Whether you’re going away for a bank holiday weekend or an extended trip to enjoy your retirement, planning is crucial. It may seem like an extensive process but it is a necessary part of vehicle and caravan safety. To help your holiday plans, we’ve compiled some tips on driving abroad safely. We also included a number of things you should keep in mind before driving off with children and grandchildren in tow.
What Do You Need When Driving Abroad?
First and foremost, you have to be familiar with the driving laws of each country you are visiting. Some may have specific entry requirements and compulsory items you need to carry while driving abroad. Even for the regular traveler, road rules change so you also want to keep up with the latest. The last thing you need on your holiday is a fine for not carrying a warning triangle or reflective jackets.
Our tips cover Europe in general but we recommend that you do more country-specific research before embarking on your journey. For your convenience, here is a link to the AA website covering how to drive in Europe according to country.
Do I still need a GB sticker?
Your vehicle must display the appropriate country identification letters, ‘GB’. Failure to do so may result in an on-the-spot fine. UK registered vehicles displaying Euro-plates don’t need a GB sticker as long as they remain in European Union countries. If you’re driving through Austria or Switzerland, you’ll need a Vignette or sticker. They are available at most service stations or you can order it from the respective tourist boards.
Travel insurance, Important documents and Vehicle Accessories
It is a legal requirement in Europe to not distract oncoming drivers. Be sure to adjust your headlamps for driving on the right-hand side of the road and use headlamp converters. Many countries also need your vehicle to have a warning triangle, a reflective jacket or waistcoat and a first aid kit.
If you’re a first-time traveller, all adult passport applicants must attend an interview to verify their identity. It now takes up to six weeks to get a first passport so remember this when planning your holiday. Some countries require your passport to be valid for at least six months after the date you travel. We highly recommend that you check the country’s entry requirements before heading off.
Other important travel documents include VISA’s, travel insurance, vehicle insurance certificate, breakdown policy, roadside assistance and emergency numbers. You may want to check if the country you’re visiting requires an international driving permit as well. Before leaving, make sure that your car is fully covered to drive abroad. If not, you will only have the minimum legal cover which is usually only third party in the EU. This could result in paying an extra premium to extend your insurance cover.
Although nobody wants to think of injuries or illness when travelling, it is a reality. Only full travel insurance will cover all medical bills and avoid facing a hefty bill once you are better. Do not confuse a European health card with travel insurance. It does, however, entitle you to free or discounted emergency care in some cases. To find out more about what European health cards cover, visit the NHS advice page.
Caravan Safety and Towing Information
Travelling by car is one thing but towing a caravan adds a whole new dimension to your planning and preparation. You still need to do a safety check on tyre condition, pressure and tread, not to mention a few others.
While there isn’t an official ‘trailer licence’, you have to take a category driving test when towing heavier loads. If you passed your driving test before 1 January 1997, you may drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8.25 tonnes Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM). We still recommend that you double check what your licence allows.
As of 19 January 2013, drivers passing a category B test can tow the following:
- Small trailers weighing less than or equal to 750kg
- A trailer over 750kg as long as the combined weight of the trailer and towing vehicle is less than 3,500kg MAM
The maximum weight that your car can tow is usually in the owner’s handbook. For record purposes, the maximum weight your car may tow includes your fully loaded car AND loaded caravan/trailer. If you want to tow anything heavier, you need to take a category B+E driving test.
Summer Caravan Safety Tips
Caravan safety is paramount and while it’s not required by UK law, you should always keep your CRiS caravan registration document close at hand. It is proof that you are registered and entitled to use the caravan. Keep the original CRiS (or an official duplicate) with you while driving abroad in case authorities stop you.
Here are a few summer safety tips for towing a caravan. You can also book a FREE Summer safety check with us.
- Tow bars must meet EU regulations which means they need to be designed specifically for your car. This excludes any cars first used before 1 August 1998.
- Stay within the speed limit and never exceed 50mph on single carriageways or 60mph on dual carriageways.
- Drive carefully and always give yourself more time and space than you think you’ll need, especially around corners.
- Road safety group TyreSafe encourages caravan owners to check their vehicle’s tyres before setting out on a trip.
- It may seem obvious but you should under no circumstances carry passengers in the caravan while towing it.
- The number plate on your caravan must match the one on your car. They need to conform to the relevant British Standard and be illuminated at night.
- Your rear light panel must always be in working order and visible. You must always check this before driving off and on a regular basis throughout your journey.
- Keep the caravan’s weight as low as possible with heavier items low down and close to the axle.
Before setting off on your trip, it is important to perform all the necessary checks. If you have any concerns about your vehicle or caravan safety, visit your local Elite branch. We’d be happy to assist in any way that we can including and ask us about prices for caravan tyres.
Why Choose Elite Garages?
At Elite Garages, we provide dealership servicing at competitive prices without compromising on quality. We service all makes and models according to the manufacturer’s specifications, including Mercedes, Audi and Toyota among others.
If you’re looking for somewhere as reliable as a main dealership, Elite Garages have you covered. We offer better value with the knowledge that our professional, experienced technicians will take exceptional care of your vehicle. When you need expert advice and professional, friendly service, get in touch with Elite Garages. We are here to help you with tyre safety, MOT, full services, wheel alignment and more.