Driving Abroad

Driving in Europe checklist

There are a number of requirements you might not be aware for when driving in Europe, so it's worth downloading our checklist, as well as reading this guide carefully to find out everything you need to drive in Europe.

We also recommend purchasing a European driving kit as they can prove essential in some countries where it is the law to carry additional items in your car.

Coronavirus update

Please be aware that driving in Europe may be restricted at the moment.

Check the Foreign travel advice section of the GOV.UK website for up to date advice on all European countries.

European driving checklist

This essential checklist will tell you everything you need to know for driving in Europe, from what to take with you to things to remember when you get there.

Important documents for driving in Europe

  1. Full, valid driving licence and national insurance number
  2. Proof of vehicle insurance
  3. Proof of ID (passport)
  4. V5C certificate (the 'log book')
  5. Travel insurance documents
  6. European Breakdown Cover policy number and documents
  7. Before you travel ensure your vehicle’s tax and MOT are valid and up-to-date
  8. Crit’air sticker if driving in France (find out if you need one here)

You may also need to carry other documents with you, namely:

Required equipment for driving in Europe

  1. Reflective jackets (there must be one for each passenger and be kept within the cabin of the car)
  2. Warning triangle (compulsory in most countries)
  3. Headlamp beam deflectors (depending on your car, you’ll either need deflector stickers or have to adjust the beam manually)
  4. Safety helmets are compulsory for riders and passengers of motorcyclists and moped users
  5. UK car sticker (if you don’t have a GB Euro number plate, or no matter what's on you number plate when driving in Cyprus, Malta or Spain)
  6. First aid kit (compulsory in Austria, France and Germany)

Recommended things to take with you for Driving in Europe

  1. Fire extinguisher
  2. Replacement bulbs
  3. A high quality torch
  4. A spare fuel can
  5. Additional engine oil and water (for topping up)
  6. An up-to-date road map or satellite navigation system
  7. Blanket
  8. Sun cream
  9. Refreshments and plenty of water
  10. If you have children, take some games you can play in the car during the journey
  11. Take extra supplies of medication in case you can’t get these abroad
  12. Photocopies of important documents
  13. European Health Insurance card

European Breakdown Cover

Get covered when driving in Europe from just £7. Plus, get a full refund if Covid-19 restrictions prevent travel.†

European Breakdown Cover
European Breakdown Cover

Downloadable driving in Europe checklist

For a comprehensive list of what you need to take with you when driving in Europe with a UK car, our downloadable checklist will have you fully prepared.

View checklist

In addition to the checklist above, the next best thing to do is to familiarise yourself with the driving laws, specific entry requirements and compulsory items to carry for the country/ies you will be driving in.

You can find everything you need to know on our detailed European countries advice pages below.

If the country you are visiting is not on the list use the 'driving advice for every country in Europe' widget to your right (at the bottom of the article on mobile) to find the right country. 

For those travelling to France we also have a further top ten tips for driving through France to keep your knowledge up to date at a glance.

Will Brexit impact my European travel plans?

There is inevitably a degree of uncertainty, but don't let this put you off driving abroad. 

Based on government advice, we recommend that you spend a little extra on an International Driving Permit if you’re planning on driving in Europe. It's better to be safe than sorry.

The RAC will continue to provide breakdown cover through our partners operating within the European Union.

With our European breakdown cover, there is no limit to the costs to get your vehicle home, whether you're travelling to Europe for a single trip or all throughout the year.

If repairs cost more than £500 you can choose to have your car brought home instead of having it repaired in Europe, providing the vehicle is not beyond economical repair.

It is vital that you also have the correct documentation with you – such as an International Driving Permit.

Do I need an insurance green card?

From 2nd August 2021, drivers will no longer require an insurance green card for taking their vehicles to an EU country.

20 tips for driving in Europe: before you leave

European driving checklist

We've teamed up with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to give you some tips on preparing for a great trip, whether you’re driving or travelling abroad.

1. Adjust your headlights

It is a legal requirement not to dazzle oncoming drivers.

Make sure you adjust your headlamps ready for driving on the right-hand side of the road.

