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Driving abroad

Whether you're hiring a vehicle to drive abroad or taking yours with you, it's important that you know the individual rules of how to drive at your destination. Each country has its own regulations and customs so it's important to be prepared with all the information and supplies you need before you hit the road. Here are the top tips to bear in mind before setting off, to help keep your overseas driving experience relaxing and enjoyable:

Ensure you take your:

  • Passport
  • Both the pink card and green paper parts of your licence
  • Insurance documents
  • International Driving Permit (IDP) if needed (see below)

Licence regulations

A GB driver's licence will work in the following European Community (EC) countries, most of which have a minimum driving age of 18:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Republic of Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden

If driving outside of these selected areas, you will need to apply for an IDP, a document that translates your licence into a range of different languages. This is useful in case you encounter any problems when driving overseas and can be purchased for a small fee from the post office, the AA, RAC, Green Flag and RSAC.

Make sure to carefully check the requirements and any special conditions for each country, as these can vary. Applicants should be 18 and over and the IDP is valid for 12 months from the date of issue.


It's important to notify your travel insurance company of your plans to drive abroad in case you have an accident. Likewise with your car insurance - whether you're hiring or driving your own car, it's worth confirming that you're covered in the country you are travelling to. Having all the relevant contact details easily accessible is vital should you need to make a claim while overseas.

What to know

  • Which side of the road do they drive on? In Britain we drive on the left but you'll find that most countries drive on the right, apart from a few exceptions e.g. Irish Republic, Cyprus, Malta, Australia and South Africa.
  • Be sure to check speed limits and other rules for other driving regulations, - the UK Foreign Office provides some excellent road travel advice for each country, along with any specific driving customs you may need to know and we've collated most speed limits below.
  • Also, check the AA's site, which has a country-by-country guide to driving requirements for details on regulations at your destination.

We've created our own guides for driving in some of Europe's most popular destinations:

If you're driving your own car

  • Bring your car's registration documents so you can prove you're the owner
  • If your car doesn't have a GB Euro-symbol on the number plate then you will need to display a GB sign to avoid potential fines
  • Be extra cautious when driving on the other side of the road - you will be positioned on the outside of the road rather than the centre, which changes what you can see and how you drive
  • Pack a fluorescent jacket - in many EU countries you are required to wear one if you break down or assist someone else who has broken down
  • In most EU states you must also carry a warning triangle and first aid kit too
  • Have a safety check before you go, with a working spare tyre and all the necessary equipment to change it. Also ensure your water and oil levels are sufficient for your trip
  • Make sure you have sufficient breakdown cover

If you're hiring a car

  • Choose a reputable car hire company, even if it costs a little more. Although cheaper prices may be tempting, it can be harder to follow up any issues once you've returned home. Ideally, use a large chain that has a base in Britain too as they will have formal customer service departments and are likely to be more easily contactable
  • Note that some companies set a minimum age for the hirer and driver, some as high as 25 years old. You may also have needed to hold your full drivers licence for at least two years
  • Familiarise yourself with the car before you leave the car park. Check that you know how to reverse, as well as where the lights, hazards, windscreen wipers etc. are so that you don't end up being caught by surprise on the roads

Parking fines

If you receive a parking fine when in a hired car, it is likely that the hire company will pay these costs, but you will be liable for all fees. They will have your card details from your payment, so they will take these payments directly from you, as well as an admin fee.

Speed limits

See below for speed limits for most countries in km/hour:

Country Speed limit in towns (kmph)
Speed limit in towns (mph) Speed limit on dual carriageway/motorways (kmph) Speed limit on dual carriageway/motorways (mph)
Australia 40 25 110 68
Austria 50 31 130 80
Belgium 20 - 50 18 - 31 90 (120 on some) 55 (74.5 on some)
Canada 30 - 80 18.5 - 50 70 - 110 43.5 - 68
Croatia 50 31 100 62
Denmark 50 31 110 - 130 68 - 80
Finland 40-50 25 - 31 120 74.5
Germany 50 31 No speed limit (130 recommended) 80
Greece 50 31 130 80
India 50 31 80 50
Malta 25- 45 15.5 - 28 80 50
New Zealand 50 31 100 62
Norway 50 31 100 62
Portugal 50 31 120 74.5
South Africa 60 37 120 74.5
Spain 50 31 120 74.5
Sweden 30 - 60 18.5 - 37 110 - 120 68 - 74.5
Turkey 50 31 120 for motorways / 110 for expressways 74.5 for motorways / 68 for expressways
United Kingdom 48 30 113 70
United States of America 48 30 113 for interstate / 105 for highways 70 for interstate / 65 for highways


In case of an accident

No one wants to think about what could happen if you have a car accident, particularly overseas, but it's worth being aware of the process in case the worst should happen.

Purple Parking's road safety partner, Brake, has some advice on what to do should a crash happen overseas – namely that it's important to know the relevant details for the British embassies and/or consulate of the country your in. Have the number handy and call them if you need help or advice, particularly if you need to transfer money or replace important documentation.

It's also worth knowing the emergency service numbers of your holiday destination. See our page on Global Emergency Service Numbers for more information.


Date published 01/04/2012

Information correct as of date of publication.

If there are any airlines or information not included here that you would like to know more about, email us at and we'll include the most popular.

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