Driving abroad can be a minefield, with an array of different traffic laws to negotiate. We’ve rounded up some of the best tips to follow to make sure you stay safe when driving abroad this summer.
Most important of all, make sure you know which side of the road to drive on, in each of the countries you plan to visit. Police officers have a variety of powers depending upon the country they work in, so being aware of the speed limits on different roads and general rules of the road should help you avoid on-the-spot fines too.
Check your car insurance policy
Making sure your insurer covers you driving abroad for the duration of your trip if you plan to take your own car, is also crucial, motoring body GEM Motoring Assist advises. Roadside assistance and emergency repair cover, which protects you when driving out of the UK, is a wise idea too, to avoid being marooned in an unfamiliar country. Additionally, many drivers will want to look for cover which includes recovery of their vehicle to the UK. Similarly, acquiring free EHICs (European Health Insurance Card) for all passengers from www.ehic.org.uk may save headaches in the event you need medical treatment while in the EU or Switzerland.
British cars must also display number plates complete with nationality markers (unless GB stickers are displayed), while headlight deflectors should be used if you plan to drive on the right. It’s also a good idea to take a small amount of safety equipment including a fire extinguisher, first aid kit, high-vis jackets for all occupants and two warning triangles when heading off on a long trip abroad.
Remember to take safety gear with you
Other valuable kit includes a disposable camera and notebook, for logging details of any incidents you may encounter en route, while carrying replacement bulbs and fuses is a legal requirement in some countries. All drivers will want to take a spare pair of glasses or contact lenses to be on the safe side, too.
Following the DVLA’s decision to scrap the paper part of the driving licence, hiring a car abroad is set to become more tricky. Motorists will now have to obtain a code from the DVLA – which is valid for 72 hours – to give to the rental car company, either by logging onto the ‘DVLA Share Driving Licence’ service or calling the DVLA on 0300 083 0013.
Filling up abroad can also be problematic, with the most expensive fuel often being sold at motorway service stations, with much lower prices often available at supermarkets. Many service stations are not open on Sundays or bank holidays either, while 24-hour stations in France rarely accept UK credit cards, so you may want to make sure you always have enough cash on you to cover top-ups.
Read up on local driving laws
There are a number of other specific rules in place across Europe. Radar speed camera detectors are now illegal in most European countries, while every driver in France must carry a self-breathalyser kit. Those driving in Spain, however, must carrying two warning triangles along with spare glasses for all drivers who wear them.
Drivers in Luxembourg on the other hand must make sure they fit portable sat navs to their windscreens correctly to avoid being slapped with a fine, while it is against the law to run out of fuel on the motorway in Germany. Other countries have very strict drink-driving limits – with Sweden and Norway allowing a quarter of the blood-alcohol level allowed in the UK. Hungary and Slovakia, however, have a zero tolerance approach to drink-driving.