By Vicky Anscombe on 08 June 2015

Even if you're an experienced driver, the thought of hiring a car and driving abroad can be a bit scary.

Things change. The side of the road you drive on, how you negotiate roundabouts, and even where you're sat in the car; it's no wonder some people are apprehensive before they set off. However, there's no need to be nervous; here are some hints and tips which will ensure you're confident behind the wheel.

Research the country you'll be driving in; don't assume one European country follows the same rules as all the others.

For example, when driving in France:

  • You must carry a spare set of light bulbs, an advance warning triangle and a reflective jacket
  • You should carry a breathalyser
  • You must not use a device that can detect speed cameras; if your satellite navigation system is able to do this, you must disable it

Here is some general advice for driving abroad:

  • Sometimes tourists become more relaxed while on holiday; this is great, but you should drive with the same amount of care and diligence as you would in the UK. Even if everyone else's styles are more 'relaxed', don't be tempted to copy them
  • Abide by road signs and signals. Make sure you know what the road signs mean: some will be different from those you’ll see in the UK
  • Drive cautiously. Expect the unexpected; you won't be familiar with these roads
  • Even if it's not a legal requirement, you and your family should always wear a seatbelt
  • No road rage, even if it's a boiling hot day! Be polite and respectful to other drivers
  • Make sure you can see out of the back window and do not overload your vehicle with luggage. Your bags may make your vehicle heavier than usual, so allow more time and distance for braking
  • Speed limits are often faster than in the UK, so cars may approach faster than you are used to
  • Never, ever drink and drive - not only is it dangerous and stupid, but some countries may have a lower alcohol limits than the UK or a zero tolerance for alcohol when you're behind the wheel
  • If you are involved in an accident while abroad you need to contact your insurer immediately and take any photos of the damage to your vehicle. The local police may need to be called
  • You should have a GB sticker clearly visible on the back of your car if your number plate doesn't include this information.

Driving Laws

Most countries drive on the right hand side of the road, so stay aware at roundabouts and crossings. Always give way to the left at roundabouts and drive around roundabouts anti-clockwise.

Speed limits may change; speeds are measured in km/h, not mph, so make sure you're not accidentally speeding.

Use extra caution when it comes to pedestrian crossings; in some countries, drivers should always give way to pedestrians, while in others, it is up to the driver whether or not to give way.

Parking:

Never leave your car parked in a place where you don't feel safe returning to, especially if you're driving solo. Make sure it's well-lit, and near to houses/busy areas. Don't for get that an area that seems OK in daylight may be less safe once the sun's gone down.

Only park in locations where it is legal to do so. Most countries abroad will clearly mark where you can and cannot park.

Your driving licence

You're allowed to drive abroad in European countries with your Great Britain driving licence; however, in some non-EU countries you may need an International Driving Permit. Gov.uk also has information on driving inside and outside the EU.

Getting to grips with a hire car

Only hire a car from a company you know and trust, and remember that insurance is key. You may be offered a range of different additional insurance options which you can add to your rental at an additional fee. Our advice? Don't be cheap; always pay that little bit more to make sure you're covered for every eventuality. Make sure your insurance covers breakdown recovery and any possible medical expenses.

When you hire a car abroad you are usually asked to provide both the card driving license and the paper counterpart. You should carry these documents with you when you drive so that you have them ready if you are stopped by the police.

Taking your car abroad

If you’re taking your car abroad for 12 months or more, you’ll need to tell the DVLA. This guide also tells you what you’ll need to do if you’re taking your car abroadfor a long time, but less than a year.

Motoring organisations such as the AA and the RAC provide advice on driving rules in European countries and other countries.

Driving your own car abroad can be cost-effective, as you'll save on hire car fees and you'll avoid costly flights. However, when you drive your own car abroad, you'll need to make a few adjustments.

You may need to alter your vehicle to comply with different countries' driving requirements. For example, you need headlight deflectors in France and snow tyres in the winter in Germany - also, you may be required by law to carry your driving licence, car insurance documents, GB sticker, passport and V5 log book with you in your car.

Image credit: Flickr, with thanks to William Warby


← Council benefits officer jailed for £88k travel insurance fraud

I don't bee-lieve it! Bee causes flight delays after getting 'trapped in instruments' →