BY TIM HEDGLEY, GROUP TRAVEL EDITOR
More countries are being added to the UK green-list for travel. But in a post-Brexit world, a lot has changed since British drivers were last on the continent. On 1st January the UK left the EU and there have been major shifts in driving rules affecting UK motorists.
Luckily the experts of car leasing at Nationwide Vehicle Contracts have rounded up the key changes and driving rules in green-listed countries to make sure UK drivers aren’t caught out when travelling over summer.
Are UK Driving licences still be valid in Europe after Brexit?
While the chances of getting to the continent this year seemingly increasingly slim, British motorists should be aware of changes to the rules for when mainland Europe does open up for drivers again.
Driving licences issued in the UK will still be valid when driving in EU member states. However, if you are one of the over 3000 UK drivers who still hold a paper licence and haven’t opted for a photocard upgrade, you will need an International Driving Permit.
This permit will be required to drive in 27 EU countries, as well as Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
What exactly is an International Driving Permit (IDP)?
There are actually three types of permits needed for driving in the EU and it’s worth making sure you have the right one. If you’re caught behind the wheel in the EU or EEA without the correct IDP, you may be fined, sent to court, or even have your car confiscated.
The three IDPs required on the continent are:
#1 1926 IDP – a niche requirement, you’ll only need this IDP if you want to drive through or in Lichtenstein.
#2 1949 IDP – required when driving in Cyprus, Iceland, Malta and Spain. The popular destination of Spain typically gets over 15 million British tourists a year* so it’s important that UK drivers remember to make this purchase when travel resumes.
#3 1968 IDP – All other EU/EEA countries require drivers to travel with a 1968 IDP, regardless of their driving experience.
IDPs cost £5.50, they last for three years and can be purchased from most post offices. It’s worth noting, because of the special Post-Brexit arrangement the UK has with the Irish Republic, British drivers travelling to Ireland do not require a special driving permit beyond their licence.
Are there any extra rules on travel and motor insurance after Brexit?
Despite the Brexit vote, until January 1st this year, insurance policies continued to offer protection to British drivers overseas as they had before 2016. However, now the transition period has come to an end, things have changed, and you will also now need a green card, provided by your insurer when driving in Europe.
These green cards provide a minimum level of third-party cover in case you get into an accident. It doesn’t matter if you have more comprehensive insurance in the UK, Green cards do not necessarily match the level of cover that you pay for in the UK, only basic third party coverage.
Drivers should apply for Green Cards a minimum of 6 weeks before they are due to travel to ensure the card arrives on time.
A unique green card should also be registered for every wheeled vehicle in your convoy so separate green cards are needed for multiple cars, trailers and caravans. If requested on the continent, the green card must be handed over in physical form, meaning drivers cannot rely on simply showing their phone.
It is important that all drivers speak to their insurers about green cards before trying to drive in the EU.
What about British Expats in the EU?
Before January 1st, there were almost half a million British drivers, holding UK drivers licences, living in EU member states who were required to trade in their licence for one issued in those countries or face having to sit a new test.
This is no longer the case. Any British immigrant moving to a European country from 2021 onwards will now have to take a new test in order to drive legally while a resident in that country.
This is particularly likely to affect British pensioners who wish to retire to countries such as France or Spain, who may have had decades of driving since last taking a test.
Can you still take a leased vehicle overseas?
If you wish to take your lease vehicle abroad you will need to contact your finance provider to obtain the relevant permissions before you leave for your trip. You will need to fill in a Vehicle-on-Hire-Certificate (VE103B) form, a legal document that acts as an alternative to the V5C logbook. The VE103B contains the details of the vehicle such as registration number, make and model and will also confirm the name and address of the person leasing the vehicle as well as the length of the contract.
You can find out more from Nationwide Vehicle Contracts who have written a guide to taking lease vehicles abroad.
