Driving abroad… keep on the right side of the road and law

Find out all you need to get your trip on the road

Find out all you need to get your trip on the road

Thousands of Brits are planning to drive abroad this year, but new research reveals their lack of knowledge of foreign laws could leave them on the wrong side of the road – and law…

A new Europe-wide study by TomTom highlighted 71% of Brits questioned didn’t know driving laws in many popular holiday destinations.

Combine this with the chaos caused by the introduction of hire car codes and there’s a good chance the wheels could fall off our holiday driving experience. Don’t panic, this APH tool kit can help keep you on the straight and narrow…

What’s the problem?

Did you know it’s illegal to carry bikes on the back of your car in Portugal, or that a routine check under your car for sleeping children is compulsory in Denmark?

Driving  abroad infographic

Driving abroad.. how powerful is your UK licence

Many countries demand extra documentation from visitors driving on their roads, but the UK licence remains one of the most powerful in the world – with holders given instant access to the highway in most areas. Open the box below to see if there are restrictions in the destination you’re heading for.

Is the UK licence accepted... plus more quirky driving laws you need to know

Hire cars… beat hidden cost

First hurdle to clear when it comes to driving abroad could be securing a hire car. Here’s our guide to make sure you’re paying the best possible price and not being taken for a ride in more ways than one…

Forget the alluring headline figure that Google spits out in response to your request for mid-size family transport in Spain – add the potential of hidden charges and you could be paying £100s more than you expected.


These are all legitimate costs that hire companies charge for add-ons, but a little planning will help slash your bill.

Check out the infographic, above, detailing a few of the potential costs you may incur when hiring a car then scroll down to find our tips for beating these hidden extras.

Beating the hidden costs

You’ve seen how much you could be paying in addition to your basic headline figure, but don’t despair – here are our tips to beat the hidden costs.

Book early

What: Hiring a car might not be the most glamorous part of booking your hols, but once you’ve secured your accommodation and flights, organising a car should be your top priority. Booking early could save £100s. For example, booking a car just a few weeks in advance for a trip to Portugal cost £191, while leaving it to three days before hiked the price to £372. This would be even more expensive if ordered at the airport on arrival.
Hire car hidden cost: £140.00-£700.00 depending on location and time of year.
Beat the hidden cost: Figures from TravelSupermarket reveal leaving your booking until you get to the destination airport could cost as much as £100 a day more than if you’d reserved your car a couple of months in advance. Save cash by getting a quote for your hire car right now from APH.com

Excess insurance

What: Arriving at the desk to collect your hire car could rapidly become a traumatic experience as the commission-led representative assaults you with a machine gun-like volley of insurance-related acronyms. The common theme will be that anything from a scratched bumper to a chipped windscreen could cost you several thousand euros/dollars unless you buy the particular add-on insurance that he/she if offering. At this point, many tired travellers with understandably succumb to panic and agree to purchase. These ‘policies’ will typically cost around £25.00-£30.00 per day.
Hire car hidden cost: £175.00 (approx)
Beat the hidden cost: There’s nothing wrong with wanting peace of mind – so get it on your terms. Buying a standalone excess policy before you fly is likely to cost around £2.99 per day, according to TravelSupermarket.com – while annual cover can be purchased for less than £40.00. Get a standalone excess insurance quote here

Have cash on your card

What: Have space on your credit card: If you’ve saved cash by purchasing a standalone excess insurance policy, the car hire company will usually want to ring-fence or charge a refundable deposit on a credit car – to cover any excess charges that you can claim back later from your insurer. The amount is usually somewhere between £300.00 and £500.00. Charging or ring-fencing the cash on your card is normal, but if you’ve maxed-out your credit card, the ‘deposit’ will be declined and you’ll be forced to lose your car or take the operator’s own expensive policy.
Hire car hidden cost: £200.00+ including the standalone policy you’ve already bought.
Beat the hidden cost: Contact the hire firm in advance – by email, so you have it in writing – to find out how much they’ll need to ring-fence and make sure you have the funds available on your card’s balance.

