Driving a Car Abroad

Practical Requirements

Gain familiarity with all the laws governing vehicles and traffic in the countries you plan to visit. Read up and maybe even join auto enthusiast sites whose members are natives to those countries. That would give you a feel for how the driving environment is there.

Be sure about the proper lanes for traffic as well as the right of way rules particularly for roundabouts. If the driving method in that country is the reverse of the UK then you must develop a mindset that will keep you on the proper side of the road at all times.

Get driving maps, even if you have a navigator. In the event that you lose your GPS navigator, you will still have access to your paper maps.

Go and have a chat with your cellular service provider. Discuss with them the details of your trip, specifying the countries and making sure you get the best rates for the roaming services.  Have details of all their telecom partners at hand to ensure that you are never without a signal. Do make sure that your cellular phone is ready for the drive abroad as well. To be sure, you may want to purchase a quad band, go anywhere with a brand new phone, spare battery and a car adapter.

Legal Requirements

Ensure that your driver’s license is valid in the country that your plan to visit. Check with your local authorities to verify this. You may also want to check the websites of the country you are visiting for more information regarding the latest vehicle laws that may be pertinent to your situation

Make sure that your vehicle registration papers are present and up to date. Ensure that your vehicle is in compliance with all the requirements of the different countries you are visiting

Go over your vehicle and personal insurance details. Verify that accidents and other untoward incidents in those countries are in fact covered by your insurance companies.

Always be aware of the speed limits. Not all traffic policemen take kindly to tourists and the fees involved may put a damper on your trip.

Preparing For the Trip

After reading up on the requirements above, there will definitely be some modifications that need to be made for your vehicle.

One would be to put a prominent GB sticker to identify your origin. This ensures that other drivers are aware of your situation and they can make the necessary allowances.

Second, the driving conditions in those countries may be quite different from the UK. Confer with your mechanic about the car worthiness of your automobile. Make sure that all the other requirements such as lights, horns, mufflers, etc are in compliance with those countries.

Third thing to do is while you are at your mechanic’s shop, have them do a safety check on your car. The prudent thing to do is to change anything that may be on their way out to minimize the need for servicing while abroad.

The fourth thing is to bring along all the spares that you might need for your vehicle. While you did have the safety checks, the fact remains that parts have this knack of failing at the most inopportune time. Be prepared. And a good rule to follow is if you need one, you’ve got to have two.

Lastly, if you have a GPS navigator in your vehicle, ensure that you have access to all the maps pertaining to the areas you are visiting. If not, make sure to load them up. Once this is done, you may want to plan your route and plot it on the device if possible. That way, it would be close to impossible for you to get lost.

However, if you don’t have one, all is not lost. Using a handheld GPS makes a lot of sense. And it will provide you with a great deal of comfort for those dark rainy nights where you can’t see the signs and you feel you are lost. What is truly ideal is to have a Netbook and GPS receiver.  You can load up the Netbook with all the navigation maps you might need and it gives you a larger screen along with access to other country specific sites such as hotels, restaurants, inns, etc. If you do opt to use one, it would be best to surf and bookmark these sites way beforehand rather than searching for them in the middle of nowhere.

Ideal Preparation

It is of course quite ideal if you could undergo special driver training that is specific to driving abroad. Aside from the need to cope with more demanding driving, this type of driver training conditions your mind and hones your reaction in such a way that you can cope with unfamiliar driving situations with ease.

Driving in the Pyrenees, the Swiss Alps and the German Autobahn make demands on the UK based driver, all of which are very different.

Aside from the enhancement in your driving safety, undergoing this type of ideal training can make your driving much more enjoyable.

Tips for the Actual Trip

So, everything is all set and you are about to go.

Before you set out, be sure, that there is at least one person at home who knows where you are going and when you are supposed to be there and when you are expected back in the UK.

If possible, provide them with a specific map detailing your trip including your expected arrival times at different waypoints.

Ideally, you might want to use Google Latitude and other similar services, along with a GPS enabled phone so the person at home can pinpoint your whereabouts at any given time.

Some last minute details would be to ensure that you start out your trip in the best physical and mental state.

Have all your driving needs available and close at hand. These would include the cellular phone plugged into the car adapter, your hands free or Bluetooth headset, your sunglasses and maps.

Have the necessary change in foreign currency ready for tolls and other expenses.

Make notes about special driving conditions in that particular country and read these tips before you enter their territory.

More than anything else, you should enjoy your trip. The destination may not be a great one but that doesn’t mean that the trip can’t be as enjoyable.