Planning on driving overseas? Wherever you’re heading, here are some essential tips to keep you safe when driving abroad, including advice on tolls, driving offences, breakdowns and emergencies, as well as compulsory documents and equipment.
Please note: This information primarily applies to driving in Europe.
Documents and Equipment
Before heading beyond the English Channel, make sure you’ve got all the documents and equipment required to drive in certain countries. Compulsory equipment and documents do vary from place to place, so we’ve made a list of all the things we’d recommend popping in your boot before departure.
You may need to provide any of the following documents when driving on the continent:
- Your full and valid driving licence (not provisional)
- Your motor insurance certificate (if driving your own car)
- Your vehicle’s original registration document (V5c)
- A copy of your DVLA driver record, which you can access here
- A licence ‘check code’ to share your driving record with a third party (e.g. a hire car company) – this code can be generated using the link above
- Your travel insurance documents, which should cover you for driving
- Passports for you and all of your passengers
- You may also need a visa to drive in certain countries
Please note: These documents apply to car drivers. You may need additional documentation when travelling in another vehicle.
While the following equipment isn’t compulsory in every country in Europe, we’d recommend you take most of the items on this list to ensure you don’t fall foul of the law:
- GB sticker
- Reflective jacket/vest
- Warning triangle
- First aid kit
- Breathalyser (France only)
- Jump leads
- Fire extinguisher
- Headlamp beam converters
The easiest way to make sure you’ve got all the right equipment for driving in Europe is to buy a dedicated European driving kit, which are available from plenty of online stores.
Provided you aren’t journeying into central London, driving on the M6 or crossing a bridge, you’re very unlikely to pay tolls when driving in the UK. In Europe however, things are much different, with most major carriageways carrying a fee. Tolls can really add up on the continent, particularly if you’re taking a long journey, so it pays to do your research helping you find a route with as few fees as possible.
Given you’re almost certain to encounter a toll or two when driving in Europe, we’d recommend carrying plenty of foreign currency. Most tolls do offer cashless payment by card, but it’s a good idea to carry change, just in case. As well as motorway tolls, you may also need to pay ‘urban road tolls’, which apply in major cities like Stockholm, Oslo and Milan.
- For a complete list of up to date European toll prices, click here
- For a list of cities which have urban road tolls in place, click here
Overseas Driving Offences
If you think driving in Europe means clocking 150mph on a German autobahn or French autoroute without consequence, you could be in for a nasty surprise. While overseas driving offences don’t currently equate to penalty points on your licence back home, you could face huge fines or have your car towed for breaking the continent’s driving laws.
Get stopped by the police in any European country, and they have the power to impose on the spot fines which you’ll need to pay there and then. Can’t pay, and it’s likely you’ll have your car impounded or your licence confiscated. But don’t worry if you haven’t got the cash on you at the time, as most police are happy to escort you to the nearest ATM.
While foreign police prefer to give on the spot penalty notices (so they can guarantee it will be paid), this doesn’t mean you can dodge fines issued by post once you’ve returned to the UK. The DVLA has partners across Europe with whom they share information, and they will pass on your details if you’re found to have committed a driving offence overseas.
If you receive a penalty notice by post you can appeal it just like you can in the UK, but this is likely to be a complicated process. Our advice is to pay what you owe and be done with it.
Breakdowns and Emergencies
Breaking down abroad can be a scary experience, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the roads, and the language. It can also prove incredibly expensive if you don’t have the right type of breakdown cover, with Green Flag reporting that the average cost for recovery in Spain is around £2,500.
European Breakdown Cover
When driving on the continent, you need to make sure you have European breakdown cover. Most standard breakdown policies won’t cover trips abroad, even if the policy applies to your car, so it’s definitely worth investing in proper cover.
The good thing about European breakdown cover is that it can be purchased for short-term trips, just like travel insurance. All you have to do is get a quote that’s based on your travel dates, and choose the option that fits you and your vehicle. We’d recommend using an insurance comparison site to access the best deals.
Breaking down abroad may be inconvenient, but if you’re prepared then it doesn’t have to be as grim as it sounds. If something goes wrong with your car, try to find a safe place to pull over, like the hard shoulder. Then, put on your high-visibility jacket or vest and deploy the warning triangle approximately 45 metres behind your car so that it’s facing oncoming traffic. You and your passengers should then find a safe place to stand away from the carriageway while you call your European breakdown provider, who should be able to assist you in English.
In the event of an emergency, dial 112. This is the emergency number to use across Europe, and you will be put through to an English-speaking operator.
Wherever you’re heading, don’t leave without Redex. As the UK’s leading fuel additive we can help you get more miles to the gallon, saving you money each time you fill up the tank. To find out more about our petrol and diesel fuel additives, visit the Redex website.