This year I hired a car for both my trip to Lake Como and Spain (I’ve actually driven abroad more than in England this year!). Driving abroad can be scary at first, especially when you’ve only driven in England and have to face driving on the other side of the road for the first time! It’s even more scary when you realise just how crazy Italian drivers can be (seriously, they drive SO fast).
So, here are 7 tips to help you on your way to a stress free experience of driving abroad!
Know the limit
Alcohol limits while driving are there for a reason. We all know it’s dangerous to drive when we’ve had some alcohol, but when on holiday we can get carried away and drink more than what we should.
Alcohol limits vary depending on country and in the UK the limit is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. In spain this comes down to just 50mg of alcohol ! This means that just one large drink, of any type, could put you over the legal driving limit. If you’re not sure about the drinking limits, simply don’t drink!
Start slower than usual
If it’s your first time driving abroad, or you’re a bit nervous, take it slow! I like to do a few laps of the car park when I’ve picked up my rental car before hitting the main road just to make sure I’m used to the clutch and driving on the wrong side of the road.7 While we’re talking about speed, make sure you keep an eye on the speed limits – you don’t want to come home to a fine due to speeding on holiday!
Make sure you know the legal requirements
here aren’t too many legal requirements for driving in the UK. When you rent a car abroad however, it’s worth checking out what the law says you must do. For example, in France you must carry a breathalyser in your car when driving, you must also have a hi-vis jacket in the car (not the boot!).
When you hire a car from Firefly, your car will come with the required equipment for that company, but it’s worth knowing what’s needed just in case!
Budget for tolls
There are very few toll roads in the UK and they can be easily avoided when you know where you’re going. However, most countries have tolls and if you don’t keep a track of them, you might end up spending a bomb!
If you need to get somewhere quick these tolls roads are brilliant.
Make sure you put some money aside for toll costs when planning your holiday to make sure you don’t come back completely broke!
Get a GPS
A lot of GPS systems you can buy in the UK come with maps for the rest of Europe. If yours doesn’t then it’s well worth hiring one when you pick up your car at the airport. This will save you a lot of stress trying to following signs (especially when you’ll usually see one sign and then never see another one again) or relying on your, or your passengers’ navigation skills!
Familiarise yourself with the parking restrictions
Whilst road markings are generally the same whichever country you go to, the same cannot always be said when it comes to those denoting a parking space.
In England parking spaces on the road are clearly marked in white.In Spain there’s many different markings which can mean different things for your parking. The colour of the road marking for the parking space can vary according to how expensive that particular area is to park in. For example, parking in the centre of town is likely to be more expensive that on the outskirts. Usually the colour you’re looking for is blue!
Furthermore, don’t expect to see a pay meter close to the parking spots – you’ll likely have to hunt one down as they can be a fair distance from where you’ve actually parked. One bonus to driving in Spain is that the siesta period is often a time of free parking so if you’re not taking a siesta yourself you can benefit from a few hours without having to top up that meter!
Take breaks and explore the back routes
It’s important to take a break from driving every couple of hours; stretch your legs, stay hydrated and give your eyes a rest! Don’t limit yourself to motorways either. Whilst the main roads are great for getting somewhere fast remember that you’re on holiday and you should be taking things at a more relaxed pace! Plus, breaks are far more interesting when they happen in a town and not in a service station; who knows what gem you’ll stumble upon!
What are your tips for driving abroad?