If you’re fond of your motor and want to take it on holiday with you, you’re not alone. Having carried out a survey with 22,000 of their members, the AA recently found that 11% plan to take their car abroad this year.
If travelling by boat and car, the appeal is obvious: you can bring plenty of luggage, it’s often a cheaper way to travel and, most importantly, you have the freedom to travel wherever you want. Roger de Brett, travel manager for the AA says: “Away from the motorways you’re bound to find delightful places to explore as you go.”
Before setting off on a trip though it’s important to make sure you have the right documentation and that your car is up to scratch. Travel insurance, which can be purchased from the AA, is essential, along with AA European Breakdown Cover. The latter offers an English speaking helpline and repatriation of a car if necessary. If you don’t have cover, you could be looking at costs of up to £1,000 to bring a broken-down car home. It’s also worth consulting the FCO website (gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice) for up to date information on different countries.
But the preparations don’t end there. European countries have their own requirements for compulsory equipment to carry in cars so you’ll need to compile a shopping list before you set off.The AA website offers downloadable guides for much of Europe, and while some countries are straightforward — for example there is no compulsory equipment needed for the republic of Ireland while in Denmark you just need to bring one red warning triangle — others have more road rules.
Here’s information on four of the bigger ferry destinations:
France, Spain, Portugal and Belgium.
GB sign If travelling in the EU and you have a number plate with the GB euro-symbol you won’t need to bother with this. Otherwise a sticker with black letters printed on a white background is required.
Beam converter kits Unless your headlamps have internal shutters you’ll need to purchase kits to avoid dazzling other drivers when driving on the right side of the road.
A breathalyser It’s one of the easiest countries to visit but France also has more rules than most regarding what you must carry in your car. A breathalyser certified by the French authorities and carrying an NF number is compulsory for all cars and motorcyclists.
Warning triangles A common requirement in much of Europe. France and Belgium require you to bring one, while Spain goes one step further — you’ll need to pack two as you may face a fine if you only produce one in a breakdown accident. While not compulsory for visitors to Portugal, you are strongly recommended to bring one as they are compulsory for residents. Reflective jackets Keep these in the passenger compartment of your vehicle as many countries insist that you must wear one if you are getting out of the car in an emergency situation (ie on the carriageway of the motorway, a busy road or stopping where parking isn’t allowed). Compulsory in France and Belgium (France require an EN471 jacket), they’re recommended for visitors to Portugal and Spain.
Spare tyre You will of course have this due to laws in the UK, but you’ll also need tools for changing the tyre or a tyre repair kit if visiting Spain.
Photographic ID Always carry photo ID (driving licence and passport). In Portugal it’s a legal requirement that everyone carries photographic proof of identity at all times.
Pre-paid Tolls Many of Portugal’s motorways require pre-payment of tolls. Visitportugaltolls.pt for information.
Snow chains If visiting France in the winter, you’re required to fit snow chains if driving on snow-covered roads.
While they aren’t compulsory in Spain, you may be stopped by police if you’re not using them in snow weather conditions.