Road trip? Here you will find answers to the most important questions!

 Tourist couple by a car

Road trip? Here you will find answers to the most important questions!

No waiting times at the airport. Simply set off when you feel like it. Road trips offer small adventures and a lot of flexibility. On a road trip, you experience other countries, cultures and laws up close. But which insurance do you need? Who pays in the event of an accident abroad? What things do you need to have in the car? To ensure that fun doesn't fall by the wayside on your holidays, read on to find out everything you need to know about road trips.

How do I plan a road trip?

Before you leave, find out about the different laws in the countries you are visiting. Speed limits, mandatory car equipment and drink-drive limits can vary from country to country (see "What are the drink-drive limits in Europe?"). How much and what else you plan depends on how adventurous you are, the travel time and your demands.

Do I have to take my car to the garage beforehand?

On your journey you will cover a long distance, probably with a lot of luggage. Which can be a challenge for the tires, the engine and the gearbox. A breakdown abroad can spoil the holiday mood and become a real test of patience. So if possible, you should take the car to a garage a few weeks before departure and have it checked over. Or at least check the following things before you leave:

  • Have you got enough liquid in the radiator and the windscreen washer?
  • Is there enough engine oil, brake fluid and coolant?
  • Do all the lights work?
  • Are the wiper blades intact?
  • Are your tires in good order, fully inflated with at least 4 mm of tread?

Which documents do I need?

Check as early as possible whether you have all of the necessary documents. If you need to apply for documents, this can sometimes take quite a long time. Generally, you must have the following in the car:

  • International insurance card (Green Card)
  • Driver's license
  • Vehicle registration certificate
  • Accident report (ideally in your own official language as well as that of the destination country)

In some countries outside the EU, you need an international driving license. Check with the relevant consulate before departure.

What insurance do I need for a road trip by car?

If you travel abroad with a private vehicle, you don't have to worry much about additional insurance. Compulsory liability insurance and partial or fully comprehensive insurance are also sufficient abroad. However, abroad you also need an international insurance card. The so-called "green card" verifies that your vehicle has third party insurance. You may have received the international insurance card directly with your policy. However, this card is not automatically renewed. So check early enough as to whether the card is still valid. The period of validity can be seen in the top left corner. You can find further information on this on the international insurance card page.

Our travel insurance Zurich Relax Assistance helps with breakdowns in Europe. You will receive a replacement vehicle if your car is no longer roadworthy due to a breakdown or collision, or if you have lost keys. 

Insurance is included with rental cars. However, many car rental companies have high deductibles in their contracts. Comprehensive insurance without a deductible is generally the carefree package when renting a car, and can be taken out with most car rental companies. It that is, however, usually very expensive. Our "Rental and Shared Vehicles" insurance covers costs for the deductible, vehicle repairs as well as roadside assistance and towing costs for CHF 87 per year.

What do I have to consider if I have borrowed a car from acquaintances?

Anyone who borrows a vehicle from parents, friends or acquaintances for a road trip is considered a third party. This means that a different person is listed in the vehicle documents than the person currently behind the wheel. To avoid suspicion of theft during police checks abroad, the form "Authorization to drive a motor vehicle by a third party" can be filled in. You can find the form on the TCS website.

Who pays in the event of illness abroad?

There is a significant difference here depending on whether you are traveling in the EU/EFTA states or outside this area. The EFTA states include Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. 

In EU/EFTA countries, your health insurance entitles you to benefits and services being paid as in Switzerland. This is subject to the condition that the treatment is in line with the expected duration of stay and is medically necessary. As a rule, you do not need any additional travel insurance here. 

When traveling outside the EU/EFTA states, health insurance companies will cover a maximum of twice the amount they would pay in Switzerland in the event of medical emergencies. Countries like the USA, Canada, Australia, the United Arab Emirates and Japan have very expensive health systems. Here, hospital visits can quickly cost tens or hundreds of thousands of francs and become a debt trap. The risk is also present in developing countries, where you may have to rely on expensive specialized clinics. If you are planning a trip outside the EU/EFTA states, we recommend travel insurance.

Would you like to know what our travel insurance covers? Then read our article about the travel insurance Zurich Relax Assistance.

Who pays in the event of an accident abroad?

In the event of an accident abroad, the compulsory accident insurance pays. The same applies here as with health insurance. Benefits and services in EU/EFTA states are usually covered. Outside these countries, however, even accident insurance only covers a maximum of twice the costs that would have been incurred in Switzerland. Supplementary insurance for accidents abroad can therefore also be worthwhile. 

