Some Useful Tips When Driving Abroad

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Travelling abroad by car, france driving rules
IAM RoadSmart, IAM Surety, IAM insurance, ROAD SAFETY for children

This blog has been approved by IAM RoadSmart. IAM Surety is the official insurance provider for IAM RoadSmart. IAM Surety is a trading brand of Cornmarket Insurance.

After months of hard work, what is more rewarding than a break away? They say travel broadens the mind and road tripping, in particular, is a great way to see the scenery and take in the atmosphere of a new country. If you plan on renting a car or taking your car abroad we have some helpful tips to keep you safe.


Thorough planning is of utmost importance, unless you really are looking to quite literally lose yourself. Research the country, familiarise yourself with the road and have a look at the weather forecast. Plan the route and assess the challenges you might encounter. Firstly, are you confident in your ability to drive on the other side of the road? Are there tolls? Where are the petrol stations?

We strongly advise you to service your vehicle before leaving the UK. Make sure that you check your oil and water. Check the cost of fuel in advance and incorporate the expense into your overall budget.

When driving abroad, it is essential that you hold a valid licence. If you are from the United Kingdom then your driver’s licence is valid in the EU and European Economic Area countries and Switzerland. If driving outside of the EU or EEA you may need an International Driving Permit which you can get at your local Post Office. This costs just £5.50.

Before you set off on your well-deserved break check for any delays or potential delays. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office offers updates on any cross channel delays.

Seat Belt Laws

In the UK it is illegal to drive without a fastened seat belt. Since 2006 wearing a seat belt is mandatory in the EU. If you are driving in a country that does not legally require seat belts, we urge you to wear one anyway – it is the most fundamental way to enhance safety in a vehicle.

Speed Limits

If you are driving on a variety of roads check out the speed limits before you go. Contrary to popular belief not all autobahns are unlimited and even on roads which are, driving at higher speeds comes with its own risks.

In Europe the speed limit in built-up areas averages at 50km/h. Outside built-up areas, including dual carriage ways, speed limits vary but they tend to be between 80 – 100km/h in Europe. Motorways average at 120km/h but some countries such as Denmark advocate lower speeds.

Drink Driving

Laws do vary from country to country.

In France for example, the law demands that cars have NF approved breathalysers. This law is strongly enforced.

French law states that if you have three years of experience, the alcohol limit is 0.2 grams per litre. For experienced drivers and motorcyclists the limit is 0.5 grams per litre.

However in Germany there is a zero tolerance policy to drink driving. You many not drink and drive at all. The German authorities are strict in their treatment of drivers who breach this law.

Accidents and Precautions

Accidents do happen. Always remember, if possible, to remain calm and contact your insurance provider. Each country has their own protocol for dealing with accidents. From October 2008 all drivers in France, including drivers of cars registered outside of France, must have one warning triangle and one reflective jacket in their vehicle. Penalties are spot fines of €90 – €135.

French motorways are privately managed, you are not allowed to request your own assistance company to attend to you if you break down. If you break down you should use the orange emergency telephones which are situated every 2km along main roads and motorways to call the police or the official breakdown service operating in that area. Alternatively, if no orange telephone is available motorists should call the emergency services by dialling 112.

Before you set off on your holiday, we recommend you check in with your insurance company to ensure your policy covers you for travelling abroad.

GPS & Maps

Bring a GPS to help navigate the roads. We would also suggest an old fashioned map for back up. Satellite signals are not always reliable but maps are. Buy one before you go and chart your trip. If travelling with children this could be a great way of teaching them independence and geography.

It is worth noting that the use or possession of devices to detect police radar is illegal in all European countries. As are using Sat Nav devices with speed camera location warnings in France. Penalties can include a fine, driving ban or even prison.


Whether travelling in the summer or winter take heed of the weather conditions in the country you are travelling to. Rain, hail or shine, be prepared. In France, they have a different speed limit for wet weather conditions.

If you are uncertain of any driving and motoring laws, we advise you to check the relevant country’s local embassy for further information.