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Tips & advice

Green card insurance for driving abroad

If you’re planning on driving abroad outside the EU you might need a car insurance ‘green card’. But what is a green card and how do you get one?

Third party insurance

For UK drivers looking to drive their car abroad, there are many different things to think of before getting behind the wheel and setting off. Amid the scramble for a first aid kit, a warning triangle and to arrange European breakdown cover, the crucial matter of insurance can be overlooked. You don’t now need an international car insurance certificate, commonly known as a ‘green card’, to drive in the EU but you do in some countries and there are other car insurance issues to consider. So what is a green card, do you need one and how do you apply for one if it’s required? This guide will explain everything you need to know about the car insurance for driving abroad.

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Post-Brexit agreements with the European Union meant that Brits driving or towing in the EU and European Economic Area (EEA) used to be required to hold a green card, providing drivers with proof that they have the minimum level of compulsory car insurance required by law in the country they’re visiting but this is no longer the case. In 2021, the European Commission waived the need for UK drivers to carry an insurance green card when driving in the EU or EEA, but green cards may still be required when driving in other European countries.

Applying for a car insurance green card is a simple matter of contacting your insurer and asking for one but there are some important things you need to know before you do. Below we’ve compiled a complete guide to the car insurance green card…

What is a Green Card?

A green card is an international certificate issued by your car insurance provider. It gives motorists proof that they have the minimum levels of compulsory insurance required for the country or countries they are driving through.

Do I need a green card to drive in the EU or EEA?

No. You do not need a car insurance green card to drive a car, tow a caravan or tow a trailer in the European Union. Neither do you need one in Andora, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Serbia or Switzerland.

Am I insured to drive abroad?

Even though you don’t need a green card to drive in the EU or EEA, you will still need a valid insurance policy for your car or van. As standard, all UK car insurance policies will give you a minimum of third-party cover when driving in EU or EEA countries, but you may have to pay extra for a fully comprehensive or third-party fire and theft insurance policies while driving abroad. This depends on your insurance policy.

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Make sure you carry your insurance certificate in case you need to prove to border authorities or the police that you have all the correct paperwork. Our guide to driving in Europe covers car insurance in more detail.

Which countries do I need a green card to drive in?

While you do not need a green card to drive, tow a caravan or trailer in the EU or EEA, you may still need a green card to drive in:

  • Albania
  • Azerbaijan
  • Belarus
  • Moldova
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine

Outside of Europe, you may also need a green card to prove you have the minimum insurance cover if you are driving in:

  • Iran
  • Israel
  • Morocco
  • Tunisia 

If you’re planning on towing a caravan or trailer, you may need to register your trailer before you travel and have additional insurance in place for it, your car insurance provider will be able to advise you further. 

Make sure you take a copy of your car insurance certificate, your driving licence and V5C log book and also display a UK sticker on your vehicle at all times.

How do I apply for a green card?

To apply for a green card, you simply need to telephone your insurer and ask for one. Make sure you tell your insurer exactly where you're going to be travelling to ensure the green card you receive is valid for all your destinations.

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It used to be the case that green cards needed to be printed on green paper in order to be valid, but this is no longer the case. This means if your insurer sends your green card digitally, you're free to print it out on plain white paper. You will need extra green cards if you are towing a caravan or trailer (one for the car and one for the trailer or caravan), or if you are travelling in more than one vehicle under a multi car policy. 

If you have a green card from a previous trip, it must have a minimum of 15 days’ cover left on it

In the same way that a passport has to have at least six months’ left before its expiry date if you want to travel abroad with it, a green card must have a minimum of 15 days of cover left on it when you enter a country which requires it – even if you’re just on a day trip.

A green card can be issued for less than 15 days in exceptional circumstances - for example, if the insurance policy is ending in less than 15 days. However, any green card issued for less than 15 days will be deemed valid for a full 15 days, and the Motor Insurers Bureau will guarantee the vehicle for the difference.

Do I need an International Driving Permit (IDP)?

In most cases, you do not need an International Driving Permit when driving in the European Union, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein if you hold a valid UK driving licence. However, other popular destinations like the United States, Turkey, Japan and many others require you by law to have an IDP. 

Most UK driving licences are accepted in the EU, but if you have an old-format UK paper licence, or your licence was issued in Gibraltar, Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man, you will need an International Driving Permit. 

IDPs are only available from PayPoint locations, often found in newsagents and corner shops. When applying for an IDP you will need to have your driving licence, passport and a passport photo with you. For more information on IDPs or to see if you need to get one before you travel, check out our guide on the International Driving Permit.

If you’re planning on driving abroad, make sure you stay on the right side of the law. Click here for our guide on driving abroad

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Content editor

Ryan is responsible for looking after the day-to-day running of the Auto Express website and social media channels. Prior to joining Auto Express in 2023, he worked at a global OEM automotive manufacturer, as well as a specialist automotive PR and marketing agency.

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