The guide to driving abroad

Last updated by on March 19th, 2019

Alert: Some on the information on this page may no longer be relevant post-Brexit. For the most up to date information, please visit GOV.UK

Taking the car abroad can be a daunting prospect – having to contend with driving on the other side of the road and abide by a whole set of different driving laws, however, it can also be exciting and offer you the freedom you desire.

So, if you dream of driving independence when you’re on holiday, here’s what you need to know to help turn it into a reality.

Can I drive my car in Europe?

If you’ve got a UK driving licence you can drive within the European Union (EU) and in European Economic Area (EEA) countries – such as Norway.

If you’re looking to drive further afield you’ll need an International Driving Permit (IDP). To apply for one, you have to be 18 or over, live in the UK and have a full driving licence. Permits currently cost £5.50 and are available from the Post Office.

What documents will I need?

Wherever you drive in Europe, you should have to hand:

• Your valid, full UK driving licence
• Your driving record – you can print this out before you go, or have what’s known as a ‘check-code’
• The original V5C registration form of your car if you own it
• A VE103 form if you’ve borrowed the car, or hired it
• Your car insurance certificate
• Your travel insurance details
• Your passport or appropriate visa.

On the road essentials

It’s not just your paperwork that needs to be in order when you’re driving in Europe, you’ll also need to pack a few motoring essentials, as well as ensure your car meets certain criteria – so, remember to;

• put a GB sticker on your car if you don’t have Euro-style number plates with GB designation

• take a reflective vest in case of a break down or an emergency – wearing one is a legal requirement in some EU countries

• pack a warning triangle, in some countries this is just a recommendation but in others it’s a legal requirement

• adapt your headlights so that the beam doesn’t dazzle oncoming drivers – in most cases buying converter stickers will ensure your beam is correctly positioned for driving on the right-hand side of the road

• take a breathalyser with you if you’re travelling to France where it’s compulsory (although it’s a useful tool wherever you go).

Needless to say, your car should be in the best health possible. It’s worth checking that lights and indicators are all fully functioning and that tyre treads are legal and still have lots of life left in them.

On-the-spot fines are fairly common in Europe so it pays to be as prepared as possible.


What is a low emission zone (LEZ)?

Low emission zones in Europe share the same purpose as those in the UK – to help reduce air quality by deterring the most polluting vehicles.

LEZs exist in 15 European countries and within more than 200 cities – each of them with different rules about what vehicles face penalties for entering them so it’s key to double check before you set off.

Better still, try and plan your European route as much as you can before you go, so you know exactly what to expect – you can find details and advice on what to do at: Urban Access Regulations in Europe.

Car insurance for driving abroad

Checking whether your existing policy covers you for driving in Europe should be number one on your holiday checklist.

If your policy does cover you, bear in mind that you may not automatically receive the same level of insurance while you’re away.

For example – just because you have a comprehensive policy in the UK, doesn’t mean you’ll get comprehensive cover abroad. In many cases your insurer will only compensate you for third-party cover level damage, meaning that you’ll need to pay for your own repairs if you’re involved in an accident.

If you’re worried about this, then you can usually ask your insurer to increase your protection, but you’ll probably have to pay a bit more for this.

If your current policy doesn’t include EU cover, then you can find stand-alone policies.

Whether you’re already insured or need to look for a separate policy, consider;

• how long you’ll be travelling for and make sure you’re covered appropriately
• if your insurer has an emergency 24-hour helpline
• whether your insurer will compensate you for emergency overnight stays if your car breaks down and can’t be repaired quickly
• double-checking that your policy covers you for the country you’re going to.

Getting a Green Card

If you’re only driving in Europe and EEA countries you won’t need a Green Card. However, it’s worth knowing that it’s an internationally recognised document that proves you have appropriate car insurance. It’s designed to be a quick and efficient way of processing and settling claims.

If you plan on venturing further afield, you can ask your insurer to provide you with one free of charge.

Why search for car insurance with

With, searching for cover that suits your needs is simple, quick and easy.

Find a policy online or speak to one of the team who can help with all your insurance needs. Plus, our Cheapest Price Guarantee* means you can be confident about getting value for money – giving you more to enjoy as you cruise across the continent.

Related articles you may also be interested in

European car insurance
What is an International Driving Permit?

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