Headlamp converters (stickers you put on your headlights) are widely available.

2. Buy a UK sticker

Don’t forget that your vehicle must display the appropriate country identification letters (e.g. UK).

Failure to do so may result in an on-the-spot fine, but if your number plates include the UK Euro symbol, you do not need a sticker within the EU (except in Cyprus, Malta and Spain, where stickers are needed no matter what is shown on your number plate).

3. Make a travel pack

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 and driving licence this may include your 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.

Buy a European Driving Kit from £20.99

Don’t get stung with fines abroad for not having a European Driving Kit.

Buy a European Driving Kit from £20.99
Buy a European Driving Kit from £20.99

4. Check your breakdown cover extends to Europe

You may need to increase your existing cover or take out standalone European breakdown policy to avoid unnecessary stress and significant additional expense if anything goes wrong.

If you need breakdown cover abroad for a short time, why not try our Single Trip European Breakdown Cover, starting from just £6. If you drive to Europe on a regular basis, then our annual trip product will be more suitable for you.

5. Check your car insurance

Make sure your car insurance covers you to drive abroad. 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.

If you’re hiring a car, don’t forget to cover your hire excess. In the event your rental car is damaged or stolen, or if you put the wrong fuel in, your rental company will expect you to pay to repair or replace the vehicle. Car hire excess insurance protects your excess, meaning you can claim back any charges.

6. Need a visa?

Make sure you've got correct visas for the country you are visiting and that your passport is valid. 

Even if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 31 October 2019 it is unlikely that you will need a visa for short trips of 90 days or less according to European Commission proposals. STA Travel is a good resource to find out more about travel visas.

7. First time abroad?

All first-time adult passport applicants must now attend an interview to verify their identity. It now takes up to six weeks to get a first passport. For more information please visit DirectGov.

8. Passport validity check

For certain countries – and in the event of a no deal Brexit – your passport must be valid for six months after the date you travel and be less than 10 years old.

9. Photocopy your passport

Take photocopies of your passport and other important documents and keep these separate from the originals when you travel and/or store them online using a secure data storage site.

DRIVING TO GERMANY? Don't forget your German emissions sticker and get take out European breakdown cover in case you break down in Germany

10. Emergency contact

Make sure you fill in the emergency contact details in your passport. This will make it much easier for the emergency services to contact someone in case of an emergency.

Driving in France Kit from £24.99

Did you know you could be fined up to €530 for not carrying the right kit with you in France?

Driving in France Kit from £24.99
Driving in France Kit from £24.99

11. Share your trip details

Tell a friend or relative where you are going and for how long for – give them some idea of your itinerary if possible and an emergency contact number.

12. Emergency funds

Take enough money for your trip and some back-up funds in a mix of cash and travellers’ cheques – make a note of the cheques' numbers before you go.

13. Travel guide

Invest in a good travel guide to help you plan your trip.

Yes, be spontaneous, but there's nothing more frustrating than walking round in the heat for hours looking for the nearest good restaurant or cashpoint and a guide can point out these with ease.

14. Duty free allowances

Check HM Revenue & Customs Travel website for information on duty-free allowances and any banned goods etc.

15. Vaccine check

Visit a travel health centre or your GP to find out what vaccinations or medication you may need before your trip – do this early as some destinations require vaccinations months in advance of your trip.

16. International Driving Permit

Check whether you need an International Driving Permit in the country you plan to visit.

17. Find the nearest embassy

Check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's website to find out where the nearest embassy is, what services they offer and their opening times – you never know when you might need to contact them and it's better to be safe than sorry.

18. Don't travel without travel insurance 

If you become seriously ill or injured abroad, you will need full travel insurance to cover any medical bills, otherwise you could be left with a hefty bill after you get better – most countries will even charge you if an ambulance is called out.

Also make sure your insurance covers you for any activities you are likely to undertake such as water sports and you are covered should you decide to ride or be a passenger on a motorbike or moped.

19. Get a free European Health Insurance Card

A European health card isn't a substitute for travel insurance, but it does entitle you to free or reduced-cost emergency care in some instances.

