Driving Abroad: Your Complete Guide

Driving abroad is still hugely popular and no wonder as it offers holidaymakers much more freedom compared to other means of travel.

The added bonus of the Eurotunnel and the various ferry services from the UK to mainland Europe mean that it is easy to take your car to foreign shores. For example, you can take your used car from Dorset to northern France on the ferry without the stress of having to go to the airport and parking your car.

There is also the option of hiring a car abroad, which gives you and your family the opportunity to explore another country without having to rely on public transport.

Before you venture across the channel, there are a few things you need to consider should you take your car abroad or hire a car in another country. Here we guide you through some useful information and look at some products you should consider buying before driving abroad.

Hiring a car abroad

Hiring a car abroad can sometimes be a pain, but these tips will ensure you have a stress-free holiday.

Book your car before you leave

Trevor Eastman, an automotive expert at Haynes, who are the industry leaders in automotive manuals, said it is vital for drivers to book their hire car before they leave.

He said, “Book your hire car before you leave. Not only do you otherwise risk paying a premium but you could also have less choice or be stuck with an unsuitable vehicle for your trip.  Find the best deals by booking in advance online and select the size of car that meets your needs to avoid disappointment.”

Book your car before you leave

Get a code from the DVLA

As well as having to show the hire company your photo card driving licence or pre-1998 paper licence, people driving abroad will be asked for a code.

You can go online to obtain a code and each code is valid for 21 days. Drivers will need to go to the GOV.uk website and enter their driver licence number, National Insurance number and postcode before clicking on the ‘Share your licence information’ tab. Then drivers need to click on the ‘Create a code’ button and the code that is shown can be passed onto the car hire company you are using.

Check the hire car

Trevor Eastman from Haynes also recommends doing a thorough check of the hire car.

He said, “When you are handed the keys, be sure to take time to give the car’s condition a thorough check both inside and out to reduce the chance of incurring unexpected bills or unpleasant quibbles about damage on your return home. 

“Take photos or a video using your smart phone to record any scratches or other damage. Then do the same when you return the car.”

Be aware of the driving laws

It is important that drivers taking their own cars abroad and others hiring a car are aware of the specific laws in that particular country.

Mr Eastman, added, “You should also be familiar with the laws in the country you will be driving in. For example, many European countries require that drivers must have a high visibility jacket in the car or you risk a fine of £75. Not all hire car companies provide these, as it is the responsibility of the driver, not the car owner, to have one.”

Do the essential vehicle checks

It is incredibly important to make a number of vehicle checks before you start driving abroad and these include:

  • Oil – Make sure to check the oil level.
  • Water – If you are driving in a hot country then making sure your coolant level is set at the right level and that the screen wash is full are important checks. You don’t want your car breaking down abroad because it has overheated!
  • Tyre tread – As described in the Foray Guide to Winter Car Care, it is important to check your tyre tread and tyre pressure. This simple check can reduce fuel consumption and ensures your car is safe to drive.

No matter whether you have recently bought a new car from Ford dealers in Wiltshire or have had the same car for years, it is important you do the above checks.

Check your car

Things to take in your car

Buy a high visibility jacket

As mentioned earlier, a lot of European countries will fine drivers £75 if they do not have a high visibility jacket in the car.

Dickies, the workwear manufacturer, is the perfect place to buy a high visibility jacket as the retailer sells a number of jackets which all comply with the Safety at Street Work and Road Works Code of Practice.

Dickies High Visibility Bomber Jackets are waterproof and will keep users warm in cold conditions. The high visibility strips will alert other drivers to your whereabouts and its external mobile phone pocket and internal pockets means you can keep valuables safely tucked away should your vehicle breakdown.

Dickies High visibility jacket

Take a map to stay on the right track

There is nothing worse than getting lost, except for getting lost in a foreign country.

That’s why purchasing a road map from A-Z Maps is a must. The Europe Road Map from Philip’s is the perfect buy as this recently updated map, which costs just £4.99, covers the whole of Europe, from Portugal to Russia.

The Philip’s Europe Road Map shows the whole of Europe at a standard scale of 1:3.5M and includes a city-to-city distance table and summer/winter weather maps. The double-sided map has been created with long distance travel in mind and highlights major routes and destinations in bold colours for easy journey planning and route-finding.

What’s more, if you are planning your summer break in the UK, Foray customers can get 25% off A-Z Maps 2017 GB Road Atlases by using the voucher code FORAY25. But hurry as the deal only runs until the end of September 2016!"

Road maps

An ice scraper

If you are driving in a country that is cold then you will almost certainly need an ice scraper and fortunately with the Iceplane car ice scraper you will not have to worry about an icy windscreen again.

The Iceplane Car Ice Scraper has been on sale since November 2011 and within only a few months it became the most popular product in its category on Amazon UK, a position it still holds today.

The ice scraper is very easy to use single handed. Its overhand grip and its twin blades set at the optimum angle mean it can penetrate ice effectively and remove it efficiently.

The Iceplane Car Ice Scraper weighs just 50 grams and is 140mm long, 45mm wide and 65mm high – no problem storing it in your boot or glove compartment

Iceplane ice scraper

Sun tan lotion

From the cold to the sun, it is important for drivers to take sun tan lotion with them, especially if they are driving in a hot country.

For example, if you are driving down to the South of France, the chance of getting sunburnt on your travels can be high.

One of the best names on the market is Galius Sun as it is renowned for its performance as it protects the skin in long periods of sunshine. This performance is why it has been used by the Movistar professional cycling team.

Their lotions are either SPF30 or SPF50, and are available in all shapes and sizes so there’s sure to be the perfect product for you.

If that’s not enough, Galius Sun has a range of Facial Sun Creams, such as its Facial Cream SPF30 and SPF50 bottles. They are easy to apply, light and non-greasy, long lasting, have high UVA & UVB filters and are even sweat and salt resistant.

Galius Sport sun lotion

Get European breakdown cover

Other than the passports for you and others in your vehicle, something you will certainly want to consider is taking out European Breakdown Cover.

The AA offers breakdown protection for up to 44 different countries from Andorra to the Ukraine and can be purchased through their website. The package means drivers can get cover for unlimited trips in one vehicle and can cover up to eight people including the driver.

The protection really does offer the complete peace of mind you need for a family holiday.

Warning triangle

Image Credit: Haynes, A-Z Maps, Iceplane, Galius Sun, Olaf Naami.

This content was written by James Dart. Please feel free to visit my Google+ Profile to read more stories.