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Safety laws when travelling abroad

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Driving abroad can be the most incredible experience. Driving around mountain passes, avoiding long airport queues and enjoying a freedom that canít be beaten. It can also be harrowing affair if you donít know what to expect. If youíre driving your own car, you have to master driving on an alien side of the road. If youíre renting, depending on the country, you could find yourself on the other side of the car, trying to decipher a foreign road sign while juggling a map you canít read. Stress and fear are not emotions you want to endure while on holiday so itís worth putting in time to research laws and rules of the road when travelling abroad. Take a moment to familiarise yourself with the following:

  • The vehicle that youíre driving, including indicators and lights
  • Alcohol and speed limits - speed limits are often higher outside the UK
  • Common road signs, markings and signals

  • Required documentation i.e. passport, license, vehicle registration, International Driver Permit
  • Compulsory equipment i.e. breathalyser, reflective jacket, tools or fire extinguisher
  • Emergency phone numbers

Roughly a quarter of the world drives on the left hand side of the road. If youíre travelling to a British colony such as Australia or the Cayman Islands, then the chances are youíll feel very much at home. However, if youíre visiting the three quarters of the world who find themselves on the right hand side, itís highly important that you take your time to familiarise yourself with the situation so you feel confident in your ability to drive abroad. Ensure you know how to navigate roundabouts and overtake safely.

An important thing to consider when travelling abroad is, of course, the vehicle itself. The vehicle should be fully serviced and road worthy, with all documentation in place. When it comes to insuring the car, check that you are fully covered to drive abroad, have the relevant breakdown cover and posses the relevant permits, such as the International Driving Permit, which you need for driving in certain countries. If youíre planning on taking your vehicle abroad for more than 12 moths, youíll need to tell the DVLA.

When you begin to drive abroad, be aware of your surroundings and always drive carefully and vigilantly, considering the following:

  • Obey the rules of the road at all times
  • Know the difference the weight of your luggage makes to your vehicle
  • Know your route and the location of emergency services
  • Keep plenty of loose change in the car at all times for toll roads
  • The concentration that comes from driving abroad will be exhausting, so take regular breaks
  • Donít take unusual security risks i.e. donít display valuables, always wear your seatbelt
  • If you are visiting one country in particular, it is a good idea to look into local customs and the more obscure laws that may exist there. For example, it is illegal to carry a bicycle on the back of a passenger car when driving in Portugal. In Russia, it is forbidden by local laws to pick up hitchhikers. And in France, you must disable any navigation software that can detect speed cameras. Unfortunately, ignorance to these laws isnít always a way out and those habits you consider less serious in your home country could land you in big trouble abroad.

    Driving abroad can also be a liberating and exciting experience and being as prepared as possible will only make it better. Respect the country youíre visiting and take time to plan and you will have a stress free driving experience.

    published: 10/10/2013 17:07:20

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