Do I need a Green Card to drive my own car in Europe?

The rules around how UK residents prove they’re insured to drive their cars on the continent and across the border into the Republic of Ireland have changed after Brexit. Read our guide to find out all you need to know…

The rules around how UK residents prove they’re insured to drive their cars on the continent and across the border into the Republic of Ireland have changed after Brexit. Read our guide to find out all you need to know…

Daniel Hutson
From the Motor team
6
minute read
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Posted 23 AUGUST 2021

Am I insured to drive in the EU?

All UK car insurance policies provide a minimum of third-party insurance for drivers in European Economic Area (EEA) countries. The EEA is made up of EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Switzerland is also included, as it’s part of the European single market, as are Andorra and Serbia.

If you have comprehensive or third-party fire and theft car insurance in the UK, it’s possible you’ll only have third-party cover when driving abroad. That means you won’t be covered for theft or damage to your car. Some insurance providers (but not all) maintain the UK level of cover abroad, so you’ll need to check. If your cover is reduced to the minimum level, you can ask your insurance provider for a foreign use extension. There may be a charge for this. You could also consider taking out European breakdown cover.

Do I need to do anything else now we’ve left the EU?

No. Although a Green Card was initially needed after the UK left the EU on 1 January 2021, from 2 August 2021, drivers going to Europe have been spared the additional paperwork.

A Green Card is an international certificate of insurance – a physical document that drivers sometimes need to take with them when travelling.

You don’t need a Green Card across the EU (including Ireland) and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Serbia and Andorra. The move has been particularly welcomed in Ireland, where drivers can frequently find themselves crossing the border between north and south.

Even though you may not need to produce a Green Card, you will need proof of valid vehicle insurance. You can use your insurance certificate to prove to law-enforcement agencies, including border authorities, that you have the necessary insurance.

You may still need to carry a Green Card to drive in:

  • Albania
  • Azerbaijan
  • Belarus
  • Moldova
  • Russia
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine

The golden rule before driving abroad anywhere is to check with your insurance provider that you have everything you need ahead of time. For further information on what is required to drive abroad, contact your insurance provider, or visit gov.uk.

Do I need an international driving permit to drive my car in Europe?

Usually, you don’t need an international driving permit (IDP) to visit and drive in the EU, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein. You may need one for some EU countries and Norway, if you have a paper driving licence, or one that was issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man.

In some places, you may need an IDP if you’re going to stay over a set time period – for example, 30 days in Cyprus or 12 months in Malta. See if you need to apply for an IDP on the UK government website.

You can get an IDP over the counter at the Post Office for £5.50. They can only be issued to drivers who are aged 18 or over, residents of Great Britain or Northern Ireland and have full UK driving licences. You’ll need to take a passport-style picture and you’ll need your passport for identification if you have a paper UK driving licence.

You should always carry your UK driving licence and vehicle log book with you too.

How do I apply for a Green card?

If you’re travelling somewhere outside the EU where you’ll need a Green Card, you’ll have to ask your insurance provider for one. They will usually post it to you, which can take up to six weeks, so make sure you allow plenty of time to apply ahead of your trip.

Some insurance providers may send Green Cards via email. If you opt for this method, you’ll need to print it double-sided in colour – it must have a green background by law. You’ll also need to trim off any white edges so that the green shows edge to edge.

You might be charged an administration fee by your insurance provider to get your Green Card.

Please note that, even if you bought your car insurance through Compare the Market, you need to apply directly to your insurance provider for your Green Card. Compare the Market can’t provide you with a Green Card.

What happens if I want to travel at short notice?

If you are travelling in the EU or EEA states, you’ll be fine, as you won’t need a Green Card. If you’re going somewhere else and you haven’t had the opportunity to get a Green Card from your insurance provider, an alternative option is to hire a car in the country you’re visiting and arrange local insurance cover.

How long does a Green Card last?

Green Cards are normally valid for 15 days but, if you’re going to be abroad for longer, tell your insurance provider, as they may be able to extend it. If your car insurance is up for renewal while you’re away, it’s best to shop around for a competitive policy before you go and arrange a Green Card to run alongside the new policy. You can normally arrange for a policy to start 30 days in advance.

Will drivers in Northern Ireland need a Green Card?

No, as Ireland is in the EU, a valid certificate of insurance is all that’s needed.

What information do I need to provide?

If you’re travelling outside the EU and EEA and need a Green Card, your insurance provider will need to know:

  • your policy number
  • where you’re travelling
  • your travel dates
  • whether you’ll be towing a caravan or trailer. This is because some countries require the vehicle being towed to have its own Green Card.

Would a Green Card cover me for all my cars?

You’d need a Green Card for each of your cars. This is the case even if you have more than one car insured on a single car insurance policy.

You will need multiple Green Cards if:

  • you have fleet or multi-car insurance (one for each vehicle)
  • your vehicle is towing a trailer or caravan (one for the main vehicle and another for the trailer or caravan – you may also need separate trailer insurance)
  • you have more than one policy that covers the duration of your trip

You’ll need to show your Green Cards if you are involved in an accident.

Will there be checks at the border?

Depending on the different border authorities, you may need to show proof of car insurance and any Green Cards required. This could be at the border, when moving between EU/EEA countries and those outside these areas, or during police checks.

If you don’t have a Green Card when asked, you might be fined or have your car impounded.

What do I need to know about travel insurance after Brexit?

It’s more important than ever to have travel insurance in place. Travel insurance will cover emergency medical treatment costs, as well the cost of emergency repatriation to the UK if necessary, and provide cover if your baggage is lost or stolen, or your trip is cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances.

It’s also a good idea to carry a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) or an EHIC card, if yours hasn’t yet expired.

You can apply for a free card on the NHS website. Beware of any unofficial sites that ask you to pay. An EHIC or GHIC is not a substitute for travel insurance. It may not cover all health costs and won’t cover repatriation costs, so make sure you have travel insurance too.

Which countries are in the EU or EEA?

The EU countries are (in alphabetical order):

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

The European Economic Area includes all the European Union countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

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