Driving in Europe Checklist
Take the right documents for driving in Europe
Full Valid Driving Licence
It seems obvious but don’t forget you will need to take your full driving licence with you.
For the time being your Great Britain and Northern Ireland driving licences are valid in all countries in the EU and European Economic Area (EEA). This may change after Brexit.
Even though Switzerland isn’t in the EU or EEA, you can still use your UK driving licence as long as you are 18 or over.
If you have plans to drive elsewhere in Europe, you might need an International Driving Permit (IDP), which is a requirement or recommendation in over 140 countries worldwide. Check if you need an IDP
National Insurance Number
Travel Insurance Documents
If travelling with your own car you will also need:
Vehicle Log Book (V5C)
Motor Insurance Certificate
Driving in the EU or EAA with a UK motor insurance policy automatically gives you third-party cover (your insurer will pay out if you damage another car, but not if you damage your own or it gets stolen).
Do check your policy to see if you are covered for comprehensive European cover – some insurance providers do provide this.
If your insurer doesn’t afford you comprehensive cover and you want to extend your cover while you are away – call your insurer giving your dates of travel and the countries you’ll visit (or plan to pass through, even if it’s only for a few hours) to extend the policy.
If you’re planning to drive in a European country that isn’t part of the EU or EEA, you may need to ask your insurer for a ‘green card’ – essentially an international insurance certificate that proves your policy provides minimum cover.
European Breakdown Cover Policy Number and Documents
Having breakdown cover is highly advisable wherever you driving. It is unlikely that your UK breakdown cover also covers you driving abroad so do check.
You can contact your provider and upgrade your cover for Europe – you may be able to upgrade temporarily just for the time you need it.
If you don’t already have breakdown cover, it’s time to get some. Find a provider that will allow you to upgrade your UK policy for a few days a year when you need it.
If you regularly drive on the Continent, it may be cheaper to take out an annual breakdown policy that also covers Europe.
Several countries in Europe have stringent emissions regulations that require you to purchase and display an emissions sticker when driving through certain cities at certain times. They are inexpensive to buy, so well worth it as the fines can be high.
Be aware that If you have an older car it could be banned altogether at certain times.
Before you travel ensure your vehicle’s tax and MOT are valid and up-to-date
If you’re hiring a car you’ll need:
DVLA Licence Check Code
At least 21 days before you plan to pick up your hire car in the UK or Europe you need to request a personal code from the DVLA. This is so hire firms can check for points, as paper licences are being scrapped for photo card holders with licences issued after 1998.
In practice, many firms don’t seem to ask for the code, but it’s best to have one just in case.
If you’re taking a vehicle abroad that you’ve hired or leased in the UK, you’ll also need a VE103 certificate.
Required Equipment for Driving in Europe
Unlike driving in the UK, in many European countries it’s compulsory to have certain equipment in the car.
If you hire a car in Europe it should have all the necessary equipment, but do check as it is your responsibility.
Exactly what you need to carry depends on the country and time of year, but usually it includes some or all of the following:
- Reflective jackets (there must be one for each passenger and be kept within the cabin of the car)
- Warning triangle (compulsory in most countries)
- Headlamp beam deflectors (depending on your car, you’ll either need deflector stickers or have to adjust the beam manually)
- GB car sticker (if you don’t have a GB Euro number plate)
- First aid kit (compulsory in Austria, France and Germany)
Additional Travel Tips
Keep loose change in your car for tolls
Many European countries, including France, Italy and Spain, have toll roads where you pay at a toll booth to use them. Keep enough cash in your car in the correct currency or currencies to cover the cost of toll roads – there are websites that can give you an idea of costs before you go.
Adjust your headlight converters
It’s a legal requirement in most European countries not to dazzle oncoming drivers, and if you don’t take steps to ensure your car doesn’t, you could receive a fine if stopped – or even invalidate your insurance.
Headlight converters are stickers that adjust the dipped beam of your headlights to prevent them dazzling oncoming drivers. They’re generally compatible with a huge range of cars and come with fitting instructions. Kits are widely available and usually cost £6-£10
Depending on your car you may need to get a mechanic to adjust your headlights for you instead.
If you’re hiring a car in Europe, you can take a child car seat for free
If you’re flying to Europe with young children, and plan on hiring a car once you get their – take car seats with you. Many airlines let you check in a car seat for free, in addition to your usual luggage allowance. This can save you money on the daily cost of hiring car seats.
Display a GB sticker
Your vehicle must display the appropriate country identification letters (e.g. GB), otherwise you are liable for an on-the-spot fine.
However if your number plates include the GB Euro symbol, you do not need a sticker within the EU.