Tips on driving abroad this summer

With the rising costs of airfares, the reduced amount of hand luggage you are able to take on-board, and all the additional extra costs airlines are secreting into their ticket prices, it is not surprising to learn that many people are favouring driving abroad for their holidays, and either hiring a car or taking their own.

Driving Abroad - a car broken down

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Driving abroad can be an exciting adventure, but there are many things that can go wrong, and if you do not speak the native language, you could find that your dream driving holiday has turned into a nightmare.

When driving abroad you must always have with you your full Great Britain or Northern Ireland driving license, and you will need to check as some non-European countries might require an additional International Driving Permit.

There are different age restrictions in some countries, so if you are a young driver you must check before you head off, for example, in the UK, the minimum age for driving a car is 17, but in Spain the minimum driving age is 18. If you are over 18 with a valid UK driving license you can also apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP), in fact, some countries outside of the EU require that you should have this as an internationally recognised license. Use it for 12 months in conjunction with your driving license, but not in place of it.

Now you need to check your insurance, as this will cover accidents, breakdown cover and possibly some mechanical faults.

Young drivers should be aware however, that many insurers will not provide European car insurance if you’re under 21 and some won’t offer it to those aged under 25, however, it is always worth giving your insurer a call to find out whether they would consider you or if they have any alternative cover.

Your current insurance may also include overseas cover, but if this is not the case you can either add it to your policy, or choose a separate policy. You should check whether certain countries require you to have fully comprehensive or third party cover, and it is a good idea to get breakdown cover included as well.

If you are hiring a car, be advised that you will need a different form of insurance which is not covered by your current car insurance. You can usually take this out at the same time as you hire the car, but it is always good to shop around to find the best deal.

When traveling around Europe, many people like to have the same cover as they would in the UK. You can buy specific European car insurance but you normally have to have this annually and it typically covers you for only 90 days or less, so if you’re going to be away longer you will need extended cover. There are options to extend the cover or to get specialist insurance that offers car insurance overseas for longer periods of time.

When purchasing European car insurance, make sure the the countries you are traveling in are covered, as certain non EU countries such as Switzerland will not be covered, but you will still need to be insured if you are driving through any non EU countries.

Finally, when driving abroad, make sure that you acquaint yourself with the driving rules of that country before you head off. Different countries have different rules and some are updated fairly regularly. For example, a new rule that came into place in France last year meant that drivers had to carry their own self-test breathalyzers, and in European countries such as Austria and Belgium, you must at all times carry equipment such as a GB sticker, warning triangle and reflective jacket/waistcoat in your vehicle.

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