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Essential Guide to Driving in Europe

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  2. 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
  3. 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.
  4. 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)
  5. 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
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