Around 34 million holiday trips are made each year with many hiring a car to get around – while over 11 million take their own car to Europe by ferry or via the Channel Tunnel.
Allianz Insurance has published a checklist of things to note for Irish motorists planning to drive in another European country using their own vehicle or a car rental.
If you are taking your own car check:
Your driving licence – Ensure your full driving license is valid and with you. Keeping your passport to hand can also useful as a second form of identification.
Your vehicle log book – You may be required to have this to prove the vehicle.
Check your insurance - Ensure your car insurance policy covers you for your trip abroad. Allianz Ireland comprehensive and third party, fire and theft car insurance policies cover you for up to 60 days driving within the EU and other countries. Check that your certificate includes your green card. The Council of Bureaux Green Card is a protection mechanism for victims of cross-border road traffic accidents - it consists of 47 member countries.
Know the legal requirements – Some countries will require you to have, a warning triangle, hi-vis jacket, fire extinguisher, or a first-aid kit. Make sure before you travel that you have everything required. In France for example, you must have a breathalyzer in the car.
If you are renting a car – check the small print
Take the time to read though the terms and conditions and know exactly what is included before you pay. Once this part is done, having a left-hand-drive car may make for an easier journey.
Double check whether your rental agreement covers toll fees and congestion charges. If these aren’t included you are liable to pay and they may have to be paid in advance or you could be fined.
Make sure you have a credit card and know how much the deposit will be.
Know the local customs and laws
Did you know:
Austria - A sign showing a bugle (like a trumpet without valves) with a red line through it doesn’t mean no musical instruments, it means you’re not allowed to use your car’s horn
Belgium - Even if it’s signposted as a one-way street, some streets let cyclists travel in two directions – watch out for them heading towards you.
Cyprus - It is illegal to eat and drink whilst driving.
Denmark - You must check under your car for sleeping children every time you get in it.
France - It is illegal to use sat-nav systems that highlight speed camera locations. You’re not allowed to use headphones of any kind, whether in a portable music device or for your phone. If a driver flashes their headlights at you it’s because they will move first; they’re not letting you through. You must also carry spare headlight bulbs.
Germany - It is against the law to run out of fuel on the autobahn. Some cities require you to have an emissions sticker on your vehicle otherwise you’ll get a fine. You must turn your engine off while waiting at a railway level crossing.
Greece - It is illegal to smoke whilst driving.
Italy - It is against the law to park your car facing the opposite direction of traffic.
Norway - Between November and April your car must be fitted with winter tyres.
Portugal - It is against the law to carry bicycles on the back of a passenger car.
Russia - It is illegal to pick up hitchhikers.
Romania - If your car is excessively dirty, you can get an on-the-spot fine.
Spain - If you are caught wearing flip-flops whilst driving you can get an on-the-spot fine.
Sweden - You must always have your headlights switched on, even in summer, when it never gets dark.
Switzerland - If you wear driving glasses you must always carry a spare pair in your car
In some cities – cars must be parked on the side of the road where houses bear uneven numbers on uneven days of the month.
“We’ve had experiences in the past of customers who have taken their car abroad and fallen foul of local regulations” said Rob McEvoy, Head of Market Management, Allianz Ireland. Some driving habits considered acceptable in Ireland may not necessarily be tolerated in other EU countries. Eating or drinking while driving is possible in Ireland for instance, but is banned in Cyprus and flouting this law could lead to you attracting unwanted attention from local authorities.”