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Tips for driving abroad

Driving abroad is a different experience to driving in the UK, with drivers and driving customs often being different to what we’re used to.

So you need to plan ahead, making sure you understand all the different rules in other countries – and comply with them.

We’ve pulled together some of the most important information to help make your trip as smooth as possible when driving abroad, which you can download. We’re sure that you’ll find our Driving Holiday Checklist and Compulsory Equipment List to be handy guides, but we’ve also added a few other general tips to help you prepare for your holiday.

1. The first thing to do is to make sure that your Suzuki is well maintained and that all your regular vehicle checks are fully up to date. You want to minimise any risk of breaking down and getting stranded in a foreign country, by checking your car over thoroughly before you go, making sure everything is in working order. And don’t do it at the last minute: make your checks a week or two before leaving, so you have time to go to your local Suzuki Service Centre to get any issues fixed. And then, nearer the time of departure, go through all the basic checks again, making sure the likes of oil and water levels, and tyre tread and pressures, are all as they should be.

2. Before you go, make sure that you have European breakdown cover with a reputable service. Don’t forget that for £69.99, you can upgrade your AA Suzuki Assistance LITE to provide full European cover.

3. Always contact your insurance company before leaving on your trip, to ensure that your policy covers you fully while travelling abroad (most policies offer just third-party cover). Some car insurance companies also offer the same level of cover in Europe as they have in the UK, often called 'green card cover' after the document that used to be required.

4. It’s important to adjust your headlights before heading to countries where they drive on the right: you must change the beam pattern to suit driving on the other side of the road, so your dipped beam doesn’t dazzle oncoming traffic. Check your owner’s handbook for advice in plenty of time, because your local Suzuki Service Centre might have to do it for you.

5. A GB sticker
on the rear is still mandatory when driving any British-registered car abroad: any driver behind the wheel of a car not displaying one is at risk of being pulled over by local police. The only exception is a car displaying number plates that incorporate a blue and yellow GB logo on the left-hand side.

6. Despite much of EU road legislation being harmonised, there are still many variations, so you’ll need to make sure that you know the rules of the countries you’re driving in. Speed limits, for example, differ from country to country and you might need to carry equipment such as a high-vis jacket, first aid kit, breathalyser or a warning triangle.

7. If you’re driving outside the European Union – or if the UK leaves the EU before you go on holiday – check if you need an International Driving Permit, available from a Post Office, the AA and the RAC.

8. To avoid a potential fine and/or confiscation of your vehicle if stopped by the authorities, make sure that you drive with both parts of your licence (paper and photocard), your passport, the car’s insurance certificate and the V5C vehicle registration certificate (also known as the car’s log book) at all times.

9. If you’re travelling to a country where you don’t speak the native language, take a phrase book with you, or download an app to your smartphone before going abroad: you might need to ask for directions or deal with traffic police. Keep it, along with all your other important documents, inside the car’s cabin. And remember that in the event of an accident or other emergency, the number to dial is 112.

10. Route planning is key before setting off to a foreign country, so make sure that you know the route to your destination. Programme your satellite navigation system (which should have European data – check that it does) before you depart. And even if you do have a sat nav, a map or road atlas is always a good idea to have in the car, as a back-up.

The dos and don’ts of towing and touring

If you’re touring or towing this summer these handy tips will help make your holiday safer and more relaxing.

Do

  • Do make sure that you check which documents you, your family and your vehicle need for touring in the UK or abroad. Keep them with you, in a safe but accessible place, at all times.
  • Do check your Owner’s Handbook for your car’s maximum towing weight (there are two: braked and unbraked – if you’re towing something that weighs more than 750kg, it will have to be fitted with brakes) when working out what and how much weight your car can tow.
  • Do consult your Owner’s Handbook for details on the correct tyre pressures when the car is carrying a full load. Do remember that headlamp beam converters (contained within our European Roadside Assistance Pack) are necessary if you are driving in a left-hand drive country.
  • Do keep a Suzuki Genuine Accessory spare bulb kit in the car when driving in the UK or abroad.
  • Do make sure that you know all the current driving regulations for each country you’re visiting – and if you need to carry equipment such as a breathalyser, warning triangle and hi-vis waistcoats.
  • Do talk to your Suzuki Service Centre about a pre-holiday or air conditioning check, UK or European Assistance Packs, lights, tyres or any other touring-related queries.

