Essential tips for driving abroad this summer

Road safety and breakdown organisation GEM Motoring Assist has published advice for staying safe and secure on road journeys in other countries this year.

The advice takes the form of top tips covering planning, equipment, safety, legal matters and security issues.

Neil Worth, GEM’s chief executive, 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. 

“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. Get the correct sticker

Since September 2021 it has been a requirement to display a UK sticker on the rear of your vehicle, instead of the old GB sticker.

If your numberplate includes the UK identifier with the Union flag, then you don’t need a UK sticker unless you’re in Spain, Cyprus or Malta.  

2. Check your documents before you go

Is your driving licence valid? If you only have an old paper driving licence (not a photocard) then you will need to apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP) which can be purchased at the Post Office.

You should carry your V5C log book with you, if you own the vehicle. 

Check passports, insurance and breakdown cover in plenty of time. 

3. Carry the right equipment

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.

Most countries require that you carry high visibility reflective jackets, a first aid kit and a warning triangle. 

4. Know the rules

The most basic rule is that you will be driving on the right, not the left. 

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. 

5. Budget for motorway tolls

Many European countries have motorway networks which you will need to pay to use.

For example, the 760-mile motorway journey from Calais to Fréjus on the Mediterranean coast will cost you €113.

Toll tags such as the French ‘Liber-t’ device ( can save time at tolls. 

Switzerland operates a vignette system, where you pay for a windscreen sticker allowing you to use the country’s motorways.

This costs 40 francs (around £32) and is valid from December each year for up to 14 months.

6. Stay safe when driving long distances

Don’t ignore the early signs of fatigue when you’re at the wheel.

Share the driving if possible and take regular breaks. 

7. Be vigilant at motorway service areas

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 may 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. 

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