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Driving in Europe: What You Need to Know

Driving in Europe is not the same as driving in the UK. Whilst there are obvious differences like driving on the other side of the road, there are many others that can even run you the risk of an on the spot fine. From being aware of the compulsory items that you need to carry to the differences in breakdown cover, there are lots that you need to be aware of.

Compulsory Items

The items that you need to carry in your car will depend on what country that you’re in. There are some that are consistent with many of them however. A GB sticker, headlamp beam converters, warning triangle, and a high-vis jacket are compulsory in many countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal, among others. Some recommend a first aid kit, and in France you are required to carry an NF approved breathalyser.

This is not an exhaustive list – make sure you check the latest driving laws in the country that you’re visiting before you go. You can look at the AA’s website for a breakdown of all the countries.


You may be asked to produce documents, so having them in order is really important. It is your responsibility to make sure that you have all the documents that you need to comply with the requirements of the law.

You’ll need:

-       Valid full driving licence. If you have a photocard licence, then you’ll need to have the paper counterpart.

-       The original of your vehicle registration document (V5c)

-       Motor insurance certificate

-       Passport

-       Travel insurance documents

Insurance Cover

You need to make sure that your insurance will cover you for driving abroad. If you don’t have overseas cover, you will only have the minimum legal support, which is usually third party only in the EU. You may have to pay extra to have it extended.

The same goes for your breakdown cover. If you are not covered, then you may need to extend your existing cover or take out standalone European breakdown cover. Ideally, you’ll be covered in the event that your vehicle needs to come back to the UK for whatever reason. You cannot run the risk of assuming that you’ll be okay without it.


Leaded petrol and Lead Replacement petrol are generally no longer available in northern European countries. While you should be able to buy antiwear additives, it is best to err on the side of caution and take a supply of the additive you use at home.

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