Driving in Europe checklist

A driving holiday can be one of the most relaxing ways to see the sights and visit as many different places as possible in one go, but if you are travelling abroad there are various legal obligations, road laws and other factors to take into account to ensure your trip goes without a hitch.

For anyone planning on taking their own car to the European mainland, it’s a relatively simple journey via ferry or the Channel Tunnel. However, different driving rules will need to be taken into account. Uncertainty around Brexit and the future relationship between the UK and the EU is another factor that you might want to research prior to setting off. The official government website has the latest updates on driving overseas and should be regularly consulted.

So whether you're unsure of any extra equipment you might need, any extra skills you might require or even if your insurance and excess cover is suitable for any eventuality, just taking the time to familiarise yourself with a few details will give you peace of mind and get you in the right mindset for a relaxing getaway.

Compulsory equipment

In the UK it might seem a little unusual to carry a portable breathalyser in your car but in France, it is a legal requirement. Likewise, many countries will insist that you have other emergency incident items such as a warning triangle or reflective jackets on-board. As the rules vary from country to country and there are 27 other member states in the EU, it can be difficult to give a 'one size fits all' answer to the question of what exactly you'll need to stay on the right side of the law.

A European driving kit is a great investment and usually contains all the items you might need for travelling in countries most popular with British drivers, including Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain. Do take the time to delve a little deeper though and check that you know the requirements set out by the country you will be driving through on your itinerary.


There is still a great deal of uncertainty surrounding Brexit, but this shouldn't be a reason to delay driving around Europe.  UK government advice suggests that it might be worth investing in an International Driving Permit and also an Insurance Green Card, but only if your trip is due to take place after the current Brexit deadline of 31 October 2019.

However, if the UK leaves the EU in a no-deal scenario before that date, things could get complicated, so the small outlay involved might be worth it even over the summer so that you'll be prepared for unexpected developments. That way you'll have the correct documentation with you at all times.

Advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise putting together a travel pack including your passport and driving licence, vehicle registration document (V5), motor insurance certificate, International Driving Permit if needed, travel insurance documents and breakdown service contact numbers for each different territory.

Having everything is in one place and quickly at hand should you need to present it to the authorities at any time will give you peace of mind.

Many typical breakdown cover packages either extend to Europe as a standard or offer the service as an add-on. Likewise, car insurance should be double checked to make sure you are covered to drive in the countries you will be visiting. If overseas cover isn't part of your package, you'll usually only have minimum legal third party cover in the EU.

Car hire excess insurance

Car hire excess insurance could be another option, whereby you cover the excess you would need to pay should your vehicle be damaged or stolen. Although you will need to pay the excess in the event of a claim, you can then claim it back via your car hire excess insurance policy. Therefore providing added peace of mind for the duration of your trip.

Health insurance

As well as car insurance, you should always consider having travel insurance for any trip abroad. If you become ill or are injured in a car accident or in another way while travelling, it can be an extremely expensive experience. Travel insurance covers medical bills and treatments as well as the results of any activities you are likely to indulge in while you are away that could cause injury.

You can get a free European Health Insurance Card, which although not a full substitute for a comprehensive travel insurance policy, does provide access to free or reduced-cost emergency care in countries across Europe. The situation may change if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, although it is not yet clear what impact it will have on the EHIC card.

As you can see there are numerous factors to consider before driving on Europe’s roads, but the majority of these are relatively simple tasks to complete.