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How to avoid going around the bend when driving abroad

If you’re planning a road trip abroad for the first time, you might be feeling slightly apprehensive before setting off.

It could be the first time you’ve driven on the right, put your foot down on the autobahn, or maybe just attempting to understand the different rules of the road is making you wish you were using public transport instead?

Whatever the reason for your four wheeled unease, we’ve put together a few top-tips to help you feel more confident when you get behind the wheel abroad.

Check the driving laws of the country you’re visiting

Unsurprisingly, every country has its own set of driving rules, regulations and laws. To avoid finding yourself on the wrong side of local law enforcement, it’s always a good idea to double-check the driving lawsof the country you’re in – they won’t be the same as the UK of course, and some may seem unusual at first glance.

For example, French law states that all drivers must always carry two alcohol test kits and in Spain, a high-vis vest is an essential item. And you’ll need to keep an eye on your fuel gauge in Germany, as stopping on the Autobahn without good reason is prohibited – running out of fuel is not considered a good enough excuse.

City driving

Driving in a new and foreign city can be daunting. The increased traffic and unfamiliar road signs mean you’ll need to be even more alert than usual.

It’s worth planning ahead to avoid being caught out by congestion charges or vehicle access restrictions. Did you know that in certain Spanish cities parking is only permitted on specific days of the week? Very frustrating if you arrive on the wrong day.

If you’re considering driving into a historic Italian city centre, such as Rome, Florence or Pisa, looking for a slice of La Dolce Vita, it might be better to leave your car behind. Many historic cities now have Limited Traffic Zones (Zona Traffico Limitato or ZTL), which means if you’re caught on camera driving through them you can face a hefty fine.

To avoid all the stress, consider parking outside of the city centre and join the locals on public transport. You might find discovering the sights and sounds of a new city on foot much more rewarding.

Navigating abroad and covering your bases

There’s nothing more frustrating than being lost in a strange and unfamiliar place. Thankfully, internet connectivity and advanced mobile technologies have forever changed the way that we travel and getting lost is unlikely.

Nowadays, we don’t have to worry about speaking the language or making sense of bad directions to find our way. We can navigate with a mobile device and an app almost anywhere in the world.

Cover your bases in case you find yourself somewhere with no signal by taking along an up-to-date map or road atlas with your route planned out as a backup – that way you’ll have a hard copy of your directions.

It’s a fact of life that cars do break down and accidents do happen, so make sure your car insurance is up-to-date, that your policy covers you for driving abroad, and that you have breakdown cover in place…all before you set off.

One final thing to consider before embarking on your trip is that a car with an automatic gearbox means one less thing to concentrate on. Because the last thing you want to be doing at a busy overseas roundabout is worrying about what gear you should be in!

How to pay when you’re on your way

FairFX Cards are a perfect travel companion for any road trip. From the twisting passes of the Pyrenees, to the glamour of the Croisette our Euro Card is just the ticket when you’re on the continent.

And our Dollar Card is perfect if you’re getting your kicks on Route 66. Lock in a great rate before you go and get more to spend when you’re there.

Driving further afield or need multiple currencies? Use the Everywhere Card to pay like a local wherever you are.

Whether you decide to take a FairFX Card with you or not, a top-tip is to use a credit or debit card to make a security deposit at hotel check-in or when hiring a car, and use a prepaid card when actually settling the account.

If you make a security deposit with a FairFX Card (or any other prepaid card) your money is ring-fenced on your card, making it unavailable to spend for 21 days. It’s better if you use your FairFX Card to settle the bill as you’ll benefit from a favourable exchange rate and lower fees than your bank.

Toll-booth tribulations

You may find that your prepaid card is declined at a self-service petrol pump or motorway toll-booth.

That’s because we’ve had to introduce service restrictions on these terminals as they don’t check there are sufficient funds on the card prior to authorisation. We’ve done this to stop your FairFX Card being forced into a negative balance. However, you shouldn’t have any problems using your FairFX Card at a manned petrol station or toll booth.

Whether you’re heading to Europe, the USA or even further afield for your road trip, we hope these top-tips have made you feel more comfortable getting behind the wheel, and that you really enjoy your adventure.

If you have any questions about using a FairFX Card on your travels, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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Mariette Ferreira

Mariette Ferreira

Mariette heads up marketing at FairFX. She loves travelling, scuba diving and South Africa, but she's yet to combine all three in one.

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