Tips on driving your car abroad

If you’re taking your car with you next time you holiday abroad, it’s a good idea to start preparing for your trip several weeks in advance. Start by checking that you have adequate car insurance and breakdown cover, then put together a checklist using the following information to ensure you don’t miss anything important.

Car insurance

About a month before you set off, inform your insurance company that you’ll be driving your car abroad and check exactly what you’re covered for. You should never assume that your policy gives you the same level of cover abroad as it does in the UK. Check that your policy covers you for theft, fire, damage and Personal Liability. If it doesn’t cover all these, it’s advisable to upgrade your policy there will probably be an additional charge to do this. And check how many days you can be covered for abroad. It’s usually 90 days but some policies only cover you up to 30. You also need to be sure that you’re covered for the countries you’ll be driving in. Those in the EU are usually covered, as well as Switzerland and your car insurance provider can advise on any other countries their policy covers.

If you’re hiring a car rather than taking your own car with you, it’s also worth checking that your car hire includes adequate insurance, especially in the USA.

Breakdown cover

Make sure that your vehicle breakdown cover can extend to driving abroad – you’re more likely to have an accident abroad as you’re driving in an unfamiliar country – often on the other side of the road.

Documentation

You’ll need to take the following documents with you:

  • A valid full driving licence, as well as the paper counterpart if you have a photocard licence
  • The original vehicle registration document
  • Your motor insurance certificate
  • Details of breakdown or travel insurance, and emergency contact numbers
  • Your passport

Give yourself plenty of time to get these together so you’re not frantically searching your house at the last minute!

Check your car

Get your car checked or serviced several weeks before your trip – don’t leave it until the last minute. Check the filters, belts, fluid levels, and have the oil changed. If you’re driving in Europe, you’ll also have to adjust your headlamp beam to suit driving on the right, so that the dipped beam doesn’t shine in the eyes of oncoming drivers. Kits to do this are widely available or you can ask your car dealer to adjust them for you. And if your car doesn’t have a wing mirror on the left-hand side, it’s a good idea to get one fitted if you’ll be driving on the right.

Equip yourself

You will need a GB sticker on your car, or Euro plates that include the GB symbol. A warning triangle is compulsory in some European countries, and recommended in others. And two reflective jackets or waistcoats are compulsory if you’re visiting Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria or Croatia.

Get a fire extinguisher, first-aid kit, tool kit and spare bulbs for your car. And a spare set of car keys might come in handy! If you’re planning on driving in the winter months, put a set of wheel chains in the boot of your car and make sure you know how to put them on.

General advice

It sounds obvious, but check you have up-to-date maps of the countries you’ll be driving in. And work out your route thoroughly in advance; check if any major roadworks are planned. Get to know the road signs and general road rules of a country before you set off. Take regular breaks when driving, but be careful when using rest stops along the road. Drive past any that are not well lit or you feel are generally unsafe. Remember to lock your car doors, and avoid leaving your possessions in an unattended vehicle.

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