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Talk to any driver who has used automobile hire, or who has taken their own abroad, and they'll tell you it's an experience full of surprises, with maybe even the occasional scare! There will be lots of times when you will feel lost when driving far from home, but survive the ordeal and you can be sure to emerge a much better driver. If you're considering doing it for the first time, or just could do with a helpful reminder, then our handy tips will give you the key information you'll need to survive out on the road...
There's only way to drive in a new country - and that's with extreme caution! First of all, be aware of your position on the road. Most countries on mainland Europe will drive on the right-hand side of the road, whilst in the United Kingdon, vehicles travel on the left. Remember this when you take on roundabouts. Purchase a good SAT NAV and/or Maps if you haven't already, and don't forget to download the most up-to-date maps to your SAT NAV to limit the chance of ending up on roads that lead to nowhere.
Be aware of road signs and traffic lights. Road signs may look similar across Europe but each country will differ slightly, so pay attention to the small details. Obey the speed limit. For instance, in Italy fines are particularly heavy for speeding offences. Each speed limit across Europe will vary but the standard speed limits are 50km/h for built-up areas, 90km/h for outside built-up areas on ordinary roads, 110km/h on dual carriageways and 130km/h on motorways.
When driving, make sure you have your licence with you, along with a International driving permit (IDP). Ensure you have the relevant insurance and breakdown cover in place too. Contact your motor insurer before you set off on your trip to make sure you have the required cover when driving abroad.
Park your car and use public transport or taxis, rather than attempt driving in a city centre that you have never come across. To save yourself time use motorways. You will encounter toll roads on your motorway travels. Most countries in Europe will ask you to purchase a special sticker or vignette, when driving on toll roads, which should be placed on your car's front window. If you don't display one you're likely to end up with a fine. If you're feeling courageous and decide to take on driving in the city centre, try to avoid heavy traffic times and most important of all, stay calm. When frustration eventually leads to anger, resist the temptation to blast your horn. In urban areas in Spain sounding the horn at any time, except in an emergency, is not allowed. Lights may be flashed in place of using the horn.
In many countries in mainland Europe, it's compulsory for all vehicles with more than two wheels to display a warning triangle. Drivers must also store a reflective jacket in their vehicle and not in the boot of your automobile (it must be worn when exiting the vehicle so therefore must be kept within the car), which has to be worn in the event of a breakdown or emergency outside a built up area. Some countries require drivers to carry a First-aid kit as well as a set of replacement bulbs and fuses.
Driving in unfamiliar areas and concentrating on road signs can be exhausting. Be wise and pull up in a safe place to rest if you are feeling tired.
Don't forget basic safety. Ensure everyone is wearing their seatbelt, including you. Try not to get distracted by your SAT NAV whilst navigating your way around and resist the temptation to talk on your mobile whilst at the wheel.
So how do you cope with driving in a new country? Do you love it? Or do you loathe it? Let us know your thoughts by sharing your comments on our Facebook page.