Driving can be a great way to get around a foreign country and avoid busy public transport. Many people choose to drive abroad as it allows them to travel and see as much as possible, and do it at their own pace. However, if you are intending to drive abroad you must be extremely careful, most countries have different rules, laws and behaviours when it comes to driving and you must be aware of these to keep safe.
Here is our advice for avoiding disaster when driving abroad;
Before you go
• Research the country you are travelling to before you depart. Look up websites and forums which offer advice on driving in the country, then memorise laws, speed limits and the side of the road they drive on!
• Some countries have certain vehicle requirements which you must meet, for example in Germany you are required to use special tyres in the winter months. Make sure you can meet these requirements before you travel.
• Check that your license allows you to drive abroad, for example if you do not have a full motorbike licence you will not be allowed to hire a Harley Davidson. Remember that in some countries you also need an International Driving Permit.
• Check that your motor insurance covers you to drive abroad. It is definitely worth investing in breakdown cover as well – just in case. Travel insurance will not cover you for liability when driving abroad, so you must make sure your car insurance, or the car rental insurance does.
• Remember that in some countries you are required to carry vehicle registration documentation at all times, this is not advised in the UK – check before you travel. Always carry a photocopy of your driver’s licence and insurance documents, just in case.
• If you are using your own vehicle abroad, make sure you give it a full service before you depart. Check the lights, oil, wheels, spare wheel, water and do not forget to get petrol. It is also advisable to invest in an emergency kit, including a high visibility jacket – just in case.
• Make sure your licence plate is fully visible and that you have a GB sticker on your car (If the information is not on the licence plate).
Hiring a vehicle
• If you are planning to hire a vehicle during your trip, make sure you research and use reputable companies, you need to know that the cars or bikes are safe and well serviced.
• Again check with your insurance company, make sure you are covered to drive a rented vehicle abroad, if not invest in extra cover. Check the excesses on your cover carefully, these vary depending on the insurance provider and policy, could you afford to pay the first £500 towards an accident?
During your trip
• Always wear your seat belt! It is a law in the UK so you should be used to it. If you are travelling by motorcycle, make sure you always wear a helmet and quality protective clothing.
• Don’t drink and drive, once again you aren’t allowed to do it in the UK so there is no need to do it abroad. Many countries have a zero tolerance to drink driving. For example, in France you are required by law to have breathalysers in your vehicle at all times, if you do not and have not tested yourself after drinking, you will face an on the spot fine.
• Don’t use you mobile phone when driving, like the UK many countries have very strict rules about this. Invest in a decent hands free kit if you really need to talk whilst driving.
• Drive cautiously and expect the unexpected, remember that the driving style may be extremely different to what you are used to. If you are driving a motorbike or moped be especially careful and vigilant.
• If you are doing a lot of travelling, make sure you pull over and take regular breaks, driving whilst tired only puts yourself and other road users at risk.
• If you are packing up the car ready for the journey, make sure you can see out of all windows and mirrors, especially the back window.
• If you are unlucky enough to be involved in an accident, contact your insurers as soon as possible and take pictures of the damage. If the accident involves another driver, take as much detail as possible from them and take photographs.
• Be careful, in countries such as Spain British cars and hire cars have been known to be targeted by thieves, who smash windows and snatch and grab any possessions left in the car. Travel insurance will always restrict the amount of cover you have for these items, so do not leave valuable possessions in an unattended vehicle.
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