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Essential Guide to Driving in Europe

  1. What's new in this club
  2. With the Brexit date being postponed to October 31st 2019, it's business as usual for anyone considering driving in Europe. Some motorists still show concern when considering European holidays with the uncertainty of what might lie ahead, but the good news is, for now, everything remains the same. As a UK traveller considering a trip to Europe this Summer/Autumn: When driving in the EU, you will not need an International Driving Permit, and if you are taking your own car, you won’t need a Green Card for insurance. You will still have access to state medical care in any EU country as long as you have an up to date European Health Insurance Card. You will be able to move through UK ports and airports, as usual, using the EU/EEA passport gates. All consumer rights and benefits from EU laws will also remain including airline compensation for cancellation or delays, and the ability to use your mobile phone abroad without additional charges. What about after October 31st? If the Government agrees on a deal on or before October 31st, the UK will then enter a transition period and everything will continue to remain the same and you can continue to travel as you do now. There is still a possibility that the UK could leave the EU at the end of October without a deal but as written in our January update, Ferry companies and the Eurotunnel (our two most common forms of transport for reaching the continent) insist that there will be minimal disruption to services. We, of course, will continue to update this information as soon as it becomes available to us however if you would like to discuss anything in greater detail, please don't hesitate to call us. This update has been written with assistance and information from ABTA (The Association of British Travel Agents). For more information and advice, please refer to ClassicGT's dedicated Brexit webpage: https://www.classicgt.co.uk/brexit/
  3. British motorists thinking of taking their cars across the Channel for holidays in Europe and the Republic of Ireland after the UK leaves the EU may feel they are driving into the unknown in the event of a no-deal Brexit And the issue does seem to be a long way from being resolved after Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal was crushed in the Commons. Following that defeat the Brexit date has been pushed back to April 12 in the event of agreeing no deal or May 22 if Prime Minister Theresa May wins the backing of Parliament before the earlier deadline. Now British motorists face the possibility of being demoted to “third-country nationals” status, showing they are neither from the country they are visiting nor from another EU member state. It will also mean that British drivers could be legally obliged to carry a Green Card to prove their insurance status on their overseas driving trip. Many motorists have been asking: “How will Brexit affect travel from the UK to Europe?” Here, HIC’s insurance experts ponder the questions that need answering for anyone planning to head off for a continental driving holiday this summer. And in basic terms, motorists are advised to organise their Green Card insurance and other travel admin before they set out – because it’s better to be safe than sorry. Will I be able to use my British driving licence for driving abroad? After Brexit UK driving licences will lose their EU validity. That means that if you move to a European Union country, you will need to apply for a new licence. It is still not clear what the rules will be for British tourists driving in the EU but you may need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP), according to the Department for Transport (DfT). But that’s not as simple as it sounds. Confusingly, there are two kinds of IDP required by different EU countries. The permits are governed under different guidelines: The 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic: an international treaty designed to facilitate international road traffic and increase road safety by establishing standard traffic rules among affiliated countries. This will be required for travel to Ireland, Spain, Malta and Cyprus. The 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic: this treaty attempted to update the aims of the Geneva Convention and is recognised in most EU countries, plus Norway and Switzerland. The DfT has warned that UK licence holders may be turned away at the border or face other enforcement action, such as on the spot fines, if they don’t have the correct IDP. You can get the IDP which is appropriate for your travels at the Post Offices and it costs £5.50 a year. It’s not a great deal of money, but it is another administrative hassle before your holiday or business trip. How will Brexit affect travel to Spain, France and other EU countries? Motoring organisations have warned there could be long delays at the borders as EU countries will revert to more vigorous passport control post Brexit. There will be other administrative checks too, such as Green Card authentication that will delay your passage further. In the worst case scenario, motorways this side of the Channel and autoroutes in France could be turned into lorry parks for vehicles queuing for their passage. The Government already has a contingency plan to queue lorries in temporary parks on the M26 and the M20 in Kent. As well as the possible delays, if you plan to drive through France to holiday in Spain – a pretty typical journey for