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05 Feb 2020
Adam Bate

A whistlestop guide to driving abroad


If you’re heading abroad, make sure you have the right insurance and other road essentials for your trip.

A yellow toy car on a European road map

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Licence requirements|Getting insured to drive abroad|What’s a Green Card?|Breakdown cover|Checklist for driving abroad

Impact of Brexit on driving abroad

The UK is no longer part of the EU.

We're now in a transition period until the end of 2020 while the UK and EU carry out negotiations.

Until then, the current rules for driving abroad won't change.

For more information on travelling in 2021 and beyond, visit GOV.UK

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Licence requirements

If you travel before 29 March 2019, you can use your UK driving licence to drive within the EU/EEA. If you drive outside of these countries, or are travelling after the UK leaves the EU, you'll need an International driving permit (IDP).

It costs £5.50 and you can buy it from the Post Office. You have to be over 18 and have to have a full driving licence to be able to have an IDP.

Although the minimum age for driving a car in the UK is 17, other countries may have their own rules so it's worth checking. For more information, visit GOV.UK. 

Getting insured to drive abroad

To drive in another country, you need to make sure your insurance covers you outside the UK.

So before leaving, let your insurer know that you’re travelling overseas, and check if your existing policy covers you.

For a higher level of protection, get in touch with your insurer to see if they'll upgrade your existing comprehensive policy to be covered abroad. Also check if you have to pay extra for it.

Your insurer should give you a Green Card if you’re driving in Europe which will act as proof of your European cover. If not, ask for it - the card itself is free.

If your insurer doesn’t extend your policy, you might be able to add European cover as an optional extra, which usually covers you for up to 30 days.

Don’t forget to check the small print for any exclusions on your policy, as some will put a cap on the number of days you’re fully insured while in Europe.

READ MORE: A guide to holiday car hire

driving abroad

What’s a Green Card?

A Green Card is an internationally-recognised document that acts as proof of insurance in Europe.

Not only does the Association of British Insurers (ABI) recommend it, taking one will make it easier if you need to make a claim or exchange details with another driver or the police.

Outside of the EU, countries that still need a Green Card are: Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, Israel, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Russia, Tunisia, Turkey and Ukraine.

Visit the Motor Insurance Bureau for more information about the Green Card.

READ MORE: International driving permits

Breakdown cover

An overhead view of a car driving along a winding road  

Breakdown cover can be important, especially on long trips. It’s worth checking if you already have European breakdown cover with your policy, or if you can get an upgrade.

While you might be tempted to cut corners and go without breakdown cover, this could be a false economy given that the cost of repair and repatriation can be quite high. 

Checklist for driving abroad

You can never be over-prepared, so get equipped before your trip.

Create a travel pack containing all the documents you’ll need:

  • full driving licence

  • car registration document (V5)

  • insurance documents

  • authorisation letter if it’s a company car

  • breakdown policy documents

  • travel insurance documents

  • European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

The following kit and equipment is also recommended:

  • first-aid kit

  • tool kit

  • red warning triangle

  • reflective jacket

  • torch

  • fire extinguisher

Prepare your car before hitting the road:

You may also need to convert your headlights so they don’t dazzle oncoming drivers while being driven on the opposite side of the road.

You can do this with a beam converter kit, which you simply stick over your headlight. Just remember to remove them when you return to the UK.

You can purchase pre-prepared travel kits online.

Check prices for pre-prepared travel kits on Amazon

READ MORE: Worst places in the world to break down  

 First published 02 March 2016


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