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How to prepare your vehicle for driving in Europe

If you’re anything like us, you’ve been spending the colder months dreaming of sun-filled adventures. And with the Easter holidays just around the corner, perhaps you’re eyeing up a holiday on the continent? 

Taking your car to Europe gives you more flexibility (and often more luggage space!), plus, you’ll have the opportunity to see some of the landscapes that are missed when flying in and out. Jump on the ferry or take the Eurotunnel to unlock a host of stunning destinations. 

But preparation is key. In this blog post, we’ll guide you through everything you need to know about driving in Europe – from ensuring your vehicle is well-prepared, to what to take with you, life after Brexit and considerations for EV drivers. 

As winter driving demands extra precautions, don’t overlook the importance of your car’s air conditioning system. Hendy’s winter health check is available to you as an extra precaution to ensure your air con is in working order and we’ll also check other essential car parts for winter driving, like the battery tyres and lights, all for just £29.99 

Top 10 tips for driving in Europe

If you’re taking your car to Europe, you’ll face different rules and laws. To help, the Hendy team have created an essential European driving checklist to ensure your road trip goes smoothly. 

  1. Check your documents 

Before hitting the road, make sure you’ve packed all the necessary documents. Ensure your driving licence is valid, and if you're driving your own vehicle, bring the vehicle registration document and insurance certificate.  

What’s more, make sure you’ve got the correct visas for the countries you’re visiting and that your passport is valid. Getting it wrong can result in hefty fines. 

An International Driving Permit (IDP) is mostly required in certain countries outside the EU, but you might need it within the EU if you don’t have a UK photocard licence or your license was issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man. You don’t need to carry a green card when you drive in most European countries, with exceptions including Albania, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia or Turkey. 

2. Check your breakdown cover extends to Europe 

Verify your vehicle breakdown coverage for European travel. Some policies may require an extension for international driving. It’s also wise to consider travel insurance for yourself and any passengers. 

  1. Create a travel pack 

Create a travel pack to hold all the relevant documentation, and also any required emergency equipment for driving in Europe. Different countries may have specific requirements, so research the regulations of the places you’ll be visiting. Examples include: 

  • Headlamp converters (more on these later!). 

  • Reflective jackets (there must be one for each passenger and be kept within the cabin of the car). 

  • Emission stickers (permits) in some European cities – you may need to buy these weeks before you go abroad. For example, the Crit'Air is required in Paris, Lille, Lyon and Strasbourg. 

  • Warning triangle (compulsory in most countries). 

  • UK car sticker (compulsory in Cyprus, Malta, Spain, and other EU countries if you don’t have a GB Euro numberplate). 

  • First aid kit (compulsory in Austria, France and Germany). 

  • A breathalyser (France). 

You could also consider packing things like replacement bulbs, relevant maps, a torch, a spare fuel can, a first aid kit, loose change in your car for tolls and adequate refreshments. Not to mention, plenty of distractions for the little ones! 


  1. Plan your power-ups 

If you’re taking your electric car abroad, the main thing to consider is to plan ahead and use an electric car charging stations route planner to plot your trip. European public chargers can offer a charge rate from 22kW right up to 350kW. It’s also worth considering signing up for an EV charger access card. 

  1. Got something in tow? 

If you’re planning on driving your caravan to Europe, it’s worth checking if you need to register your trailer or take out additional insurance. If you want to tow a trailer over 750kg abroad, you’ll need to update your licence to show that you can drive category BE. 


  1. Give your car a health check 

Schedule a thorough vehicle check-up or service before embarking on your European adventure. This includes examining the brakes, tyres, lights and fluids to ensure your vehicle is in top condition for the long drive. 

Here at Hendy, we’re here to look after you and your car. Our seasonal vehicle health checks are not only designed to keep you safe, but they might also spare you the inconvenience and cost of a breakdown. Find out more here. 


  1. Update your sat nav 

Ensure your navigation system is updated with European maps. It’s worth noting that devices that detect speed cameras are illegal in France – including co-pilot on your phone or sat nav. 


  1. Check overseas driving laws and rules 

As well as things like driving on the right (there are just three European countries that drive on the left: Cyprus, Ireland and Malta) and anti-clockwise roundabouts, make sure you brush up on local traffic (and parking) rules and regulations of the countries you’ll be travelling through.  

For example, did you know that French speed limits change according to the weather, your vehicle and the type of road you’re on? Or that in Portugal, it’s illegal to carry bicycles on the back of a passenger car?  


  1. Adjust your headlights 

Next up on our driving in Europe checklist are your lights. Headlights on British cars are designed for driving on the left, so to avoid dazzling oncoming locals, headlamp converters adjust the beam pattern easily. 


  1. Don’t be bewildered by Brexit 

If you’re wondering if Brexit will restrict your European road trip, the simple answer is no – but it’s always worth checking the latest news. One of the most important things is making sure you’ve got the correct documents and your insurance is correct and appropriate for the countries you’re visiting, as claiming after an accident is now more complex. 

Ready to go?

From the stunning Pula to Dubrovnik coastal road in Croatia to the striking Northern Lakes in Italy, Germany’s iconic autobahns and the truly spectacular Transfăgărășan Highway in Romania, our European neighbours have plenty of bucket-list-worthy adventures to enjoy. 

And by following these steps, you’ll be well-prepared for driving in Europe, ensuring a safe and enjoyable journey. Take the time to plan ahead and you’ll be all set to explore the diverse landscapes and cultures that the continent has to offer. 

If you have any questions or want to book your car in for a vehicle health check, come along to your local Hendy today, where our friendly team will be happy to help. 

Bon voyage! 


Additional information available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/driving-in-the-eu