Driving abroad

Whether you’re taking your own car abroad or hiring one on holiday, it’s worth getting all your documents in order in plenty of time before you set off.

Did you know the paper part of your driving licence is no longer valid?

The DVLA has abolished the counterpart element, so next time you need to change anything (eg your address) on your licence you’ll just have a new photocard and your details will be held on a database.

But what does that mean if you’re driving abroad?

If you’re hiring a car, check with the company as they might need you to share your driving record. It’s simple to do and you can create a code on the DVLA website.

If you’re planning on driving outside the EU you might also need an International Driving Permit, which you can get from The Post Office.

Simple tips for happy holiday driving

1. Good Car Insurance

It’s essential that you protect yourself and your family against the dangers of driving abroad. According to the Community Database on Accidents on the Roads in Europe, car accidents in the EU claim 43,000 lives and leave more than 1.8 million people injured each year.[1]

2. Proof of insurance

Take your Certificate of Insurance to prove you have car insurance and third party cover while driving abroad. Green cards are not strictly necessary in the EU, but the authorities of the country you’re visiting may still require you to hold one as proof of insurance – contact your insurer if you’re not sure.

3. Help

Keep your insurance provider’s 24-hour helpline number with you. Don’t forget: for emergency services in mainland Europe, dial 112.

4. Service your car

To reduce risk of breakdown or mechanical trouble while abroad, take your car in for a service before you leave. You should also check oil and water levels and carry a spare tyre with you just in case.

5. Essentials to take with you:

In some European countries, such as Austria, it is compulsory for you to carry a high-vis jacket and first aid kit; not doing so results in on the spot fines.

6. Weather

You may be planning to open the sunroof if you’re driving in the summer, but winter conditions are more taxing on your car. Make sure you have snow tyres or chains, antifreeze and window scrapers if you’re driving abroad in cold weather.

7. Take a break

Driving holidays are about the journey as much as the destination; driving without a break can be dangerous or increase your risk of accidents. Take time out of your journey to stretch your legs, rest your eyes and take in the view.

8. Speed limits

Always drive under the speed limits on motorways and highways abroad. The limit on major roads in the UK is 70mph, but limits in other countries vary so always check before you travel.

9. Drink driving limits

Alcohol limits for driving are lower in mainland Europe than in the UK. British law limits 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood (0.08%), but EU countries including Spain, France and Finland only allow 0.05% before you are breaking the law. In Sweden the alcohol limit is just 0.02%. Know your limit and don’t drink and drive.

10. Travel Insurance

Car Insurance can cover personal injury, but it may not cover all medical costs after an accident. EU agreements mean that you can access free or low-cost emergency treatment in Europe as long as you have your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), however you won’t be covered for emergency repatriation in case of serious injury. You should take out Travel Insurance to cover medical costs in case of a car accident.

How can John Lewis Insurance help?

All car insurance providers are required to give you at least the minimum legally required cover in any EU country (third party liability cover in the UK) – but not all providers automatically extend this cover to include accidental damage or loss.

90 days’ cover in Europe comes as standard with John Lewis Car Insurance, which protects you against accidental damage, injury, theft or loss. You can also buy John Lewis Breakdown Cover.