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driving in Europe
  1. Green Card
25th August 2021

The ultimate checklist for driving in Europe

The experts at Sterling give you a checklist for all the documentation you need, plus the extra equipment you should pack when driving your car in Europe, whether for business or pleasure.

Car Insurance from just £125 per year

Apart from getting your vehicle in good shape for a continental road trip, there’s a lot more to think about before driving in Europe. Here’s the Sterling checklist of everything you will need to drive in Europe from travel documents to the extra equipment and spares you will need to carry to keep on the right side of the law.

Important travel documents

When driving in Europe you will need to be able to produce all manner of important documents to prove you are eligible to drive, you own your vehile and you have the correct insurance. Here is a list what you need to take.

Full valid driving licence

Not taking your driving licence is an easy oversight, like not signing your passport before you get to the ferry port or the Chunnel! Don’t forget your full driving licence when driving in Europe, it will be accepted in all countries in the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA). 

Even though Switzerland isn’t in the EU or EEA, you can still use your UK driving licence as long as you are 18 or over.

Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC)

Motorists planning on driving in Europe will need to pack a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which replaces the old European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

GHIC will offer similar protection for travellers as that afforded by EHIC. That is ’emergency and medically necessary healthcare needs’ when a UK resident is in the EU on a temporary stay, for business or pleasure. The GHIC will not cover you in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

GHICs can be obtained through the NHS website and are free of charge. Travellers are advised to apply at least two weeks before their trip.

The GHIC is not intended as a replacement for regular travel insurance, which you should take out for your best protection against illness, injury, loss or accident. 

driving in Europe
When you are driving in Europe you will need a basic tool kit, and it helps if you know how to use it.

Green Card International Motor Insurance Certificate

If you are driving in Europe The Green Card guarantees you hold the necessary third-party motor insurance cover required for the country or countries you will be visiting. To find out how to get Green Card insurance, contact Sterling on 0344 381 9990.

International Driving Permit

If you are driving in Europe an International Driving Permit (IDP) will allow you to drive in countries where a UK licence alone is insufficient. An IDP can be obtained over the counter from the Post Office for £5.50. There are three types of IDP, each allowing you to drive in different countries, so if you are touring Europe, you may need more than one. 

You can use the Post Office IDP checker tool to find out if you will need a permit, which permit you will need, and what supporting documentation you will need to supply with your application. 

Holiday documentation

When you are driving in Europe you may be asked by border security to show your return ferry or Channel crossing tickets, and your accommodation booking confirmation. Carry them with you and keep them to hand, keeping printouts of online bookings and confirmations to minimise inconvenience. 

Passport

Your passport must be valid for at least six months.

Vehicle Log Book (V5C)

You must take your vehicle log book (V5C) with you if you’re taking your vehicle abroad for less than 12 months and you may have to show it if you’re stopped at a port or while driving in Europe. The V5C  tracks the registration and taxation history of a specific vehicle and confirms your ownership of it.

European Breakdown Cover 

Sterling breakdown cover is available from £42 a year and provides you with 60 days’ breakdown cover while driving in Europe in any one calendar year. Sterling can arrange roadside recovery or a reliable home repair service, whether your car or van breaks down in the UK, Europe or further afield. 

Emissions stickers

When driving in Europe you will find some countries have tough regulations that require you to buy and display an emissions sticker showing how much pollution your vehicle generates. They cost very little, but the fines you receive for not displaying a sticker can be very expensive, so it’s usually worth buying one. 

Cities with low emissions zones may prohibit your car at certain times and could even ban older vehicles completely. You can find out where you will need an emissions sticker and which of the four stickers you will need online.

Checklist of equipment needed for driving in Europe

In many European countries, it’s compulsory to have certain equipment in the car. Exactly what you need varies from country to country and time of year, but it usually includes some or all of the following.

Check your satnav

If you are driving in Europe It is illegal in France and several other EU countries to use satnavs or other electronic equipment that alerts you of speed enforcement cameras. If your satnav provides such alerts, it is recommended that you switch them off before you enter Europe.  

Reflective jackets

When driving in Europe there must be one reflective jacket for each passenger and they must be kept within the cabin of the car.

Warning triangle

A warning triangle is compulsory in most countries. Many countries require you to have two: one for in front and one for behind your vehicle. 

driving in Europe
It is good practice to keep two warning triangles in your car – and it is law in most European countries.

Two breathalysers

In most European countries it is compulsory to carry a breathalyser in your car, but it makes sense to carry two. This is because if you only have one and are stopped by police and ordered to take a breath test, you will not have one to use in the event you are stopped again during your journey.

Headlamp beam deflectors

When driving in Europe deflector stickers are needed to prevent dazzling oncoming drivers. You can buy deflector stickers from most car shops and, more expensively, at ferry ports and the Eurostar terminal. You may also be able to adjust the beam manually.

GB car sticker

You will need a GB sticker unless you have a GB Euro number plate.

First aid kit

This is compulsory in Austria, France and Germany and advised in all other European countries.

Bulbs, basic tools and other spares

Replacement bulbs, belts, wiper blades, oil, water and other lubricants, along with the tools to fit replacement parts or top-up lubricant levels, are also advisable. 

Research before you travel

Equipment needs for driving in Europe vary from country to country, so research what you need in the country of destination and the countries you will have to drive through.

Fines for non-compliance with local driving laws can be expensive and often payment is required on the spot. 

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