24 June 2022

Riding or driving in Europe? Here’s what you need to know

The UK’s exit from the European Union means the rules for driving in Europe have changed.

If you’re planning a trip it’s well worth checking what you need pack and do to enjoy a journey that is as legal and free from stress as possible.

With that in mind, we thought you might like a few pointers on the documents you need and the actions you should take before you head off.


Documents for riding or driving in Europe

There are a number of bits of official paper that you need to take with you on a European motoring trip.

Here’s a little checklist to help you prepare:

  • Proof of  your car, van, motorhome or motorbike insurance. A copy of your valid Schedule of Insurance will satisfy any enquiring officers. If your policy includes breakdown assistance, check if it covers you in Europe. If you hold cover through Principal, European assistance is included as standard for personal insurance policies.
  • Your driving licence. This needs be a full, valid Great Britain or Northern Ireland licence.
  • Valid MOT and vehicle tax.
  • An International Driving Permit (IDP) may be required. The rules are complicated, but generally if you have a photocard UK/GB licence then you do not require an IDP to travel in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein. If you have a paper licence or a licence issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man, some EU countries and Norway will require you hold an IDP. Different countries have differing requirements on how long you can drive using an IDP and which of three types you are required. For full information visit the UK government website.gov.uk.
  • Green Card. The good news is that you do not need a Green Card to drive in the EU, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Liechenstein, Norway, Serbia or Switzerland. However, you do need a Green Card if you are visiting Albania, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Moldova, Russia, Turkey or Ukraine.
  • Passport. How much time you need remaining on your passport varies by country. Check the UK government website for the rules that will apply to your journey.
  • Your vehicle log book. If you don’t have your V5C log book, or it is damaged, you can apply for it here.
  • Travel insurance documents. Keep these safe and accessible in case you need present them
  • Trailer or caravan insurance. If you will be towing a caravan or trailer, you may need a category BE driving licence.The rules vary depending upon when you passed your test and what you will be towing. For more details visit the UK Government website. You may also need register your trailer and secure a Green Card. Additional insurance may also be required.
  • European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Now being replaced by the UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), this enables you to access state healthcare in EU countries at a reduced cost or sometimes for free. Please note that the EHIC or GHIC are not valid in Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein. Citizenship rules apply in Switzerland. For more details and to apply for a GHIC, visit the UK government website.

Other things you need do or know when riding or driving in Europe

  • driving in europeUK sticker. GB stickers are no longer valid and should be replaced by a UK sticker which is clearly visible on the rear of your vehicle. However, unless you are visiting Spain, Cyprus or Malta, you do not need a sticker if your registration plate already incorporates a the UK identifier with the union flag.  For more details visit the UK government website.
  • Warning triangle. Most countries require drivers to carry a warning triangle. We would recommend this in any case.
  • Hi-vis jackets. A number of countries require the carrying of reflective jackets. These must be worn in case of breakdown or emergency.
  • Headlamp adjustment. Because you will be riding or driving on the right hand side of the road, you will need to adjust your headlamps to prevent dazzling oncoming motorists. This is mandatory in most countries. You can do this using deflector stickers or by manually adjusting the beam.
  • Speed camera detection. In some countries it is illegal for sat navs to display fixed speed camera locations. If you have this function, you may may need disable it. In most European countries it is illegal to use or carry any police speed trap detection device.
  • First Aid kits. Whilst in any case a sensible precaution, Austria, France and germany require the carrying of a first aid kit.
  • Breathalyser. In France it is mandatory that you carry a breathalyser.
  • Emissions charging. As with in the UK, a number of cities in Europe operate low emission zones. These may levy or fee or even ban certain vehicles. You can check the situation in the city or cities you will be visiting on the Urban Access Regulations in Europe website.
  • Following a road accident. If you’re involved in a RTA contact your insurance company as you would in the UK.
  • Following a breakdown. Again, do as you would in the UK. Try and get your vehicle in a safe place and, if it is practical and safe to do so, place your warning triangle behind your vehicle. You and your passengers should then find a safe space away from your vehicle and await assistance. Once out of your vehicle you should wear a hi-vis jacket. Details of how to contact your breakdown assistance provider from Europe (if you have purchased through Principal Insurance) are listed on our Contact Us page.

If you have any further insurance-related questions regarding a planned trip to Europe, please contact us well before you travel.



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