Using a car abroad is a great way of discovering a country, but it's essential to know the regulations and insurance implications before you go. Whether you’re taking your own car abroad or hiring one on holiday, it’s worth getting everything in order before you set off.
1. Know before you go
Using a car abroad is a great way of discovering a country, but it's essential to know the regulations and insurance implications before you go.
Whether you’re taking your own car abroad or hiring one on holiday, it’s worth getting everything in order before you set off.
For emergency services in mainland Europe, dial 112.
Note: you need to be aged at least 18 to drive in Europe and at least 21 years old if you want to hire a car.
If you’re planning to drive in the EU after 29 March 2019, you will need a Green Card - an international certificate of insurance which guarantees that UK motorists have the necessary third-party insurance cover to drive in the EU. You need to present a physical copy of the Green Card on green paper to be allowed to drive in EU countries, as digital copies are not currently accepted.
We won’t charge you for issuing a Green Card, but you need to contact us at least a month before you leave.
2. Car insurance
Take your Certificate of Insurance to prove you have car insurance and third party cover while driving abroad.
All car insurance providers are required to give you at least the minimum legally required cover in any EU country (third party liability cover in the UK) – but not all providers automatically extend this cover to include accidental damage or loss.
90 days’ cover in Europe comes as standard with our Car Insurance, which protects you against accidental damage, injury, theft or loss. You can also buy additional Breakdown Cover.
Green cards (international certificate that acts as proof of insurance in Europe) are not strictly necessary in the EU but will become a requirement on 29 March 2019. Contact us if you’re not sure.
3. Travel insurance
Car insurance can cover personal injury, but it may not cover all medical costs after an accident. EU agreements mean that you can access free or low-cost emergency treatment in Europe as long as you have your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), but you won’t be covered for emergency repatriation in case of serious injury. You should take out Travel Insurance to cover medical costs in case of a car accident.
4. Staying safe
To reduce risk of breakdown or mechanical trouble while abroad, take your car in for a service before you leave.
Do a quick safety check before you travel - ensure the spare tyre is in working order and you have the necessary jacks and equipment to change it.
Check the oil and water levels and carry spare windscreen wash and a spare tyre with you just in case.
Essentials to take with you:
Your insurer's claims telephone number and if you have European breakdown cover, their number as well.
Your car insurance certificate, policy booklet and schedule.
Your vehicle registration document or certificate (V5 or V5C) or your vehicle on-hire certificate (VE 103). If you don't have one, you can get this through the DVLA, however it can take at least 14 days to get one.
Your passport and driving licence - make sure the details on it are up-to-date before you travel.
A spare set of keys.
Keep these things with you when you're driving, but remember not to leave them in your car.
It's also a good idea to have:
A spare tyre (where fitted).
A first-aid kit.
A warning triangle and high visibility jacket.
A torch, tool-kit, spare headlight bulbs, fire extinguisher.
Spare windscreen wash and a large bottle of water.
Set of headlamp converters to adjust your lights for driving on the right.
Snow tyres or chains, antifreeze and window scrapers if you’re driving in cold weather.
In some European countries, such as Austria, it is compulsory for you to carry a high-vis jacket, warning triangle and first aid kit - not doing so results in on-the-spot fines.
5. Speed limits
Always drive under the speed limits on motorways and highways abroad. The limit on major roads in the UK is 70mph, but limits in other countries vary so always check before you travel.
6. Drink-driving limits
Alcohol limits for driving are lower in mainland Europe than in the UK. British law limits 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood (0.08%), but EU countries including Spain, France and Finland only allow 0.05% before you are breaking the law. In Sweden the alcohol limit is just 0.02%. Know your limit and don’t drink and drive.
7. International Driving Permit (IDP)
An IDP is a formal document that translates the details on your driving licence into several languages. This allows foreign authorities to check your identity and driving permissions with ease, for example, the type of vehicles you're allowed to drive and how long your licence is valid for. A current full UK driving licence is valid in the EU / EEA.
You can apply for an IDP at your local Post Office, the AA or the RAC. You need to be a UK resident, have passed your driving test and be over 18-years-old. A small fee is usually payable.
8. Adjust your headlamps for driving on the right
Most motoring accessory shops and motoring organisations sell headlamp beam converters.
Dip your headlights or use sidelights when driving through tunnels.
You must drive with dipped headlights on all roads at all times in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, and in Finland you have to use dipped headlights outside built-up areas.
9. Other driving regulations differences
Different countries have different regulations, but there are a few things that are always useful to remember:
On roundabouts, traffic already on the roundabout has priority.
Make sure you have small change in the correct currency with you to pay road tolls.
Always give priority to buses and military vehicles - you have to give way to trams in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Finally remember, driving is on the right in all European countries, except the UK, Irish Republic, Cyprus and Malta.
If you haven't made an insurance claim for a couple of years, you'll probably qualify for a No Claims Discount on your Car Insurance premiums.
John Lewis Finance is a trading name of John Lewis plc. John Lewis plc is an appointed representative (Financial Services Register No. 416011) of Covea Insurance plc. Registered in England No. 233462. Registered office 171 Victoria Street, London, SW1E 5NN.
Car Insurance arranged by John Lewis Finance is underwritten by Covea Insurance plc. Covea Insurance plc is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority (Financial Services Register No. 202277). Registered in England and Wales No. 613259. Registered office Norman Place, Reading, RG1 8DA.