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Driving Overseas

Whether you are familiar with overseas driving or will be doing it for the first time soon, it is good to be prepared. You may be planning to hire a vehicle when you reach your destination, or you may want to drive your own car along the scenic European roads, either way, you will have to tackle some of the unknowns and get used to driving on the right, along with each European country’s own set of rules!  Here are a few pointers of things to consider prior to setting off. 

1. Know where you are going

Make sure you have an up to date sat-nav with you on your trip, it will be a lot simpler than trying to follow a map or written instructions.  If you have one, you could bring your own, alternatively, most rental companies have it as an add-on when hiring a car.  Charges are usually based on a per-day fee, so it might be worth seeing if they have any special promotions to see if you can get it included for free. 

It is also possible to download free navigation apps onto your mobile phone, they are every bit as good as in-car sat-navs, it may also save you a bit of money hiring one from the rental company too. Remember, only use your mobile phone as a sat-nav if the car has secure, hands-free access for the phone and it does not block your view of the road, or simply just put your passengers in charge of holding the phone and passing on the directions.

Are you aware that it’s illegal in all European countries except Hungary to detect speed cameras with sat navs?  Make sure you disable this function on your sat-nav, or mobile app,  prior to driving.  Likewise, there are many tolls in Europe, so do check out your route prior to setting off to make sure you have an appropriate payment method – in some countries card payments are possible, but in others, it is cash only, so make sure you have plenty of change.

2. Familiarise yourself with the driving laws

Europe is a big place and not every country has the same laws so you may need to do some research before setting off. Here is a quick summary of some of the main differences between the UK and European laws:

  • Driving on the right…unless you are travelling to Malta, Cyprus, or Ireland, and then you will be on the left, as you do in the UK.
  • If you wear prescription glasses for driving, you will need to always carry a spare set with you.
  • You can turn right on a red signal in some countries, a good indication of when this applies is when there is a sign or a flashing light to give you the go-ahead.
  • In some eastern European countries, you must always have your headlights on otherwise you risk being fined. This is the case in Poland, Bulgaria and Poland.

For more country specifics check out our country guide for the main differences when driving in Europe’s most popular destinations. 

german autobahn

3. Tips for driving on the right

Driving on the right sometimes can be a little confusing when faced with everyday situations you are used to when driving on the left.  We have put together our top tips for you:

  • Pull over to the right to let vehicles pass you if driving down a narrow lane.
  • You will find the overtaking lane on your left on dual carriageways and motorways.
  • Give way to the left and drive anti-clockwise around roundabouts. You may find some European countries, such as Holland, have roundabouts that also include cycle lanes, so watch out for those too.
  • Keep an eye on the road signs while driving, if they are facing you, you’re driving on the correct side. If you can’t see any – you’re probably doing something wrong.
  • You may find overtaking, entering, and exiting roundabouts a little difficult so make sure you give yourself enough time and distance before attempting the manoeuvres.
  • Allow yourself plenty of space when driving, this gives you more time to react.

4. Blue Badge Users

The Blue Badge is recognised across Europe so you will have the benefit of parking rights wherever you are travelling to in Europe. You may find that Blue Badge holders rights vary from country to country, so you should check where, when and the duration you can park.

The International Automobile Federation has a worldwide guide to parking abroad which includes a notice in local languages that explains that you are a Blue Badge holder. It is recommended that you print this notice and leave it next to your Blue Badge when you park to avoid any misunderstanding. 

blue badge sign

5. Keeping Safe

Before travelling abroad, it is always worth checking the FCO website to see if there have been any issues in the country you are travelling to. Most European countries are safe to travel to, but it is good to know what to do if you find yourself in certain situations.

If someone attempts to flag your car down, never pull over and stop. They may claim there is an issue with your vehicle which needs your immediate attention. The safest thing to do is pull over in a highly populated and well-lit area to check the vehicle for any issues.

Always trust your gut instinct when abroad, if you are stopped by the police but you have your suspicions that something is not right, secure your car and keep your doors locked. Any legitimate police or traffic officer will be happy to show their badge to prove who they are.

Most importantly, we hope you have a stress-free summer exploring Europe and further afield. Remember to protect your excess while travelling, we offer car hire excess insurance for hire cars and we can also cover the excess on your own private vehicle. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride!

Date Created: 16/06/2021


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