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Many drivers go abroad for their summer holidays, packing equipment into their SUVs, large hatchbacks, and people carriers ready for the journeys on autobahns and highways.

But what do we know about Driving in Europe? What advice do we need about driving elsewhere abroad?

The AA have provided a PDF here full of touring tips as to what you need on these journeys, and specific details from The RAC regarding France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Belgium can be found by clicking the links, with the RAC checklist here

But be prepared before you leave to ensure yourselves a great trip with as little hassle as possible by checking out our tips below.

Make sure that you know where the nearest embassies in the country you are travelling to are. Click on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website here to find out - because you will never know when you will need them.

Make sure that everyone in your party has, or is covered by, travel insurance. Getting injured abroad, or becoming seriously ill, could cost you an absolute fortune.

Grab yourself a free European Health Insurance Card that entitles you to free or reduced cost emergency care in some countries and in certain instances. Oh; and 112 is the emergency number in any European country.

Make sure that your existing breakdown cover extends to Europe - and if it doesn't get either an extended cover that does or a one-off length-of-trip European Breakdown policy to save you not only money but stress.

Check your car insurance to make sure that it covers you to drive abroad, and again, if not, then get some that does, either short or long-term.

Don't forget your passports, and make sure that they are in date. Leave plenty of time to get a new one if they aren't otherwise you face a day-long trip and long waits to get one same day. It's also a good idea to "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."

Make sure you fill in the emergency contact details in your passport, and that friends and relatives know where you are going and when - just in case anything goes wrong. 

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

Remember that most European countries drive on the right-hand side of the road (all except us here in the UK, the Irish Republic, Cyprus and Malta) so you will have to take roundabouts the 'wrong' way, overtake on the different side and basically re-learn everything.

In France, for example, it is illegal to dazzle oncoming drivers, so adjust your headlamps ready for driving on the right-hand side of the road by buying headlamp converters (stickers you put on your headlights).

Make sure your SatNav is up to date and European-friendly.

A lot of European countries operate toll roads, so keep that loose change handy. Good job Europeans all use Euros - don't they?

Make sure you know the rules in each country before you pass through/go there. Speed limits will probably be signed in km/h so don't go thinking that it is mph and go shooting off. Keep to all the speed limits and be aware of the motorway police as they drive very fast cars!

Be aware of some of the more obscure rules and regulations in other countries like carrying a spare set of glasses in Spain and Switzerland, not wearing flip flops when driving in Spain, and not parking facing traffic in Italy. Check out the guides at the start of the blog to help you, and Google local areas if you are passing through before you go - because there is nothing worse than trying to explain to a local policeman in pidgen English that you didn't know what is going on.

Roadworks on an autobahn in Germany

Image via Pixabay

Remember that the UK actually isn't that big really. A lot of countries around the world with roads are bigger - a lot bigger! And roads are longer! So "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 exhausting. Ensure you take frequent breaks and stop in a safe place for a rest if you are feeling tired."

Stick to some of the UK rules. Keep your seatbelt on at all times, DON'T use your mobile phone whilst driving, DON'T get distracted by your SatNav, and keep to the speed limits (once you have realised what they actually are!)

Find out if you need an International Driving Permit (IDP) for the country that you are driving in. It is compulsory to have one in countries such as Egypt, Thailand, Zaire and India and recommended in countries such as Mexico, Hong Kong, Canada and the USA. Check it out here

In some countries, it is compulsory to carry certain pieces of equipment. As unusual as this may seem, the requirement that is always quoted is that of France, where it is compulsory for all cars on French roads to carry a portable breathalyser to enable drivers themselves 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.

Look out for Emission Zones in different countries. For example, in Paris there is a Low Emission Zone which has banned diesel and petrol lorries and buses made before 1997, and has also restricted petrol and diesel cars registered before 1997 to travel between 8am and 8pm on weekdays. By 2020, only vehicles made in or after 2011 will be allowed.

Speaking about the drink-driving limit, you will need to check that too for each country. Across Europe, apart from Malta, the drink-drive limit is lower than the UK, with some having zero tolerance. Around the world, the majority of countries with drink-drive limits set it at 50mg per 100ml of blood (with some lower) so, as always, abstinence is the best policy if you are driving. 

Make sure that you are ready before you set off on your trip. Do your research, make an in-car tool kit with requirements for each country plus things like a fire extinguisher, first-aid kit, tool kit, torch, blanket, warning triangle and reflective jacket. Check your tyre pressures and tread, top up your oil, coolant, windscreen wash and water, and make yourself up a pack with all your documents in, putting it somewhere very very safe so that any would-be thieves could not steal.

Essentially, although we have tried to give you as much information as we can here, we would need a whole host of blog articles to cover every country and every rule and regulation. Check out the countries that we have supplied info on at the top of the blog, and if you are going elsewhere, then use a search engine such as Google or Bing to find out what you need to observe.

Aside from that, we wish you a great holiday...and be careful out there!  


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