Take to the wheel of any motorhome and the freedom of the open road is all yours. Take to the wheel and drive your motorhome in Europe and that open road is practically boundless.
Whatever time of year you are proposing to go, a little advance planning and attention to what you need to take with you may save heartache – not to mention disaster – further down the road.
So that your adventures on the continent run smoothly and with as little unwelcome incident as possible, however, here are some of the factors to keep in mind – from the planning and paperwork, to preparation of your motorhome, to driving in Europe.
Whether you have a fixed destination in mind or are planning for a magical mystery tour to wherever takes your fancy on the day, beware of overly long and tiring hours behind the wheel.
In other words, always plan plenty of pitstops along the way – and that means during the day as well as any overnight stops to sleep.
Your motorhome will be taking the strain, but also needs to be fully fit to do so. In that case, remember to plan an early visit to a servicing agent – ourselves here at Derby Motorhomes, perhaps, especially if yours is an Auto-Sleepers motorhome.
It’s important to have all the documents and paperwork you need to take with you.
Since some of these might take a while to arrange, it is worth getting them together in good time. Include the following in your checklist of documents:
- at the time of writing, it is still unclear exactly whether the 1st of January 2021 is likely to arrive with a no-deal exit – but either way, after that date when travelling in Europe you will need to have your up to date UK driving licence with you at all times (one that qualifies you to drive your current motorhome, of course);
International Driving Permit
- similarly, it is an open question whether you will need an International Driving Permit after the 1st of January 2021 – but it seems highly likely that you will;
- you can visit the Government website for the most up to date information but probably the easiest place to get one is the Post Office, where you will need to show your driving licence (and a passport, if your licence is the older, paper type), a current passport-standard photograph, and the pay the £5.50 fee;
- as breakdown recovery service Green Flag explains, a minimum of third party insurance is obligatory throughout Europe, so you need to keep your insurance certificate with you at all times – having checked with your insurer that your policy covers you while driving in Europe;
- you might also want to upgrade any minimum third-party cover provided by your motor insurer when driving in Europe to your normal, fully comprehensive cover;
- also, ask your insurer for a “green card” showing proof that you meet the insurance standards required in the countries through which you will be driving;
- the AA for one, suggests that both an international driving licence – whether you are driving your own vehicle or renting one – plus a green card confirming your insurance details are almost certain to be required in Europe after the 1st of January 2021;
- even in the days when you enjoyed freedom of movement within Europe, the best means of identification for you and each of your passengers was your passport – post-Brexit, of course, passports are going to be essential and you may even need a visa to visit countries within Europe;
- follow the news about any changes to the requirements – and remember that passports and visas invariably take quite a time to arrange.
Finally, don’t forget to take proof of ownership of your vehicle.
Preparing to take your motorhome to Europe means making sure that your motorhome is ready for the adventure – and that it carries the equipment and any accessories that will be needed by law as you drive through European countries.
We have already mentioned the importance of a thorough service – inside and out – to ensure that your motorhome is roadworthy and capable of providing reliable and comfortable accommodation for several weeks at a time.
One of the first things you also need to ensure is that a “GB” nationality sticker is fixed to the outside rear of your motorhome – it is required throughout Europe.
Different European countries have different rules about the equipment that must be carried within your motorhome – so check carefully what is required in the countries through which you will be driving.
There is also considerable variation in the local requirements for equipment you need to keep on board:
Hazard warning triangles
- practically every country requires that you carry a warning triangle, for example, but did you know that in Spain and Croatia you have to carry two;
- for use in similar circumstances, you must also have on board a reflective jacket while driving in Spain, Austria, France, Belgium, Portugal, and Croatia;
First aid kit
- in Greece, Germany, France, Croatia, and Austria, you must have a first aid kit on board – although it is a sensible precaution, of course, wherever you happen to be driving;
- a similarly wise precaution is to carry a fire extinguisher within your motorhome – and it is specifically recommended (although not obligatory) in Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, and the Netherlands;
- in France, you must also carry a breathalyser kit – although it remains a moot point whether the law is rigorously applied.
These are by no means the only local differences you are likely to encounter in the traffic regulations of the countries you are going to be driving through. The website Caravan Talk mentions several others which you may need to bear in mind. The RAC has also produced an on-board European driving checklist that you may wish to refer to.
Driving in Europe
The rules of the road in some parts of Europe may be different from those with which you are familiar at home. Despite everything you might read about the standardisation of rules throughout the EU, when it comes to local traffic regulations, there are important differences in each member country.
You want to stay on the right side of the law, of course, so before you go it is important to research the rules of the road in every country you are going to be visiting (and those you might need to drive through as the result of diversions or other emergencies).
You might start your researches, for example, by reviewing the list of tips published by the AA.
Some of the greatest variations you are likely to encounter are speed limits in different European countries – especially if yours is a larger motorhome. And don’t let variable speed limits catch you out.
In some countries, the rules may be especially quirky and convoluted, as the AA points out with reference to Spain, for example, where some one-way streets allow parking on the side of the street where houses have odd numbers on odd days of the month – and the side where house numbers are even, on even days of the month;
These are by no means the only local differences you are likely to encounter in the traffic regulations of the countries you are going to be driving through. The website Caravan Talk mentions a number of others which you may need to bear in mind – such as the motorway tax stickers (or vignettes) you’ll need to buy in Austria or the requirements in various countries for the use of snow chains.
Driving your motorhome in Europe expands your horizons, of course, but make sure that you go thoroughly prepared. And, as a final reminder, before you set off on your adventures in a motorhome, just double-check you have all the right documentation.