Don't

  • Don't ever exceed your vehicle’s recommended maximum towing weight or maximum permitted roof rack load.
  • Don’t forget to check the details of your insurance policy, to make sure that it covers you when taking your vehicles abroad.
  • Don’t let any bicycles carried on the rear of your car obscure the rear number plate or lights. If there is no alternative to placing them there, use an auxiliary lighting board and number plate.

Driving Holiday Checklist

There’s lots to remember before going on holiday – including making sure your car is safe, legal and in good condition. If you download and print this comprehensive checklist, you’ll be free to just enjoy your break.

  • Find and read your Owner’s Manual (OM), as this contains valuable information that you might not be aware of, e.g. locating your fuses.
  • Check mileage between services. Will the mileage you intend to cover on your journey take you considerably beyond the next scheduled service? (Refer to OM)
  • Check tyres for tread depth, baldness or damage and tyre pressures, including the spare. (Refer to OM)
  • Ensure your spare tyre is roadworthy.
  • Check engine oil, water and all the other fluids. If you cannot do this yourself, then contact your local Suzuki dealer for advice. (Refer to Owners Manual)
  • Is your car’s boot big enough for all your luggage, or do you need to consider a roof box?
  • Talk to your local Suzuki dealer about the correct way of loading your car or refer to Owner’s Manual.
  • Have a pre-holiday check, to ensure your lights, brakes and tyres are safe when your car is fully loaded up.
  • Download our compulsory equipment list. In some countries, reflective jackets, first-aid kits, replacement bulbs, tool kit and spare fuses are essential.
  • Check that your vehicle insurance covers you for international travel and that you’re aware of what to do in the event of an accident. What are the local laws and requirements?
  • Ensure you have adequate health cover. An EHIC card is essential for each passenger travelling. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 31 October 2019, your EHIC might not be valid anymore. Buy travel insurance that comes with healthcare cover before you travel.
  • Do you have breakdown cover? If you do, check your policy for European coverage. If you don’t, sign up to a service such as AA Suzuki Assistance Lite, which can be upgraded for European cover.
  • Ensure that you have a valid driving licence, passport and vehicle documents, including the MOT, international driving permit and letter of authorisation (if you have a lease car). Original documents will be required when requested.
  • Take credit cards if you have them and ensure you have euros or local currency (be aware: tolls can be expensive).
  • Plan your route in advance, which should include stops for fuel (for your car, you and your passengers) and overnight accommodation.
  • To ensure the safety of all your passengers, check all seatbelts, car seats and anchor points before you travel.
  • To keep children occupied and happy, have in-car games, toys and some sweets available. And bear in mind that you’ll have to stop regularly.
  • Make sure that you have a clear idea what distance you can cover on a single tank of fuel and how many miles you can complete after the fuel light comes on.
  • Fill up before setting off, as fuel prices can be more expensive abroad, especially at motorway service stations.
  • In the event of losing the keys to your car, do you have a contingency plan to obtain a spare set?
  • Does your car require headlamp beam deflectors? If so, get them fitted before leaving.
  • Speed trap detectors/radar devices are illegal in many foreign countries. Make sure this is turned off on any GPS or navigation equipment before you travel.
  • Know your octane ratings: ordinary unleaded is 95 and super unleaded is normally 98.
  • Ensure you know the speed limits of all the countries you’re travelling through – and be alert to changes identified by signs.

GUIDANCE TO PREPARE TO DRIVE IN THE EU AFTER BREXIT

On 28 March 2019, the type of international driving permit ( IDP ) that some countries outside the EU and EEA recognise changed. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 31 January 2020, you may need IDPs in addition to your UK driving licence to drive when visiting EU and EEA countries.