If other occupants are injured in an accident, it can become expensive very quickly. With our car insurance, you can include accident insurance for passengers, which protects you and the passengers of your private vehicle from the financial consequences of an accident.

What do you need for a journey in the car?

The following equipment is mandatory for every trip abroad: 

  • CH sticker on the car 

In many countries the following things are also mandatory: 

  • High visibility vest for all passengers in the car 
  • A breakdown triangle 
  • First aid kit 

The exact requirements of what is needed vary from country to country. You can find a list here.

How to pack the car properly for a holiday trip?

Stow heavy and bulky items at the bottom of the trunk. Secure loose items with a luggage net or a ratchet strap. If the rear seat remains free, you can use it as additional storage space. Secure the luggage on the back seat with the seat belts. This way you are protected if you need to slam the breaks on.

What are the legal alcohol limits in Europe?

  • 0.0 blood alcohol limit: Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, 
  • 0.1 blood alcohol limit: In Switzerland for new drivers (up to three years after passing the driving test)
  • 0.5 blood alcohol limit: Switzerland, Germany*, Italy, France and Austria 
  • 0.8 blood alcohol limit: Principality of Liechtenstein

*The 0.0 alcohol limit also applies in Germany to novice drivers during their probationary period. 

You can find a list of all countries on the ADAC website.

What should I bear in mind when traveling by car with children?

Entertainment, breaks, snacks and good timing can work wonders. Children have a different understanding of time. Sitting still for a long time can be exhausting for them. So plan your trip accordingly. We've got the following tips for you:

  • Take some quiet entertainment items with you, such as coloring books, comics and audio books and headphones.
  • Play some traditional games ideal for cars, for example: "I spy", search for car makes, or storytelling.
  • When hunger pangs and boredom come together, the mood can hit rock bottom quickly. Pack enough snacks and drinks for on the road.
  • Do not drive for more than two hours at a time. Plan generous breaks, where the children can let off steam.
  • Be prepared for travel sickness – a few plastic bags will prevent messy accidents.
  • Find the right time to travel for your family. Perhaps it’s early in the morning or in the evening – when the kids will sleep for part of the journey. Drive outside of rush hours, so that you avoid traffic jams as much as possible.

Where is the safest place for kids to sit in the car?

Babies up to two years of age must be secured in a baby car seat that is mounted in the opposite direction of travel. These baby seats should ideally be placed on the back seat. Older children up to the age of 12 or a height of 150 centimeters must also sit in a child's car seat. The safest place to sit is in the middle of the back seat. This position offers the best protection against vehicle parts penetrating the car in the event of an accident. The second safest place is the back seat on the passenger side.

Which countries are suitable for road trips?

The choice of destination depends above all on your budget and the time you have available. Canada and Iceland are considered ideal countries for road trips - but they are rather expensive. A road trip through the USA is a dream for many. Drive through the desert to Las Vegas over the hills of San Francisco or explore Los Angeles. However, these trips take a while. It is cheaper and more spontaneous to explore the beaches of Tenerife, travel around Gran Canaria or go to the Baltic Sea. Beginners are well advised to take road trips within Europe. That way, you can discover a lot within a smaller area. Seasoned road trippers can travel to the most remote countries in the world.

How can you ensure a road trip is a success?

This type of travel thrives on the big and small adventures you will experience along the way. Be prepared for the unexpected. The most beautiful places are usually the ones you didn't expect. The best road trips include a mixture of unexpected experiences, exciting encounters and a little bit of chaos.

No nasty surprises when renting a car

With our rental and shared vehicles insurance you can relax when you travel. We cover the costs in the event of damage to a rental vehicle or a vehicle booked for a charge via a sharing platform: The insurance covers the following costs: 

  • Contractually owed deductible
  • Contractually owed costs for vehicle repairs
  • Invoiced breakdown assistance and towing costs

The coverage is valid worldwide. The insurance costs CHF 87 per year.

More articles

Traveling with children

You need strong nerves to travel with children. The best tips for a stress-free journey, whatever means of transport you choose.
Woman standing in front of her car and spreading her arms out

Vehicle registration: the easy way

Before you drive off in your new car, you must register it with the Road Traffic Office. Our guide tells you how to do so without any problems.
Young woman attaches surfboard to the roof of the car

Damaged a borrowed car – what now?

Damaging a borrowed car can be expensive. You can get insurance for it: with additional private liability insurance coverage for "Driving third-party motor vehicles."