European driving holidays give you plenty of freedom, especially if you take your own car instead of hiring one. Using your own car to journey across Europe means you’ll save money and time, plus you’ll avoid all the confusion around how to hire a car abroad.
But driving holidays can sometimes be stressful. Driving laws and rules differ from country to country, and dealing with an accident has added issues including language barriers.
Before you head off on your driving holiday, make sure you have the right car insurance and that you know exactly what you’re covered against.
Read on to find out more.
A Green Card is an internationally recognised insurance document that proves you have the minimum level of cover for third party property damage and personal injury in countries that are part of the Green Card system.
To find out more including when you might need one and how to get one if you do, see our Green Card FAQs.
If you’re driving abroad, the government advises you may need to take some extra documents from 1 January 2021. Check GOV.UK for any updates on this.
You may need an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in some countries. As well as the Green Card mentioned above, you'll also need a GB sticker if you’re taking your own car or van abroad.
Driving your own car in the European Union (EU) means you need to make sure you have the right car insurance. Before you go through the tunnel or get on a ferry, make sure you check with your insurer that you have the right type of cover for your trip.
Cover varies, so while some insurers include European cover as standard many may ask you to add it to your policy.
If you aren’t covered and are involved in an accident abroad, you could be forced to pay a large amount – not only to repair damage to your vehicle and others, but to get your car home too.
If your car insurance does include European cover as standard, it’s important to make sure that you have the right level of cover for your trip. For example, some policies may not cover you for the duration of your holiday, or may not cover your car while it’s being transported.
Check the terms and conditions of your policy carefully, and get in touch with your insurer if there’s anything you’re unsure of.
Admiral Car Insurance comes with 90-day European cover as standard. All named drivers on your policy benefit from the cover but you must remember to take the certificate with you on your trip.
Your European cover is valid for the following countries: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Cyprus, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland
Your International Motor Insurance Certificate will cover you up to a maximum of 90 days in any one year. If you do wish to exceed the 90 days, please call our customer services team.
Take a look at section 6 of your policy book for more information on driving your car abroad.
European countries each have their own driving laws and many European countries ask you to carry extra equipment when driving on their roads.
Don’t be tempted to have a small drink and get behind the wheel, as most European countries have stricter drink-driving laws than the UK. Check European blood alcohol content drink driving limits here.
Like in the UK, using your mobile while driving is illegal in most European countries. If you need to use your phone’s satnav system while driving, make sure it’s attached to your windscreen and not in your hands.
Speed cameras are more and more common throughout Europe and in many countries the police can demand instant payment of a speeding fine.
Follow the government's advice for driving abroad and make sure you plan your route in advance so you can prepare for all the different requirements of the countries you’re driving in or through.
In some countries you may be legally required to carry a number of safety accessories:
You may also need to attach a GB sticker to your car, unless it has registration plates showing the EU flag and GB logo. If you're driving in winter in Europe, some countries insist on snow chains and winter tyres. Holding up traffic because your car isn't equipped with these in severe weather could earn you a fine.
Make sure the following documents are up-to-date and keep them with you just in case the police ask to see them:
This is a form all drivers in Europe should keep in their car in case of an accident. It’s a good idea to print one before you travel, and keep it with your other documents.
The form goes by different names in different European countries; it is known as the Constat Amiable in France, the CIA in Italy and the DAA in Spain. The most important thing to know is that the form will be in the language of the country you are in.
If you are involved in an incident with a third party driver while driving in Europe they will present you with the form; it is split into two sections and each driver involved is expected to complete it with their version of events.
The English language form you take with you is for translation purposes only. You don't need to fill this in - it's just there to help you understand each section of the form the third party will give you
If you sign anywhere on the report form without ticking any of the boxes in section 12 you are effectively agreeing to the other driver's version of events. It is a legally binding document and cannot be disputed once signed, so make sure you’re clear on what you’re filling in.
It is essential to add your own version of events by ticking boxes in section 12 or at least providing a comment in English and a diagram in section 13.
Be aware in some countries the Agreed Statement of Facts on Motor Vehicle Accident can be overridden by the police if they attend the accident.
The form has a front page and two carbon copies on the back. In the event of an accident you will need to tear off one of the carbon copies to send to your insurer.
To print off a copy to take with you click here.
If you’re involved in an accident while driving in Europe, the procedure for collecting details is the same as here in the UK.
Always get the vehicle registration so we can trace the third party insurer, and get details of the driver involved too.
While a lot of this is covered by the Agreed Statement of Facts on Motor Vehicle Accident, some of the following won't be, so before leaving the scene make sure you have:
If your crash involves a lorry then make sure you take the registration of the cab and the trailer. The cab and trailer parts of the lorry have different vehicle registrations. It's essential you note the registration details of the cab so we can trace the lorry's insurer but it's always better to get both
Do the same for anything being towed, including caravans and trailer tents.
Get as much information as possible to provide to your insurer, including:
Be aware in some countries you will be required to pay for attendance by emergency services up front.
Your insurer may also want to see your travel documents in the event you need to make a claim, including tickets and proof of travel.
The ways to stay safe while driving abroad are largely the same as when you’re driving in the UK. However, there are some safety issues to be aware of while driving abroad.
Foreign cars in Europe have been targeted by criminals who force them to pull over by pretending that their car is damaged, or by pretending to be traffic police.
If another driver signals for you to stop, make sure you only do so if you’re in a well-lit, public area. If a driver asks to see any of your possessions, make sure you see their ID first.
Theft or other incidents
A handbag, camera or laptop on display will be just as tempting to criminals abroad as it would in the UK.
Keep it hidden, and if you're unsure about security where you're going, you can check on advice from the Foreign Office. If you have an emergency other than a breakdown (such as an accident), you can call the 112 number which works in all the EU member states
Make sure you carry cash for each country you're visiting. If you're being adventurous and exploring off the beaten track, any shops or petrol stations you do find, may not accept credit or debit cards.
European Travel Insurance
While the right car insurance will protect your vehicle while you're on the continent, you and your family should also consider taking out European Travel Insurance before you set off to protect you against things like lost luggage, cancellations and delays and emergency medical treatment.
If there’s a no-deal Brexit, your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will no longer be valid, so taking out travel insurance will be even more important to make sure you're covered for any necessary medical treatment.