What every tourist should know before driving abroad – words Alan Woods
While choosing to drive on holiday gives you the freedom to fully explore your destination, many UK motorists are reluctant to drive on foreign roads.
If you’re worried about driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road and sticking to foreign driving laws, then read on for our top tips every tourist needs to know before driving abroad.
Get used to the ‘wrong’ side of the road
By far the biggest challenge most British motorists face in foreign countries is getting used to driving on the opposite side of the road. If you’ve taken the ferry or the Channel Tunnel over to mainland Europe and you’re in your own car, this adjustment is likely to be easier, as you’ll already be confident about the layout of the car and know where to find all of the crucial controls.
The problem is likely to be compounded, however, if you’re renting a car while on holiday, as the steering wheel is going to be on the opposite side to what you’re used to and the controls may be hard to locate.
In their excellent guide to adjusting to driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, Lookers recommends that you take special care on roundabouts and left-hand turns, as these most drivers find these especially difficult to adjust to. They also point out that in left-hand drive cars, the pedals are (perhaps confusingly) in the same order you’re used to, so make sure to keep reminding yourself.
Make sure your paperwork is in order
To drive anywhere in the EU, you simply need your British driving licence. In some countries outside of the EU, you also require an International Driving Permit (IDP), which you can purchase online from the Post Office. This costs £5.50 and lasts 12 months.
According to The Money Advice Service, your normal car insurance will automatically cover you inside the EU, so there’s no need to take out any special insurance for the trip. If you’re renting a car in the EU, the insurance will usually be covered in the cost of hiring the vehicle — make sure to check the paperwork.
If you’re planning on driving outside of the EU, you’ll need a green card. Let your existing car insurance provider know you’re planning on driving in a country outside of the EU and they’ll send you a green card free of charge — just make sure you do this in plenty of time, as it may take a few weeks to arrive. Your green card will prove that your existing insurance provides the minimum level of cover in the country you’re driving in, and should be kept in the car at all times.
Learn the laws of the country you’re travelling to
Apart from differences in the ‘right’ side of the road, the majority of driving laws are universal across most countries. However, you should still be aware of the individual quirks of the country you’re traveling to. For example, you need to carry your own breathalyser in your car in France, while Danish law requires you to check under your car before you start it to check in case there’s a person underneath. In Italian cities, you must park in the direction of the traffic, and in some parts of Spain you should check the calendar before you park — cars must be parked on the side of the road with even numbered houses on even days of the month and vice versa.
So you don’t break any of the stranger driving laws across the world, make sure to look up the rules of your destination in the AA’s country-by-country guide to foreign driving laws.
Keep these tips in mind, do your research, and get all of your paperwork in order and you’ll be equipped to deal with the roads wherever you travel.