Driving in Europe

If you're heading abroad with your car, you may be wondering what the legal requirements are for driving in Europe – and particularly, driving in Europe after Brexit.

The following guide sets out what you need for driving in Europe, covering areas such as driving licenses, car insurance, green cards and UK stickers. We'd hate for you to risk a heavy fine whilst you're enjoying your European adventure, so have a read to ensure you've got everything in place.

UK driving license

You need to take your UK driving license with you when you drive in Europe. Check that it’s still valid and renew it online if it’s expired (or about to expire) at least two weeks before you travel.

International driving permit (IDP)

You don’t need an IDP to drive in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland as long as you have a UK photocard driving license.

However, you might need an IDP to drive in some EU countries and Norway if you have:

  • a paper driving license
  • a license issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man.

You should check with the embassy of the country you’ll be driving in to find out more. You may also need an IDP if you’re planning to visit a European country that’s not mentioned in the list above.

IDPs can be bought at Post Offices for £5.50. There are three different types, which are known as the 1926, 1949 and 1968 IDPs (the numbers refer to the dates of the conventions on road traffic that established them). The particular IDP you may need depends on what country you’re visiting. You can find a full breakdown of the IDP types by country here.

Green card (car insurance)

A green card is an international certificate of insurance. It proves that your UK motor insurance policy provides you with the minimum compulsory insurance cover required by the law of the country you're visiting.

You may need to carry a physical copy of your vehicle’s green card in order to drive your vehicle in the EU, Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Serbia and Switzerland.

In other countries, you may need additional insurance and a green card to show that you’re covered. Check the travel advice for the country you’re driving in to find out more.

Contact your insurer to find out how to get a green card for driving in Europe. They’ll either post a green card to you (allow up to six weeks for this) or tell you how to download and print a green card yourself.

Vehicle registration documents

If you’re taking your own vehicle to Europe for less than 12 months, then you'll need to carry your V5C log book with you.

If you’re taking a car that you’ve hired or leased, then you’ll need to get a VE103 form to show you have permission to take it out of the UK.

UK stickers and number plates

To travel in the EU, you either need a number plate with a UK flag on it or a UK sticker that’s clearly displayed on the rear of your car*. Contact your local store to find out how to order a UK number plate or buy a UK sticker online.

*Please note: From September 28th 2021, 'UK' stickers will replace 'GB' stickers. If your vehicle still has a 'GB' sticker after this date, you will need to change it to a 'UK' sticker before travelling in Europe.

Driving and safety essentials to have in your car

Different European countries have different laws regarding what products you need to carry in your car. Here are the products that we’d always recommend having to hand when you’re driving in Europe, whether they’re specifically required by law or not.

High visibility jackets

It is a legal requirement to carry a high visibility jacket with you in a number of European countries, so that you can be seen by other drivers if you break down. If you're travelling with your family, get one for each of them and ensure they're kept in the passenger compartment, not the boot.

Warning triangles

Warning triangles can be placed on the road to alert other drivers if you have a breakdown or emergency. They're a legal requirement in most EU nations, although the number required differs from country to country.

Headlamp converters & spare bulb kits

To ensure you don't dazzle oncoming traffic, you'll need headlamp converters. This is because headlights on British cars are designed for driving on the left, not the right. Headlamp converters reposition the angle of the beam, ensuring other drivers are safe as well as improving your visibility.

Most European nations also recommend carrying a spare bulb kit so you can change your headlamps if one of them goes.

First aid kit

It’s always a good idea to have a first aid kit in your car, just in case someone gets hurt. Carrying a first aid kit is also a legal requirement in many European countries.

TOP TIP: The Halfords Motoring Abroad Kit contains all of the products discussed above, so it’s a handy and cost-effective way to pick up all the essentials.

Further tips for driving in Europe

To conclude, here's some more general advice for driving in Europe:

  • Check your car insurance and breakdown cover to ensure you're covered abroad.
  • Check which documents you're required to carry, following our guidance above.
  • Familiarise yourself with local speed limits, road signs and driving styles.
  • Drive cautiously and remember to drive on the right.
  • Ensure you're up-to-date on the latest driving laws for whichever country you're visiting. Laws can change quickly and we don't want you to be caught out!

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