To find out more about what they cover, visit the NHS advice page

Also remember, you need to call 112 to contact the emergency services in any EU country.

20. Make sure your car is in good running order

Prepare your car before your trip by making sure it is serviced at your local garage.

There are also simple things you can do yourself to make sure your car is in good, roadworthy condition including the under-the-bonnet check in our video below and checking your tyres are in good condition.

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10 tips for using the road in Europe

Remember most European countries drive on the right-hand side of the road (the exceptions are: the UK, Irish Republic, Cyprus and Malta).

This means that typically, you’ll be negotiating roundabouts in an anti-clockwise direction rather than clockwise!

If you find you have to overtake, exercise extra caution as it is not easy in a right-hand drive car and may be safer when you reach a stretch of dual carriageway.

1. Get on the right track

Remember most European countries drive on the right-hand side of the road (the exceptions are: the UK, Irish Republic, Cyprus and Malta).

This means that typically, you’ll be negotiating roundabouts in an anti-clockwise direction rather than clockwise!

If you find you have to overtake, exercise extra caution as it is not easy in a right-hand drive car and may be safer when you reach a stretch of dual carriageway.

2. Map out your travel plans

Sat-navs are invaluable, but it’s worth double-checking your route with a detailed map of the area.

Remember to bear in mind that sat-nav requirements may differ from country to country – for example, in France, it is illegal to use sat-nav equipment with radar detection indicating where fixed speed cameras are located.

3. Keep the loose change

Many European countries operate toll roads, so make sure you have plenty of loose change in the correct currency to cover the cost of tolls.

It is also worthwhile keeping some spare money to cover any unexpected costs that crop up along the way.

4. Expect the unexpected

Drive carefully and cautiously, taking extra care to be really observant.

Remember the local driving style may be very different to that of the UK.

The advice from the Foreign Office is always to drive defensively when abroad and to expect the unexpected.

5. Stick to the rules

Make sure you obey the rules and regulations of the road.

This means sticking to all the speed limits and observing what we as UK drivers may think are rather obscure rules – e.g. in Spain and Switzerland, if you wear prescription glasses, always carry a spare set; and in Spain, never wear flip flops while driving and in Italy only park in the direction of the flow of traffic.

Observing the local rules will make your holiday go much smoother – attempting to discuss a driving offence with a police officer in a foreign language or using broken English and sign language is never easy!

6. Take a break

Driving is tiring at the best of times but if you are driving overseas in unfamiliar areas, concentrating on driving on the right-hand side of the road and reading different road signs, it can be even more exhausting.

Ensure you take frequent breaks and stop in a safe place for a rest if you are feeling tired.

7. Watch out, thieves about

Protect your car from being broken into by exercising vigilance. Don’t leave valuables in sight, check your vehicle is locked and park in safe, well-lit areas.

8. Beware wear and tear

Any driving holiday when you are using your car for long periods of time may increase wear and tear on your vehicle.

It’s worth checking your tyres, windscreen, mirrors and lights throughout your holiday to be on the safe side.

9. Accidents happen

If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident, contact your insurer immediately and call the police.

Obtain the other driver’s full details together with the names and contact details of any witnesses.

Remember to take photographs of the damage to your vehicle.

10. Use your common sense

Just because you’re on holiday doesn’t mean you throw all your common-sense out of the window!

Always wear your seatbelt and make sure your passengers are wearing theirs, don’t use your mobile phone while driving and make sure you don’t get distracted by your satnav.

General travel tips for Europe

  • Find out about local customs and dress, behave accordingly and obey local laws – there may be serious penalties for breaking a law that might seem trivial at home
  • Be careful when taking photographs, videos or using binoculars. Such activities may be misunderstood, especially near military installations or airports
  • Check with your service provider to make sure your phone works abroad
  • Check whether it’s safe to drink local tap water – if not, stick to bottled water and avoid salads, non-peeling fruit and ice in drinks
  • Check import regulations for food and plants before you attempt to bring them back to the UK – for more information visit their website
  • Hiring a car? You may want to consider car hire excess insurance from the equivalent of £2.99* a day – it could be cheaper than waiting to add it when you collect your car 

For extra guidance on driving abroad, read our answers to some frequently asked questions:

* Based on UK resident buying a single trip policy to cover 10 days car rental in Europe

Driving in Europe frequently asked questions

  • Do you need a permit to drive in Europe?

