photo: Max Pixel

It’s never been easier, nor probably cheaper, to hop across the Channel for a motoring tour of Europe.

You can be through the Channel Tunnel and off on the autoroute in little more than half an hour and ferry crossings have become far more affordable as they compete for business since the tunnel opened back in 1994.

If you are thinking about driving abroad you should always talk to your insurer first to make sure you have satisfactory cover.

But the biggest challenge on your continental road trip will be getting to grips with the different motoring laws that govern the roads in each country that you plan to drive through.

In most European countries, for example, as well as the GB sticker, headlamp deflectors and warning triangles you have to carry, you must also pack a breathalyser kit, and reflective jackets for the driver and each passenger. The jackets must be inside the car, rather than in the boot, as you are required by law to slip one on before you get out of the vehicle in the event of an emergency.

And, in some cities in France, you will even need a “clean air” sticker (Crit’Air vignette) itemising exactly the carbon emissions your vehicle produces.

Another thing that everyone should pack, along with their driving licence, passport, proof of vehicle ownership (V5C Certificate), and motor insurance documents is a Green Card issued by your insurer.

The Green Card system is an entente cordiale between almost 50 national insurance bureaux throughout Europe and beyond. It is designed to fulfil two principal objectives:

  • “To facilitate the movement of vehicles across international borders by the use of an internationally acceptable document proving the existence of insurance (the Green Card or International Insurance Card).”

  • “To ensure that victims of accidents involving foreign registered vehicles are not disadvantaged.”

A Green Card is not compulsory for all countries but it certainly provides huge peace of mind and a lot less hassle in the unfortunate circumstance that you need to make a claim.

Most UK insurance companies will cover you for driving in Europe but usually only for a maximum of 30 or 60 days and often with third party cover only.

However, if you are living, working or travelling in Europe for more than six months of the year with a UK registered vehicle then you will struggle to find a car insurance policy that meets your need for an annual green card.

One company, HIC, offers specialist European green card insurance to cover your vehicle abroad in these circumstances and when you bring it back with you to the UK.

The Green Card system has been adopted by 47 countries, including all 28 in the European Union, the additional countries that make up the European Economic Area (EEA), Switzerland, Russia and several countries in the Middle East and others bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

Full details of the scope of the Green Card system can be found on the Council of Bureaux website, which includes an interactive map of the countries in the system.


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