The world is gradually emerging from Covid 19 lockdown, but the general agreement is that things aren’t going to be “normal” for a while. Many of us have had holidays cancelled or are rethinking plans in order to avoid having to sit on an aeroplane wearing a mask, or just not being able to enjoy the spontaneity of a conventional break. It’s hardly surprising that self-catering accommodation in all parts of the UK has seen a rush of bookings since travel restrictions were lifted. If you’re re-thinking your plans for a holiday over the next few months, could a road trip either in the UK or further afield be the answer?
Can I Just Take My Car Overseas?
The simple answer is yes, there is no permit or licence you need to take your car on an overseas road trip. You will need a full driving licence though, and it will make things a lot easier if you have it with you as you travel just in case you’re stopped by the police. Some insurance policies will cover overseas travel, and most will restrict travel to Western Europe only. If you’re not sure, give your insurer a call to discuss your plans. You’ll need a passport of course, and it’s always a good idea to have an EHIC with you just in case you need to access healthcare, in addition to travel insurance which is essential for any overseas trip. Get your car maintenance done before you go, and check your tax and MOT isn’t going to expire while you’re away.
Ferry and Channel Tunnel are your two main options for travelling into continental Europe for a road trip. Pricing between various routes can differ enormously. Play around with different departure dates, times and routes, and see what the best combination is for your needs. If you’re absolutely sure that your plans won’t change, a non-flexible fare is usually better value for money. Don’t risk just turning up at the port and trying to buy a ticket; you could have a long wait until there’s room for your car on board the ferry.
Where to Go?
Well, once you’re across the channel and into Northern France you have a wide range of possibilities within around 5 hours’ drive. The whole north west corner of France including Brittany, Normandy and much of the Loire valley, all of Belgium and the Netherlands, or east into Germany and the Rhine valley. If you’re prepared to drive a bit further, it takes 11 hours to drive right down through France to the Mediterranean Cote D’Azur, or just over 7 hours to get to the Swiss city Geneva. Toll roads are common in France and most have contactless payments which you can use with your UK debit or credit card. Using A-roads is also an option, but the fast toll “Autoroutes” are the best method of travel if you want to get to your destination quickly.
Basics of Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road
If you’ve never driven on the opposite side of the road, it can take a bit of getting used to. Just take things slowly until you gain confidence. Motorway driving is the easiest to adjust to, but turning at junctions and using roundabouts takes more concentration. A good idea is to get a sat nav, or download European maps onto your mobile phone. Often, the sat nav will help by showing you what lane to be in as you approach a roundabout or junction based on your destination. Pay attention to the speed limits, especially in France where limits change depending on the weather. Make sure you have any additional items as required by law – in France, for example, you’ll need to carry a warning triangle and reflective jacket in the boot in case you break down.
Getting Home Again
Always leave more time than you think you’ll need to get back to Channel ports, especially if you have a booking fixed to a particular ferry. It’s always better to have an hour to kill in Calais than worrying about not making the ferry because you’ve cut it too fine and have got caught up in roadworks.