    You need a valid UK driving licence to drive in the EU. You may also need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in certain European countries outside of the EU.

    If the UK leaves the EU without a deal on October 31 you may also require an IDP for driving in EU countries so if you’re planning on driving in Europe around this date, it’s best to be prepared.

    Check gov.uk to see if an IDP is applicable for the country you’re driving in.

  • Can I drive abroad if I've just passed my test?

    You can drive in Europe as soon as you’ve passed your test, although in most countries the legal driving age is 18.

    You also need to be at least 18 years old to apply for an International Driving Permit, if it is required.

  • How long do you have to be driving before you can drive abroad?

    You can drive in the EU as soon as you pass your UK driving test and receive your full licence – as long as you’re of legal driving age in the country you’re visiting.

    Note that in many countries the legal driving age is 18. You can’t drive abroad using a provisional driving licence.

  • Does a UK driving ban apply abroad?

    Technically no, a UK driving ban does not affect your right to drive elsewhere in the world – except for in Ireland, where the ban will also apply – unless the country you are travelling to recognises disqualifications from foreign countries.

    However, you will need a valid driving licence to drive in most countries so in effect, yes, the ban will prevent you from driving abroad.

  • Can I drive someone else's car abroad?

    Yes, as long as you have a valid driving licence and, if necessary, an International Driving Permit.

    Check your insurance carefully to see if you’re covered to drive someone else’s car abroad, including any restrictions on driving abroad.

    If not, you could ask the car owner to add you to their insurance policy or get temporary or short-term car insurance.

  • How long does an international driving permit last?

    It depends on the type of International Driving Permit (IDP) issued, which will depend on the country you’ll be visiting.

    The 1949 IDP is valid for one year, while the 1968 IDP is valid for up to 3 years, or until your UK driving licence expires, whichever is sooner.

    Use the IDP checker from the Post Office to see which permit you need.

    Learn more about IDPs here.

  • Can I use my old paper driving licence abroad?

    Yes, you can use a valid paper driving licence, issued before 31 March 2000, to drive abroad in countries that don’t require an International Driving Permit.

    Note that if your name or address has changed you will need to apply for a photocard replacement.

  • Does my car insurance cover Europe?

    All UK driving insurance includes the minimum third-party cover needed to drive in the EU.

    Check your individual policy before you travel to see if includes cover for damage to your car abroad, breakdown assistance or theft.

    For driving in European countries outside the EU, you’ll need to get a Green Card that proves that your insurance includes the minimum cover for that country.

  • What is a car insurance Green Card?

    Green Cards are internationally recognised insurance certificates that are issued by insurance companies in the UK to prove that your vehicle has the minimum insurance cover required for the country you will be driving in. They should be applied for in advance and can take anything from 15 days to one month to process.

    Learn more about car insurance Green Cards and car insurance for driving abroad here.

  • How will Brexit affect driving in Europe?

    It’s still unclear what Brexit outcome awaits us on the new deadline of 31 October 2019 but in the event of a no deal exit you will need extra documentation to drive in the EU after this date – specifically an International Driving Permit (IDP) and a Green Card to prove insurance.

    Learn more about how a no-deal EU exit might impact your travel plans here.

  • Can I drive in France with a UK licence?

    Yes, you can currently use your UK driving licence to drive in all EU countries.

    To drive in France, you will also need proof of insurance, proof of ownership of your car (V5C) and your passport.

    To avoid any fines, make sure your car has GB stickers on it, and keep the following safety items in your car: warning triangle, reflective safety vests and beam deflectors.

    These requirements will change if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 31 October 2019.

    Learn more about driving in France here.

  • Can I drive in Europe with a UK licence?

    You can drive in EU and EEA countries in Europe with a valid UK driving licence.

