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Driving in Europe - before you go



Before you leave for your holiday, there are a number of things you can do to ensure that you are prepared for any eventuality – saving you time, money and stress while you’re far from home.

  • Familiarise yourself with the driving laws of the country you are visiting. This means more than just checking what side of the road to drive on – it should also include speed limits; what paperwork or documentation is required by law; alcohol limits and any other important rules and regulations
  • Check what compulsory in-car equipment is required in the country or countries you will be driving in. For example, in July 2012 it became compulsory for all cars on French roads to carry a portable breathalyser. The kits enable motorists to check if they are under the French limit of 50mg per 100ml of blood which is 30mg lower than the UK. Motorists in France are also legally obliged to carry a warning triangle and fluorescent vest
  • Check with your insurance company that you’re fully covered to drive abroad. If you don’t have overseas cover, you will only have the minimum legal cover (usually third party only) in the EU and you may need to pay an extra premium to extend your insurance cover
  • Got a European Health Insurance card (EHIC)? This entitles you to reduced or free state healthcare if you fall ill or are injured when travelling abroad. It is no substitute for a travel insurance policy. More details available at:  http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/EHIC/Pages/about-the-ehic.aspx
     
  • Never assume your breakdown cover extends abroad. You may need to increase your existing cover or take out standalone European Breakdown cover to avoid unnecessary stress and significant additional expense if anything goes wrong
  • Create a travel pack containing all the appropriate documentation you will need to comply with the legal requirements of the country you are visiting and to help if you get into difficulties. In addition to your passport, driving licence and driving licence counterpart this may include: vehicle registration document (V5); motor insurance certificate; International Driving Permit (if required or advised); breakdown policy and contact numbers; travel insurance documents and any emergency helpline numbers
  • Prepare your car before your trip by making sure it is serviced. There are also simple things you can do yourself to make sure your car is in good, roadworthy condition such as checking your tyre pressures and tread and topping up your oil and checking your coolant level. These simple tasks are vital to keeping your car running smoothly on the road and to stop your engine overheating
  • Don’t forget that your vehicle must display the appropriate country identification letters (e.g. GB). Failure to do so may result in an on-the-spot fine, but if your number plates include the GB Euro symbol, you do not need a sticker within the EU
  • Stock up on your in-car ‘tool kit’ – make sure you have a breakdown kit in your car including: fire extinguisher, first-aid kit, tool kit, torch, blanket, warning triangle and reflective jacket1. A jack and wheel removal tools in case of a puncture could come in extremely handy when you’re on the move abroad. You can buy European driving kits and other essential items at the RAC shop, visit: http://www.racshop.co.uk/driving-in-europe.html


1All drivers in France, including drivers of vehicles from outside France, must have one warning triangle and one reflective jacket in their vehicle at all times.

 

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