA, said:

“There are many things a savvy driver should consider – for instance, check that your comprehensive car insurance will go with you when you cross the Channel, as not all do. 

“Ensure you have the compulsory equipment for each country you’re driving through and if hiring a car, check with the hire company before you go to find out if you need a ‘licence check code’ available from the DVLA***."

She adds: “If you’ve familiarised yourself with local rules there’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy the freedom of the often less-congested roads of Europe.”

Travellers can also consult the FCO’s advice on driving abroad on GOV.UK, and explore the FCO driving abroad widget (right).

Before you buckle up:

However, motorists can get caught out with unusual road laws. Here are a few examples:

  • France has banned the use of headphones/headsets (any device that is attached to the ear) when driving
  • From 2016, motorcyclists in France will also have to wear reflective jackets if immobilised due to emergency/breakdown
  • In Austria, a warning triangle is compulsory for two-wheeled vehicles and dashboard cameras are prohibited
  • It is prohibited to carry bicycles on the back of a car in Portugal
  • In Malta, you can be fined for not stopping at an amber light

(22 October 2015)

* Populus interviewed 20,846 AA members in an online poll in February 2015: 43% of those polled have driven outside the UK within the past five years; 12% at least once per year. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules
**Populus interviewed 17,269 AA members planning to drive in Europe in an online poll between 20-26 August 2015:
***Following ending of the paper counterpart (except in Northern Ireland) motorists must
obtain a licence check code from DVLA for which their driver number, post code and National Insurance number are required.  The code, valid for three weeks, allows a third party such as police or a car hire firm to check the driver’s online record.

About FCO ‘Know Before You Go’ campaign

The FCO ‘Know Before You Go’ campaign targets a number of audiences, from gap year students to package holidaymakers; sports fans to older travellers and people visiting friends and family abroad.  The campaign works with more than 400 travel industry partners to communicate its messages.

If you have any enquiries for FCO consular staff before you go or while abroad you can use the FCO’s Twitter service @FCOtravel.  This service adds to the ways that British people travelling or living overseas can already get in touch with the FCO: by emailing our travel advice team or contacting local consular staff.

You can keep up-to-date with the latest FCO travel advice by signing up to the FCO’s Facebook and Twitter feeds: www.facebook.com/fcotravel or twitter.com/fcotravel.

 

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