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Driving in a different country: The Basics

Can I drive in my destination?

If you’re traveling to an EU or European Economic Area country (or Switzerland) then you are legally allowed to use your Great Britain driving licence. There are different rules in most countries, but we’ll come to those later.

For trips outside of those areas, you may need to get an International Driving Permit. Used in conjunction with your GB driving licence, an IDP is not to be mistaken for an international driving licence.

At only £5.50, it doesn’t cost a lot, but some countries require that you have one to drive, hire a car or to be certified by the authorities to travel. Your IDP will be valid for 12 months from the date of issue.

How do I hire a car abroad?

The recent changes to GB driving licences have caused a bit of confusion when it comes to hiring a car overseas.

Prior to June 2015, a GB driving licence consisted of a card and paper counterpart. The abolishment of the counterpart licence means some of you may not even have the paper bit.

The trouble is that the paper part of your licence shows any driving convictions you may or may not have, and it was previously requested before you hired a car to make sure it was in safe hands.

Now, in order to hire a car you need to log into the DVLA website and obtain a code (valid for 21 days) to give to hire companies in order for them to check your records.

For more handy advice about hiring a car abroad, check out our Car Hire Help article.

What if I want to take my car?

If you just fancy a tour of Europe in your own set of wheels then you’re going to have to get a Carnet de Passage. In essence, it’s a passport for your car (and allow you to temporarily import a vehicle duty-free). They’re needed if you’re going to any of the following countries.

• Africa (not required in Tunisia and Morocco)
• Australia/New Zealand
• Far East
• Middle East
• Recommended in South America

Currently, you can only get a Carnet from the RAC. Find out how here.

Is there anything else I need to know?

Honestly, yes, there is a lot but it all depends on the country or countries you intend on driving in. For example, different countries have different rules surrounding what you must carry in a car at all times. If you were driving anything other than a moped in France, you have to have a breathalyser in the car with you.

The AA has put together a handy guide to help you out based on what country you’re visiting. Find your destination on the list and read up before you start travelling... or risk a fine (or worse).