7 things to remember when driving abroad

Jenai Laignel / 11 May 2015 ( 18 July 2017 )

It's important to do some research about the rules of the road overseas, as just a little preparation can help you feel more confident and give you the chance to enjoy your time away. Here are some useful tips for driving in foreign countries.



Photocard paper counterpart

In England, Scotland and Wales, the paper counterpart to the photocard licence was abolished on 8 June 2015 and information about penalty points is now held on the DVLA's driver record. However Northern Ireland retains a two-part licence composed of a photocard and paper counterpart. 

If you're hiring a car abroad, some companies overseas may not immediately be aware of this change.

Subsequently, the AA recommended that you keep your paper counterpart rather than following DVLA advice and destroying it on 8 June.

It's also worth printing your own driving licence record from DVLA's website as you'll need to know your driving licence number, national insurance number and postcode.

Also, the DVLA suggest that you obtain a code from the DVLA's pending 'share driving licence' service that you can pass to a third party (employer, hire car company) to give them one-off, limited time access to your online driving licence record to verify the printed copy.

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Drive on the correct side of the road

Don't forget that most EU countries drive on the right hand side of the road. The only exceptions are us in the UK, Cyprus, Irish Republic and Malta.

Also, remember to alter your headlamps in preparation for driving on the right-hand side of the road.

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Check your SatNav

SatNav laws differ from country to country; in France, for example, it is against the law to use a SatNav that indicates the location of speed cameras, so make sure you know what the rules are before you go there.

If you're using a SatNav and you've rented it with your car, make sure the system speaks English.

Check your insurance policy

Making sure that you have breakdown assistance cover while abroad makes a lot of sense. Comprehensive Europe-wide cover is available with Saga Breakdown Assistance.

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Be aware of road clearance

Take care when looking at road maps, particularly for old cities. Sometimes, normal-looking roads can turn out to be alleys or streets so narrow you have to pull in your wing mirrors to squeeze through.

Read up on the road rules

Study road signs in advance to familiarise yourself with basic road rules and signs. You can find country-specific information online, or contact your car rental company and see if they can provide some basic information to keep with you in the car.

For more tips and useful information, browse our motoring articles.

Essential kit to keep in the car

This list is a good starting point, but do check what the rules are for different countries so you don't get caught out and fined. 

  • Driving license – paper and plastic

  • Insurance certificate

  • Vehicle registration document (V5)

  • GB identification badge

  • Headlamp beam converters

  • First aid kit

  • Car warning triangle

  • High visibility reflective jacket

  • Spare set of bulbs

  • Two single-use breathalyser kits.

  • Loose currency for toll roads.

You can get a great discount on Hertz car hire in association with Saga – 10% off and a Free Additional Driver with all rentals – book today.


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Study road signs in advance to familiarise yourself with basic road rules and signs. You can find country-specific information online, or contact your car rental company and see if they can provide some basic information to keep with you in the car.
Study road signs in advance to familiarise yourself with basic road rules and signs. You can find country-specific information online, or contact your car rental company and see if they can provide some basic information to keep with you in the car.
Study road signs in advance to familiarise yourself with basic road rules and signs. You can find country-specific information online, or contact your car rental company and see if they can provide some basic information to keep with you in the car.
Study road signs in advance to familiarise yourself with basic road rules and signs. You can find country-specific information online, or contact your car rental company and see if they can provide some basic information to keep with you in the car.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.