Driving Abroad for the First Time? Don’t Leave Without Reading This Post!
You’ve planned your trip abroad, picked your travel insurance, booked the hotels, and worked out roughly what you’re going to see and do.
However, it’s also worth considering what’s involved in driving abroad for the first time, whether you’re hiring a rental car or taking your own car. What do you need to know, and what are some of the dangers that you need to avoid? Depending on which country or countries you’re traveling to, there are often a number of potential hurdles to consider.
The first thing you need to do is to check the local driving laws in the country you’re visiting; this means checking to see whether your driving licence is valid – in most cases, a UK, US or European based driving licence is fine for other countries. However, it’s also often possible to get an Internal Driving Permit, which covers you for 12 months while driving abroad, potentially avoiding any local difficulties. The same permit can also work for motorbikes and other vehicles, and should be used in conjunction with your existing licence.
Tailor your insurance
Whether you’re renting a car or taking your own, you’ll need to get the right car insurance policy. In many cases, car and rental car insurance will be covered by your general travel insurance policy; you might like to adapt this, though, should you want a more comprehensive service covering breakdowns and any exceptional expenses. How much insurance you’ll need will depend on how long you’ll be driving for and where – it’s also important to check on what kinds of excesses are covered by individual rental companies, and where you’ll need to rely on your own insurance policy.
We spoke to ingenie, who provide car insurance for young drivers, on what those new to the road should look out for when venturing abroad for the first time: “We recommend that you check your insurance policy wording to make sure you’re covered for the countries you’re going to be driving in. It’s also advisable to purchase breakdown cover that includes travel abroad, and don’t forget that you need to have the required replacement and emergency equipment for each country. For example, reflective warning triangles and high visibility jacket are required in France, Belgium, Italy and Spain amongst other countries.”
Servicing and tires
It’s a good idea to service your car before traveling, as this can bring down your insurance premiums, and will reduce the danger of being caught out during a long trip. Moreover, some countries will expect you to either use winter tires, or to have snow chains and heavier tread tires in your vehicle. Countries like Andorra, Austria, Norway, and Sweden, typically require these tires to be installed by law, and particularly in areas that experience heavy snow throughout the year.
You’ll also need to know what documents to have on your person. As well as your driving license and an International Driving Permit, it’s advisable to bring your V5 log book, as well as copies of your insurance documents. Some countries, most notably France, also require you to have a breathalyzer in your vehicle if you’re pulled over. In addition, motorcyclists in France are required to wear reflective clothing. If your car is being paid for on a hire purchase agreement, you’ll need a Vehicle on Hire Certificate or a VE103b form, as well as permission from the car dealership or owner for taking the vehicle overseas.
Safety on the road
Plan your trip as carefully as possible, and remember to check the basic safety measures such as which side of the road to drive on, and where it might be impractical to drive a car. 112 is the European emergency call number, which should be used alongside your insurance. Ordering a European Health Insurance Card will also reduce risk. Remember that your credit cards may not work in petrol stations overseas – check this with your provider before you leave. It’s also important to display your GB or equivalent sign with a number plate, and to adjust your headlight beam pattern for driving on the other side of the road. Failing to follow local road laws and speed limits can also result in heavy fines and even imprisonment for unsafe driving.
Don’t get caught short
Some countries are still rife with corruption so always carry a mixture of local currency or Euros and US dollars, and make sure you have access to a map or better yet a sat nav at all times. You’ll never know when you might need it!