Driving Abroad

It’s worth checking out any special rules governing driving in the country you are about to visit before you leave home. There are many government and motoring organisation websites which can give you current conditions specific to your destination so make use of them.

Download a route map from the airport to your destination if you think it might be helpful. Some car hire suppliers offer GPS for an extra fee though, for longer trips in particular, it may be more cost effective to buy your own device.

Study a map of the area you intend to visit and check out possible places to explore. You’ll get the best out of your hire car if you get tourist advice on places of interest before you go so that you can plan your itinerary for a driving holiday.

When you arrive at your holiday destination and collect your hire car, resist the temptation to rush off before you’ve checked out the controls. Check the hire car over for damage and, if you don’t have a ‘no excess’ deal, report it before driving off. Familiarise yourself with the indicators, lights, gears, fuel cap, type of fuel, alarms, window controls, air conditioning, radio, horn, wipers, boot opening and hazard warning lights. Check where the car paperwork, spare tyre and tools are stored. Get the seat position right, fix the mirrors and you’re ready to drive away on your holiday.

In most countries, a UK driving licence is acceptable but you do need both parts. An International Driving Permit may be required for some locations. If you are unsure, check before you travel.

Be especially vigilant about parking restrictions – penalties can be severe.

Be alert to car crime…

  • Lock all doors and the boot when leaving the vehicle as well as closing windows and the sunroof.
  • Park in a well-lit place.
  • Avoid leaving possessions in an unattended vehicle. If you have to leave property, make sure it is in a locked boot but put it there before you park. In a hatchback, the rear shelf should be in position. In an estate car, cover up property with a sheet or blanket. Car hire insurance does not cover your possessions.
  • Take your keys with you at the petrol station when you go to pay.

If you suffer a flat tyre, change to the spare and have the tyre repaired yourself. Tyres are not covered on hire car insurance and, unless you have taken out extra cover (see Questor), it’ll probably be cheaper to have it repaired at a local garage.

Please, please do not fill a diesel car with petrol or a petrol car with diesel. It’ll stop and it’ll cost you a fortune!

Driving on the 'wrong' side of the road can be a nervous experience for first timers. However, a little concentration is all that’s required to adjust. The pedals are in the same place, just the gear lever and handbrake have moved! Don’t worry, you’re not the first person to get in the wrong side, reach over the wrong shoulder for your seatbelt, try to change gear with the door handle or – navigation assistants be aware – turn right when your map reader said left!

It may seem obvious, but other cars will overtake on the driver's side and, when you join a bigger road or motorway, you have to look out for the faster traffic on the driver's side. When you use a roundabout, you circulate anti-clockwise if driving on the right, clockwise if driving on the left giving priority to the traffic coming from the driver's side. Don’t worry, it sounds harder than it is. Relax and use your mirrors a lot.

You do need to concentrate on your driving for your entire holiday. Mistakes are often made after the first few days when you’ve started to relax. Be most aware when setting out for the day and when pulling out of a petrol station or car park.

Finally, enjoy your holiday car rental and let your hire car enhance your holiday experience.

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