Driving abroad in Europe: Your six biggest questions answered

Thinking about taking your car on holiday in Europe? It’s not just a great way to avoid those long airport queues. Driving abroad also lets you really explore the countries you visit. 

But if you’ve never driven abroad before, it can feel daunting. And you probably have questions. Like, does my car insurance cover me overseas? What documents do I need? And what about breakdown cover?

The good news is we’ve compiled answers to some of the biggest questions about driving your own car abroad in Europe. So you can plan that 2023 getaway with confidence.


Does my UK car insurance cover me to drive abroad?

If you have car insurance with Prima, you’ll automatically have cover to drive abroad for up to 90 days in:

  • Any EU country
  • Norway
  • Switzerland
  • Iceland
  • Serbia
  • Andorra
  • Liechtenstein

But that’s not the case for all insurance providers. So before you plan your trip, read your policy carefully. If it covers you abroad, you’ll want to check:

1. What level of cover you’ll have 

If you have comprehensive insurance with Prima, you’ll have comprehensive insurance when driving abroad in any of the countries listed above. But not all insurance works like this. 

Some insurance providers only give you third party cover when you’re driving abroad – even if you have a comprehensive policy at home. This means you’ll only be covered for damage you cause to other people’s property in an accident. You won’t be covered if your own car’s damaged or stolen. 

2. How long you'll be covered for 

There’s usually a limit on how long your UK policy covers you to drive abroad. 

Here at Prima, we’ll cover you for up to 90 days during your policy period. But some insurance providers only cover up to 14 days. So make sure you read your policy documents carefully before planning your trip.

What documents do I need?

Whenever you drive abroad, we recommend you take:

  • Your full, valid UK driving licence 
  • Your certificate of motor insurance
  • Proof of ID (passport)
  • Your car’s log book (also known as a V5C certificate)
  • Any travel insurance documents

Depending on where you’re travelling to and what type of licence you hold, you may also need an international driving permit (IDP).

Check if you need an IPD.

Do I need my Green Card from my insurance provider?

When we first left the EU in January 2021, UK drivers needed a Green Card (a physical document, that acted as proof of insurance) to drive in EU countries. But since August 2021, that’s no longer been the case. 

Now you don’t need a Green Card to drive in: 

  • Any EU country
  • Norway
  • Switzerland
  • Iceland
  • Serbia
  • Andorra
  • Liechtenstein

What equipment do I need to drive abroad?

Here in the UK, there’s no particular equipment you need to carry in your car by law. But that’s not the case elsewhere. 

Depending on the country you’re travelling to, you might need:

Reflective jackets

In countries including France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria and Croatia, reflective or high-vis jackets must be worn anytime you break down or get involved in an accident. You’ll need to keep them somewhere that you can access before getting out of your car (so not in the boot). And you might need to bring spares for your passengers.

Headlight converters

In the UK, cars are built for driving on the left-hand side of the road. So you’ll need headlight convertors if you take your car somewhere where they drive on the right-hand side, like France or Spain. This will prevent your headlights from dazzling oncoming traffic, which is illegal in most countries.

A UK sticker

You’ll need to display a UK sticker or identifier on the back of your car anytime you drive abroad. This is unless your car show already has a UK identifier on the number plate, along with the Union flag (or Union Jack). Make sure it’s a UK identifier – and not one of the previously used GB identifiers.

A warning triangle

If you break down, a warning triangle can alert other drivers that there’s a stationary vehicle in the road. Most European countries require you to carry one in your boot at all times. Some countries, like Spain, actually require you to carry two: one to put in front of your car and another to put behind it in case of an emergency. 

Make sure you check the specific equipment requirements of the country you’re visiting before your trip. Some equipment might seem unimportant when you don’t need it to drive on UK roads. But you could be issued hefty fines if you’re caught driving without it abroad.

Do I need breakdown cover to drive in Europe?

No one wants to be left stranded at the roadside. This is particularly true in a foreign country, where you might not speak the language or know someone who can come and help you out. 

That’s why, even though it’s not a legal requirement, it’s worth thinking about breakdown cover if you’re planning an adventure in Europe.  

Some UK breakdown cover plans extend to abroad, others don’t. So if you already have breakdown cover at home, check what your policy includes. 

Here at Prima, we’ve partnered with the RAC to bring you European Motoring Assistance. This is a breakdown cover plan especially made for those who want to drive abroad. It provides things like:

  • Unlimited call-outs and roadside labour anytime you break down
  • Up to 90 days’ cover in any EU country
  • Alternative transport to continue your trip if your car needs a longer repair

You can add it to your policy when you take out comprehensive car insurance with us. To find out more about it or get a quote, call us on 020 3318 9745.

Can I drive abroad if I've only recently passed my test?

You can drive abroad as soon as you’ve passed your test. 

But it’s important to check the laws of the country you’re travelling to first: some require you to be at least 18 years old. 

For instance, even if you hold a full UK driving licence, you can’t drive in Italy, France or Spain if you’re only 17 years old.

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