countless British families each year – both types of IDP will be needed. If you are driving to Europe, another document you will need is a Green Card which is explained later in this article. However, owing to the “unique social, political and economic circumstances” the UK government has said it would not introduce any new checks or controls on goods at the land border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. What will happen to expats living abroad but still driving on British licences? In the event of a no-deal Brexit, Brits living in other EU member states may have to take new driving tests in the country they are living in. To avoid that, they should exchange their UK licence for a European one before Brexit, the government has said. But it warned the closer Brexit draws the bigger the possibility of delays in processing exchange applications because of the increased demands. They advise expats to exchange licences now rather than leaving it until the last minute. When will Brexit affect travel to and from Europe? Britain is scheduled to withdraw from the EU on April 12 or May 22. If you take your car across the Channel shortly before then it should be plain sailing – but when you come back after that date Europe will have a very different complexion. With no deal, it seems there will be more border checks, more red tape and more inconvenience for British travellers. Will my Green Card international travel document still be recognised? It is currently not obligatory to hold a Green Card when driving in Europe. But it may become so in the event of a no-deal Brexit, as it was before Britain joined the then European Economic Community in 1973. A no-deal Brexit would probably mean that access to the Green Card-free circulation area would end. That could mean UK motorists will be legally required to carry a Green Card as proof of third party motor insurance cover when driving in the EU, EEA, Andorra, Serbia and Switzerland. The validity of UK Green Cards in these countries is subject to agreements that need to be reached between the UK’s Motor Insurers’ Bureau and the relevant National Insurers’ Bureau. These agreements ensure Green Cards are recognised and facilitate the settlement of claims for traffic accident victims. The Government has warned that motorists should expect documentation checks to be carried out when entering these countries. If you don’t have a valid Green Card you risk: being turned back at the border; or an on the spot fine; or being forced to buy expensive local insurance in the country you are visiting, also known as border insurance. The Green Card must be for 15 days or more from the date you travel, and it must be printed on green paper. If you are mailed your Green Card and you print it at home on white paper it will be invalid and you will have issues with border security personnel. I have heard I will need a separate Green Card for my caravan. Is that true? Some countries require hauliers to have separate trailer insurance to that of the towing vehicle, which means a separate Green Card. It is not yet clear if the same rules will apply to tourists towing caravans, but it is possible. What will happen to my British passport? British passports that expire after Brexit will continue to be valid as UK travel documents, but they will no longer be “European Union” passports. That means you will lose the automatic right of free movement within the 27 countries that make up the EU. In legal terms, British travellers will become “third-country nationals”, and there are complex rules about passport validity in these circumstances. The Schengen Border Code – covering almost every EU nation – stipulates that third-country nationals must have at least three months’ validity remaining on their passports on the date of intended departure from the Schengen area; however the Government is advising British travellers to have at least six months validity remaining on the date of arrival. British passports issued after Brexit will not include the words “European Union” on their covers and by the end of the year all newly issued passports will revert to a dark blue rather than the EU’s burgundy. Will I need a visa to travel in Europe? The jury is still out on whether you will need a visa to travel in Europe. In its Brexit white paper, the Government proposed reciprocal visa-free travel for UK and EU citizens to continue. But Brussels has insisted that third-country nationals – such as British passport holders post-Brexit – will have to register with ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System) prior to their trip. It’s not quite a visa, but it works in a similar way, making security, criminal, credit and other legal checks. And if you plan to take your pet with you, that will be the subject of documentation checks too. Currently dogs and cats can travel anywhere in the EU as long as they have a “pet passport”. Three weeks before travelling, owners must go to the vet to have their pet vaccinated against rabies and microchipped. But in the worst case no-deal Brexit, pet owners would have to visit a vet at least four months before visiting the EU. The animal would have to have a rabies vaccination followed by a blood test at least 30 days before travel, to prove the vaccination was successful. Pet owners would then have to get a health certificate from the vet no more than 10 days before departure. How will Brexit affect travel insurance? Even though you have insurance for your car and caravan on your European motoring holiday, for your own protection