112 is the European emergency number you can dial free of charge from fixed and mobile phones everywhere in the EU. It will get you straight through to the emergency services; police, ambulance and fire brigade.
This is the nitty gritty of life on the road. The boring stuff that no-one really want’s to do but someone has to…if you want to stay out of foreign prison that is! Motorhome newbie or thinking of full-timing? You will find everything you need to know here about staying safe and legal in your motorhome.
Top Tips for Motorhome Beginners
Insuring a motorhome is usually done through a specialist broker who will be able to access the best prices. Don’t use comparison sites, they are confused by motorhomes and nine times out of ten when you try to actually take out the insurance, the price will be incorrect (always lower, never higher than it should be!).
It is not usually possible to use a no-claims bonus on motorhome insurance but some companies will ‘mirror’ your no claims if you have proof, which may help. The costs will depend very much on age and value of your vehicle; if your van is worth over £60k expect to pay upwards of £1,000 a year, more if full-timing. Some companies will include motorhome breakdown cover which is heavily discounted, get this included if you can.
Understand any limitations to overseas travel, some insurers will limit trip duration and will not cover you for all countries you may wish to visit, such as Albania, Turkey or Morocco.
Read the small print! Some insurers are very specific about how long you can leave your van unattended overseas and some will refuse to pay out if your van is parked on the street instead of the declared drive and is stolen. Remember, most insurers will do whatever they can to get out of paying a claim…I’m not cynical, much!
If you are full-time, this is a more specialist area and insurance usually has specific conditions, read more about that here.
We have third party, fire and theft insurance on our scooter as we we unable to get fully comprehensive for 365 days of cover abroad. Bizarrely, we had a BMW R1200 RT before and no problems insuring it, but scooter insurance is really hard to get, probably because of the association with crime in the UK. So, we made a decision that as long as we had the minimum cover for the country in which we were travelling, which is currently a legal requirement of UK insurance in Europe, then we would risk the damage element and ride cautiously!
Make sure you have an up to date EHIC (the old E111 card) which gives you the same level state provided medical treatment as citizens of that country would receive.
However, not all EU countries provide full free at point of access medical treatment like the NHS does. In Spain for example, you will get basic care and treatment covered but if you need to see a specialist, then this is not covered under the reciprocal agreement. Further, your EHIC will not cover repatriation to the UK. This is why you need to take out medical insurance alongside your EHIC.
How you do this depends on how long you will be abroad. Some banks include medial insurance in their current account packages, but this is likely to be time limited, age limited and may not cover you for pre-existing conditions.
If you are out of the UK for longer than the time limit, you will need to get backpackers insurance (I know, made me feel like a sprightly 25 year old again!) which will cover you for up to two years. This insurance cannot be purchased prior to leaving the UK, so make sure you take it out before. Most companies will give you options around sporting and gadget cover also, if you are into any extreme sports, you are unlikely to be covered at the basic level.
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We keep a spreadsheet of all our € costs and another with our £ costs so we can keep a track of where our money is going. There are a number of other blogs which go into a lot of details about costs which you may find useful if you’re new to this and wondering if you can afford to travel full-time (we would recommend Our Tour ). In our first year, we will spend somewhere in the region of £20k, this includes all our living costs but not annual costs such as insurance and costs of travelling home for Christmas. We use a Caxton card pre-loaded with euros and this works well although don’t use it to pre-pay for fuel, as they are not a credit card and any pre-authorisation amount can be held for up to 21 days…ouch!
You must carry the following when travelling in Europe;
- Certificate of Insurance for all your vehicles
- MOT certificate for all your vehicles over 3 years old
- Evidence of UK vehcile tax, keep the confirmation email they send you
- Green Card (if this is given separately with your insurance, and possibly after BREXIT). Most insurance companies state on the certificate that it is also the green card, but check this before leaving the UK.
- Vignette (a type of motorway road tax required in some EU countries; see more info here)
- Emissions zone sticker depending on where you are going
- Certificate of Medical Insurance
- EHIC (old E111) card for medical treatment; this does not substitute full medical insurance but will defiantly help.
- Driving licence
- International Driving Permit if you’re driving outside of Europe, for example in Malta or Cyprus.
- Breakdown cover details, probably an email on your phone rather than a bit of paper.
- Service documentation for your vehicle should you breakdown.
- Pet passports
- If you’re old school, and it’s often the best way, tickets!
If your motorhome is registered in the UK, you will need to have a valid MOT, road tax and be within the vehicle gross vehicle weight once fully laden, not forgetting passenger weight. Unfortunately, this means returning to the UK annually for an MOT if your van is more than 3 years old.
Sounds obvious, but you must have a valid licence; Phil has Cat C and I passed my test before Jan 1st 1997, so I have grandfather rights and can also drive a motorhome over 3,500kg. All Cat C categories need to be renewed at 70 years of age, this means a medical and re-application for the category on your license.
Currently you can drive in all European counties on a UK driving licence; depending on the Brexit outcome, you may also need an International Driving Permit which will only be issued at UK Post Offices. You may need more than one permit depending on your destination; check the details and for any updates here.
Again, it sounds obvious but follow the road signs and don’t go where you shouldn’t. Google Translate is great for helping with this and a number of times we have had to pull over to check what certain words mean…and have usually been glad we did!
There are various views about whether European police can catch up with you at your UK address if you are flashed by a speed camera. We have been flashed on a few occasions and to date (fingers crossed) have not received any correspondence. Please don’t take that as a licence to break the speed limit, we may just have been lucky.
Tolls are confusing and vary from country to country. We always try and avoid toll roads and programme our sat nav to take the scenic route, but sometimes they are unavoidablele. There are systems you can use in most European counties which link to your numberplate and allow you to pass through without a barrier, your credit card is charged later. Tolls are extortionate in France and you will likely be charged as an HGV vehicle. Portugal is the most confusing and I am not sure we paid all the tolls we should have, but there have been no repercussions. Click here for a country by country guide to tollroads and charges.
I can honestly say that in the time that we have been travelling, I have never felt unsafe; wild camping; walking around the nearest town late at night after a few beers and chatting to locals; visiting cities and stopping on sites. However, it would be naive to think that the risks of being a Brit abroad don’t exist; they do but by planning accordingly and being aware of your surroundings and the risk, you can stay safe.
- if you arrive at an aire or a wild camping spot and it doesn’t feel right, listen to your instincts and go elsewhere.
- put your blinds up and hide any visible valuables when you go out during the day.
- be prepared for the worst; we carry pepper spray bought in Germany and a heavy Maglite torch, which of course we need for late night trips to the loo!
- check and double check, especially when wild camping, that your doors and storage bins are locked before going to bed.
- keep valuables in a fixed (and by fixed I mean bolted to a secure internal wall) and well hidden safe or special hiding place – there are so many options available on-line it should be easy to find something that works for you.
- don’t flaunt cash or possessions when out…we don’t wear much jewellery and wear basic sports watches.
- consider your key arrangements; do you carry a spare or secure it somewhere around the vehicle?
- consider additional door locks which can be fitted retrospectively.
- if you go out locally, have plans to get home and be aware of your surroundings…would you know if someone was following you?
- make sure you have details of insurance and recovery companies and scans/photos of your important documents such as passports in your phone should the worst happen, or make sure a trusted family member has copies.
- run through various scenarios in your mind to ensure you would know how to react in the event of, for example, a break-in.
Follow our tips, use your common sense and follow your gut feelings and you will stay safe.