Guide to Driving in Europe After Brexit and During Covid

21st May 2021

Guidance and Advice

There has always been a list of things to consider and implement before driving into and around Europe. However, with the UK having left the EU at the beginning of 2021, there are now a handful of new factors that need taking into account before you set off post-Brexit.

In this handy guide we will explain the different types of documentation you will require, as well as explain any rules you may need to adhere to. In addition, we have included some handy tips on how to best-prepare your vehicle for the long journey ahead.

One final factor that we have covered is travelling through Europe during the current global pandemic that has been caused by Covid-19.

Driving in Europe: Covid-19

jaguar f-type driving in hills

We think it is safe to say that everyone has had more than enough of the infamous Covid. However, while the path to normality is underway, there are a number of rules to take into account when travelling into Europe during the pandemic.

The first thing to note is that the British government have implemented a travel list that consists of three different ratings: Red, Amber and Green. Different countries and territories have been placed in a category based on factors such as the number of cases they currently have.

The reason this is important when travelling is that it will ultimately determine what you need to do before leaving and upon arriving back in the UK. You can find an overview of each category below, while the list of countries and their respective categories can be found on the government website.

Red list of countries and territories

It is important to note that there is a travel ban on locations that feature on the Red list. However, you can travel to these areas under "extreme circumstances" according to Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport.

  • You will only be able to return if you are a British or Irish National, or if you have residence rights in the UK
  • You will need to take a Covid-19 test before leaving
  • You will need to book and pay for day two and day eight Covid-19 travel tests after arrival in England
  • You will need to quarantine at home (or in a place you are staying) for 10 days
  • You will need to complete a passenger locator form

Amber list of countries and territories

Government Ministers have warned UK residents that Amber countries and territories should not be visited for leisurely activities.

The rules for visiting Amber list countries and territories are the same as the Red list above, although you can still enter the UK if you are not a UK or Irish National, or if you do not have residence rights in the UK.

Green list of countries and territories

Some positive news here, because locations that feature on the green list can be travelled to for holidays. You still need to follow the same testing procedure before leaving the UK and upon arrival. However, you do not need to quarantine unless the test result is positive.

Advice When Travelling

jaguar f-type driving in sunset

Although the information regarding Red and Amber list countries may be irrelevant to your final destination, you will need to take them into account during your journey as you will need to follow their rules if you drive through an Amber or Red listed area.

We advise studying your driving route and altering it where possible to avoid entering areas on the Red and Amber lists, it will help reduce potential exposure to Covid and help you avoid stricter rules upon your return to the UK.

Another point of consideration is that countries can be moved between the lists if conditions change. While you will not be able to predict these changes, the government do offer an email alert service on their guidance page that lets you know of any changes. We advise signing up to this service so you can stay up-to-date and therefore make any changes to your driving route or destination if required.

Vaccination Status

Depending on where your destination is, you may need to provide a Covid-19 vaccination status, although this varies from location to location. The government website we have linked to above tells you how to confirm this status, while any entry requirements a country or territory may have can be found on the foreign travel advice page.

Documentation

jaguar f-type facing down road

There are a few items of documentation you should take with you when driving into and around Europe. You might not be asked to produce them, but it will save time and hassle should you get asked for them by the authorities.

Here is a list of items you should take with you:

  • Your valid full UK driving licence
  • Where required, an International Driving Permit (IDP)
  • Your vehicle's V5C registration document (if you have one)
  • Your motor insurance certificate
  • A valid UK passport
  • If applicable, a valid visa

You will also need a 'GB' sticker on your car when driving in any of the EU countries. Although if you have the appropriate licence plate on your vehicle, you will not need the sticker.

Insurance and Breakdown Cover

If you are driving in Europe, then you will need to obtain something called a green card from your insurer. In essence, it lets the relevant authorities know that you have the necessary motor insurance to travel in the country you are driving to. You may need to show your green card when crossing borders, but that varies from country to country.

Regardless of how new or well-maintained your vehicle is, we would recommend having some sort of European breakdown cover in place. If you already have a policy, then check with your provider to confirm whether or not you are covered in other countries because it could save a potential headache.

Understand the restrictions and local laws

jaguar f-type parked in sunset

You should take the time to understand the local laws and restrictions placed on motorists in the European location you are visiting. There is a wealth of information all over the internet, so taking the time to browse through those pages is something you will thank yourself for later.

A lot of Europe's larger cities are cleaning up the air by restricting access to high emissions vehicles. For example, Paris requires drivers to display a 'Crit'Air' sticker in their windscreens when travelling through restricted zones. Find out if any of these restricted zones exist on your route planner and plan accordingly.

Extra Equipment

We have it quite easy here in the UK, because we are under no legal obligation to carry additional equipment in our cars, regardless of the weather or terrain. However, some European countries require drivers to carry specific equipment, which can include (but are not limited to):

  • A reflective jacket
  • A warning triangle
  • Snow chains or even winter tyres

Although it is pretty unlikely you will actually be caught without any of these items - unless it is winter and you do not have the appropriate tyres - you can land yourself a substantial fine from the authorities if you do.

Again, the internet is your friend here. It is always worth double-checking on various forums and government websites to get a definitive list of what is a legal requirement in the country you are visiting since they can all differ substantially.

Vehicle Preparation

technician performing fluid check

Before you set off on your travels, we suggest giving your vehicle a once-over. It may sound obvious, but you would be amazed by the number of motorists that drive around with under-inflated tyres and low fluid levels.

Part of your checks should be ensuring the car complies with the laws set by the country you will be driving in. For example, the minimum legal tread depth for tyres in the UK is 1.6mm, whereas in Germany it is 3mm.

Below is a basic checklist:

  • Check the tread depths on your tyres
  • Ensure all fluids are topped up (such as the oil and coolant)
  • Check the condition of the brakes
  • Make sure the spare wheel and tools are present and fit for purpose (if applicable)
  • Look to see if all the bulbs are fully working

If you are not mechanically minded, then your local Stratstone dealership will be more than happy to perform a health check prior to your trip.

Enjoy Your Journey

Although the likes of Brexit have had an influence on the rules and guidelines motorists need to adhere to when driving in Europe, they are not massively different to before, nor are they unreasonable.

With the guidance above paired with ample preparation, we are confident you will be able to tackle your journey into Europe with little to no issues.

At Stratstone, we are committed to taking care of our customers through all aspects of their motoring journey. If you are in doubt about vehicle preparation, then please feel free to contact your nearest Stratstone retailer, who will be more than happy to assist you.