Driving in Europe Advise
A few simple steps can help ensure your driving trip to mainland Europe runs smoothly. Much of the best advice is common sense – ensure that your trip is well-planned, that your vehicle is in good working order and that you take your time.
However, rules and regulations vary from country to country – our checklist below is not intended to be comprehensive but covers what we think are the most important
Documents you should take with you:driving licence with paper counterpart if applicablevehicle registration document (V5)passportEuropean breakdown call-out number, Breakdown cover, make sure your policy includes European cover – if it doesn’t, don’t worry – it’s easy to top it up. Just call your insurance company or email customer care and normaly they happy to help. If you don’t currently have breakdown cover, you can get an online quote in seconds for either annual European cover or Single-Trip.
Breaking down on motorways in France
If you breakdown on a motorway in France you will have to use the emergency phones at the side of the road to call out the recovery service operated by the French police – nobody else is permitted to attend broken down vehicles on this type of road. You will be charged a fee, but if you ask to be taken to the nearest exit slip, you can ask your own breakdown service provider to take you from there.
French roads, new drivers and speed limits
Whilst on the subject of motorways, it’s worth noting that in France lower speed limits apply to visiting drivers who have held a driving licence for less than two years (motorways 110kph rather than 130kph, open roads 80kph rather than 90kph and dual carriageways 100kph rather than 110kph)
Alcohol and driving
Alcohol limits for driver vary slightly from country to country – the best advice is to avoid drink completely if you are driving. As of July 2012, cars must also carry a breathalyzer and it is likely the law will be enforced as of November 2012. These are available on the high street from around £2 and may cost significantly more if bought on the ferry.
Don’t assume your car insurance covers your trip abroad – most policies include basic third party cover for driving in Europe but the only way to be certain of your level of cover is to read your policy or contact your provider.
Some degree of reduced-cost care is available in most European countries, but the service is not always comprehensive and the cost of repatriation in the event of an emergency is never covered. It’s always best to have a medical insurance or european medical card.
If you have young children and are hiring a car abroad, you might consider taking your own child seat with you. It might seem like a hassle, but the seats provided by the car hire company get a lot of use (and abuse) and to make matters worse, if it is a model you are unfamiliar with you may find the local staff unhelpful – they are often told that for reasons of legal liability they are not allowed to fit the seats themselves.
A GB sticker on the back of your car is compulsory wherever you are driving in Europe, unless you have number plates that include the GB euro-symbol. If you have neither of these you could receive an on-the-spot fine.Reflective tabards and warning triangles
France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria and Croatia all require that drivers carry a reflective jacket or tabard for use if the car breaks down.
All cars in Europe must carry a warning triangle, and cars in France must carry a reflective tabbard, replacement bulbs and a first aid kit. The ferry companies will gladly remind you of this and charge around £50 for these items if you buy them onboard – Tesco sells a kit for less than £10.
As of July 2012, cars must also carry a breathalyzer. These are available on the high street from around £2. Again, these are likely to cost significantly more if you buy on the ferry.
You will need to adjust your car’s headlamps to suit driving on the right as failure to do so will dazzle oncoming drivers and could land you with a fine. Headlamp beam converter kits are widely available but Halogen or Xenon headlamps may need adjustment by your dealer.
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