    To drive in countries outside the EU you may also need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP).

    Check gov.uk to see if an IDP is applicable for the country you will be driving in.

    Note that the an IDP will be immediately required for driving in all EU countries if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

  • Can I use my provisional licence abroad?

    No, you can’t drive abroad with a provisional UK driving licence.

  • Do I need a special licence to drive in Europe?

    Currently, you can use your full valid UK driving licence to drive in any country in the EU or EEA.

    To drive in countries outside the EU you may also need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP).

    Check gov.uk to see if an IDP is applicable for the country you will be driving in.

    Note that the an IDP will be immediately required for driving in all EU countries if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 31 October 2019.

  • What documents do I need to drive in Europe?

    To drive in the EU you need the following documents:

    1. a full valid UK driving licence
    2. your national insurance number
    3. your passport as proof of identity
    4. proof of vehicle insurance
    5. proof of vehicle ownership (V5C certificate)
    6. travel insurance documents
    7. up to date MOT certificate and vehicle tax

    To drive in European countries outside the EU you may also need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP) and a Green Card to prove insurance.

    For a full list of what’s required when driving abroad download our driving abroad checklist.

  • Do I need car insurance in Europe?

    Yes, you need car insurance to drive in Europe.

    All UK driving insurance includes the minimum third-party cover needed to drive in the EU, but you should check your policy to see if includes extra cover for damage to your car abroad, breakdown assistance or theft.

    In European countries outside the EU, you’ll need to get a Green Card that proves that your insurance includes the minimum cover for that country.

    Learn more about car insurance Green Cards and car insurance for driving abroad here.

  • Do I need a GB sticker in France?

    Yes, GB stickers are compulsory in France and all other EU countries unless your registration plates include the GB-Euro symbol.

  • Do you need your V5 when driving abroad?

    Yes, you should take your V5 certificate – your vehicle registration document – with you when driving abroad.

    For a full list of what’s required when driving abroad download our driving abroad checklist.

  • Can you drive a right-hand car in Europe?

    Yes, you can drive a right-hand car in Europe but you should take extra care when getting used to driving on the opposite side of the road, especially when overtaking – and remember to drive anti-clockwise rather than clockwise on roundabouts!

  • Can you rent a car and drive across Europe?

    Yes, you can rent a car to drive across Europe but be aware that the minimum age to rent a car varies across Europe.

    You should notify the rental company of your route in advance as some rental companies won’t allow you to drive into certain European countries outside the EU.

    If you do drive into or between non-EU countries you may have to pay an additional fee.

    You’ll also have to pay an additional fee to drop off the rental at a different location, and this may be a considerable amount if you plan to drop off the car in a different country.

  • Is it safe to drive through Europe?

    Driving always carries risk, and you should take extra care when driving in a foreign country, especially if you are driving on the opposite side of the road to what you are used to.

    Make sure you read up on the specific rules of the road for any European country you plan on driving in, and ensure you have the correct documentation, comprehensive vehicle and travel insurance, as well as any legally-required safety items.

  • What is a vignette?

    Some European countries require you to buy and display a vignette – a sticker that fixes to the windshield and is visible from the outside – to drive along certain roads, like motorways and autobahns.

    As opposed to toll roads, a vignette allows you to drive on these roads for a certain duration of time and are normally issued for a minimum of 7 or 10 days.

  • Which European countries require a vignette?

    Vignettes are required for driving along certain roads, like motorways and autobahns in the following European countries: Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland.

    If you are caught driving in any of these countries without a vignette you will be fined.

  • Where can I buy vignettes?

    You can normally buy vignettes at border crossings into the countries that require them or at nearby petrol or service stations.

    If you are driving into any of the European countries that require vignettes (Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland) you should check to see that country’s specific requirements, the cost, duration and where to buy them.

    Note that if you hire a car in any of these countries the vignette will often be included in the hire price but normally only for the country the car was hired in.

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† Price for 1 day cover for up to 9 people travelling in a vehicle up to 1 year old in Zone 1. For more information visit rac.co.uk/breakdown-cover/european-breakdown-cover