Family of four (a mother, father and two boys) leaning against a car looking over a field

Driving in the EU and EEA on holiday

Provided you have a valid driving licence, you can typically drive abroad in the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA). However, you will need to make sure that you comply with all requirements around driving outside of the UK and, where applicable, taking your vehicle outside of the UK. Read this blog to find out more.


Can I take vehicles abroad?

You can take your own vehicle abroad provided it meets certain requirements. This includes taking your log book (V5C) and insurance certificate with you.

You may also be able to take a vehicle abroad that you have leased or hired in the UK. However, you’ll need to make sure that you take your VE103 certificate with you. You can get a VE103 free of charge from the:

  • AA
  • British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA)
  • Logistics UK
  • RAC Motoring Services
  • Road Haulage Association (RHA)

You may need to show such documents if you’re stopped at a port or while driving abroad.

For more information, read the government’s guidance.


Can I drive in the EU and EEA?

UK citizens going on holiday or visiting a foreign country for a short period of time are generally allowed to drive on their British or Northern Irish licence. They can use their photocard licence or valid paper licence.

If you are renting a car, some car hire companies may ask for a check code to view details of your driving record. Some countries may additionally require an International Driving Permit (eg Norway).

The requirements for driving in the EU and EEA generally vary from country to country.

In the Republic of Ireland, those with UK driving licences, or foreign driving licences who usually reside in the UK, are permitted to drive without any additional documentation being needed.

UK photocard driving licences are valid in all EU and EEA countries and Switzerland. However, you may need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in some EU countries and Norway. Whether you need an IDP depends on the country you’re visiting and how long you’re staying.

You can check the government’s guidance to see whether an IDP is required.

You may also require an IDP if you have either:

  • a paper driving licence, or
  • a licence issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man

If the above apply, you should check the embassy of the country you wish to drive in for more information, before travelling.


What if I need an IDP?

There are three types of IDPs (IDP 1926, IDP 1949 and IDP 1968), which depend on the country you’re travelling to and driving in. 

Be aware that you may need more than one type of IDP if you’re travelling through more than one country.

You can get an IDP at the Post Office for £5.50 if you:

  • live in Great Britain or Northern Ireland
  • have a full UK driving licence
  • are over the age of 18

IDPs 1926 and 1949 last for 12 months, while IDP 1968 lasts for 3 months or until your UK driving licence expires (whichever comes first).


Do I need insurance?

While you do not need to carry a green card (ie proof that you have vehicle insurance when driving abroad) when you drive in the EU and EEA, you still need valid vehicle insurance.

UK vehicle insurance policies provide minimum ‘third party’ cover across the EU. However, supplemental benefits (eg theft and damage cover) may not apply – so it is necessary to check with your insurance provider.

For more information, read Driving abroad.


What about GB stickers and number plates?

Since 28 September, British drivers who are taking their car outside of the UK, must remove or cover up old-style GB stickers on their cars. Instead, they should display a UK sticker or have the UK identifier on their number plate.

If a number plate includes the UK identified with the Union flag (also known as the ‘Union Jack’), a UK sticker is not typically needed. However, drivers will need to display a UK sticker on the back of their vehicle if their number place has:

  • a GB identified with the Union flag
  • a Euro symbol
  • a national flag of England, Scotland or Wales
  • numbers and letters only with no flag or identifier

If you’re driving in Spain, Cyprus or Malta, you must display a UK sticker regardless of what is on your number plate. 

If you’re driving in Ireland, you do not need a UK sticker or licence plate.

For more information, see the government’s guidance.


What else should I consider?

When driving abroad, you will need to ensure that you follow the driving rules (including local speed limits and drink driving laws) of the country you’re in. Depending on the country you’re visiting, you may require:

  • additional equipment (eg high-vis jackets and reflective warning triangles)
  • emission stickers (permits) for certain cities (you may need to buy these before you go abroad)
  • headlight converter stickers

If you’re hiring a car, you will need to ensure that you have all the necessary equipment.

You should check the travel advice for the country you’re travelling to, to ensure you are aware of and comply with local laws.


Rebecca Neumann