A road trip to Europe is a great way to explore abroad with friends or family. But when it comes to driving in Europe, there’s more to remember than which side of the road you should be on. Each of the European countries has different road rules. What’s more, regulations have changed a little since Brexit, coronavirus, and now, the Ukraine crisis.

You’ll need to be a little more prepared than pre-COVID, but you can still have a great time driving in Europe with your friends or family. There are 44 European countries that UK drivers are welcome in – some require an international license, others are fine with your UK photocard permit.

We’d suggest you pack an emergency kit wherever you’re headed, but that’s only the beginning. Here’s what you need to know before you head off.

What do I need to drive in Europe?

The first important thing is whether or not your license can be used in the country – or countries – you’re planning to drive in. In most countries, a UK photo license is fine. If you still have a paper license or one issued in Jersey, Guernsey, Isle of Man, or Gibraltar, you may need to get an international driving permit (IDP).

Obtaining an IDP is as simple as popping down to your local post office and purchasing one for £5.50. You’ll need to show your valid UK license of course, but that’s all there is to it. You can also do this online, but you’ll pay a little extra for the convenience.

Along with your license and IDP, you’ll need to make sure you pack copies of your insurance documents. There’s no need to worry about an insurance green card anymore. You may want to check the level of cover you have when travelling abroad though as this can change when outside the UK for some policies.

You’ll also need your car registration docs – that’s the vehicle logbook, otherwise known as a V5C. If you’re hiring wheels for your time away, make sure you have a VE103. This document shows you’re allowed to take the car out of the UK for driving in Europe.

Changing road rules in Europe

When driving a UK registered vehicle, you used to need a GB sticker next to the plate to identify your registration’s origin. Thanks to Brexit, this has changed slightly. If you already have a GB sticker, peel it off and replace it with a UK sticker. If you’re heading to Ireland, there’s no need to worry about any stickers.

As mentioned, each of the 44 European countries has slightly different road rules. You’ll need to check these for each of the countries you plan to visit. A road trip around Europe is great fun, but expensive if you collect a bunch of fines along the way.

If you’re heading to France, you’ll be driving on the right side of the road. You’ll also need a high visibility reflective jacket and warning triangle in case of a breakdown. If it’s Cyprus you’re headed to, you’ll be driving on the left, just like the UK. You won’t be eating or drinking while driving though unless you want trouble.

Always check the road rules for the countries you’ll be driving in.

Taking pets abroad

If holidays away include your furry friends, check out PETS – that’s the Pet Travel Scheme. EU regulations allow you to take up to five pets with you when you travel without the worry of quarantine periods. You’ll need to get a UK or Northern Ireland issued EU pet passport to smooth your way.

Pet passports can be obtained from your local veterinary practice, as long as they’re PETS vets. Just like the different countries have different road rules, they also have different requirements for pets. Depending on where you go, after a pet passport, you might only need to get your pet microchipped, ensure their worm treatment is up to date and rabies vaccinations are valid.

Other countries are a little more strict about pet travel. They insist on all of the above plus blood test results showing your pet doesn’t have rabies and the vaccination worked. This is needed three months before you leave along with a letter from your vet confirming your pet is fit to travel.

All of this is only true for cats, dogs and ferrets. If you have a different kind of pet that’s dreaming of driving in Europe with you, you’ll need to check out country and animal-specific requirements.

Additional charges for driving in Europe

UK residents are lucky enough to be covered for medically necessary health care in the UK by a reciprocal agreement. However, you need to prove this by showing a GHIC if you do need to visit a hospital or doctor. You can get one of these for free through the NHS. It takes around three weeks between applying and receiving your card.

Of course, you should also get travel insurance to cover unexpected hiccups and outright disasters. The Ukraine crisis has somewhat affected travel to Europe – flights are being redirected and some travel insurance policies, particularly if you’re heading to that region, are more expensive. Our European driving holiday advice for 2022 would obviously be to steer clear of conflict areas.

Mobile phone roaming charges can mount up pretty quickly. Some mobile service providers charge ridiculous premiums for using your mobile phone abroad. If you are planning to drive in Europe and use your phone, speak with your provider first. Often you can switch to a bundle for data and phone usage in Europe that will save you, well, a bundle.

When you’re driving your own car in Europe, your V5C stops the need to pay import duty. If you’re going for 12 months or more (wouldn’t that be nice?) you may need to pay tax. In some cases purchasing a CPD Carnet means you won’t need to pay tax duties.

Driving in Europe checklist

  • Emergency driver’s kit
  • UK photocard license and/or IDP
  • Pack car insurance documents (or copies)
  • Pack vehicle logbook (V5C)
  • Obtain and carry VE103 (for a hire vehicle)
  • Check local road rules
  • Get a pet passport for furry friends
  • Check country-specific travel rules for pets
  • Apply for a GHIC
  • Get travel insurance for your journey
  • Check roaming charges for your mobile phone
  • Check vehicle import tax duties if you’re away for 12 months or more.

Once you have all of that, you’re ready to go! Travelling or driving around Europe used to be a right of passage for UK school leavers. There’s no need to let the recent changes in the world stop you from exploring our neighbouring countries. A road trip to Lille, France or even parts of the UK you’ve yet to explore is a great way to spend your summer days. If you are thinking about driving in Europe this year, prepare a little further in advance, but most of all, enjoy the adventure!

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