Checklist: Driving in Europe this Summer

Whether you’re planning on driving your own car or renting a car in Europe this summer there’s a list of crucial elements to consider to ensure both your safety and enjoyment. Driving along those long open roads on the continent can save you money - if you take head of our suggestions.

Here’s your checklist for driving in Europe this summer: 

1. Check that your driving licence is in date and valid

If you’re driving your own car or renting a car in Europe, you’ll need to take your driving licence with you. First and foremost, check that your licence is in date and won’t become expired before or during your trip. 

Good news for drivers who hold a full Irish driving licence, it can be used in all countries in the EU and EEA - European Economic Area. 

Which countries are in the EU?

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

Which countries are in the EEA?

All EU countries as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

Note: Switzerland is not in either the EU or EEA, but full Irish driving licences are valid there too.

If you’re planning to drive elsewhere in Europe like Hungary or Andorra, you will need additional documentation to drive there. It’s best to checkout your holiday location’s terms well in advance of your trip so you have time to get organised.

2. Taking your own car? Check your car insurance

It is important to check with your car insurance provider that you are covered to drive in your chosen country in Europe. Your level of cover could change depending on location and its best to confirm these details in advance of your trip. 

At AIG we cover damage to your car while travelling outside Ireland and the UK. 

3. Hiring a car? Consider Car Hire Excess Insurance

You might ask, “is car hire excess insurance worthwhile?” And we would say yes. Hired cars do come with their own insurance but at a large excess cost that’s payable by you. A minor scrape or cracked windscreen can easily happen to the car but when you go to make a claim on the hired car’s insurance policy you can expect excess fees up to €1,000.

Car hire excess insurance is far cheaper. An annual policy with AIG costs approximately €49.99 and allows you to claim back excess costs associated with damage to wheels, windscreen, undercarriage and roof.


4. Check what extra equipment etc may be required 

It’s compulsory in many European countries to have certain pieces of gear or equipment in your vehicle. These vary depending on the country you’re driving in and the time of year. It may include:

  • Breathalyzer
  • Reflective jacket
  • Warning triangle
  • Snow chains or winter tyres 

Failure to comply with the regulations of your destination could result in hefty fines so take the time to make sure you’re covered. 

5. Emission zones and country display stickers 

If your vehicle registration plate does not incorporate the IRL or EU symbols you will need to apply an IRL sticker to your vehicle. This also applies for any added caravans or trailers too. 

A relatively new regulation, you may need to display an emissions sticker or badge on your windscreen depending on where you’re driving in Europe. Multiple countries on the Continent have implemented this Emission Zone sticker system to determine which vehicles can drive through certain cities at certain times, to help combat pollution. If you have an older car it could be banned altogether at certain times.

Stickers can be pre-bought online and cost around €5 and drivers can be fined up to €1,500 in some countries for driving without one. It’s best to check what is required in your specific destination. 

6. Keep a supply of coins for toll charges 

A simple but effective tip! Many European countries have multiple toll bridges that you need to pay a small amount to pass through. Most accept coins, cash and credit cards but it’s recommended to keep a supply of change in your vehicle to keep cover all angles.

7. Remember to drive on the right hand side of the road and bring headlight converters 

Apart from Ireland and the UK (including the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man), there are just two other European countries that drive on the left – Cyprus and Malta. It’s more likely that if you're driving in Europe, you'll be driving on the right.

Tips for driving on the right side of the road include:

  • Allowing extra time for your journey 
  • Take regular breaks
  • Have a co-pilot
  • Stick a post-it on your dash to remind you to keep right
  • Take extra caution when approaching roundabouts and entering or exiting junctions
  • Allow extra space between your car and the vehicle in front 
  • Do not overtake 

Headlight converters while driving in Europe

If driving your own car overseas, you will need headlight converters. This is because at night the headlights of cars designed for driving on the left-hand side of the road will dazzle oncoming drivers in countries where you drive on the right. It's a legal requirement in most European countries not to dazzle oncoming drivers, and failure to do so could result in a fine.

Headlight converters are stickers that adjust the dipped beam of your headlights. They're compatible with a huge range of cars and come with fitting instructions. Kits are widely available and cost around €10. It’s best to get this sorted in advance of your trip in case your lights are not compatible with stickers and instead need to be adjusted by a mechanic. 

8. What should I check on my car before taking a road trip?

  1. Fluids (oil and coolant)
  2. Lights
  3. Wipers
  4. Wheels and tyres 
  5. Brake pads
  6. Possible leaks
  7. Drive belts
  8. Spare tyre
  9. Steering
  10. Brakes and clutch

Wherever your holidays take you make sure that you and your family are covered with a low cost travel insurance policy from AIG. Rest easy in the knowledge that you and your loved ones will be protected from the unexpected this summer. 




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