Post-Brexit Driving in Europe
Ah, the joy of the open road.
That’s a phrase we Petrolheads are all very familiar with.
Whilst those of us based in ‘Old Blighty’ have seemingly less traffic-free areas to drive in, that’s less of an issue for Europe where greater land mass and lesser population density make for some brilliant roads and vistas.
Yes indeed, we love exploring France, Spain and beyond and that love’s not going to change.
However, driving in Europe in 2021 and beyond presents some minor additional challenges as a result of Brexit. This is our brief guide to things to consider before setting off.
It’s divided into 3 sections: 1) things to do before you travel, 2) things to take with you and 3) some useful links.
1 – Things to do before you set off…
- Plan your route and your itinerary and write it down/save it to a device.
- Obtain suitable maps for each country/region you are visiting, along with some reusable map stickers to aid navigation.
- Investigate interesting detours: motor museums, switchback roads, vistas, race circuits, famous cafés and restaurants, lakes, beaches, promenades, etc.
- Make sure that the parking at the various venues you’re planning to visit or stay are suitable. Of course, we would say that wouldn’t we?! In some cases, you may want to contact the venue beforehand to book a suitable parking space. We often find a warm welcome awaiting us (and our cars) from places we’ve contacted beforehand.
- Consider cheaper venues (with suitable parking) for stop-overs and more luxurious places for longer stays.
- Undertake a little research about the places you will be visiting. Knowing a little of their customs, practices and/or cultural no-no’s can be useful.
- Learning a few useful phrases in local languages always goes a long way to establishing friendly relationships. This is especially so at checkpoints or when breaking down/needing assistance.
- Apply for a European Driving Licence/Permit at your local Post Office. This is a requirement for holders of non-photo (old paper) driving licences. When doing so, you will need to take along a passport photograph for each application and you may need more than one licence if visiting more than one country.
- Obtain a ‘Green Card’ from your motor insurance company. This will also serve to alert your insurance company of your travel plans in case you need their assistance whilst you’re away… let’s hope not!
- If you have a limited annual mileage policy, check that you have sufficient mileage allowance remaining and apply for more if necessary.
- Make a checklist of the things you must or should take with you (see below). The requirements vary by country.
- Check your tools and spares. They often remain untouched (hopefully) in the car’s boot for long periods and so checking is a good annual discipline regardless of how far you’re planning to drive.
- Buy or check/re-fill your first aid kit. Ensure you have sufficient prescribed drugs for (longer than) the period you’re away from home.
- Might a motorway toll remote tag be useful? If you’re planning lots of motorway stretches, such tags enable you to use the automatic barriers rather than having to find cash/card and then reach across to the passenger window to make payment.
- GB sticker, regardless of any nationality indicator on your number plate
- Some cities also require emission certificates. This will depend on the type of car and its age and in some cases you will simply not be allowed to drive within their boundaries. That’s worth knowing beforehand to avoid a fine!
- Service your car with (at least) fresh oil, filters, etc.
- Order spares (spark plugs, rotor arm, hoses, wheel bearing, etc.) commensurate with your skill as a roadside mechanic
- Regardless of UK exemptions, some European countries require an MOT certificate, so you may need to have your (UK-exempt) classic car tested.
- It can be useful to fix a spare key somewhere on the external part of the car, such as fastened to the chassis. This is especially true of modern cars with remote central locking systems and where boot lids can auto-lock with your keys inside!
- After having completed all of the above, make a list of everything you will need to take along so that you can tick them off as you pack ready for setting off.
2 – Things to take with you…
The following is non-exhaustive. If you spot something we’ve missed, please let us know or comment below, thank you.
- Passport (with at least 6 months validity remaining)
- UK Driving Licence
- European Driving Licence/Permit (req’d for holders of UK non-photo licences)
- Booking confirmations for hotels, museums, etc.
- Cash Euros and debit/credit cards
- Original V5 document for your car(s)
- Original Certificate of Insurance for each vehicle/driver
- Insurance Green Card
- Original MOT certificate
- Emergency contacts list (if not already listed on your phone)
- European Health Insurance Card (until they expire, see date on the card) or the recently-introduced UK Global Health Insurance Card
- Hi-vis jacket(s) – in some countries there must be one for each occupant and they must be carried in the cabin, not in the boot.
- Breathalyser kit – there is some confusion about this French stipulation. ‘Better safe than sorry’ is our motto and so we take them along regardless.
- Motorway/toll roads tag
- Emission certificate(s) if applicable
- Tool kit
- Electric tyre compressor (if you have a positive earth car, you’ll also need a reverse-wired lighter socket extension… but you probably know that already!)
- GB sticker (affixed to the car’s rear-facing bodywork/window)
- Spares (including bulbs… some countries insist on this)
- Extra pre-mixed screen wash and/or coolant
- Torch (rechargeable)
- Emergency warning triangle
- Map(s) – much better than relying on sat nav, especially for planning
- First aid kit
- Spare reading glasses
- Receipts for any drugs/prescriptions… to help explanation if needed!
- Flags – we like to take along a small flag of each country we drive through. It’s not a requirement, but it can’t do any harm when a local person decides to peer into your beloved classic or sports car… which they will do!
- Emergency battery charger. These devices are brilliant for boosting dead car batteries as well as recharging phones, etc. They’re especially ideal for when there’s no other car around to use your jump leads.
- Solar phone charger – another mind-resting device.
- Phrase books and/or Google Translate on your phone, etc.
- Spare key(s)
- Covid – we might need masks, hand sanitiser, ‘certificates of vaccination’ (or some such, tbc), etc. at least into 2021.
- Your version of the above list if it’s useful for checking before your homeward journey
Some of the useful things you might need are listed on our Good Buys page
3 – Useful Further Reading
UK Global Health Insurance Card – NHS
International Driving Licence/Permit – The Post Office
Post-Brexit Driving in Europe – The AA
Post-Brexit Driving in Europe – The RAC
Post-Brexit Driving in Europe – Which?
Insurance Industry advice – The ABI
You can also get advice from the various car tour organisations, some of whom we support and they support us (here).
We hope that you have a brilliant time exploring the brilliant roads of Europe and that our above list helps your planning. Of course, it can’t take the place of specialist professional advice, so please regard it as nothing more than a friendly prompt.
Do let us know how you get on and if there is anything we can do to improve our list above.