and peace of mind you should take out travel insurance. It is unlikely there will be a dramatic change in the way travel insurance works post Brexit, even without a deal. The Foreign Office has updated its foreign travel insurance advice with Brexit in mind. Will my EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) still be valid? In its Brexit white paper, the government said it wanted UK citizens to still be able to use the European Health Insurance Card to receive healthcare while on holiday in the European Economic Area. That would mean British holidaymakers in the EU would qualify for medical treatment on the same basis as the citizens of the country they are visiting – but that would depend on the stance taken by each independent EU country. What will happen with regards duty free shopping? The cloud over European travel post Brexit does have a silver lining. If you are taking your car abroad and you intend stocking up on duty free goods on the way back, chances are you will pay less than you have done in recent years though you probably won’t be able to bring back as much. After Brexit, Britain will have the same status as the rest of the world in terms of duty-free allowances, meaning cheaper spirits, tobacco, perfume, electronic goods and jewellery. Has the Government done enough to allay motorists’ fears about a no-deal Brexit? Andy Morton from insurance experts HIC thinks much more travel advice should be made available to those thinking about driving to Europe or Southern Ireland post Brexit. He thinks confusion about what may or may not be demanded of British drivers abroad could have a detrimental impact on the number of people taking their cars across the Channel this year. He said: “I think motorists will be less inclined to take their cars abroad this year because of the uncertainty – though much depends on the state of the pound against the euro. If the pound does well post Brexit, the slump might not materialise. “But motorists must remember they will need to get Green Card insurance prior to their visit, and if they are regular cross-Channel trippers they will have to get one for each trip, unless they do the sensible thing and take an annual Green Card. Andy advised motorists planning trips to Europe or the Republic of Ireland after a no-deal Brexit to prepare for every eventuality: “Get your Green Cards early and take out good travel insurance to be safe rather than sorry.” He added: “There are many scary stories about what may or may not happen come Brexit. The Government should be doing much more to separate the fact from the fiction for motorists.” ORIGINAL ARTICLE BY FRAZER ANSELL - JANUARY 17, 2019 Information last updated 26 March 2019
  4. British motorists thinking of taking their cars across the Channel for holidays in Europe and the Republic of Ireland after March 29 2019 may feel they are driving into the unknown in the event of a no-deal Brexit And the issue does seem to be a long way from being resolved after Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal was crushed in a Commons vote and she now has to renegotiate specific areas with Brussels. Now British motorists face the possibility of being demoted to “third-country nationals” status, showing they are neither from the country they are visiting nor from another EU member state. It will also mean that British drivers could be legally obliged to carry a Green Card to prove their insurance status on their overseas driving trip. Many motorists have have been asking: “How will Brexit affect travel from the UK to Europe?” Here, HIC’s insurance experts ponder the questions that need answering for anyone planning to head off for a continental driving holiday this summer. And in basic terms, motorists are advised to organise their Green Card insurance and other travel admin before they set out – because it’s better to be safe than sorry. Will I be able to use my British driving licence for driving abroad? After March 29 UK driving licences will lose their EU validity. That means that if you move to a European Union country, you will need to apply for a new licence. It is still not clear what the rules will be for British tourists driving in the EU but you may need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP), according to the Department for Transport (DfT). But that’s not as simple as it sounds. Confusingly, there are two kinds of IDP required by different EU countries. The permits are governed under different guidelines: The 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic: an international treaty designed to facilitate international road traffic and increase road safety by establishing standard traffic rules among affiliated countries. This will be required for travel to Ireland, Spain, Malta and Cyprus. The 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic: this treaty attempted to update the aims of the Geneva Convention and is recognised in most EU countries, plus Norway and Switzerland. The DfT has warned that UK licence holders may be turned away at the border or face other enforcement action, such as on the spot fines, if they don’t have the correct IDP. You can get the IDP which is appropriate for your travels at the Post Offices and it costs £5.50 a year. It’s not a great deal of money, but it is another administrative hassle before your holiday or business trip. How will Brexit affect travel to Spain, France and other EU countries? Motoring organisations have warned there could be long delays at the borders as EU countries will revert to more vigorous