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Driving abroad: what do I need to know about tax and insurance?

The arrival of spring sees many people in the UK start to think about holidays abroad. There’s often no better way to explore what a country has to offer than to travel in one’s own car, giving holidaymakers the freedom to go where they want, when they want.

Before you depart

Driving laws vary from country to country1, some places legally requiring a motorist to have a reflective jacket or a first aid kit in their vehicle, whilst in other places such items may be classed as recommended. It’s absolutely necessary for anyone driving abroad to take the following with them:

  • Passport
  • Valid and full GB/Northern Ireland driving licence2
  • The original V5C vehicle registration document
  • In the case of company cars, a Letter of Authority and a VE103 Vehicle on Hire certificate
  • Breakdown policy information
  • Car insurance certificate


Some countries outside the EU/EEA require International Driving Permits3 (IDP) and/or visas, and it’s highly advisable to obtain a DVLA licence check code shortly before travelling to any country by car. UK vehicles driven in other countries must display a GB sticker or EU number plates. It’s also wise to check whether a destination is governed by strict emissions rules, that may prohibit certain cars from driving near or in various cities.

Motor insurance

If you intend to drive your car in another country, it’s important to check your policy to see if you are covered and if in doubt contact your motor insurer as far in advance as possible, to check and ensure that suitable cover will be in place for your trip.

Cover for driving in the EU is typically incorporated into many car insurance policies, but in some cases it may be limited to third party, meaning that claims made against you by other drivers are likely to be covered, but any damage incurred to your own vehicle will have to be paid for yourself.

Your motor insurer may be able to extend your UK comprehensive cover so that it protects you whilst driving abroad. Not all insurance companies will charge an additional fee for such an upgrade, and although European cover commonly lasts for 30 days, it’s worth checking to be certain. RIAS provides fully comprehensive cover for up to 90 days5 for policyholders driving in Europe and certain other countries, providing any stipulations are met. It’s likely that you will also need to upgrade your breakdown cover so that it protects you abroad for the duration of your holiday.

Click here to learn more about regulation when driving in Europe.>

Only a very small number of countries still require visiting drivers to carry a Green Card4, which acts as proof of suitable insurance cover, but it’s still advisable to check your policy and if in doubt ask your insurer.

Before you set off, make sure you’ve made a note of the emergency insurance and breakdown telephone numbers to call from outside the UK, which will begin with a ‘44’ country code.

Accidents abroad

If you have a car accident whilst driving outside the UK, you should obtain a report from the local police in attendance. You should be able to request a European Accident Statement Form6 from your insurer, which you can use to make notes in the event of an accident.

The EU Motor Insurance Directives lay out the process for making claims in Europe, which your insurer will be happy to provide advice on. Cars that remain in a driveable condition following an accident can be repaired back home in the UK, providing this occurs within a two-week window.

Road tax

In the UK, cars over three years of age must pass a MoT test to remain on the road and must be insured and taxed unless they have been declared SORN or ‘off the road’. Although most foreign countries don’t formally recognise UK road tax per se, it’s therefore highly unlikely that an untaxed UK vehicle will be driven overseas temporarily, such as on holiday.

Motorists living in certain countries such as Switzerland pay an annual tax to be able to drive on motorways. UK holidaymakers intending to travel by car should plan their routes carefully and research which countries require a ‘vignette’ to be purchased. Vignettes are effectively temporary tax discs allowing UK vehicles to drive on a country’s motorway network, provided the vignette, which can be obtained from larger fuel stations and at border crossings, is displayed on the windscreen. Failure to display a vignette in a relevant country could result in a fine.

If you’d like to get a quote for Rias car insurance, click here >


1 The AA

2 Gov.uk

3 The AA


5 Policy document

6 About Driving Abroad