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Driving a car in Europe – here’s everything you need to know


Taking a car on holiday can be an excellent idea. Rather than having to rely on public transport or taxis, being able to jump in a car gives you the freedom to travel wherever you want, when you want – allowing you to take your holiday at your own pace and explore attractions that are off the beaten track.

Whether you’re driving your own car to the Continent or renting a vehicle to drive abroad, we look at the essentials of driving in Europe.

Licence requirements

A UK driving licence allows you to drive within the European Union, though If you’re driving outside the EU, you'll need an International Driving Permit. An IDP costs £5.50 for one year and you can buy it from the RAC, the Post Office, or the AA.


Before setting off you should make sure that your insurance policy covers you for driving outside of the United Kingdom – call your insurer and let them know. If you’re driving in the European Union, your insurer should automatically extend your cover, though this usually only provides the minimum third party cover. This means that you’ll be covered for claims from other drivers but if you need to repair the car you’ll have to pay.

If you require a higher level of protection then contact your insurer and check that they can upgrade your existing policy to cover you abroad; you may have to pay extra for this.

Green Card

If you’re driving outside of the European Union, a Green Card can prove useful. A Green Card is an internationally-recognised document that acts as proof of insurance in Europe and whilst it’s no longer required in most countries, it can make things easier if you have to make a claim or need to exchange details with another driver or provide your details to the police.

You will still need a Green Card if you’re planning to drive in Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, Israel, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Russia, Tunisia, Turkey or Ukraine.

Items to pack

As well as important documents like your driving licence, insurance documents, car registration documents, breakdown policy documents, travel insurance documents, and a European Health Insurance Card, in the UK and most European countries it is mandatory to carry items such as a reflective jacket, warning triangle, first aid kit and spare bulb kit. Before you set off, be sure to check the motoring regulations of the countries you’re planning to visit, for any additional compulsory items.

Other non-mandatory items that you should consider taking are a spare tyre/jack, a mobile phone and charger, a road map, a first-aid kit, water, non-perishable food, loose change, an umbrella, warm clothing, a spare pair of boots or strong shoes, and a torch.

Check the local driving rules

Before driving it’s obviously very important to review the country-specific rules for the places that you’ll be visiting. Europe generally drives on the right side of the road, with the exceptions of the UK, Ireland, Malta and Cyprus.

You’ll also need to make sure that when you arrive on the Continent, you fit headlamp convertors. As UK vehicles drive on the left side of the road, your headlights can dazzle oncoming drivers when you’re driving on the right at night. Headlamp beam convertors simply adjust the headlight beam pattern for driving on the right so that the dipped beam doesn't dazzle oncoming drivers, and they are a compulsory requirement in most European countries. Don’t forget to remove them when you arrive back in the UK.

Just as in the UK, adult seatbelts must be worn at all times. If you’re driving with a child in the back seat, the rules are generally the same throughout Europe - children must be seated within approved baby, child or booster seats that are appropriate to their height and weight. If a child is sitting in the front seat of the car, passenger-side airbags must be deactivated.

Safe driving and have a great holiday! If you would like to find out more about renting a car to drive to Europe, contact the friendly team at Mayday Vehicle Rentals today.