So, you have decided to take the plunge and take the family abroad by car....but do you know really the pleasures and pitfalls of driving abroad?
Driving abroad is generally one of the best ways of experiencing all of what Europe has to offer and is generally completely stress-free because of empty roads, wonderful scenery, much less traffic and cheaper fuel costs.
On the slightly pessimistic but realistic side of the coin, there are several rules and regulations that are different to the UK and must be observed to avoid fines.
We have listed some of the Laws and Hints & Tips you should know prior to setting off on your road trip.
Fuel: Generally, fuel costs are cheaper in Europe than the UK and in some countries, it is considerably cheaper to fuel up your car.
However, not all fuel stations work the same as the UK and one thing to note is that some won't accept UK Credit Cards, some will charge you a set amount (say 200 euros and then later on refund the unused balance), some you have to pay for before fuelling up. So in general, it is best to check out which payment methods are used prior to fuelling up.
Tolls: France charges tolls for most of the major motorway routes, which is fair enough if you need to cover huge distances in a short time period but can mount up quite considerably in costs.
Germany and Belguim do not charge for using their motorway systems and sometimes it is worth considering using them to drive your route to southern Europe and save some money.
Austria uses a system called a 'Vignette' which is like a prepaid top-up system to use their motorways and this needs to be purchased before entering their roads. Large fines can be levied for failing to purchase a Vignette and displaying it in your car windscreen.
Laws: A new law recently passed in France is that no earpieces are to be worn when driving, as to cause a distraction. Headphones, Earplugs, Bluetooth Headsets, all of which are deemed to distract the driver by depriving the driver of one of the senses.
Speed Limits: Very strict speed limits apply throughout Europe and heavy fines can be levied on those breaking the law. In extreme cases, the vehicle can be seized and driving licenses revoked for the duration of the journey which would require a passenger to continue the journey as the driver.
In towns, the speed limit varies but is generally 30 to 50 kph. In extra-urban areas, the limit is usually around 70 kph and on motorways, it can be up to 130 kph but down to 110 kph when it is raining.
It is therefore worthwhile taking notice of the signs or seeking guidance beforehand to know the speed limits in the country you are traveling through.
Parking: This is in general, a pleasurable experience in so much as Parking costs are usually a lot cheaper, if not free in a lot of cases.
Insurance & Breakdown Cover: It is worthwhile ensuring that your vehicle is adequately insured to drive in Europe and that the Breakdown cover also extends into Europe.
There are numerous bolt-ons available from Insurance companies to further enhance the level of cover and excesses for driving abroad, so it may be worth contacting your Insurance company before setting off to check everything is in place.
Breakdown cover can exclude vehicles of a certain age or size, so again it is worth checking with your Insurance company before setting off.
Security: This is an important factor to consider if you wish your holiday to be as stress-free as possible.
The 'Golden Rule' is do not leave the car in an area that could be considered as remote or not within coverage of CCTV or witnesses.
Do not leave anything on display as this is an invitation to thieves to break into your car and quite often cause damage trying to enter the vehicle which can seriously dent your holiday budget. You would be best locking everything in the boot and out of sight.
Permits: Driving in French Cities read article on Crit'Air permits here
Vehicle Requirements: A motoring kit needs to be packed in the car before venturing abroad.
Below is a list of the minimum required kit to take with you in order to comply with all the rules and regulations:
The below items are linked for your convenience and for easier searching.
- First Aid Kit (comprehensive)
- Spare Bulb Kit (bulbs for all the lights on the car)
- Breathalysers (necessary in France)
- GB or Euro Sticker on the rear of the vehicle
- Headlamp Deflectors
- Warning Triangle (sometimes two, depending on country)
- Fluorescent Jackets (one per passenger and packed within the car so as accessible)
- Vehicle Documents (Insurance, MOT, Registration Documents)
- Driving Licence(s)
Other items that you may wish to take with you:
- Spare Key, it's no good being left at home! Best to give to a passenger.
- Dash Cam (plenty of false claims occurring on the continent)
- Sat Nav (no speed camera location software to be used in France)
- Games and entertainment for the Kids
- Food and Drink, although the motorway services are of a high standard and are generally quite reasonable costs.
- Change (coins of the local currency) are needed for the Toilets in motorway services
FURTHER READING & INFORMATION
Toll Roads and Driving Abroad http://bit.ly/TollTag
Edited by The Motorists Guide