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Driving in Europe: the facts you need to know

Whether it’s your first road trip in Europe or you’re an experienced continental driver, our guide to driving in Europe is designed to help you get road-trip ready.

Our checklist covers all the information you need for a seamless journey, including the documents and equipment you need to have on hand, rules of the road in Europe and how to get your vehicle ready for foreign roads.

Read on for your one-stop guide to driving through Europe!

Licences, insurance and European breakdown cover

  • You can use a British or Irish driving licence across Europe.

  • You will need your original vehicle registration document (V5C) to hand.

  • Your UK vehicle insurance will provide third party cover as a minimum within the EU. Before you set off, let your insurer know that you’re planning on taking your vehicle abroad, and check any restrictions for countries outside of the EU.

  • Make sure your breakdown cover stretches outside of the UK. If you’re not certain, ring your assistance company before you travel – you may need to buy standalone European breakdown cover for your trip.

  • Bring a copy of your motor insurance certificate and European breakdown cover confirmation with you and make a note of the relevant assistance helplines in your phone.

Rules of the road

  • First things first – make sure you stick to the right side of the road when driving in Europe! The UK, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta are the only European countries that drive on the left. Be sure to take extra caution on roundabouts and when overtaking.

  • Check the regulations of the country you will be driving in before you travel, noting speed limits and any unfamiliar road signs you may come across. The EU’s GoingAbroad website and app includes the need-to-know rules for every country in Europe.

Toll roads

  • Tolls are mainly limited to the motorway network, but check your route in advance and take a note of any toll roads that will form part of your journey.

  • Bring plenty of spare change – although each toll is just a few euros, driving the length of some of the French toll roads can cost upwards of €20.

  • A useful map of European toll roads with prices can be found here.

Getting your vehicle ready

  • Clearly display a ‘GB’ sticker on your vehicle; a sticker must be in place whenever you leave the borders of the UK to road trip in Europe.

  • Headlight beam converters are a legal requirement when driving in Europe and should be applied to your lights before you set off – failing to comply can lead to your insurance being invalidated as well as on the spot fines.

  • Run through the standard vehicle checks before you start your journey, including:

  • Tyre pressure and tread
  • Engine oil, coolant and windscreen wash
  • Windscreen wipers
  • Test your vehicle lights (it’s worth carrying some spare bulbs with you to save hunting for the right type in a foreign language!)

Equipment to take on your road trip in Europe

  • A basic breakdown kit including warning triangle, reflective jacket, first aid kit and torch will be indispensable should you breakdown, and is also legally required in certain European countries, such as France.

  • A breathalyser kit must be carried in your vehicle at all times when driving in France.

  • In France you will also need a clean air sticker (Crit’Air vignette) in major cities. The stickers cost around £4 and can be obtained here. It’s worth the purchase even if you’re not sure whether you’ll be driving in a city, as drivers without one could face a fine of up to £117.

Hit the road!

If you’ve followed the steps above and done your research, you and your car will be ready to head to the continent.

In the event that you do hit a bump in the road during your journey, European Breakdown Cover from Allianz Global Assistance will help you get your journey back on track as soon as possible. You can drive with total peace of mind, knowing that we have 35 years’ experience of helping drivers like you at the roadside, across the UK and Europe.

From £90 for a year’s cover, you will have:

  • 24-hour breakdown assistance and car recovery as standard

  • Professional assistance at the roadside from our our extensive European Repair Network

  • If we cannot repair your vehicle you can choose from onward travel options such as hire car, public transport, or hotel accommodation

  • If your vehicle is not repaired before your return home we can arrange its repatriation back to the UK or pay your travel costs to collect


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