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Travel & living abroad
Last updated at 2:13 (UK time) 6 Jan 2011

Driving abroad

Don’t drive abroad unprepared - read our advice on insurance, breakdown cover, accidents and car hire. We've also got tips for motorbike drivers, things to look out for if you're a pedestrian abroad and advice on bus and coach travel.

Driving abroad - before you go

  • familiarise yourself with the driving laws of the country you are visiting – including local speed limits and which side of the road they drive on!
  • you should be aware that provisional licences are a national document issued within the framework of driver training and do not entitle the holder to drive outside the territory of the issuing member state.
  • check with your insurance company that you’re fully covered to drive abroad including breakdown recovery and any medical expenses resulting from an accident
  • check whether you need a Green Card for the country you’re visiting – this provides proof of minimum insurance
  • check whether you need an International Driving Permit
  • service your vehicle before leaving the UK
  • check you can comply with the vehicle requirements of the countries you’ll visit (at certain times of the year, winter tyres may be compulsory in some countries – e.g. Germany).

Find out what you need to take:

The regulations of what you need to carry with you in your vehicle when you're abroad can differ very much from the UK. One example is your proof of vehicle ownership (V5 log book). In the UK, you are advised not to carry this in your vehicle, however in many European countries if you don't then you could be subject to a fine. The 'Local Travel' section of our travel advice by country highlights regulations like this so it's worth checking it before you drive.

  • Car driving down a winding road/ Getty images

Whilst you’re away:

  • Drive defensively and expect the unexpected – the local driving style may be different to that of the UK
  • don’t drive when you’re tired and take regular breaks on long journeys
  • always wear a seat belt and make sure other passengers do too
  • don’t drink and drive – the alcohol limit may be lower than in the UK and in some countries there is zero tolerance for drink driving
  • don't use your mobile whilst driving
  • don’t overload your vehicle and ensure you can see out of the back window
  • if you’re involved in an accident, contact your insurer immediately and take photographs of damage to your vehicle

Driving your own car

You should have a GB sticker clearly visible on the back of your car if your number plate doesn’t include this information.  You’ll also need headlamp converters if you’re driving on the right-hand side of the road.

Quentin Willson & Jess Prasad from the FCO give their top tips for driving abroad as a podcast

 Tips from driving expert Quentin Willson

Hiring a vehicle

  • Hire from a reputable company – the cheapest deal may not always be the best!
  • insurance cover is often limited to the legal minimum of the country or state you hire in. You could be held personally responsible for any claim for injury or damage over this limit.
  • ask your tour operator or insurer if they can provide top-up insurance to increase your cover. This may be cheaper than buying it abroad.

Motorbikes

  • Make sure your travel insurance covers you before you decide to drive or be a passenger on a motorbike - check the exclusions carefully. Our recent research shows that a quarter of young travellers admit to driving or being the passenger of a moped or quad bike without checking if their insurance covers them first! Two men drivers through a forest on motobikes (Copyright Getty)
  • travelling by motorcycle, scooter or moped is significantly more dangerous than by car - if you’re not accustomed to riding a motorcycle you should not attempt to ride one for the first time abroad on unfamiliar roads
  • if you do decide to hire a motorcycle or scooter, make sure you use a reputable hire company – check that they are licensed to hire bikes to tourists
  • always wear a helmet and protective clothing, whether you’re the driver or a passenger
  • there should never be more than two people on a bike
  • never ride the bike when you have been drinking alcohol
  • if you hire quad bikes check your travel insurance covers you for their use.  Only hire them from a reputable company and find out whether it’s legal to ride them on the public road
  • ensure your insurance includes third party cover

Pedestrians

  • When crossing the road, remember that traffic may from coming from the opposite direction to that you expect Pedestrian sign, advertising and road signs in New York (copyright Getty Images)
  • don’t assume drivers will stop at zebra crossings
  • jay-walking is illegal in many countries – always cross at designated points
  • face the oncoming traffic when walking along the roadside – this way you will be able to see vehicles approaching you
  • when walking around at night, wear light coloured clothing so that you're clearly visible to drivers
  • take a torch with you to help you see your way in dimly lit areas where the ground could be uneven and possibly unsafe.

Bus and Coaches

If you have concerns over the safety of the vehicle don’t get on and inform the tour rep or organiser.  You should always wear a seatbelt if one is available and avoid travelling in overcrowded vehicles.