Driving in the EU after Brexit
If there is ‘no deal’ then mutual recognition of driving licences between the UK and EU may end, and UK drivers wishing to drive in Europe from 29 March 2019 may need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP):
- A 1949 Convention IDP (Ireland, Iceland, Spain, Malta, Cyprus), or
- A 1968 Convention IDP (all other EU countries, Norway and Switzerland)
- A 1926 Convention IDP (Liechtenstein)
Ireland has ratified the 1949 Convention but doesn’t require foreign drivers to carry an IDP so you won’t need an IDP to drive in Ireland after 29 March 2019.
It may be better to be safe than sorry and to get your travel documents together now, assuming a ‘no-deal’, especially if you’re planning to travel in April. If you wait for Government to make a decision it could then be too late to get your travel documents in time.
What is an IDP?
Your UK driving licence is all you currently need in most European countries, but venture further afield and you might have to carry an International Driving Permit (IDP), too.
- An IDP is basically an official, multi-language translation of your driving licence
- You could be fined (or worse) for relying on just an IDP – you must carry your UK licence too
- To apply for an IDP you must be 18 years or over, and have a valid UK driving licence
- An IDP can’t be issued to a provisional licence holder
- When hiring a car abroad, remember that licence requirements worldwide do vary. If you’re making an advance reservation in the UK, ask the company concerned to confirm the driving licence requirements of the countries you’re visiting. Without this info, consider an IDP as a precautionary measure, especially if travelling outside Europe.
DRIVING ABROAD FOR THE FIRST TIME
How to cruise the autobahns like a local
Driving around Europe? Here’s what to know before you go
If you’re driving in Europe for the first time, it’s normal to feel a little bit nervous before you set off. You could be driving on the right for the first time, to different road rules and kilometre speed limits among other things. So here’s what you need to know to feel confident behind the wheel.
The documents you’ll need to carry if driving in Europe will change in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit on 29 March:
• Whether hiring a car or driving your own, it’s likely that you will need an Insurance Green Card and an International Driving Permit
• You will also have to have at least six months on your passport (excluding months over 10 years added if you renewed it early)
It may be better to be safe than sorry and to get your travel documents together now, assuming a ‘no- deal’, especially if you’re planning to travel in April. If you wait for Government to make a decision it could then be too late to get your travel documents in time.
Top tips for driving on the right
- Driving in your own car – Although you’re already familiar with your own set up, you’ll have to adapt to your new position on the road and get familiar with the road rules too.
- Driving in a hire car – You’ll need to get used to a new vehicle before you set off. Pedals will be in the same order, but gear stick and handbrake will be on your right.
If you’re off to Malta, Cyprus or the Republic or Ireland, you’ll be driving on the left, as in the UK. All you’ll need to do is learn the rules of the road. Here’s the full list of European countries which drive on the left.
It can take some getting used to driving on the right. Here’s how to master it quickly:
- If you’re driving down a narrow lane, pull over to the right to let oncoming vehicles pass.
- On motorways and dual carriageways, the overtaking lane is on your left side.
- Go easy when overtaking. If you need to overtake and you’re driving a left-hand drive car, you may find you can’t see the traffic around you properly. If you need to, wait for a stretch of dual carriageway.
- On roundabouts, give way to the left and drive anti-clockwise. In some countries, such as Holland, look out for bikes – their roundabouts are structured to include bike lanes.
- Look at the signs. The best way to check you’re on the correct side of the road is looking at road signs – if they’re facing you, you’re doing OK.
- Give yourself space. Keep a greater distance than you normally would between you and the car in front to make sure you have the time and space to react if you need to.
- Take extra care when you’ve just finished a familiar task, such as filling up at a petrol station where you could unconsciously slip back into UK driving mode.
- Bring a friend to chat to. If you can, take someone along with you who’s familiar with driving on the right, so you have the comfort of someone talking you through manouvers like crossing traffic.
Know the laws and speed limits
Driving laws vary widely across Europe, even between neighbouring countries. For example, there’s no speed limit on Germany’s autobahn (motorway network), and in France, the motorway speed limit is reduced from 80mph to 68mph when the road is wet.
Here are some of the main differences between UK and European laws you should know:
- In many European countries, such as Poland, Bulgaria and Serbia, you need to have your headlights on at all times.
- Some countries allow you to turn right on a red signal – there will be a sign or flashing light to show you it’s allowed.
- Many European countries ask you to carry essential kit at all times, such as headlamp beam converters and a reflective jacket.
- If you wear prescription driving glasses, carry a spare set with you.
- In France, you must carry a breathalyser at all times.
- As if driving on the other side of the road wasn’t confusing enough, you may have to learn some unusual laws. For example, it’s illegal to drive a dirty car in Romania. Or that parking in some Spanish cities depends on the day of the week.
