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How to make sure you're insured to drive abroad

How to make sure you're insured to drive abroad

If you’re planning on driving abroad, there’s a few things you should know – including changes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Daniel Hutson
From the Motor team
minute read
posted 6 APRIL 2020

Driving and the COVID-19 pandemic 

The UK government has advised against leaving your home except for essential circumstances, while the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against all but essential travel abroad. 
Meanwhile, most countries worldwide are taking steps to limit the spread of coronavirus. If you’re already driving abroad, or still planning to at this time, you should check the Foreign Travel Advice section of the GOV.UK website for specific information about the country or countries you’re visiting. You should also contact your insurance provider, to find out how driving abroad during the coronavirus outbreak may affect your policy.  
For more detailed information about driving during the COVID-19 pandemic, read our coronavirus and motoring FAQ page. 
See government instructions on social distancing 
Please note: This information was correct at the time of publication on 6 April 2020, but, because of the impact of COVID-19, things are changing rapidly. We aim to keep this page updated, but check with your insurance provider or potential provider directly to confirm any details. 

How do I know if my car insurance covers me when driving abroad?

The easiest way is to check your policy documents or contact your insurance provider directly. Even if your policy does mention cover when driving abroad, it’s important to familiarise yourself with the details of this cover, including:

The level of cover – many policies will only offer the most basic form of cover when abroad. Do not assume that because you have a full comprehensive policy in the UK that you’ll automatically have the same once you cross the Channel.

The period of cover – you might find policies have a limit on the number of days they will cover you while driving abroad. This could be a continuous limit, for example 14 days in succession, or could be a total yearly allowance. It’s worth discussing the specifics of your journey with your insurance provider to tailor it for your dates.

What’s a green card?

The Green Card system was originally created to help make it easier to drive between countries in Europe by creating one recognised European document. The Green Card is now recognised as an international certificate of insurance and proves to foreign authorities that you have the minimum compulsory level of insurance for the country that you’re driving in. You don’t need to have it in the EEA, but you may be asked to produce the document by the local authorities in some countries.

Possession of a Green Card guarantees that if you’re in an accident caused by a foreign vehicle, you’ll be compensated in the country of the accident.

How can I get a green card?

You should be able to get a Green Card through your insurance provider. The responsibility for issuing the cards in the UK rests with The Motor Insurers’ Bureau, but they have delegated the responsibility for issuing and printing them to individual insurance providers.

In total, there are 47 countries signed up to the Green Card scheme, including all 28 European Union countries, as well as Middle Eastern nations, Russia and some countries in North Africa.

What is an International Driving Permit?

An International Driving Permit (IDP) is an internationally recognised permit that allows you to drive abroad when accompanied by a UK driving licence. They are valid for 12 months from the date of issue.

It sounds a bit technical but, in most cases, you’ll need a 1949 Convention IDP. You will only need a 1926 Convention IDP if you’re about to go driving in Brazil, Iraq or Somalia.

How can I get an international driving permit?

You can get your international driving permit via the AA or by applying at your Post Office. IDPs cost just £5.50.

Remember that having a permit is not the same as having insurance for driving abroad.

What do I need to do before my trip?

Once you’ve sorted out your car insurance for driving abroad, there are a few other important things to do to prepare for your trip including:

  • check the rules – depending on where you are going, the rules of the road could be quite different from here at home. Even driving laws and requirements in neighbouring countries differ. It may also be a good idea to check the drink driving laws in case they differ from the UK

  • check your equipment – consider whether you need to carry any additional items in your car. Certain countries, such as France for example, require you to have the following in the car: reflective hazard triangles, fluorescent jackets and a portable breathalyser. When traveling to most countries, your car must display a GB sticker on the back (unless there is already a GB on your number plate). Failure to do so may result in an on-the-spot fine

  • check your documentation – it’s worth being organised and collecting all the documentation you’ll need in the event that you run into difficulties on your travels. You’ll need your passport, your driving licence, vehicle registration document (V5), breakdown policy, travel insurance documents, emergency helpline numbers and, last but not least, your car insurance certificate.

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