passport control post Brexit. There will be other administrative checks too, such as Green Card authentication that will delay your passage further. In the worst case scenario, motorways this side of the Channel and autoroutes in France could be turned into lorry parks for vehicles queing for their passage. The Government already has a contingency plan to queue lorries in temporary parks on the M26 and the M20 in Kent. As well as the possible delays, if you plan to drive through France to holiday in Spain – a pretty typical journey for countless British families each year – both types of IDP will be needed. If you are driving to Europe, another document you will need is a Green Card which is explained later in this article. What will happen to expats living abroad but still driving on British licences? In the event of a no-deal Brexit, Brits living in other EU member states may have to take new driving tests in the country they are living in. To avoid that, they should exchange their UK licence for a European one before March 29 2019, the government has said. But it warned the closer Brexit draws the bigger the possibility of delays in processing exchange applications because of the increased demands. They advise expats to exchange licences now rather than leaving it until the last minute. When will Brexit affect travel to and from Europe and the Republic of Ireland by car? Britain is scheduled to withdraw from the EU at 11pm on Friday, March 29 2019. If you take your car across the Channel shortly before then it should be plain sailing – but when you come back after that date Europe will have a very different complexion. With no deal, it seems there will be more border checks, more red tape and more inconvenience for British travellers. Will my Green Card international travel document still be recognised? It is currently not obligatory to hold a Green Card when driving in Europe. But it may become so in the event of a no-deal Brexit on March 29, as it was before Britain joined the then European Economic Community in 1973. A no-deal Brexit would probably mean that access to the Green Card-free circulation area would end. That could mean UK motorists will be legally required to carry a Green Card as proof of third party motor insurance cover when driving in the EU, EEA, Andorra, Serbia and Switzerland. The validity of UK Green Cards in these countries is subject to agreements that need to be reached between the UK’s Motor Insurers’ Bureau and the relevant National Insurers’ Bureau. These agreements ensure Green Cards are recognised and facilitate the settlement of claims for traffic accident victims. The Government has warned that motorists should expect documentation checks to be carried out when entering these countries. If you don’t have a valid Green Card you risk: being turned back at the border; or an on the spot fine; or being forced to buy expensive local insurance in the country you are visiting, also known as border insurance. The Green Card must be for 15 days or more from the date you travel, and it must be printed on green paper. If you are mailed your Green Card and you print it at home on white paper it will be invalid and you will have issues with border security personnel. I have heard I will need a separate Green Card for my caravan. Is that true? Some countries require hauliers to have separate trailer insurance to that of the towing vehicle, which means a separate Green Card. It is not yet clear if the same rules will apply to tourists towing caravans, but it is possible. What will happen to my British passport? British passports that expire after March 29 2019 will continue to be valid as UK travel documents, but they will no longer be “European Union” passports. That means you will lose the automatic right of free movement within the 27 countries that make up the EU. In legal terms, British travellers will become “third-country nationals”, and there are complex rules about passport validity in these circumstances. The Schengen Border Code – covering almost every EU nation – stipulates that third-country nationals must have at least three months’ validity remaining on their passports on the date of intended departure from the Schengen area; however the Government is advising British travellers to have at least six months validity remaining on the date of arrival. British passports issued after Brexit will not include the words “European Union” on their covers and by the end of the year all newly issued passports will revert to a dark blue rather than the EU’s burgundy. Will I need a visa to travel in Europe? The jury is still out on whether you will need a visa to travel in Europe. In its Brexit white paper, the Government proposed reciprocal visa-free travel for UK and EU citizens to continue. But Brussels has insisted that third-country nationals – such as British passport holders post-Brexit – will have to register with ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System) prior to their trip. It’s not quite a visa, but it works in a similar way, making security, criminal, credit and other legal checks. And if you plan to take your pet with you, that will be the subject of documentation checks too. Currently dogs and cats can travel anywhere in the EU as long as they have a “pet passport”. Three weeks before travelling, owners must go to the vet to have their pet vaccinated against rabies and microchipped. But in the worst case no-deal Brexit, pet owners would have to visit a vet at least four months before visiting the EU. The animal would have to