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Planning a road trip to Europe? If you’re taking your car over to the continent, find out what European car insurance cover you need and whether a Green Card is necessary for your trip.

Planning a road trip to Europe? If you’re taking your car over to the continent, find out what European car insurance cover you need and whether a Green Card is necessary for your trip.

Written by
Julie Daniels
Motor insurance expert
Reviewed by
Rebecca Goodman
Insurance expert
Last Updated
1 SEPTEMBER 2023
7 min read
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What car insurance do I need to drive in Europe?

To legally drive in Europe, you’ll need at least third-party car insurance. This offers cover if you injure someone or damage their car, but it doesn’t cover injuries to you or damage to your car.

All UK car insurance policies provide third-party cover to drive in EU countries as standard. Be aware, though, that basic car insurance for travelling in Europe may limit the number of days that you’re covered to drive.

Here’s what to consider when looking for car insurance for European travel:

Does it cover damage to your own car?

Even if you have comprehensive cover in the UK, your policy may only extend to third-party cover in Europe. For peace of mind, you might want to upgrade to comprehensive cover for Europe.

How long will you be covered?

Car insurance with European cover typically gives you cover for between 30 and 90 days.

Check your policy to see how long you’ll be covered for driving abroad. If you’re going to be away for an extended period, you may need to arrange extra cover.

Does it cover all the countries you’re visiting?

Some countries that are in Europe but outside the EU may not be covered by your policy. Check the terms carefully to make sure.

Are you covered for breakdown and recovery?

Consider European breakdown cover. While your car insurance may cover Europe, your breakdown cover may not.

Do I need extra car insurance for Europe?

It depends on the level of cover provided by your policy for driving your car in Europe, as well as the trip you have planned.

If you’re unsure whether your car insurance covers you for driving in Europe, check with your provider. They’ll be able to talk you through the extent and limitations of the cover you have and suggest any extras you may need. You can usually boost your cover for an additional charge.

Can I get temporary European car insurance?

Short-term European car insurance policies are available from one hour up to 30 days. You might find it easier to take out a separate temporary policy for a single trip than to amend your existing car insurance.

Which countries are covered by European travel car insurance?

Along with countries in the European Union, EU car insurance covers you to drive in:

  • Andorra
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Iceland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Norway
  • Serbia
  • Switzerland.

If you’re driving outside of these countries, you might need a Green Card, which you can get from your insurance provider.

What is a Green Card for driving in Europe?

The Green Card is designed to help cars move more easily across Europe. It acts as an internationally recognised car insurance document.

If you have UK car insurance, you don’t need a Green Card to drive in the EU and the countries listed above.

But you may need a Green Card as proof that you have the minimum car insurance cover required in other countries, including Turkey, Albania, Ukraine, Israel, Morocco and Tunisia.

If you’re involved in an accident in a foreign country and the other driver is found to be at fault, having a Green Card guarantees that you’ll be compensated in that country.

For more information, read our guide to the Green Card for car insurance.

What documents do I need to drive in Europe?

As well as having insurance for driving in Europe and a full, valid UK driving licence, you’ll need your:

  • Vehicle’s registration document (V5C) – the original, not a copy. Or if you’re driving a rental car, a VE103 to prove you’re allowed to use it abroad.
  • Car insurance certificate
  • Passport(s)
  • Travel insurance documents
  • DVLA check code (you’ll only need this if you’re hiring a car).

You won’t need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, so long as you have a UK photocard licence.

However, check with the embassy of the country you’ll be driving in to see if you need an IDP if:

  • You’re driving outside of the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein
  • You have a paper driving licence
  • Your licence was issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man.

How do I get car insurance for travel in Europe? 

Check your policy to see whether you need to let your insurance provider know you’re planning to drive in Europe.

If you want the same level of cover that you have in the UK (comprehensive, for example) or Europe car travel insurance for a longer period than is provided as standard, contact your insurance provider. They’ll explain how you can extend your cover and the costs involved.

It’s also worth discussing the specifics of your trip with your insurance provider, so they can tailor your cover.

Alternatively, if your car insurance is up for renewal and you have several oversees trips in the pipeline, compare car insurance to find a policy with comprehensive European cover that fits your needs.   

You may want to consider standalone short-term European car insurance instead. Temporary car insurance can cover you for driving in Europe, but you’ll need to check exactly what countries are covered. And cover is typically only available for up to a month.

