Driving in Europe – what do I need to take?

packing the car

We’re off to France this summer for a two week holiday, we’ll be towing the caravan like last year and as everyone knows experience is such a good thing. If only we’d known what we know now we could have saved ourselves some tricky roads to travel and a lot of stress.

What did we learn from our trip last year?

That although our map served us beautifully all day long, when we were within spitting distance of Camping le Briquerie we couldn’t find it and took some bad rights and lefts that had us holding our breath as we squeezed the caravan through miniscule, busy streets. This is one reason we are so pleased to have a Sat Nav this year to guide us through the last part of our journey and save a lot of tension at the end of a long day. Check out the Halfords range here

What do I need when driving in Europe?

It’s fundamental to be aware of the accessories you need by law to have in the car and that can vary depending on the country you are visiting or driving through but for Europe the obligatory accessories are listed below.

Driving License

Drivers must be 18 to drive in France and that accounts for anyone from abroad too.

If you are stopped by police they will ask to see your documents and they will ask for your Full Driving License as ID. They may also ask to see your passport as proof.

Proof of ownership or hire

For ownership in the UK that means the VC5 document. Should you be stopped by the police they will ask for the carte grise (grey card) They area asking to see the vehicle’s registration certificate.

If you have a hire car keep all the documentation with you when driving.

Proof of Insurance

Before setting off abroad always check with your insurance company how you are covered driving outside of the UK. They will most likely advise you get a Green Card which is the standard international and European insurance documentation. You may also want to consider taking out an extra policy with your breakdown company for assistance abroad to cover the costs of emergency repairs or cover in the case of a an accident to make sure you, the family and the car get back to the UK.

Headlamp beam deflectors

We end up buying these every year as one or both have often fallen off or due to wear and  tear need replacing. Headlamp beam deflectors are to prevent our left drive lights shining brightly onto the oncoming car. There are all sorts of different car headlamps so make sure the deflectors you buy are adaptable to your car. We go to Halfords and they have a fabulous product that fits hundreds of different models and are very easy to stick on.

Spare set of bulbs

French road rules require that each car carries a spare set of bulbs

Breathalyzer kit

A new law in July 2012 declared that every driver should carry a breathalyzer kit or alcohol level test. It must be an NF approved alcohol breathalyser. Again we have the Alcossense NF breathalyser from Halfords. These kits do have an expiry date so if you don’t use it check the date before travelling again another year.

Hazard warning triangle

Should you break down on the roads French law requires that you make other drivers behind you aware of the fact. So you walk about 50 yards behind your car and set up your red reflective triangle on the side of the road but in clear vision so oncoming traffic know you are there and can act accordingly.

High visibility waistcoats

It is law to carry a yellow or orange high vis waistcoat when driving abroad. It is also worth noting that it is law to carry this item IN THE CAR. Don’t place it in the boot because should you break down you’ll need to put it on before you get out of the car. So stick it in the glove compartment. Then go and get your triangle. Then call up your recovery service.

Garmin sat nav

Non essentials but very handy

Spare set of keys

Not obligatory but you’ll kick yourself if you don’t take them and something happens to the only set you have got with you …

GB sticker

Car check

It makes sense to check the pressure in the tyres, fill up the windscreen cleaner with water and a drop of solution. It would also be sensible to have the car serviced.

First Aid Kit

Once again Halfords do a ready kit that is small and neat and fits in the glove compartment, or make your own one up and keep on hand.


Maps are great for the arriving and departure but we also refer to them endlessly whilst on holiday to find places to explore whilst we’re in the area.

Sat nav

Like I said at the beginning it’s when you’re getting really tired and just want to arrive that the roads start becoming trickier. We have downloaded directions from reputable websites but often the last few miles are the worst to navigate. I find you can’t trust road directions, sometimes the name of the road is missing sometimes worse so we decided to get a sat nav.

Halfords very kindly sent through the Garmin nuvi2548LMT-D and we shall be reviewing it this weekend on our trip to Camp Bestival in Dorset. It covers Western Europe, points out traffic avoidance, speed limits and safety cameras too. It also comes with free lifetime maps and digital traffic.

Mumsy tips

Drinks and food

France have the most amazing picnic areas along the motorways, all have toilets and most have tables where you can sit and eat or drink something whilst you grab a breath of fresh air and stretch your legs.



A two pin travel adaptor

If you are towing a caravan like us you might like to download my handy checklist of what to take on a caravan holiday


  1. Glenys Harris
    August 5, 2014 / 8:39 AM

    Hi Marianne fab blog and very topical we too are off to France for 2 weeks so great tips for driving. Just a little note I’ve just read this myself on the website for the campsite we are going to is that you must have a high vis jacket for every passenger in the car new regulations apparently.
    Happy holidays where in France are you off to? We are in southern Vendee.

    • August 5, 2014 / 9:20 AM

      Hi Glenys, Thanks so much for that tip! I’ll update the post to reflect that.

      We’re off to a campsite just outside paris, the girls don’t know it yet but we’re taking them to EuroDisney :D I think I’m the most excited one about this.

      Have a fab time – I’d love to hear how you find your campsite in southern Vendee. It’s always great to have other ideas for more holidays and we really enjoy the campsite life

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