Everything you need to know about driving in the EU after Brexit
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On 1 January 2021, the U.K. left the European Union. And with that departure come some new rules around travel — from passports to visas to driving. And while you might not be travelling now because of lockdown restrictions, you may be using this time to plan your next holiday in Europe.
It’s a great and cost-effective way to transport your whole family with one ticket and avoid facing pesky baggage restrictions. You can stop when and where you want and manage your own transport itinerary.
So what do the new Brexit rules mean for U.K. travellers whose preferred means of transport is a car?
The night before Brexit came into effect, Transport Secretay Grant Shapps tweeted some “welcome news.” He confirmed that the U.K. has secured an agreement with all 27 EU states to recognise U.K. licences without obtaining an International Drivers Permit (IDP).
However, there are some exceptions, including for those who hold a paper licence. We’ve broken down everything you need to know below.
What is an International Driving Permit?
An IDP is a temporary proof of driving ability while abroad. But remember that it is different from an International Driving Licence (IDL). Be careful, as according to the RAC, “There isn’t actually such a thing as an international driving licence. It’s not a legally recognised document, so be wary of websites claiming to sell it.”
You must be over 18 and hold a valid driving licence to apply for an IDP and all types are available over the counter at Post Office branches for £5.50.
However, if you’re travelling in multiple countries where different versions are required, you will need to buy both the 1949 and 1968 IDPs.
You must apply for your IDP within three months of travelling abroad.
Is my licence valid?
Yes. But to be able to drive in some EU countries and Norway, as well as for those who have paper diving licenses — estimated by the DVLA to about three million people — and those with licences issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man, they may have to get an IDP. The government advises checking with the country’s embassy you will be driving in.
There are two different types of IDP you might need in Europe. For France and Germany, for example, some of those people will need a 1968 IDP. There is also a 1949 IDP, which covers visits to Andorra, for example.
You can find the full list of which IDPs you need worldwide here.
There’s no need to worry if your U.K. photocard driving licence has an EU flag on it — it’ll still be valid until the expiry date printed on it.
Do I need a GB sticker?
Yes, unless your number plate has GB on it — either alone or alongside a union flag. If the GB is alongside an EU flag or the flag of England, Scotland or Wales then you still need a GB sticker.
For driving in Spain, Cyprus or Malta, you need a GB sticker no matter what is on your number plate.
Read more: The best UK credit cards for car hires
What about motor insurance?
To be covered, you will need a “green card,” which you can get from your U.K. insurer and provides cover abroad. It’s best to ask for this six weeks before travelling and separate ones are needed for trailers and caravans.
It is also worth making sure the green card matches the level of cover you have in the U.K. — it may only cover you for minimum third-party cover.
Featured photo by Marco Bottigelli/Getty Images
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