How much is European car insurance?

UK car insurance policyholders will already have at least 30 days of European third-party cover, so there’s no extra cost for driving in Europe. But if you want to increase your level of cover for driving abroad, your provider will charge you extra.

If you choose to get temporary European car insurance for a single trip, the price you’ll pay will depend on factors including:

  • Your age
  • The vehicle you’ll be driving abroad
  • The length and level of cover you need.

Tips for driving in Europe 

Make sure you’re well prepared before you head off on your European travels. Here are a few tips to send you on your way:

Display a UK sticker on your car

When driving a UK-registered car in the EU, you’ll need to display a UK sticker on your vehicle unless you have a number plate that shows a Union Jack.

If you’re driving your car in Spain, Malta or Cyprus, you’ll need to display a UK sticker regardless of what’s on your number plate.

You’ll also need a UK sticker if your number plate has:

  • A GB identifier and a Union Jack
  • A European symbol
  • An English, Scottish or Welsh national flag
  • No flag at all.

Learn local motoring laws

The rules of the road might be different to what you’re used to, not least because motorists drive on the right-hand side in most European countries. This includes France, which you’ll probably have to drive through at some point on your journey.

You may have to carry specific gear on board, such as a high-vis jacket. And you might need headlamp beam converters for driving on the right, so your headlights don’t dazzle other drivers. Each country has its own laws, so check before you go.

Carry out car maintenance checks

Give your car the once-over before leaving home to make sure it’s safe to drive. Check your tyre pressure, oil level and coolant.

If your car’s annual service is due soon, it might be sensible to get it done early, especially if you have a long journey ahead of you.

Check for motorway tolls and clean air zones

Paying to use motorways in Europe is more common than in the UK, so don’t forget to carry change in case you need to pay a road toll. You can often pay electronically or get a toll tag if you don’t want to bother with cash.

Many European cities operate low-emission zones, which you’ll need to get stickers for before you travel. You can find a full list of European environmental zones on the Green Zones site.

Take your insurance provider’s details

Remember to save your insurance provider’s claims number to your phone contacts in case you need to reach them urgently while you’re abroad.

And if you have European breakdown cover, make a note of the policy number and the emergency helpline so you have it to hand.

Can I compare European travel car insurance quotes?

We compare European car insurance cover from a variety of providers. Compare now and see if you could save.

Get a quote

Frequently asked questions

How old do you need to be to drive in Europe?

In most European countries, the legal age to drive is 18. You must also have a full valid driving licence. If you’re a new or young driver, be aware that you may face restrictions on the number of passengers you can carry.

You’ll have to be at least 21 to hire a car in some European countries, but in others you can hire a car from 18.

What should I do if I’m involved in an accident in Europe?

If you’re on holiday in Europe and find yourself in a car accident, you’ll need to call the local police. If anyone is injured, let them know and ask for an ambulance. Ask for a translator, if possible, to help with communication.

Make sure you get a copy of the police report and gather as much evidence as you can from the scene (photos, names and addresses of witnesses) in case you need to back up an insurance claim.

Just as you would if you had an accident in the UK, you’ll need to exchange details with any other drivers involved. And you’ll need to call your insurance provider as soon as possible – before you sign anything. They’ll advise you of next steps.

How does Brexit affect driving in Europe?

Now that the UK has left the EU, you’ll need to carry your UK driving licence when driving in Europe.

If you have a paper driving licence or your licence was issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man, you might need an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in some European countries. You can get one from the Post Office.

You’ll also need to display a UK sticker on your vehicle.

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Julie Daniels - motor insurance comparison expert

Julie is passionate about delivering a great customer experience and rewarding people for saving on their insurance through our loyalty and rewards programme. She’s spoken to the media, including outlets like Sky News and Capital FM, about car and home insurance, as well as our rewards scheme.

Learn more about Julie

Rebecca Goodman - Insurance expert

Rebecca Goodman is a freelance financial journalist who specialises in insurance, personal finance and consumer affairs. Rebecca regularly writes for national newspapers including The Independent and The Mail on Sunday on a wide-range of financial topics. She covers everything from money-saving tips and holiday advice to investigations into how energy efficient appliances can cut the cost of household bills and the impact donating money can have on those in need. Along with features in national papers, Rebecca also writes news stories for websites including Yourmoney.com and The Money Edit.

Learn more about Rebecca

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