have a rabies vaccination followed by a blood test at least 30 days before travel, to prove the vaccination was successful. Pet owners would then have to get a health certificate from the vet no more than 10 days before departure. How will Brexit affect travel insurance? Even though your have insurance for your car and caravan on your European motoring holiday, for your own protection and peace of mind you should take out travel insurance. It is unlikely there will be a dramatic change in the way travel insurance works post Brexit, even without a deal. The Foreign Office has updated its foreign travel insurance advice with Brexit in mind. Will my EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) still be valid? In its Brexit white paper, the government said it wanted UK citizens to still be able to use the European Health Insurance Card to receive healthcare while on holiday in the European Economic Area. That would mean British holidaymakers in the EU would qualify for medical treatment on the same basis as the citizens of the country they are visiting – but that would depend on the stance taken by each independent EU country. What will happen with regards duty free shopping? The cloud over European travel post Brexit does have a silver lining. If you are taking your car abroad and you intend stocking up on duty free goods on the way back, chances are you will pay less than you have done in recent years though you probably won’t be able to bring back as much. After Brexit, Britain will have the same status as the rest of the world in terms of duty-free allowances, meaning cheaper spirits, tobacco, perfume, electronic goods and jewellery. Has the Government done enough to allay motorists’ fears about a no-deal Brexit? Andy Morton from insurance experts HIC thinks much more travel advice should be made available to those thinking about driving to Europe or Southern Ireland post Brexit. He thinks confusion about what may or may not be demanded of British drivers abroad could have a detrimental impact on the number of people taking their cars across the Channel this year. He said: “I think motorists will be less inclined to take their cars abroad this year because of the uncertainty – though much depends on the state of the pound against the euro. If the pound does well post Brexit, the slump might not materialise. “But motorists must remember they will need to get Green Card insurance prior to their visit, and if they are regular cross-Channel trippers they will have to get one for each trip, unless they do the sensible thing and take an annual Green Card. HIC are Green Card specialists having been issuing them for travel to European countries outside of the EU member states countries for years. Andy advised motorists planning trips to Europe or the Republic of Ireland after a no-deal Brexit to prepare for every eventuality: “Get your Green Cards early and take out good travel insurance to be safe rather than sorry.” He added: “There are many scary stories about what may or may not happen come March 29 2019. The Government should be doing much more to separate the fact from the fiction for motorists.” Original article BY FRAZER ANSELL - JANUARY 17, 2019
  5. 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, Hints and 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. Motoring Laws in European Countries: (National and Regional) If you're planning to drive abroad from the UK it's important to familiarise yourself with local rules for drivers before you go. This is just as important if you regularly drive abroad as it is if you're planning your first trip as rules and requirements do change. Touring tips include information about compulsory equipment requirements as well as covering local rules on drinking and driving, use of lights, speed limits, carrying children and so on. They also include more general advice on things like fuel availability and tolls. Disclaimer: This list is not exhaustive and may not be completely up to date and is only intended to be a general guide. Please ensure you aware of any new regulations that may come into force by checking the relevant country's government websites before departing on your journey. (Original information source: AA Motoring site - https://www.theaa.com/european-breakdown-cover/driving-in-europe/country-by-country) Download country-specific advice and information as a pdf document by selecting the country of interest from the list below A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A Andorra Austria B Belarus Belgium Bosnia Herzegovina Bulgaria C Croatia Republic of Cyprus Czech Republic D Denmark E Estonia F Finland France & Monaco G Germany Gibraltar Great Britain Greece H Hungary I Iceland Ireland Italy & San Marino L Latvia Lithuania Luxembourg M Macedonia Malta Montenegro N Netherlands Norway P Poland Portugal R Romania Russian Federation S Serbia Slovakia Slovenia Spain Sweden Switzerland & Liechtenstein T Turkey U Ukraine 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. UPDATE: French speed limits of 90kph have now been lowered in some areas to 80kph. 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. Overnight parking and rest breaks would be best in the generally more secure Toll roads service stations as there are CCTV cameras covering the service stations, car parks and all vehicles are checked in and out of the Toll stations. 