Child seat hire

What: Hiring child seats will cost you from £5.00/day. Bad enough for just one child, but if you’ve a brood of them populating the back seat, you could be looking at more than £100.00 on seats alone.
Hire car hidden cost: £35.00 per child per week
Beat the hidden cost: First option to slash the cash is take your own seat with you. Many airlines will let you take it for free – or for a small charge. For example:
British Airways will let you check in a stroller and one child seat for free
easyJet offers a free service allowing you to check in a child seat or booster seat for each infant under two years old, along with one of either a booster seat, buggy, pushchair or cot. You can also use the child seat on the plane, providing it fits in the 42cm space between the arm rests on the aircraft seats – go to SeatGuru.com to double-check this ‘armrest’ measurement for the plane you’ll be on. Get full info on easyJet’s child seat policy here.
RyanAir’s website says two pieces of infant equipment are carried free of charge (per infant/child). This equates to a pushchair plus one of the following: car seat, booster seat or travel cot. Read RyanAir’s latest policy on child seats here.
You could also consider buying a BoostApak. It’s a clever booster seat that folds into a handy backpack. It’s suitable for most kids aged from 4-12. It costs from £44.95, but will make a clever investment the kids will love to carry. Buy the BoostApak here.

Sat-nav hire

What: You might be an expert traversing the back streets from Accrington to Clitheroe, but navigating your way through the Pyrenees might require a little GPS-powered assistance. Borrowing one of these from your hire car firm is likely to be a costly decision, with charges up to £14.00 per day.
Hire car hidden cost: £50.00+ per week.
Beat the hidden cost: Upgrading your current device with foreign maps could cost you as much as £50, but if you have a GPS-enable smartphone, you can use apps such as NavFree which turns your phone into a free sat-nav device for around 50 countries. Don’t worry about huge data charges , either, the service uses pre-loaded maps and that work offline. A great way to cut the cost of hiring a car.


What: Some hire car companies have targeted fuel as a prime way to boost their income. It won’t appear on the headline cost either, so make sure you’re fully aware of how much you’ll be charged before you book. A particularly expensive option is to charge you for a full tank in advance, but not give any refund on unused fuel. Many people won’t use all the fuel, plus operators will charge big premiums compared with the cost of petrol and diesel from local filling stations.
Hire car hidden cost: £50 per week.
Beat the hidden cost: This ‘full to empty’ policy is particularly prevalent in Spain, but look out for it in all destinations. Only hire cars from firms that operate a ‘return as found’ fuel policy – allowing you to benefit from cheaper foreign fuel prices. Get your quote now from APH.com

Pay with a credit card

What: When you pick up your holiday hire car, it’s likely the firm will charge a deposit. Always pay this using a credit card. Never hand over a debit card – this will give the hire firm freedom to dip into your bank account at will and extract whatever they want.
Hire car hidden cost: £?? Difficult to put a figure on this, but it could run into hundreds if you have a dispute with the hire car firm over damage.
Beat the hidden extras: Using a credit card acts as an extra buffer between you and the hire firm – allowing any contested charges to be frozen while you dispute them – debit cards offer no such protection. The Consumer Credit ACT 1974 also makes the credit card supplier jointly liable in disputes. Additionally, insist the firm charges you in the local currency, because many hire car companies will convert to sterling using rates that are heavily biased in their favour.

Check and check again

What: Holiday hire cars have a tough life and operators are keen to extract as much revenue from of them as possible. As such, you might find that vehicles are scruffy, scratched and even have mechanical problems.
Hire car hidden cost: £300+ if your deposit is lost over spurious damage claims that weren’t your fault.
Beat the hidden cost: Make sure you spend a good 10 minutes looking over the car for damage and checking it for mechanical problems before you drive away. Insist the agent marks all scratches, scuffs and dents on the ‘diagram’ before you sign for the car. It’s a good idea to photograph the car too – using your smartphone to do this should insure that ‘exif’ data is recorded (this invisibly embeds a digital footprint to the photo, including date and location it was taken) which could be invaluable in the event of a damage dispute (use Google to find an exif reader). Also, you must check the spare wheel to ensure it’s not damaged, or punctured – otherwise you could end up paying for another driver’s carelessness.

