A holiday abroad is always something to look forward to but there is nothing quite like having the independence and capacity to explore your destination by choosing to drive. Driving abroad allows you to truly explore your surroundings, immerse yourself in the environment, and discover things you wouldn’t necessarily have seen otherwise. Of course, if you choose to drive on holiday, there are certain issues to think about and certainly blunders you won’t want to make. To help ensure that your next adventure abroad is a smooth one, we’ve put together this selection of tips and advice from travel professionals on how to avoid driving mistakes on holiday. Have a look below! We hope you find the suggestions helpful.
Understand the requirements of the country in question
Many people might not be aware, or rather, might not consider, that different countries have different requirements when it comes to driving, often necessitating that drivers have certain items with them in the car that the UK, for example, does not. This is the number one piece of advice suggested to us by ChipsAway, the UK’s leading minor car body repair specialists:
“One of the most common mistakes for drivers going abroad is not checking the driving requirements of the country they are visiting, which can ultimately lead to on-the-spot fines – not something you want to encounter anytime, let alone when you’re on holiday!
“For example, if you take your car through any country in Europe, you must display a GB badge if not already on the number plate, and certain countries also require that you carry specific pieces of equipment with you, such as a breathalyser in France. To avoid any potential fines, it’s definitely worth researching exactly what is required before any trip abroad.”
Knowing about the laws of the country you are visiting before arriving is crucial and will certainly help you avoid a number of unnecessary mistakes and mishaps. Insurance 4 Car Hire have done some research into the topic and told us that this is one of the most common problems people find themselves facing:
“UK drivers should familiarise themselves with foreign road signs before their trip, so that they feel comfortable knowing what the common road signs mean. They should also be aware of the driving regulations for the country they’re driving in. For example, France have introduced Crit’Air stickers and it’s a legal requirement to display these stickers, or face an on-the-spot fine. And, in many European countries, especially in Northern Europe, they require you to have your lights on all day long.
“Rod Breeze, Managing Director at insurance4carhire.com, comments: ‘If you’re driving a car abroad, it’s really important to not only familiarise yourself with the car, but also know a bit about the country that you’re driving in. Drivers should ensure they’ve got cash to pay the tolls and are clued up on the speed limits and the different road signs. This will help to minimise any mistakes on the road and help them to have a relaxing and safe drive.’”
Prepare for the worst
Of course, we all hope that our holidays abroad go swimmingly with nothing but fond memories to take away from the experience. Unfortunately, accidents do happen so it’s certainly worth preparing for the worst, as ChipsAway advises:
“Another common mistake is not ensuring that you are adequately covered on your car insurance. Obviously, if not covered to drive abroad, then this could lead to hefty costs in the unfortunate event of an accident, so again, we would urge anyone heading off on a road trip abroad for their summer holiday to check well in advance with their insurance company and make sure they are covered correctly. There is certainly a lot to think about when driving abroad, so it’s also worth checking out ChipsAway’s ‘Top 10 tips for driving abroad’!”
Know where you are going
Planning is key to any endeavour and when driving in a foreign country this is doubly true. Making sure that you have things like travel insurance and driving permits is key, as is an idea of where you are heading. Sat nav will be tremendously helpful during your journey and, as Gemma of the travel blog Two Scots Abroad told us in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, this will also be important for the harmony of your trip:
“Drivers often want to save money so don’t hire the sat nav with the car. Unfortunately, mobile phone networks are not reliable when travelling abroad and signal often gets lost. When travelling with your partner this can cause severe hatred for each other, especially if hungry. Hunger and getting lost are the main reasons for divorce in the travelling couples group.*
“*Possibly a lie but it sure feels that way when going around in circles.”
Marcus from the helpful blog Used Car Guy and CarVeto, a website that allows you to check a car’s history before purchasing it, also spoke to us about the importance of sat nav and how not knowing your route and relying on your phone can have detrimental effects on your holiday: “We rented a car back in 2011 for a drive from Bristol to the French Riviera but decided to drive some of the Pyrenees along the way. Everything was planned perfectly except for the fatal error of relying on my mobile phone to provide satellite navigation (before sat navs were commonplace in new cars).
“In case you didn’t know, phone sat nav is dependent on connection to the internet and when you’re driving over the Pyrenees it’s hard to get a connection. My fiancée and I had a stressful time navigating the difficult roads without digital guidance – something I wouldn’t like to repeat. We eventually made it to our picturesque destination of Cannes but a little worse for wear and 24 hours late. I’ve had several friends make a similar mistake whist driving in Germany and Italy. It appears to be more common than expected!”
Marcus kindly lent us his advice on avoiding his past errors: “It’s vital to have some understanding of the country and people of where you are driving. In France, you can be regarded as a slow driver when doing 80MPH along the motorway. It’s a little unnerving when you’re getting the horn thrown at you every few miles. Plan, plan and plan again.
“Looking back, I’d have a fixed route with service stops along the way. Oh, and my fiancée doesn’t drive which meant I was behind the wheel 100% of the time. After 600 miles it becomes taxing and feels less like a holiday and more like an onslaught. Driving abroad can be great fun but preparation is paramount, as is a built in or mobile car sat nav.”
Understand the laws
Countries rarely have the exact same laws as each other and this is no less true when it comes to the rules of the road. So, before you head to your destination, it’s important to do your research and learn about the laws of the country to which you are heading. Megan, of the travel blog Mapping Megan, spoke to us about some of the things to be aware of and why understanding these laws is so vital:
“I feel the most common mistake among travellers driving abroad is not researching the roads/road rules of the country you’re driving in. Every country has a different set of rules and their own traffic code you need to adhere to, and ignorance is not an excuse for breaking the law!
“Make sure you research the road rules of the country you plan to drive in, and that you respect current legislation to avoid unwelcome surprises and unnecessarily stressful situations. Research things like which side of the road you’ll be expected to drive on, whether or not you can smoke in the car, if it’s legal to talk on the mobile phone while driving etc. You don’t want to have to pay an international fine or face jail time.
“Especially in some areas of Eastern Europe and South America, you may run into problems due to streets being closed (because of protests), or controlled by military forces. Make sure you keep yourself updated about what’s going on in the country you want to visit, and create a safe itinerary made up of secure streets and areas.
“Plus, when researching your roads, make a note of where the checkpoints are if you’re crossing the border into a different country, and be sure to have your passport handy.”
Driving in foreign countries
We hope the above advice has been helpful to you and that you’ve now got a better idea of how best to avoid some common mistakes when driving in countries that you are unfamiliar with. Hopefully, no matter if you are heading to the ferry with your newly acquired car from a Mercedes Benz dealership in Exeter, Plymouth, Taunton, or Truro, or if you are planning to hire once at your destination, this advice will put you in an excellent position to enjoy your holiday to the fullest.