Some rules are the same across Europe. Drivers must carry a full licence, vehicle registration documents and car insurance details. Speeding tickets and fines can follow you home, so don’t take chances.
Our country guides for driving in Europe are essential reading, so you’ll know the speed limits and driving rules for the country you’re going to before you set off.
What to do if you’re pulled over by the police
The most important rule here is to stay calm. If you’re flagged down, slow down, indicate, and find a safe space to pull over.
The police may ask to look at your travel documents – if you don’t have them on you, it could mean a fine, or having your licence temporarily taken away until you take them to the local police station.
You only need your UK driving licence for European countries, but if you’re heading beyond Europe, you may need an International Driving Permit, too.
Keep the following documents in a plastic folder in your car at all times:
- Full UK valid driving licence (plastic card only – the paper forms have been discontinued).
- Your car insurance details and your vehicle’s V5c (registration document).
- Passport (and your visa if you’re in a country that needs one).
- If you’re hiring a car, you’ll need all the relevant paperwork you were given by the rental company.
Here’s a full list of the documents you’ll need (and the essentials you’ll need to check) before you set off.
Never hand over your visa, passport or any money on the roadside (more details below).
Keeping safe on the road
- It’s unlikely, but if someone tries to flag you down while you’re driving and suggests there’s an issue for your car, don’t pull over and stop.
- The issue could be genuine, but the safest thing to do is to drive to a populated area and wait until you’re in a brightly lit, busy place before checking your car.
- If you’re stopped by the police and you feel something isn’t quite right, keep your door locked, open your window slightly so you can talk, and ask to see their badge. A genuine police officer will be happy to prove they’re who they say they are.
In order to get the latest advice, check out the FCO website before you travel, and see if there have been any issues about the country you’re travelling to.
The importance of knowing where you’re going
There’s nothing more frustrating than getting lost, so make sure you have an up-to-date satnav (which includes maps of Europe) with its charging cable and mount) in your car. Or you can use and print our Route planner – if you’re somewhere with no signal, you’ve got a hard copy of your directions.
It’s illegal to use satnavs to detect speed cameras in any European nation except the UK and Hungary.
Make life easy and plan ahead
If you’re driving around Europe, you’ll sometimes need to pay a toll to use the road. The payments can add up, especially if you’re taking a long trip, so research your route before you go. You can pay by card in some countries, but always carry plenty of notes and coins to get you through the tolls just in case.
Some countries may need you to pre-pay tolls, such as Portugal, where you must buy a DEM card to pay for tolls.
Long drives can tire you out sooner than you might think. Take regular breaks and stay hydrated, make sure you’re protected against the sun (you can still get sunburned while driving), and drive at a speed which suits you. If you wear glasses, you might like to get some prescription sunglasses to make long hot drives easier on your eyes, as contacts can get scratchy when your eyes dry out.
Lots of European motorways can get congested, especially in the summer. To avoid stressing out in long traffic jams, allow yourself a little more time and plan your journey around A and B roads. It might take a little bit longer but you’ll be off the motorway and you’ll get to see more of the country you’re travelling through.
The perils of parking
Before you leave home, double check with your accommodation if they provide parking. If they don’t, ask what the best plan of action is. Will you be able to park locally? How much will it cost? Can you pay with your card, or with change? Are there any limits on how long you can park there, or when you can return?
It’s sometimes easier (and far cheaper) to park outside of the city centre and catch public transport to your hotel or to begin your sightseeing. In Bruges and Amsterdam, there are long-term park and ride sites outside the city centres.
In some historical cities, such as Pisa and Rome, you might find vehicles aren’t allowed in the centre. In Italy, this is shown by a sign with a red circle on a white background. Here’s an introduction to traffic restrictions in Europe.
Relax and enjoy the ride!
This is your holiday, and it’s time to leave your worries at home and focus on enjoying your break. Your road trip can be a huge part of that. When you’re used to driving abroad, you’ll suddenly realise that you’re having a lot of fun and that Europe’s a lot more accessible than you previously thought.
European Breakdown Cover lets you fully focus on what’s important – having fun. It’s tailored for travellers, with access to over 40,000 quality-assured garages across Europe, so you can carry on enjoying your holiday with no fuss if your car decides to misbehave.
Motorcycle touring tips from RoadTrip
Motorcycle Touring Daily mileage.
Depending on your ride, your route and the road quality, you might find 150 miles of motorcycling as big a day as 300 miles. Whatever the case, after back to back rides of much over 200 miles we suggest you plan a rest day at least every third or fourth day, otherwise you can begin to feel like a long distance motorcycle courier!
