Driving in Europe
If you’d like to take your car on holiday with you to Europe, you’ll be pleased to know that, with Saga Car Insurance, you’re covered for trips within the EU for no extra cost.
European cover for an unlimited period with Saga Car Insurance
Both Saga Car and Saga Essential cover levels include use of your car in over 30 European countries as standard. While you're there, you'll benefit from the same cover level as you get in the UK. And we don't put a time limit on this cover either – so you can stay as long as you like, safe in the knowledge that you’re fully covered.
Check your Schedule of Cover to see exactly what you will be covered for while you’re abroad.
Am I still covered to drive in Europe and do I need a green card?
If you’re planning on driving in the EU, rest assured you’ll still be fully covered by your policy. You won't need a green card to drive in any of the countries that we cover as standard (listed in the table below) during the transitional period, which is currently set to end on 31 December 2020. After this date, you may need a green card but it's all subject to the negotiations taking place between the UK and EU over the course of this year. For more information on how you could be affected by Brexit, visit Gov.uk.
Will I need an international driving permit (IDP)?
Currently, British driving licences are recognised across the EU. This remains the case after Brexit, however, after the transitional period ends on 31 December 2020, you may need an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in EU countries.
To check which IDP you will need to drive in the EU after the end of the year, or if you're going to be driving outside of the EU, use the Post Office IDP Country Checker. If you need an IDP, you can buy one over the counter at your local Post Office for a small fee.
Where am I covered to drive with Saga?
Saga Car Insurance allows you to drive in over 30 European countries at no extra cost:
|Andorra||Greece||Portugal (inc. Madeira)|
|Austria||Hungary||Republic of Cyprus|
|Belgium||Iceland||Republic of Ireland|
|Bulgaria||Italy (inc. San Marino)||Romania|
|France||Norway||Switzerland (inc. Liechtenstein)|
If you’re intending to drive elsewhere (such as Morocco, Tunisia, and Turkey) please give us a call on 0800 056 1472 as we may be able to provide a green card. This green card will only be valid for a certain period and only in the countries listed on it, so make sure you are clear about your travel plans before contacting us.
Please note that green cards can’t be emailed due to the strict formatting requirements, so they have to be sent in the post. This can take up to seven working days, so make sure you order a green card as soon as your travel arrangements are confirmed. We recommend requesting your green card at least a month before you travel, to ensure you get it in time.
Previously, green cards had to be printed on green paper to be valid but from 1 July 2020 those rules are changing to allow insurers to provide green cards on white paper. So please don't be alarmed if your green card arrives and it's not green — it's still valid and will be accepted by foreign officials.
Tips for driving in Europe
You might be an old hand at driving on the Continent, or maybe you’re planning your first trip with your car. Either way, it’s a good idea to be prepared before you start your journey. We’ve put together some tips for driving in Europe to get you on your way.
Familiarise yourself with the rules of the road
You wouldn’t go out onto the road in this country without having an understanding of the Highway Code so why would you do the same abroad? Research the rules of the road for the countries you plan to visit before you go so you know what to expect.
Did you know? In many rural French towns, the priorité à droite (priority to the right) rule still exists. This means that cars coming out of side roads have priority over you when you’re driving down the main road! Be particularly careful and ready to brake while driving through these areas.
Make sure you can recognise common road signs and know what the speed limits are. Ignorance won’t be a very good defence if you get stopped by the police.
Remember to drive on the right-hand side of the road
The UK, Malta, Ireland and Cyprus are the only European countries that drive on the left. Everywhere else, they drive on the right-hand side of the road. You can buy a sticker to put on the windscreen or ask your passenger to remind you if it looks as though you’re going to get it wrong.
Driving on the other side of the road can be particularly hard to remember when it’s dark and there isn’t any other traffic.
Make sure your car maintenance is up-to-date
Be prepared for your journey abroad by carrying out some general checks on your car before leaving home.
- Check tyre pressures match the manufacturer’s recommendations – for some makes of car it might be recommended to alter the tyre pressures if your car is going to be particularly laden with people and luggage.
- Check – and top up if necessary – your:
- Oil level
- Water level
- If your car’s annual service is due soon, it might be a good idea to have it serviced early, particularly if you have a long journey to complete.
- Check your tyre tread levels. The minimum tread differs across Europe so make sure your tyres will be legal.
Gather your documents together
While driving abroad, you might be asked at any time to show your documents. You will be expected to be able to produce them immediately. Gather all your documents together and keep them in a safe place in your car.
Make sure you take:
- Valid, full driving licence
- Copy of DVLA driver record and licence check code, if needed (this replaced the paper counterpart when it was scrapped in 2015)
- V5c – original registration document not a photocopy
- Car insurance certificate
- Travel insurance documents
- Passports – make sure they’re valid for at least six months from your return date.
Tolls, taxes and restricted-access schemes
Check what you need to do before driving on foreign roads. You may have heard about the London Congestion Charge and Low Emission Zone; many cities across Europe also operate schemes like these, and for most of these you will need to register and obtain stickers in advance. You can find a full list of all European environmental zones on the Green Zones portal. To prevent being caught out, and facing a hefty fine, make sure you do your research well before you go.
If you’re going to be driving on Swiss motorways you need to purchase and display a vignette sticker, which is car tax. Many motorways across Europe are toll roads so you’ll need to pay to drive on them. If you wish to avoid this, many sat-nav systems allow you to choose a route that avoids tolls – just be aware that this could make your journey much longer!
What do you need to carry in your car?
- GB sticker or a ‘Euro’ number plate with the GB initials.
- Reflective jackets – High visibility waistcoats are compulsory in most European countries. If you break down, you usually need to put them on before getting out of the car so you need to keep at least one inside the car at all times.
- Headlamp beam converters – The rule is that you must not dazzle oncoming drivers. This doesn’t mean you have to use ‘beam benders’ but you must at least alter your lights so that they will not be dazzling. In some cars, you can do this at the switch of a button.
- Warning triangle – This is compulsory in most countries, and in Spain, you need to have two triangles in case you break down – one for in front and one for behind the car.
- Spare bulbs – In some countries, such as France, you’re required to carry a spare bulb kit for your car so that if a light goes out, you can change it there and then.
- First-aid kit – This is only compulsory in Austria but it’s recommended to keep a first-aid kit in your boot just in case.
- Disposable breathalysers – In France, you must carry an NF-approved breathalyser. Two are recommended. Although it’s necessary to have a breathalyser, there is currently no penalty for not complying with the legislation. See this article on everything you need to know about driving in France for more information.
- A spare pair of glasses - If you need to wear spectacles for driving, take a spare pair just in case your main pair gets broken or lost. This is especially important if you’re going to be the only one driving, and, if you’re driving in Portugal, it’s a legal requirement.
- Snow chains or snow tyres – If you’re going to be driving during the winter, it may be necessary to have snow chains or winter tyres fitted.
For a comprehensive list of items you need for driving in Europe, take a look at the RAC Driving in Europe checklist.