Sometimes, relying on tour companies and public transport is simply not enough if you want to see and do all the things on your holiday itinerary. For the destinations that are harder to reach or not on the typical travel company’s agenda, driving yourself is the only sensible option.
Whether you are using your own vehicle or renting a car, driving abroad can present its own challenges which can be difficult to adjust to, especially if you have never done it before. There are a few considerations that you need to make when planning your trip to ensure you have a safe and smooth journey. Let’s take a closer look.
Get ready to drive on ‘the other side’
To us Brits, driving on ‘the other side’ means sticking to the right-hand lane, as opposed to the left side that we are used to in the UK. Unless you have a private road, there’s nowhere that you can really practice back in the UK, so it really is a case of learning as you go. The experience can be disconcerting at first but, by taking a patient approach, you’ll soon get used to it.
Take things slowly and remain calm and focused — getting agitated will only make you more prone to making mistakes. Remind yourself of your surroundings at every left-hand turn and roundabout to make sure you are ready to do things slightly differently. You should also try to stay parallel to central road markings, as this will ensure you don’t find yourself drifting into a more familiar position.
Prepare your vehicle
If you are taking your own vehicle on a touring trip, you should take the time to carry out some essential checks before you set off — it’s easier to get them sorted in the UK than when you are on the road elsewhere. The AA recommend that you carry out these quick checks weekly, so it would be wise to run through them ahead of your trip. And, if you are aware of any major maintenance that needs to take place, taking your car to the garage should become a priority.
Be aware of any local laws
Though most countries in Europe have fairly similar driving laws, it’s worth being aware of local regulations that might trip you up. Whether it is the no speed limit autobahns in Germany or the need to carry a breathalyser in France, there are some differences that you need to know to stay on the right side of the law. You should also be aware of the legal requirements for driving abroad, which can be viewed here on the government’s website.
Even if you have driven in a particular country before, it’s important to review the rules, as they can change at any time. Take, for example, the fairly recent Spanish speed limits and penalties that came into force in 2014 — detailed in this article from Lookers. If you have driven in Spain before, you might be unaware of these changes and be caught out, which would be completely avoidable with a bit of research.
Plan in advance for difficult driving conditions
Depending on your destination, you may be faced with some difficult conditions that require advanced driving techniques to handle. This can be especially true if you are heading to a rural or mountainous region, where roads might be in poorer condition, there may be more of an incline, or you could experience unforeseen obstacles in your path. You should be aware of as many potential dangers as possible before you leave, and read up on how you should deal with particular hazards. You will also need to make sure your vehicle is equipped with the right kit should you break down, as help might be further away than in a more populated area — a travel kit, such as this one from Screwfix, will ensure you are prepared.
Check your insurance and breakdown cover
Though your breakdown cover and insurance might cover you throughout the UK, it’s worth double-checking each of your policies before you embark for new shores. Many insurance policies will include a third party when overseas, but there may be an extra charge for receiving the same coverage as you get at home. For breakdowns, it is possible to take out cover for a single trip if you don’t want to upgrade your whole policy or don’t have any in the first place — you can find out more about this and get a quote on Moneysupermarket.com.
Take these five considerations into account before your next driving trip abroad and you can be confident you are well prepared.