If you are planning to ride every day for a week, then we suggest budget for 1500 miles at most. If you are planning to ride out for more than a fortnight including mini-breaks, you will very likely average about 100 miles a day, overall. If you are setting off on a full day’s ride, expect an average of no more than 50 miles per hour overall, including pit stops; and plan accordingly.
We have found these benchmarks to be remarkably constant wherever and whatever we have ridden.
Motorcycle Touring Documents
We suggest putting together a package of your essential documents and contact details in a zip lock bag or waterproof pouch. Keeping them with you at all times, either on your person or with the motorcycle, will ensure that you have them when you need them and that they are safe. Another back up option is a UTAG digital storage device – worn as a wristband or a dog collar. These are available on the Web. Don’t forget, you must have the right documentation with you when you take a rental motorcycle to Europe.
See the RoadTrip travel checklist
Ferries for Motorcycle Touring
Please always wait and watch your motorcycle being secured, and ensure that they put a pad over the seat, between the motorcycle and the tie-downs. Park the motorcycle in 1st gear and on its side stand (not the centre stand, if you can help it). This creates a secure tripod, giving you three points of contact, the tyres and the stand. If you are securing the bike yourself, then tighten any ratchets on the low, side-stand side of the bike. You can attach your helmet to the motorcycle either with a fitted lock or a bicycle loop lock.
Motorcycle touring Insurance & Breakdown cover (RoadTrip covers all our motorcycles in the UK and Europe)
These are essentials for motorcycles. Also you will want cover for personal belongings and medical assistance.
Check that motorcycling is not an excluded activity on your travel insurance policy.
Packing for motorcycle touring
It is much easier to locate and store things if you pack them in a succession of bags within the panniers. As well as being an additional layer of waterproofing, you will find that rolling clothes etc. up and stuffing plastic bags is the most efficient use of limited space. Make sure that any pannier liner bags are not overstuffed – to avoid having to repack them by the roadside when you discover that they will no longer fit back inside the panniers!
Pack anything you might want during the ride on the nearside of the bike, so that if you have to stop at the roadside, you will not be standing in the road when you unpack. If you are on an overnight ferry, pack one pannier with anything you need for the ferry journey.
See the RoadTrip travel checklist
Motorcycle Touring Maps
As well as being the definitive analogue back up to SatNav., it is very satisfying when touring to sit down in the evening with a good map and mark up the day’s ride. A map is a great memento of your RoadTrip and also the best way to survey the next day’s riding options.
Motorcycle maintenance when touring
- Check tyre pressure regularly: correct pressure makes for a safer and more comfortable ride.
- Always check oil levels before the day’s ride – hot work and long rides burn oil, even in new motors.
It is your responsibility to monitor this.
- Check your signals and lights before setting off.
- At RoadTrip, we ask our riders to let the motor idle for a minute or two while you make final adjustments to your helmet and gear before setting off.
- Take it easy for the first 10 minutes or so of every ride to let the bike warm up.
On chain driven motorcycles, chain oil should be applied to the length of the chain after each full day’s ride – this is essential maintenance for the preservation of chain and sprocket life and to help maintain correct chain tension throughout your tour. Few things are more irritating than a noisy or slapping chain.
Motorcycle Tour planning
For detailed information about RoadTrip Self-Guided Motorcycle Tours please see our Touring Page.
Back-ups, spares and distribution are the way to go. If you are riding with a passenger or another rider, split the cash and cards etc. If you travel with a second, independent credit card or bank card, then you have alternative access to cash and credit. Take care to ensure that electronic devices – including keyless ignition and immobiliser fobs are kept dry and waterproof.
Toll Roads – are few in the UK but common in other parts of Europe.
Much the easiest way to pay is by credit or debit card –keep the card and ticket handy and dry.
In Switzerland you must buy an annual Vignette in order to use the motorways – the cost is 40CHF. These can be purchased in advance on-line or at post offices and some petrol stations in Switzerland. There is no short term option, it’s an annual pass or nothing (and non-refundable!).
The same applies to Austria although you can buy a 10 day or a 2 month pass for either 5 Euros or 12.70 Euros at Motorway service stations.
Speeding and Confiscation
If you should be caught accidentally straying over the speed limit in Europe you can expect an on –the-spot fine in many places. This is about 90 Euros in France, and more in other places. Therefore, you should always carry a reasonable amount of cash with you just in case. In France all speed limits on National Routes (not motorways) were reduced in 2018. Most are now 80kph (50mph).
If you are caught doing excessive speeds then, as with most countries in the world, you can expect an appointment with the local magistrate! In some countries they will also confiscate your (our) motorcycle. After the initial hire period expires, the motorcycle (and associated equipment) is on hire to you at full daily rates until it is returned to us.
There is a zero tolerance policy for speeding in Switzerland and the fines are heavy. We recommend caution. In France you are required to carry a High-Vis Vest if you use the autoroutes