Since the construction of the channel tunnel it has never been easier to visit European destinations in your own car. The added competition provided by the tunnel has helped provide us all with a wider choice of options and kept cross channel travel costs competitive.
Apart from making yourself aware of the driving rules and regulations for the countries you intend to visit, it is important that you carry the correct documents with you and ensure that you are properly prepared for your visit.
What documents to take with you
If you are driving in Europe there are a number of documents you will need to take with you. If you are out and about in your car you will need to keep them with you as you may be asked to produce them at any time.
Also if you intend to leave your car at any time, make sure you carry them with you and don't leave them in the car. Sort out your documentation well in advance of your trip, things like getting visas or renewing your passport may take time to get processed.
What you may need...
Your passport. Also make a note of your passport number and date of issue, but keep it separate from the passport itself, in case you lose it
A full valid driving licence, with paper counterpart if you have a photo card licence
An International Driving Permit if necessary (see below)
The original vehicle registration document
Your motor insurance certificate
Visas if required
What is an International Driving Permit
If you are driving in a European Community/European Economic Area [EC/EEA] member state you will be able to use your GB licence. An International Driving Permit is a formal document which translates details of your driving licence into several languages. This enables foreign authorities to interpret the driving entitlements held, their validity periods and the identity of the holder.
If you are intending to drive outside of the EC/EEA then you should speak to a motoring organisation such as the Automobile Association or Royal Automobile Club who will be to advise you on the requirements and also issue an International Driving Permit if you need one.
The EC/EEA member states are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Republic of Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.
About medical treatment
If you are travelling in one of the EC/EEA members states you can get reduced cost or sometimes free medical treatment by applying for a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before you travel.
The fastest way is to apply online here and your card should arrive within seven days. You can also apply by phone on 0845 606 2030 or by post using an application form which should be available from some post offices.
You can apply for yourself or on the behalf of your partner or your children who are under 19 and in full-time education.
Emergency contact number
You can dial 112 for emergency services in all 27 states of the EC/EEA if you have an accident or require the police.
Make sure you contact your insurer well in advance of your travel date to organise any extra cover you need for your journey. Also ensure that the necessary documents arrive before you travel and take copies and the relevant contact numbers with you.
Using your credit cards in the EC/EEA
Check with your bank or credit card provider that your cards are accepted in the countries you intend to visit. It's possible they may not be accepted in some countries.
If you have breakdown cover speak to your provider to see if they can provide enhanced temporary cover for the countries you intend to visit.