In theory, driving on the continent is no different to driving at home, except the views are way cooler. However, whether you are a seasoned driver or you are still studying for your driving test (check this site out for mock theory tests), there are some things you really need to know.
Travel to the Continent
The fun begins before you even set foot on foreign soil. Yes, you have to get there first. There are two ways to drive to the continent: you can either hop on a cross-channel ferry or you can drive through the Chunnel. Both routes take you through areas of disruption if you use the shortest Calais services. It can be dangerous, particularly if you travel at night, so keep your doors locked at all times to deter migrants.
Compulsory Driving Equipment
There are certain items you must carry when driving on the continent. You should always take your certificate of motor insurance and vehicle registration document when you travel. You also need a GB sticker on your car, and in most countries, a headlight adjustment and a warning triangle in the event of a breakdown. It is also advisable to carry a first aid kit, and in France, a breathalyser.
The rules of the road vary according to the country you are driving through. It would take too long to detail the differences here, but in general, always stick to the local speed limits and avoid drink-driving at all times.
Driving on the continent is not especially dangerous, but it can be confusing at times. The biggest risk you will face is driving long hours on unfamiliar road networks. Be careful not to overdo things, especially at night when you are more likely to get lost. Remember that you will be driving on the opposite side of the road, so roundabouts and junctions are going to be confusing.
It is also advisable not to use roadside rest areas as impromptu campsites at night, as they are often targeted by criminal gangs. Instead, book a spot in an official campsite – it is a lot safer.
There are many toll roads on major routes across the continent. You can’t really avoid them if you are aiming to get from A to B in the fastest possible time, so make sure you carry some spare Euros at all times.
Winter driving in the UK is nowhere near as challenging as winter driving through the Alps or Pyrenees. If your route takes you through high altitude areas where snow and ice are likely to be present, consider fitting some snow tyres or carrying snow chains. You might not need them, but if the weather conditions are likely to be bad, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Failing that, take a 4X4 rather than a standard family saloon.
Don’t forget to inform your insurance company before you set off for Europe. It is also wise to take out European breakdown cover if you are using your own vehicle.