Europe is a beautiful continent that deserves to be explored. But, when holidaying abroad, walking everywhere, using public transport and paying for daily taxis can get boring and expensive. This is likely why more and more people are choosing to take their car away with them, or hire one once they get to their destination.
Having a car gives you a lot more freedom to see as much as you want and cover more ground than you’d be able to otherwise. So, if this is something you’re interested in, here’s everything you need to consider before driving in Europe.
Ensure you have all of the necessary documents
While driving through Europe, you might be asked to show your relevant documents at any time, and, if they’re not in order, you could be fined or even have your car taken away. So, it’s worth sorting all of this out well before you set off. You must carry:
- A full and valid driving licence
- A copy of your driver record and a licence check code, both of which can both be obtained from the DVLA
- Your vehicle’s original registration document
- Your motor insurance certificate
- Your passport
- Your travel insurance documents
- A letter of authorisation from the registered keeper if you’re taking a company-owned, hired or borrowed vehicle.
Research the rules of the road
Every country across Europe has its own driving laws, and, regardless of how bizarre some of them might seem, you must adhere to them. Of course, it’s widely known that drivers in continental Europe drive on the right-hand side of the road. So, if you’re particularly concerned about this, put your mind at ease by reading Lookers’ guide to driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road.
This isn’t the only thing you need to consider, though. For example, unless your car has number plates that include a GB symbol, you’ll need to display a sticker that does the job instead. Also, in Sweden, headlights must be used 24 hours a day — even on a bright summer’s day. In France you’re required to carry a breathalyser in your car, and if you wear glasses and are planning to drive through Spain, you must have a spare pair with you while you’re in the driver’s seat.
Speed limits can change from country to country and the likes of legal alcohol limits vary, too. Be sure to research the rules of the road for any places that you’re planning to visit or drive through, so your journey will go as smoothly as possible. To get an idea of all the driving regulations you’ll need to know about, check out The AA’s country-by-country run-down of driving laws, which will tell you everything you need to know.
Be aware of toll charges
While toll roads are relatively uncommon in the UK, it’s a completely different story in mainland Europe. These charges can add up — especially on particularly long journeys — so do some research if you’d like to avoid incurring any unnecessary charges. Sixt has an interactive map of Europe’s toll roads, which gives you an idea of how many there are in each country. It also tells you how much each costs to use, allowing you to estimate and compare how expensive certain routes might be.
Make sure you’re insured
Any UK vehicle insurance will provide at least the minimum third party cover you need to drive in other EU countries. However, you should check with your insurer whether your policy has extra cover for things like theft or damage to your car while you’re away.
If it doesn’t and you want a higher level of protection, get in touch with them and ask if they’ll upgrade your existing comprehensive policy to cover you abroad. If they don’t offer this option, you might be able to request European cover as an optional extra, which will usually last for up to 30 days.
Be aware of low emission zones
Across Europe there are more than 200 cities, located in 10 different countries, that have implemented Low Emission Zones (LEZ). These are areas where the most polluting vehicles are regulated in some way. Vehicles may be banned from, or charged for, entering these regions if their emissions exceed a set level. The majority of these zones only affect vans and lorries, but some — including those in Germany and Italy — apply to passenger cars, too.
Urban Access Regulation in Europe has an in-depth guide to understanding Low Emission Zones, which will tell you everything you need to know. Visit the publicly-funded website to find out where they are, which vehicles they affect, what emission standards are required and whether you’ll need any kind of registration.
Regardless of whether you’re only visiting one country, or are hoping to travel through as many as possible on your trip to Europe, having a car will ensure it’s a fantastic experience. Just make sure you follow all five of our tips for the smoothest journey possible.