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 - HINT: some toilet turnstiles issue an entry ticket which can be redeemed at the shop checkout for the full amount paid USEFUL ADVICE TAKE THE STRESS AND RISK OUT OF YOUR EUROPEAN ROAD JOURNEYS ROAD SAFETY and breakdown organisation GEM Motoring Assist has published advice for staying safe and secure on European road journeys this year. The advice takes the form of six top tips covering planning, equipment, safety, legal matters and security issues. Neil Worth, road safety officer at GEM Motoring Assist, said: “The European motorway network is excellent and extensive, but it’s important to ensure that you and your vehicle are safe and legal before you drive off the ferry for a family holiday or business trip. By using our tips as a starting point, you can go a long way to maximising your safety and minimising the risks you face while you’re travelling, as well as the inconvenience and expense of being unprepared if anything does go wrong.” 1. Check your documents before you go Is your driving licence valid? Are the passports for everyone in your party all in date? Do you have appropriate insurance? Are you covered for the country or countries you’re visiting? Do you have breakdown cover as well? Run through all the necessary paperwork in plenty of time, so that you have everything to hand on your journey. 2. Carry the right equipment Different countries have different rules. Most require that you carry high visibility reflective jackets, a first aid kit and a warning triangle. Some countries also insist on replacement bulbs and fuses, a fire extinguisher or spare pairs of spectacles for any drivers who need them. French rules require that you carry a disposable breathalyser, but under the current system, police are unable to enforce payment of the €11 fine. Make a point of checking the specific requirements for each country you plan to visit, so that you won’t risk a fine if you’re stopped. 3. Know the rules Make sure you understand the specific traffic rules and signs. Drink-drive limits across Europe are lower than in the UK, and police officers in most countries can issue and collect on-the-spot fines for traffic offences. If you’re in any doubt about local parking regulations, ask someone before leaving your vehicle. Remember, ignorance is no defence. 4. Budget for motorway tolls The European motorway network is excellent and extensive; you can cover long distances quite easily – but there is a price. For example, the 715-mile motorway journey from Calais to Fréjus on the Mediterranean coast will cost you a fraction under €100. Toll tags such as the French ‘Liber-t’ device can save time at tolls. Register your details online before you travel and you’ll receive your own tag which you place in the windscreen of your car. You can then drive through the toll plazas without needing to find coins or credit card, as you receive an invoice and pay shortly afterwards by direct debit. 5. Fill up off the motorway You can save significantly by leaving the motorway network to buy your fuel (and refreshments). For example, a litre of diesel costs around €1.37 (£1.16) at a French motorway service area, compared with €1.21 at a supermarket. Just be aware that the older automatic payment mechanisms at French fuel stations may still decline British credit cards (though the problem is much less significant than it used to be). It’s also worth noting that bigger supermarkets have toilets and very reasonably priced cafés – and are often no more than a couple of minutes’ drive off the autoroute. 6. Don’t drive for so long that you become dangerously fatigued Don’t ignore the early signs of fatigue when you’re at the wheel. Share the driving if possible, and take regular breaks. Fatigue-related crashes are most likely to happen between 2am and 6am, although there is also an increased risk during the afternoon, when our body clocks experience a natural dip in alertness. Don’t be tempted to press on when you’ve been at the wheel for several hours. Avoid heavy meals, as these can exacerbate the symptoms of fatigue, and certainly don’t drink alcohol during journey breaks. 7. Be vigilant at motorway service areas Don’t fall victim to crime when you’re enjoying a break on a long motorway journey. Huge numbers of people pass through service areas every day, making them hotbeds of criminal activity. Make sure you lock your car when you’re parking, and don’t leave high value items visible. Watch out for possibly bogus ‘officials’ who try to tell you that your tyres are illegal and that you’ll need to purchase a new set on the spot. Don’t let children out of your sight at any time, and in particular make sure you accompany them to the loo. 8. Disable any speed camera alerting systems from your satnav before you arrive in France. There are harsh penalties in France if you are found with any sort of speed camera detection system in your car, regardless of whether or not you are using it. So, make sure you disable the alerting mechanism before you drive anywhere in France. Check online if you are unsure of how to do this. If you have a built-in satnav, then be sure to check with the car manufacturer if you are in doubt as to how you switch off the speed camera alerts. FURTHER READING & INFORMATION Toll Roads and Driving Abroad Toll Tag site link - useful site for guidance on using Toll roads in various countries. Driving Licence information for driving abroad (official UK Government site links) Driving abroad View or share your driving licence information Taking a vehicle out of the UK
  6. Thanks! We sure did do alot. You're welcome, let's hope it does encourage others to do road trips around Europe or even further afield.
