Driving in Europe? Your guide to documentation, GB stickers and kit to take
Whether you're renting a car or driving your own, make sure you have everything sorted before setting out on a driving holiday
Every year, it’s estimated that around 4.7million drivers from the UK take their cars to Europe. With destinations such as France, Spain and Germany easily accessible via the European motorway network, holiday driving is an enjoyable and cost-effective way to take a break.
But driving in Europe isn’t just a case of boarding a ferry or train and making sure you’re on the right side of the road when you roll off at the other end. There are many things that need to be taken into consideration before a trip overseas.
Start with the basics
Preparation is everything, and it’s essential that all the documentation you need is ready ahead of time. Make sure your passport and driving licence are both up to date, and if you’re taking your own vehicle, bring along the V5 registration document that confirms proof of ownership. You’ll also need your car insurance cover note to show that you are permitted to drive your car on the continent.
Depending on where you’re heading, you may also need an International Driving Permit (IDP). This validates your UK driving licence internationally, and can be obtained from the Post Office. At the moment, there’s no legal obligation for an IDP when driving in the EU, but it is recommended in countries such as Italy and Portugal. It’s always worth checking online to see if your destination requires one, as it’s better to be safe than sorry.
While a rental car is likely to be in good shape before a trip to the continent, if you’re taking your own vehicle then a pre-trip health check is recommended. Oil and coolant levels should be topped up to keep the engine ticking over, and check the general condition of your tyres, particularly pressure and tread depth, beforehand: and don’t forget to check the spare, if your car has one. There are little things to look out for, too, such as making sure your windscreen washer fluid is full, and that your windscreen wipers are in good order to ensure that you have the best possible view of the road ahead.
The rules of the road
Every country’s road laws will differ slightly, but the majority of European destinations will require a ‘GB’ sign to be displayed, either as a sticker on the rear of the car or as part of the number plate. You’ll also need to add headlamp beam convertors to prevent your car’s headlights – which are aligned to work when driving on the left – from dazzling oncoming traffic as you drive on the right-hand side of the road. You can buy these converters from most car accessory stores, although some modern cars allow you to adjust the headlight beam via the vehicle’s on-board settings.
In France and Germany, it’s compulsory to have a red warning triangle that you need to place on the road in case you break down, and there needs to be a high-visibility jacket for each of the car’s occupants, so you’re visible at the side of the road. If you’re heading to France, it’s advisable to carry two breathalysers in the car, while a first-aid kit is compulsory item in Germany and Austria.
Make a dash cam a must-have
Beyond the essentials, there are some extras that’ll make life comfortable and give you added peace of mind. Dash cams, for instance, are ideal for fitting in hire cars and offer a host of features perfect for the holiday driver.
Nextbase’s new and award-winning 422GW and 522GW models are the world’s first to include an Emergency SOS alert system to tell emergency services where you’re located in the event of an accident. They also have Alexa built-in, meaning you can play music, place calls or get directions without removing your hands from the wheel or your eyes from the road.
The 1440p HD resolution camera offers crystal-clear image quality, so any footage you need to retrieve, in the unfortunate case of an accident occurring, can be used to provide proof of fault to insurers. All Series 2 Nextbase dash cams also have intelligent parking mode, which starts recording footage from the moment someone hits your unattended vehicle – a sure-fire way to keep yourself covered in case there’s a collision and the culprit decides to leave the scene. In addition, both the 422GW and 522GW are compatible with Nextbase rear-view camera modules, so your car is covered from all angles.
A car-based break is a good way to avoid all the stress and strain of rushing to catch trains, flights and spending hours on end waiting at airports. And if you pack the right items, then that driving holiday will be a breeze.