Planning your walking holiday – book a ferry to France
Ferries to France! You may prefer the convenience of taking your own car from the UK to Continental Europe, travelling through France, Belgium or the Netherlands.
This can offer valuable savings. It will also allow you to pack your car with all your holiday-essentials and stop en-route. However, from the UK your road trip may start with a ferry ride across the Channel.
Driving in Europe
Once you have crossed by ferry, you can start your engines and enjoy the freedom of following your own itinerary. But before you take your car abroad, there are some things you need to know about driving in Europe. Here are a few tips:
Right is Right!
- Even though you know that, outside the UK, motor vehicles drive on the right side of the road, you’d be surprised how easy it is to revert back to your habitual driving patterns. Be conscious of driving on the correct side—the right side—particularly when you pull out of a car park or turn onto a main road.
- You will also need to adjust your headlights (so that the main beams dip to the right) to suit driving on the other side of the road. There are beam converter kits, and some models (headlamps with levers at the back) can be adjusted by motor vehicle owners. However, some vehicles have to be brought into the dealer for adjustments.
- It’s also a good idea to get a door/wing rear-view mirror fitted on the left side of your vehicle (if not done already). It can make driving on the right side of the road that much easier.
Stay On the Right Side of the Law
- It’s simple, don’t drink and drive. Fines/sentences are severe, not to mention you’d be endangering yourself, your passengers and other drivers.
- Your vehicle’s plates must display the GB Euro symbol. If you will be remaining in the EU, and you have Euro-plates already displaying the symbol, you generally do not need to attach an additional GB sticker. However outside the EU, you may need a sticker even if you already have Euro-plates. You may be fined if caught without the GB symbol.
- It is illegal in most European countries to drive while using a handheld mobile phone.
- Numerous countries regulate that all drivers store a reflective jacket (it’s a good idea to have at least two), a first aid box and a warning triangle in their car in case of emergencies.
- It’s important to have all necessary documents in your car just in case you are stopped by authorities. Failure to display certain documents can result in fines. For driving around Europe, you should have your driver’s license (up-to-date, and a ‘provisional license’ will not suffice), an original copy of your vehicle registration, your vehicle’s insurance certificate and passport(s).
- To be sure, check which personal documents are required for each country you are planning on visiting. The UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office is a great resource to consult: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/foreign-commonwealth-office
- Before embarking on your voyage, contact your car insurance company to make sure you have proper coverage for your international travel plans. (In some cases, insurers require that you contact them before driving outside the country).
- If you are driving a vehicle that you do not own (i.e. if it is a company car, a friend’s or a hired car), you need to carry an authorisation letter from the registered owner, and either the original vehicle registration document or a ‘vehicle on hire’ certificate.
- Call 112 if you need to contact emergency services (i.e. police, fire and ambulance). This number is accessible all across the European Union.
- Get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which is valid in Switzerland and any country classified as an EEA (European Economic Area). The EHIC card is free and will reduce or cover the entire costs of medical treatment in applicable countries.
- You should also have travel insurance, even with the EHIC card, as some expenses will not be covered (such as if you need to return home in a hurry due to unexpected circumstances, like sickness or the death of a loved one).
- It’s always a good idea to carry a credit card in case of emergencies. But before you travel, make sure your credit card will work in the particular countries you are visiting.
Make Sure Your Car Can Handle the Trip
- Take your car into the garage for a routine servicing/safety check. Plan to do so well ahead of time, so that you can take care of any repairs that may be needed. Better to do so at home than to break down mid-trip.
- Have your tyres replaced if their treads are worn down to 3mm. While, in the UK and most other countries, the absolute minimum allowable tread depth is 1.6mm, tyres wear down very quickly once they reach the 3mm mark.
- Avoid overloading your car with luggage and other items as, if you are caught, you could be fined and your motor vehicle insurance could be invalidated, not to mention the potential safety risks for you and your passengers.
You need to be prepared when driving abroad during the winter or in snowy conditions at high elevations. The conditions you encounter may be unlike any you’ve experienced back home.
- Find out what the winter driving rules are for the countries you are visiting.
- Some places regulate that cars be fitted with winter tyres during specified conditions and times of year. For example, in Germany, motor vehicles must have winter tyres from October to March/April.
- Conversely non-winter tyres with snow chains may be appropriate in other countries. (Become accustomed to fitting snow chains before you embark on your trip, so you have lots of practice, making it easier if you have to install them during cold conditions).
We wish you an enjoyable and safe walking holiday road trip!