You’ve booked your car ferry or Eurotunnel tickets, you’ve had the necessary vaccinations and you’re counting down the days until you go away. This summer, thousands of Brits will be jumping into their cars and heading to Europe for their holidays. For many, it will be the first time doing this since the pandemic. But the landscape for British motorists now looks a little different, not least because of some new rules which have come in as a result of Brexit.
“Holidays should be relaxing and enjoyable,” says Danhouse Security Ltd., MD, Neil Barham “but it’s always a good idea to plan ahead. As a security company, we would like to offer some advice about a few important security and safety precautions to consider ahead of a motoring holiday in Europe this summer.”
Service Your Vehicle
It goes without saying that if you’re going to be covering a lot of kilometres on European roads this summer, you need to make sure your vehicle is up to the task. Make sure you book a routine service before you go.
Check that your UK driving licence is still valid, as you’ll need to bring a valid licence with you. You should also check whether you need an International Driving Permit (IDP). Visit the GOV.UK website for further information: Driving abroad: Driving abroad on holiday – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
If you have a UK motor insurance policy, you automatically get third-party cover when driving in the EU or EEA. Some, but not all, UK insurers include comprehensive cover for driving in Europe. The best advice here is to double check your policy. If you want comprehensive, rather than third-party, cover and it’s not there, you’ll need to call your insurer and tell them your travel dates and which countries you plan to visit.
If you’re travelling further afield, to non-EU and non-EEA countries in Europe, you should ask your insurer for a green card.
Most important of all, wherever you’re travelling to, make sure you bring a copy of your valid motor insurance certificate with you.
Before you set off, you should check whether your UK vehicle breakdown cover is valid in Europe. It probably won’t be, so contact your provider and arrange to upgrade your cover to Europe for the period you plan to be away.
European Driving Rules
The driving rules in Europe are not the same as ours here in the UK. There are differences in local speed limits and drink-driving laws. Make sure you’re familiar with these rules in the countries you plan to visit, and observe them.
Things to Carry Inside Your Vehicle
You should always carry a valid driving licence, proof of insurance and proof of ownership of the vehicle. If you’re stopped by the police these documents are all likely to be requested.
There are also different rules in Europe about what else you need to carry in your vehicle. In many countries you need to carry reflective jackets (one for each passenger), a warning triangle and a breathalyser kit. In Belgium, for example, if you fail to carry the appropriate equipment in your vehicle, you can be fined up to €1,500.
If you hire a vehicle while you’re on holiday in Europe, it’s your responsibility to check that you’re carrying all the required equipment.
Display on Your Vehicle
Depending on your vehicle, you may need to fit headlamp beam deflectors (which are stickers that you put on your headlights) so you don’t dazzle other drivers.
Some European countries (including France and Germany), now have vehicle emissions sticker schemes – you may need to purchase these stickers online ahead of your trip from the relative national or local government agency, and display them on your vehicle. Beware of scam emissions sticker websites.
Vehicle registration plate rules have changed since Brexit. If you have a “GB” sticker on your vehicle, this needs to be removed or covered up. Instead, a “UK” sticker needs to be displayed. Number-plates which feature the blue band and the letters “GB” next to the European golden stars are no longer valid. As many UK registered vehicles will still have number-plates in this style, it’s best to tape over the “GB” part of the plate. This is an important change to be aware of – Halfords have warned that UK drivers who fail to display the “UK” designation on their vehicle may be refused entry to some countries.
To provide peace of mind, it may be worth fitting a GPS tracker to your car so that you know exactly where it is in real-time. But if you don’t need real-time information, consider hiding an Apple AirTag in your vehicle. This will help to track down your vehicle if it’s stolen.
When you make a car ferry or Eurotunnel booking, you will be required to submit Advance Passenger Information (API) for each passenger. Make sure each passenger has at least 6 months validity remaining on their passport.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that some of the ferry operators, such as P & O, now have very restricted meal facilities (no more full English breakfasts!), so it may be worth bringing some food with you to eat during the crossing. Since Brexit it’s no longer possible to bring many food items from the UK into the EU, so finish those cheese sandwiches before you arrive in Calais!
Many car journeys to Europe start and end at Calais. It’s a busy location with a lot of traffic and can be a bit daunting as you navigate your way out of the port area and get used to driving on the right. Things have changed there recently with the opening of the new East Port, which takes you straight out onto the motorway.
Taking Your Pet
Since Brexit, UK-issued pet passports are no longer valid in the EU. Now, before you can bring your pet dog (or cat) with you, you’ll need to fork out for an Animal Health Certificate (AHC) issued by a vet. To get one, your pet will have to be microchipped and vaccinated against rabies. This should be done no more than 10 days before you travel. The Kennel Club says an AHC will typically cost between £100 and £200.
Leaving the House
Make sure you’ve told your neighbours you’ll be away, so they can keep an eye on your home. It’s a good idea to use smart sockets so you can turn your lights on and off remotely, making it appear that you are at home.
All of us here at Danhouse Security Ltd would like to wish you a very happy summer holiday. Travel safely!