Driving in Europe

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A driving holiday in Europe is a great way to see lots of interesting sights during your annual family summer trip, but make sure you’re prepared before you set off

driving-in-the-alps

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 confusing around how to hire a car abroad.

But driving holidays can sometimes be stressful. Driving laws and rules differ from country and country, and an 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.

Does your car insurance cover you for driving in Europe?

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. 

Car insurance with European cover

Admiral Car Insurance comes with 90-day European cover as standard and is printed on the back of the Certificate of Motor Insurance. 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: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland 

Your International Motor Insurance Certificate will cover you for a maximum of 30 consecutive days in any one trip up to a maximum of 90 days in any one year. If you do wish to exceed the 90 days then call our customer services team.

Some insurers may ask you to contact them to let them know you’re taking your car abroad, but many don’t. 

Admiral ask for you to contact us only if your trip exceeds 30 days. 

Driving laws in Europe

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. 

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.

For a full list of these, the government has created a downloadable guide. 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. 

What do I need to drive in Europe? 

In some countries you may be legally required to carry a number of safety accessories: 

  • A red triangle
  • A reflective vest
  • A first aid kid
  • Spare bulbs

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. 

Important documentation to take when driving in Europe

Make sure the following documents are up-to-date and keep them with you just in case the police ask to see them:

  • Certificate of Motor Insurance
  • A valid full driving licence 
  • Original vehicle registration document - if you can't get the original registration document because the car is leased or hired, the only legal alternative is the Vehicle on Hire Certificate VE103b, available from BVRLA
  • Your passport - for some countries in mainland Europe but not in the EU (for example, Belarus) you might also need an International Driving Permit (IDP). In most EU countries, your UK driving licence will be sufficient. Some countries in mainland Europe, such as Russia, require a Visa too
  • An Agreed Statement of Facts on Motor Vehicle Accident

The Agreed Statement of Facts on Motor Vehicle Accident 

This is a form which all drivers in Europe should keep in their car in case of an accident, and it’s a good idea to print one off and pop 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 do not need to fill this in it is 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.

Details to get if you’re in an accident

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 do double check before leaving the scene:

  • Title: Mr/Mrs/Dr/Other
  • Full name
  • Nationality, this is not on the accident form and is very important to know
  • Insurance details including name of company and policy number
  • Carbon copy of the Agreed Statement of Facts on Motor Vehicle Accident

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: 

  • Photos - try to get pictures of both vehicles, registration of the third party's vehicle, damage to the vehicles
  • If the police or emergency services attend the scene make sure you get their contact details

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. 

How to stay safe when driving abroad

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. 

‘Highway pirates’ 

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

Emergency cash 

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.

Travel insurance

While the right car insurance while protect your vehicle while you're on the continent, you and your family need the right travel insurance to stay safe. Make sure you're covered well before you set of with the right European travel insurance, and that you remember to take your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

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