Don’t hire a car

What: Many people hire a car and then only use it for travel to and from the airport and hotel. If you’re staying in a lively costal resort, it’s likely that you’ll have a beach, restaurant and shops within a few minutes of where you’re staying.
Hire car hidden cost: £100.00+ (after accounting for alternative travel)
Beat the hidden extras: Use Google Map’s Streetview feature to take a virtual tour of amenities near your accommodation. You might just realise you’ve got all you need on your doorstep, or if you do want to take a trip, check out local buses etc. Beat the cost of hiring a car by getting an instant airport transfer quote from APH.com.

How you collect your holiday hire car with the new code

Read this and don't get left without a car on your hols this summer

Read this and don’t get left without a car on your hols this summer: image credit

Use the guide below to find out what’s changed and how to get an access code that will ensure you’re able to collect your hire car when you arrive at your holiday destination.Use the carousel or find a full guide beneath.

WARNING: Without this code, you could lose your hire car booking.

Are you planning to hire a car for your holiday this summer? Read on to ensure driving licence changes don’t leave you marooned at the airport hire desk without any wheels…

At-a-glance guide to hire car licence changes:

Driving licence changes coming into effect at the start of the holiday season could cause chaos for travellers picking up hire cars in foreign countries. Here’s our at-a-glance guide to all you need to know.

What has this got to do with my holiday hire car: The DVLA is axing the paper counterpart that currently accompanies your driving licence photocard. These will cease to have legal standing from June 8. While the DVLA says you should destroy your paper counterpart, we’d advise you keep it safe and pop it in your suitcase as a back-up just in case your holiday hire company hasn’t heard about the changes – just like a large portion of the British population.

But how does this affect collecting my holiday hire car: The paper counterpart contains information on penalty points and other traffic offences that hire companies want to check before letting you loose with their car. This will now be held on the DVLA’s database and need to checked online, by phone or post.

This switch to a fully digital system is likely to make it harder for hire firms to check your driving record – and some local overseas firms might not even know the change is coming.

So how will hire car companies check my record: From June 8, travellers will need to log on to the DVLA’s website the day before they fly, enter their driving licence and national insurance number to obtain an access code that’ll allow a car hire company to check their details via the internet when they arrive.

How long does the code last for: The code will be valid for 21 days, so anyone hiring a car more than three days into their holiday will need to logon and get a new code – potentially incurring hefty mobile data charges if they don’t have access to free Wi-Fi.

Is there any other way: Yes. If you have access to a computer you can download your driver ‘record’ on a PDF document, print it out and show it to the hire car company. However, some motoring organisations are concerned firms could be reluctant to accept this.

What if I forget to get an access code or to download a PDF: Arrive at the hire car desk without any of the above and the operator could be forced to ring the DVLA’s premium rate helpline, which costs up to £3 a minute. Guess who’ll be paying …

Do I need internet access to use the service: No, the DVLA spokesman assured us that the system will have an associated phone number for drivers to call and obtain a code.

I have the old-style paper licence – is that okay: Yes, old-style paper licences are still legal and providing they are up to date, should be accepted at the hire desk as proof of your driving record. However, if you need to update and details – such as address or endorsements – you will have it replaced with a new-style photocard (and not paper counterpart, of course).


Read our full guide to driving licence changes here

Licence to drive abroad

Does your licence entitle you to drive when you reach your destination? Here’s the info you need.

Keep on the right side of the law as well as the road

Keep on the right side of the law as well as the road

Driving in Europe: A UK driving licence is accepted in all EU countries, but you must make sure it’s valid and has the correct information on it. Details such as your address can be changed for free at Gov.uk – but you could be fined up to £1000.00 if the police catch you first.

