Driving in Europe: what you need to know

Driving in Europe: what you need to know

With Easter having swiftly passed us by, many will be already turning their attention to summer holidays and a road trip to mainland Europe could be on the cards for you this year. We recently covered the legal requirements for winter tyres in certain European countries, but that is not the only thing to consider when driving across another country. We take a look at what some of those are to help you be fully prepared and stay on the right side of the law when driving abroad.

International driving permit

Given the uncertainties of Brexit it pays to be prepared so that you are not caught by surprise. An international driving permit is easy to get at your local Post Office and all you need is a passport-sized photo and £5.50. Keep in mind that there are two types, covering different countries, so if you are travelling to more than one it may be that you need both. The Post Office will be able to advise you on that.


Check that your insurance cover will be valid overseas. Most insurers will automatically cover you, but it will depend on your policy and insurer, and it may be that you have to pay a small premium for cover. Either way, you should inform your insurer that you will be travelling overseas.

Break-down cover

Similarly, check that your break-down cover extends to the country or countries that you are planning to visit. Again, it may be a matter of paying a small premium to extend your policy for the countries and time period that you are away, but it is always worth having especially when you are in a foreign country and don’t speak the language.

GB sticker

If your number plate doesn’t include the GB country identification then you will need to put a GB sticker on to your vehicle. Failure to have one or the other can result in an on-the-spot fine.

Adjust your headlights

To comply with requirements for driving on the right-hand side of the road you will need to adjust your headlamps so as not to dazzle oncoming drivers. You can either do this by switching the dipped headlamps manually or by using stickers that will temporarily convert your headlamps. Once back in the UK all you need to do is remove the stickers and you are back to complying with UK requirements.

Break-down and first aid kits

It is a requirement in most European countries to carry a reflective jacket for each passenger and a warning triangle for use in a break-down situation. A first-aid kit is compulsory in France, Austria and Germany, but is a good idea to have on board at any time. A fire extinguisher is also a good idea, although not a requirement.

Critic’Air sticker (or vignette)

Like London, some French cities have introduced air quality restrictions for certain towns and cities. If you are planning to drive through Paris, Lyon or Grenoble then you will need to apply for and affix your vignette to your vehicle or risk a fine. Give yourself plenty of time to apply as there is a backlog and the standard waiting time is 30 days.

If you are driving abroad and need a compliant vehicle CVS Van Hire is here to help. Just give us a call on 020 8003 2785 and let us know what you need and where you are going, and we can help get you on the road safely.

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