4 Things You Need To Know Before Driving Abroad

Driving abroad should be a positive experience - and it can be, if you check out our 4 need to know tips.

Whether it’s in your own car or a rented vehicle there are some elements to consider for ensuring both your safety and enjoyment. Driving abroad should be a positive experience - and it can be if you check out our 4 need to know tips.

Here’s what you need to know before driving abroad:

1. Take out Car Hire Excess Insurance

You might be wondering if car hire excess insurance is worthwhile, and we would have to say yes. Hire cars do come with their own insurance but it is often accompanied by very high excess rates. Cracked windshields, minor scrapes and other issues can happen very easily when driving any car, but with a hire car, you could be charged anything between €300 to €1,000 for even the most minor of issues. 

What is Car Hire Excess? 

Car hire excess is a type of insurance that protects you from large excess fees associated with rental cars. For as little as €0.14 a day, car hire excess will save you money if you need to make a claim on the hire car’s insurance. Car hire excess insurance may cover damage to: 

  • Wheels/tyres
  • Windscreens
  • Undercarriage
  • Roof

AIG Car Excess Insurance

2. Ensure that your driving licence is both in date and valid

Whether it’s a hire car or your own car, if you’re driving in Europe, you’ll need to take your driving licence with you. Make sure to check that your licence is in date and won’t expire before or during your trip. 

Drivers who hold a full Irish driving licence can use their license to drive in all countries in the EU and EEA (European Economic Area).

EU countries 

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, UK

Driving Licence Abroad

EEA countries

Includes all EU countries as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

Note: Switzerland is not in either the EU or EEA, but full Irish driving licences are valid there too.

If you’re planning to drive elsewhere in Europe like Hungary or Andorra, you will need additional documentation. It’s best to check out your holiday location’s terms well in advance of your trip so you have time to get organised.

Driving outside Europe

Depending on where you’re planning to drive you may need to apply for an international driving permit. Complete some research on your destination and give yourself enough time to organise any documents/permits you might need. 

3. Avoid fines: display emission zones stickers and country display stickers

Country display stickers 

If your registration plate doesn’t have IRL or EU symbols on it, you will need to get an IRL sticker for your vehicle. This also applies to any caravans or trailers. 

Emission Zone stickers 

This is a relatively new regulation. Depending on where you’re driving in Europe, you may need to display an emissions sticker or badge on your windscreen. Many European countries have implemented an Emission Zone sticker system to regulate which vehicles can drive through certain cities at certain times in a bid to combat pollution. If your car is particularly old, it could be banned from a city altogether at certain times.

Stickers can be pre-bought online and cost around €5. Failure to display them can result in fines up to €1,500 in certain countries. We recommend checking what is required in your specific destination.

Emission Zone Stickers

4. Headlight converters are required when driving a left-hand vehicle on the right side

If you’re planning to drive your own car overseas, you will need headlight converters. At night, headlights of cars designed for driving on the left side of the road will dazzle oncoming drivers in countries where you drive on the right. It's a legal requirement in most European countries not to dazzle oncoming drivers. Failure to do so will result in a fine.

What are headlight converters and where can I buy them?

Headlight converters are simple and easy to use. They are stickers that are applied over your headlights that adjust their dipped beam. They're compatible with a huge range of cars and come with fitting instructions. Kits are widely available from any motor shops and cost around €10. Get this sorted in advance of your trip in case of the unlikely event that your lights are not compatible with stickers and you need to have them adjusted by a mechanic instead.

Wherever you’re headed for your holidays make sure that you and your family are protected with a comprehensive travel insurance policy. Get a quote and buy travel insurance online in just minutes with AIG.