Packing Tips for Driving A Car in Europe

Whether you travel to Europe for business or pleasure, you may choose to hire a car to get around when you are there, or perhaps even take your own car with you.  But are you up to speed on what you need to bring with you to stay on the right side of the law?

Driving a Hire Car in Europe

If you’re planning to drive a hire car in a European country, make sure to pack your essential driving documents before you go:

  • Your Passport
  • Your valid UK Driver’s license
  • Your insurance documents

Also, bear in mind that you may need to review and update your insurance policy to make sure you are covered to drive outside your home country.  Post-Brexit, additional documentation may also be required.

Driving Your Own Car in Europe

In addition to your passport, driver’s license and insurance documents, you may also need to pack quite a few extras:

  • Vehicle log book (V5C)
  • A green card (this takes some forward planning to avoid getting caught out – it’s advisable to apply for this at least 1 month in advance of your trip to ensure it arrives on time!)
  • A home country car sticker.

To drive in some EU states, you may also need to fill your boot with extra items aside from your luggage.  Essential and recommended items for driving in Europe include:

  • Headlight adaptors – it’s a legal requirement to have these fitted to drive in Europe. Drivers can purchase a UK version for right hand drive vehicles to avoid blinding other road users. 
  • Spare bulb kit – if caught with a headlight or side light out you will be subject to an on the spot fine and expected to resolve the issue before continuing your journey.
  • Reflective vests – carrying reflective vests for every passenger on board is law in many European states, including France and Spain.
  • Warning Triangle – having one on board in case of accidents or breakdowns is also a requirement in many European countries such as France, and you need two if you’re driving in Spain!
  • Disposal breathalysers – it became a legal requirement in 2013 for all drivers in France to carry NF approved breathalysers to enable motorists to determine if they are fit to drive.
  • A fire extinguisher - this is a recommended item in case you are involved in an accident or come across another motorist in trouble.
  • First aid kit – likewise, this is also recommended as a precautionary measure.

Check the specific requirements for the country you are travelling to.  You can also stay on the safe side by purchasing a European Motoring Kit.  This will contain all the items required for driving in any European country.

Driving in Europe Post-Brexit

The government states that there will be no immediate changes to travel procedures if the UK agrees to a deal to leave the EU.  However, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, things could get a bit more complicated and some extra planning may need to go into your trip.  This won’t just apply to your plans to drive in Europe – rules for passports, EHIC cards, pet travel and various other procedures will also change.  In addition to the vehicle document listed above, you might also need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in the EU and European Economic Area (EEA).

Should You Drive a Hire Car or Your Own Car in Europe?

There’s significantly less planning and packing required to drive a hire car in Europe.  But on the flip side, you’ll have the additional challenge of driving a left-hand drive vehicle on the right-hand side of the road to factor in when driving a hire car (unless you’re driving in Malta or Cyprus).  The UK is in a minority in Europe with only a small number of countries following our practice of driving on the left-hand side of the road in a right-hand drive car. 

Hire cars also measure distance in kilometres per hour, not miles per hour. You’ll need to know and obey the speed limits in the country you’re driving in as these can differ slightly from one European country to another.

Regardless of whether you drive your own car or a hire car in Europe, you’ll always have the challenge of unfamiliar territory to deal with.  Different road systems, larger motorways, and some less familiar road signs can make driving in Europe quite daunting, particularly if you are new to it.  You may also be at an increased risk of being involved in an accident.

Our advice is simple.  Do your research prior to leaving Northern Ireland, put safety first, and be prepared for the worst if it does happen.  Ensure that you have adequate car insurance to drive on the roads in Europe, adequate health insurance to cover hospital treatment for any injuries sustained, and pack all the required essentials.

Get in touch if you need any help with your plans to drive in Europe:

Tel:        028 9099 3600