  7. Great Road Trip Steve....have done the same trip myself but didn't seem to pack in as much as you guys did ! Thanks for posting it up....hopefully it will inspire anyone who is thinking of driving this route as it is so pleasurable, especially with the empty roads (well, all except Brussels)
  8. Steve takes a 300,000+ mile Audi A6 to Europe. Will he make it? Read on to find out! This topic is about my road trip to Belgium including the pre planning. Research is key when driving in Europe as rules and regulations change from country to country. Things you'll need before you go: 1. European breakdown cover - I have found there are too types of cover available. 1. Covers you for recovery like your normal cover. This cost approx £37 for my 5 day trip. 2. Cover that will cover the cost of your repair bills. This cover cost £54 for my 5 day trip. The prices are from the AA of which I am a member. Just be mindful that with the break down cover they only cover you up to the cost of the vehicle. So if you have an old Audi like me you could be at risk of having to fork out extra. 2. Inform your insurance company - I had to pay £17 extra to cover my car for the trip. Again there are 2 options available and are charable regardless of what UK cover you have. 1. 3rd party cover. 2. Fully comprehensive. 3. European kit - for driving in France it is compulsory to have a breatherlizer, warning triangle, GB sticker, a high vid jacket for every occupant, headlight converter stickers. 4. Check French toll roads - 76% of the roads are tolled in France and for which you will need a transponder which you have to pay for from the toll road company managing the roads your travelling on. You also set up an account with them. However the main road to Belgium the a16 is not tolled. 5. Check to see if the EU country you are visiting has any Low Emissions Zones. France requires you to have a sticker when traveling in Paris for example. Belgium hasn't brought any emissions rules into effect yet but will do as of 2018. 6. Don't forget to pay for the Dartford crossing. The crossing consists of a suspension bridge heading towards Dover and a tunnel coming away from Dover. If you have never used the crossing before you can pay before or up to 24 hours after you have made the crossing. Now onto the trip Day one: Leicester-Dover Calais-Brussels The run from Leicester to Dover was straightforward with no hiccups or traffic delays. But we did leave in plenty of time to avoid most of the bank holiday traffic. We arrived in plenty of time for our P&O ferry and it was a good job we did as it took over an hour to get through boarder control & check in. However I think this was down to Volume of bank holiday traffic. The port has a reasonable terminal with facilities consisting of a Burger King, WH Smith's, Costa and toilets. If you have forgotten any key European items you can get them in the Smiths Newsagents. We boarded the ferry which was straightforward and made our way on to the passenger areas. We had decided to go with a premium ticket which proved well worth the extra money. We got free drinks and snacks (fruit, biscuits, crisps, tea, coffee, soft drinks etc) as well as a free glass of champagne on arrival. Papers are also free. The key benefit of premium however is the extra space (far less people) and plenty of seating including private outside space. I would strongly recommend the premium to anyone. It was superb and had a waiter service! Disembarkation was again quick and road signs were easy to follow. We picked up the 16 for Brussels and set into a comfortable cruise. In France the speed limits can change quite often on the motorway so keep an eye out. Oh and obviously they are in kph! We also stopped for fuel in France which thankfully is similar to the U.K. The difference being is that a pre payment system is used. For this you can either put your card in the machine at the start or ask the cashier how much fuel you would like. We encountered heavy traffic near to Ghent and Bruges due to the lanes merging from 3 to 2. But after we got through, we had a clear run to Brussels. Driving in Brussels is entertaining to say the least. Partly as there are hardly any road signs (this is not an exaggeration!). Brussels has its m25 equivalent which is a tunnel system that runs under the city and only pops to the surface for exits. We got lost at this point and came off to find somewhere to park to recalculate our route. The traffic in Brussels is like London. There's a lot of it!! For example a 5 mile drive in Brussels took us 25 minutes. But there are the added risks of trams. Traffic lights only change from red to green and there are hardly any speed limit signs. We finally reached our destination at 6:30pm Belgium time after travelling 12 hours. Total miles covered (including being lost) was 335 miles. Day 2 So until 2:30pm we were trapped at our accommodation due to a marathon taking place in Brussels. The marathon was the Belgium equivalent to the London marathon and as such thousands of people took part! The morning wasn't wasted as we decided to have a BBQ for lunch as the weather is gorgeous here. It's reaching mid to high 30s (degrees) each day! We finally left at 2:30 and decided to travel the 1:40 minutes to Yepre. Yepre saw a lot of the fighting during WW1 and was completely rebuilt to its 14th century design after the war. This has allowed the town to keep a true Belgium feel with cobbled streets and Gothic architecture. As well as the traditional chocolate shops and bars. We also visited the Menin Gate, a war memorial built to show the names of the missing servicemen and women from WW1. We then also visited Yepres war cemetery which was a somber experience. Yepre is a town well worth visiting and not far from the French border. Parking was straightforward and thankfully we did not need to pay. Stay tuned for day 3. However, I must warn you as there won't be any driving involved as my siblings and I are going to Disney land Paris by Eurostar. We are big kids really. My