Smaller rules to adhere to that you might have overlooked in the past
The UK leaving the European Union may also lead to Europe’s highway police cracking down on UK drivers.
One of the most popular driving holiday destinations, France, has a number of laws to be aware of. For safety reasons, all cars on French roads must be kitted out with a warning triangle and have a high-vis jacket stowed in case of emergency. The French also expect all drivers to carry a breathalyser kit at all times. This may sound pricey, but disposable breathalysers are available and it’s recommended that you carry two of these so that if one is used, you can continue on your journey with a spare.
It is necessary for all cars without an EU licence plate to carry a GB sticker, to indicate that your car is British. The exception is cars carrying an EU plate, which a majority of British cars produced before the Brexit period do. No British cars produced post-Brexit will carry EU plates so any car manufactured after this year will have to carry a GB sticker when travelling in Europe.
However, if you’re driving in Spain, Cyprus or Malta, the age of your car is immaterial and you’re required to present a GB sticker regardless of your number plate or the age of your car.
What are the rules in Green List countries?
Now that we’re able to drive in countries other than our own, what do we need to be aware of before we drive in Green List countries?
Balearic islands (Formentera, Ibiza, Mallorca, Menorca) – The Balearic islands are part of the sovereign state of Spain, meaning that it falls under Spanish road laws. You must be over 18 to drive and have a Full, valid UK driving licence, Proof of ID (passport), Motor insurance certificate and your V5 registration document to drive here. As stated above, you also need a GB sticker on your car! The fine for failing to wear a seat belt is set at €200 and speeding fines are between €100 to €500. If you find yourself in trouble, 112 is the emergency number!
Malta – A member of the commonwealth, Malta has a lot in common with Britain in relation to driving laws, but you should still be aware of key differences. When driving in Malta you need to be over 18 and hold a valid, full UK driving licence, you need a GB sticker (unless your car is equipped with an EU number plate) your insurance certificates, the V5 registration document if you own a car or the hire car paperwork for a rental. You should also make sure your insurance covers you for a third party, specifically in Malta (some policies do not!) and again 112 in an emergency.
Faroe Islands – These little-explored islands off the coast of mainland Denmark are likely to become a lot more popular now they’re on the Green list! Here you must be aged 18 or older and hold a valid driver’s license to drive as in the UK, but only have to be 21 years of age to rent a car. The drink-drive limit is lower than in the UK (where it is 0.08) on the Faroe Islands your blood alcohol level must be below 0.05. This means you can drink less before driving than in Britain. (Though we still advise you don’t drink at all!) The most unusual one to be aware of is that your headlights must be switched on and set to dipped beam at all times, even in the daytime.
Gibraltar – Despite being still closely tied to Britain politically (even leaving the EU with the rest of the UK) there are differences in the driving laws. Being on the continent, Gibraltar is still a place people drive on the right-hand side of the road. In opposition to Danish laws, you must not use your lights during daylight hours, and only use dipped headlights in the hours of darkness. One thing to be aware of is that Gibraltar only had 10 petrol stations, so make sure you fill up your tank!
Madeira – Madeira is an island off Portugal that comes under their laws. Things to be aware of that might catch you out is that it is illegal for children under 12 to be allowed in the front seat of a car (unless they are over 150cm tall). It’s also illegal to overtake in free-flowing traffic. Green lanes on motorways are for drivers using automated payment systems, so are best avoided by tourists, who do not have automated payment set up.
Keith Hawes, Director of Nationwide Vehicle Contracts, says:
“Things are slowly but surely returning to something approaching, if not normality, then a world that’s more familiar. This means, for those wishing to go to specific places, summer holidays are back on the cards.
But travellers need to be aware of how much the world has changed, and not just due to the pandemic either. Not everyone will manage to get away this summer, but if people do, we want to make sure they aren’t left unawares or unprepared when driving in Europe.”
I hope this is of use and if you need anything else, please do not hesitate to get in touch.