Driving abroad this summer? Make sure you remember these top tips
With the schools broken up for the summer holidays, thousands of Brits are planning to head off abroad over the next month or so.
Many of them will choose to either hire a car or drive their own vehicle for their holiday. Having your own vehicle is convenient, because it means you don’t have to rely on often-confusing public transport or extortionate excursion packages.
However, driving abroad is fraught with potential issues too. In this post, we’ve rounded up some top tips for driving overseas.
Plan ahead and leave plenty of time - no matter where you’re going!
This is a fairly obvious point but it’s one of the most important. As the recent events in Calais and Dover have demonstrated, disruption can potentially add hours to your journey.
Even without major disruption, driving abroad can be daunting. Road signs can be confusing, while a lack of local road knowledge can lead to you driving straight into tailbacks. Allow time for any eventuality, including traffic and getting lost!
Don’t just rely on your SatNav to get you around either. If you haven’t updated your device for a while, the chances are it’s out of date and that can lead to some seriously sticky situations! Take a map along with you, and plan out a basic route before you leave.
Always carry your documentation
Again, this is essential. You’ll need to carry your passport, driving license, registration documentation, and insurance and travel insurance documents. In some countries, you may also need to carry your paper counterpart even though you no longer need it over here. If you’re driving a hire car, you’ll need to carry your authorisation document.
In the EU, make sure you, and your family, all carry a European Health Insurance Card.
Make sure you’re covered for international driving
Not all policies will cover you for driving abroad, so make sure you check well before you leave the country. If you aren’t covered, get in touch with your insurance provider and they should be able to provide you with a quote. If you are covered, ask your insurer for an International Motor Insurance document. It’s also worth purchasing European breakdown cover.
Don’t forget your GB sticker
A GB sticker is a legal requirement if you’re driving your car abroad; you can get an on-the-spot fine for not having one. You don’t need to worry about a sticker if your number plate has an EU GB logo, though.
The UK is almost unique in driving on the left, with most countries preferring to drive on the right. While it doesn’t sound that daunting, the reality of driving on the right after years of driving on the left can be quite strange and unnerving - especially when you’re driving around a roundabout anti-clockwise!
If you’re planning to hire a car, keep in mind that you’ll be seated on the left side. Again, this is quite a strange sensation so take it easy and drive safely.
Check what you’re required to carry
Different countries require you to carry different equipment in your car. This can include a warning triangle, a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher and (if you’re in France) a breathalyser. Make a list and get everything in order before you go.
Get your vehicle serviced
If you’re planning to take your own vehicle, get it serviced before you leave. Nothing ruins a holiday quite like your car breaking down and having to negotiate with a mechanic in a language you can barely speak.
Alternatively, you could check out our fantastic contract hire and leasing deals and treat yourself to a new, reliable vehicle for the occasion!
Familiarise yourself with local laws and driving customs
Driving laws can vary wildly from country to country: in Croatia, it’s illegal to drink a single drop before driving, while it’s illegal to not carry a breathalyser in France. In Spain, you can even get fined for driving in flip flops!
As well as getting familiar with the law, it’s worth reading up on the way people drive - particularly those little unspoken ‘laws’ that we all abide by on UK roads. Don’t get too angry if someone does something that’s frowned upon in the UK, because it might be fine in their country.
Toll roads are few and far between in the UK, but they’re prevalent abroad. Always carry spare change in case you need to take a toll route, as many of them won’t accept cards.
Hiring a car
Hiring a car abroad is actually quite easy, but it’s easy to fall into a number of financial traps if you’re not careful. You can avoid most excessive add-ons by opting for the basic package and arranging your own insurance and excess cover before you leave, bringing your own Sat Nav and car seats and conducting a price comparison before you hire. Make sure you take photographs and check for damage before you drive off, and take some photos and hold onto your paperwork when you return the car too; they could be vital if any issues arise.