sister and I are in our 20s and my brother is in his teens! There are still plenty of adult rides i.e. Rollercoasters there! Oh and by the way, the A6 has just clocked over 322,000 miles!! Day 3 Today was more unusual as we spared the car and took the train to Disney Land Paris for the day. I appreciate this isn't everyone's cup of tea so stay tuned for day 4 as we're planning to go to Spa race circuit. This meant a very early start as It took us 3 hours travelling on 3 trains and a taxi each way but was so worth it. Just like the UK the train system in France and Belgium is very busy and in parts of France they use double decker trains to cater for the volume of people. Despite the train network being busy all the trains were on time. Disney Land Paris is a great theme park and isn't just geared towards children. Some of the rollercoasters and other rides would be unsuitable for little ones. But just like most theme parks the queues are long but luckily fast passes are available on the more popular rides. If you are limited for time in the park, then the rides I'd strongly recommend are: Main park: hyperspace mountain rollercoaster, star tours (Star Wars), buzz lightyear lazer blast, phantom manor, big thunder mountain rollercoaster, pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana jones temple of peril rollercoaster, Studio park: Rock and roller rollercoaster, vehicle stunt show, the twilight zone tower of terror (massive drop tower), studio tram tour. After we had finished the rides we got dinner at planet Hollywood before heading back on the train system home. Day 4 Today we visited Circuit De Spa Francorchamps, Belgiums F1 racing circuit which was an amazing experience. From Brussels it took us 1 hour 40 mins each way but that was partly due to roadworks. Due to the traffic issues we weren't able to drive into Germany as planned. However, we have decided that we will do a road trip of Germany on its own in the future. Luckily the circuit was being used for a track day and as such there were various race cars, super cars and road cars on track. Including multiple Audis such as an a1, x2 TT, rs4, r8 and even an a8! And the best bit was that we got in for free. The track day also allowed us to park in the paddock and walk around the pit garages and along the pit wall. Spa also has fantastic viewing spots for spectators despite its size and the obstruction of the forest. Just to add to the excitement the track day got red flagged as a Volkswagen golf mk2 had run into the back of a BMW 1 series coupe which spilled fluids and glass right near the pit entrance. On top of this we were able to drive around the outside of the track as there are roads running round the outside and inside of the circuit, these roads are also at varying gradients and are a mixture of tarmac, concrete and even dirt. After leaving the circuit we visited the local museum in the town to view their collection of race cars and motorbikes. There are a mixed bag of vehicles from Ferrari f40 and Daytona right through to f1 cars. The museum cost 9.50 euros each but the cars were great. The museum also has 3 other floors but unfortunately we were pressed for time. There is limited parking at the museum but luckily we just parked on the street outside. On arriving back to Brussels we caught a train into the centre to take in some of the local sites and grab a bite to eat for dinner. Now obviously Belgium chips and chocolate were on order, but not together mind you! After a bit of souvenir hunting we headed home so we can chill out for the drive home. Day 5 - the journey home So, all good things must come to an end and today we made our way back to the U.K. However before we left Brussels we helped my sister move into her new accommodation just 10 minutes down the road. The car was packed to the rafters but the move went smoothly. We left Brussels at 12noon and headed for the euro shuttle (channel tunnel). We chose to come back via the tunnel for the experience and this inadvertently proved to be a great move. As we passed the junction for the Calais docks and ferry port the queue of cars were backed up on the skip road and in the slow lane of the A16 motorway! This compared to the tunnel significantly as we piled off at junction 42 for the tunnel and arrived at the check in gates in 5 minutes. As you pull up the gate automatically recognises the vehicle so you just have to select which train time you want. As we had made good time we were able to catch the 15:20 instead of the 16:16! Once your through you will arrive at French boarder control and security and then UK boarder control. After clearing border control you follow the road round to what looks like a motorway services and at which point the wait begins. Luckily we had only 8 minutes to wait till we were called to board our train. The boards are similar to what you would find in an airport, accept they are outside in the car park. Once you get called for your train, you end up queuing in two lines similar to if you were waiting to board a ferry. At this point our train was delayed due to an oil spill but I wasn't overally bothered as we were on an earlier train. Boarding the train is a straightforward affair and is similar to boarding a ferry. It is a tight squeeze to get into the carriage but it's nice and large once your inside. When on the train you have to leave your Windows down which is nice as the carriages are fully airconditioned. The journey is fairly smooth and only took half an hour to get through the tunnel. Oh and don't forget to put your clock back! Once you've cleared the tunnel it's a straightforward exit and onto the motorway for your journey home. Unfortunately for us we were using the dartford crossing which has chocker! Total miles covered: 1056.7 in 5 days car mileage: 322,573 And no issues presented during the trip! thanks for reading! Steve
  9. Done an awesome Road Trip? Tell us about it here....and maybe inspire others to try it too
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