Driving in Europe can be a great pleasure – especially on some of the less crowded roads, such as through central and Southern Spain. On the other hand, for inexperienced drivers heading for, say, the Paris Périphérique or Central Barcelona, it can be a harrowing experience.
Here the experts at Adrian Flux Insurance Services give a few pieces of sage advice about how to get the most out of driving in Europe.
The key thing is: plan ahead. Obviously you’ll need maps, even if only as back-up to the Sat Nav, and there are plenty of sites to buy them online, such as Drive Alive. It’s a good idea to have paper versions of your planned routes, too, using one of the many services available. One of the Flux team’s favourites for European routes is ViaMichelin.
If you are driving your own car abroad, check you have what you need in terms of emergency triangles, first aid kits, spare bulbs, headlamp beam adjusters, hi vis jackets, GB stickers, a Green Card, and so on. Regulations vary from country to country. There are plenty of sites giving advice, including the AA and RAC, both of whom offer kits for those travelling abroad. There are also lots of sites selling essential legal items individually, so if you already have a triangle (or two) you don’t need to buy another as part of a package. Try Auto Bulbs Direct for starters.
Make sure you tell your insurance company or broker you are taking the car abroad. Most insurers include some driving abroad as part of the policy, assuming it’s for pleasure, for a limited time and in permitted countries. You need to tell them where you’ll be visiting so they can check your cover. They can also give you information about your Green Card.
If you’re not used to driving on the right, take extra care and give yourself time to get acclimatised. Pay special attention when overtaking or driving on narrow lanes, as your spatial awareness needs to adjust. Hazards like roundabouts take a while to get used to. The Foreign Office site has some useful tips on driving abroad.
These days many people will buy Sat Navs to help them navigate on the continent. Make sure the model you select has maps for the countries you plan to visit – often two similarly-named units will cover either the UK only or all of Western Europe, for example. Also, don’t assume that, because it’s new, it will have the latest maps on it. Many manufacturers offer a free map update within a specified period of purchase, so make sure you take the time to log on to a computer to do it before you set off. SatNav Expert offers price comparisons on many of the most popular models.