Cars

Heading abroad in your car this summer? Make sure you know the rules of the road

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Thousands of people will be taking their cars abroad this summer.

For many it will be a trouble-free experience but some will have accidents or fall foul of unexpected driving laws.

Did you know that it is compulsory to carry a portable breathalyser on French roads?

Or that you have to have two reflective jackets in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria and Croatia.

But sorry, kids, you may be able to drive in the UK at 17 but the age limit is 18 in most other countries.

We have some advice from car dealership Lookers and the RAC on some of the pitfalls.

So fasten your seatbelts for some top tips and the questions you should be asking.

1. Am I allowed to drive abroad?

Some countries do not accept a full, clean UK driving license, so make sure you check the laws before you go, including national speed limits.

You may need to apply for extra documents, such as an International Driving Permit, and while UK licenses are generally accepted in other EU countries, the outcome of Brexit negotiations may change this.

The list of countries who happily accept a UK driving licence without a problem are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Republic of Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden

2. Am I insured?

Most insurance policies cover a third party as standard overseas, but you may need to pay a little extra to be protected to the level you’re used to.

If you are planning on hiring a car abroad you also need to check your insurance.

Check the terms and conditions of your breakdown cover and see if you are protected outside of the UK.

It is also a good idea to let your car insurance company know that you plan to drive your car while you are away,On the right side of the road?

3. Which side of the road?

You must remember that most European countries drive on the right side of the road but there are exemptions.

The Irish Republic, Malta and Cyprus do it the way we do it.

But elsewhere you’ll be negotiating roundabouts anti-clockwise rather than clockwise!

4. Will I need a GB sticker?

As well as the usual suspects (fire extinguisher, first-aid kit, wheel chains etc) you’ll need a GB sticker on your car.

Other compulsory must-haves in some countries include a warning triangle and, in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria or Croatia, two reflective jackets.

5. Will I need to prove I have a clean car?

Yes, but we’re not talking about tidying up the sweet wrappers and left-over sandwiches.

‘Clean air’ windscreen stickers, called Crit’Air vignettes, are now a legal requirement in parts of France, including Paris.

These identify a vehicle’s emission levels and were introduced as a way of reducing levels of Co2.

They can even be used to refuse entry on days where cities are at risk of reaching their Euro emissions limit.

Stickers cover six categories and cost as little as £3.20, but driving without one can incur an on-the-spot fine of up to £117. You can apply online for a sticker via the official Crit’Air website.

6. Can I break the speed limit of German autobahns?

No, because there aren’t any.

It’s wise to educate yourself on local driving laws and customs, speed limits and restrictions before you drive overseas.

While some of these might already be well known, such as the lack of any speed limits on the German autobahn, others, such as fines for splashing pedestrians in Japan, may come as a surprise.

7. Can I use my blue badge?

While rights differ from country to country, if you have mobility problems, you can rest assured that the blue badge scheme is recognised across Europe.

However, rights do vary, so it’s worth checking where, when and for how long you can park with your blue badge.

Motorists with mobility issues should visit www.disabledmotorists.eu , where they can print off a notice in the local language which explains their situation.

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8. Should I take local currency?

Many European countries operate toll roads, so make sure you have plenty of loose change in the correct currency to cover the cost of tolls.

9. Are there any other restrictions?

In Spain motorcycles on the road must have their lights on at all times.

In Belgium a foreign driving licence does not entitle the holder to drive a motor vehicle in Belgium until the age of 18.

In Italy civil liability insurance is compulsory – a Green Card is the best option, which can be arranged in advance or taken out at the Italian border.

In Germany you will need headlamp beam deflectors or, if not fitted, you will have to adjust the beam manually.

10. Are only automatic cars allowed on roads n Europe?

No, but Lookers suggest you might want to hire one.

There’s already enough to get your head around when driving abroad. Why not give yourself a break and avoid unnecessary stalling by hiring an automatic.

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