Photocard licences need replacing every 10 years, so make sure yours isn’t about to expire during your holiday. Old-style paper licences are also perfectly legal to use in Europe, but make sure you carry some form of photo id to ensure trouble-free encounters with local cops or officials.

Driving outside of Europe: Heading beyond the highways of Europe could mean you need an International Driving Permit (IDP). These are required in around 140 countries including America and Thailand. If you fail to obtain one, you could be refused your hire car.

There are two types of IDP, with the version you require dependant on where you’re travelling to. Visit this AA page to discover if you require an IDP and, if so, the version you’ll need.

The IDP does not replace your driving licence, so you will need to take it with you. Failure to carry your licence could result in breaking local driving laws – or being refused a hire car.

How to get an IDP
The permit lasts for a year and you can apply up to three months before you travel – with the start date past-dated to when you need it. You can get an IDP from the AA and RAC, but the fastest way to obtain one is from the Post Office. You’ll be able to get one over the counter at selected branches. Beware of any other websites selling these documents, they’re probably fakes. Here are the details you’ll need to buy yours:


Top tips for driving abroad

Follow these simple tips to ensure your holiday motoring is safe and fun for all.

German AutobahnsImage credit

German AutobahnsImage credit

Drive on right: Be prepared to drive on the right. Most of Europe does, with only the Irish Republic, Cyprus and Malta staying left like us. Local hire cars will be left hand drive (LHD), so this will make it a lot easier to adjust. Changing gear in a manual LHD car is something that many find difficult to get used to. Pay special attention when pulling out into traffic and negotiating roundabouts, it’s easy to forget where you should be looking and what lane you should head for.
Top tip: If you’re worried about changing sides, hiring an automatic car will ease some of the pressure. Avoid town centres for a few hours, allowing you to get used to driving a ‘left-hooker’.

Navigation: The last thing you want to be doing while concentrating on driving in a foreign country is attempting to navigate, too. That’s why having a sat-nav will be essential to ease the strain. Follow our top tip below to save cash, too.
Top tip: As you’ll know from our section on cutting hire car costs, renting a sat-nav can be a pricey business, follow our advice and download free navigation maps to your smartphone using an app such as NavFree. These maps use GPS, so you can leave your money-munching data services safely in the off position.
Top tip 2: Be aware that in France it’s illegal to use sat-nav equipment that has data for locating fixed-position speed cameras.

Toll roads: It’s not just France where you’ll find tolls… many other countries around the world have roads, bridges and tunnels where you’ll need to pay a tariff. Make sure you always carry the equivalent of a few pounds in local currency because some tolls can’t be paid using credit cards.
Top tip: Use this Michelin route planner to check for tolls on your route.

Local laws: While our domestic driving laws often appear to have been created by non-drivers, rules and regulations in Europe and beyond can be equally confusing.Make sure you do your homework on local laws before you travel…And if you were considering driving while wearing your favourite blindfold in Alabama – don’t! It’s illegal, apparently.

Top tip: Head to the AA’s country-by-country guide to driving laws.

Penalties: Don’t think that just because you’re in a foreign country you’ll be able to escape punishment for motoring misdemeanours. A new EU law means that the DVLA must now give a driver’s name, address and previous convictions to any country that asks for them – the first time this information has been made available to cops outside the UK. The country where the offence was committed can then send you a penalty ticket and demand payment. Demands made to Brits for offences committed abroad can’t be enforced in the UK, but unpaid penalties could result in problems if you subsequently travel to the issuing country.
Top tip: France and Spain are particularly aggressive when it comes to chasing foreign drivers – and they’ll charge huge fines for relatively minor indiscretions.

What flag do you want to fly?

Would you like your country - or even county - on your licence? Tell us here

Would you like your country – or even county – on your licence? Tell us here

Brits getting a new licence or renewing their current document will find the Union Flag appearing on it, but is that what you want? Should there be an option for the English, Scottish and Welsh flags – or even Cornish? Tell us what you think…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *