Driving A Motorhome Abroad

For many motorhome owners, the lure of the roads and caravan parks in European destinations lead them to make great journeys in their vehicles to settle and enjoy some sunshine on the continent, enjoying the road trip along the way.

However, before you set off on your journey, there are a few things you must check first. Take the time to check your vehicle, your documents and yourself before you set off in order, this will not only save you hassle along the way but ensure you’ve everything you need in case of an emergency.

Watch Your Weight

When packing up your motorhome in preparation for a journey, check your licence before you travel, for the time you passed your driving test can make a big difference in what you are entitled to drive:

  • If you passed your test since the 1st January 1997 then you’ll be able to drive a vehicle of up to 3,500kg (3.5 tonnes) – as well as an additional 750kg in a trailer if required. If you want to tow larger and heavier vehicles you’ll have to apply for, and pass, a driving test in order to be able to add a C1 category to your licence.
  • If you passed your test before 1st January 1997 you’ll automatically have a C1 classification on your licence, which entitles you to drive motorhomes up to 7,500kg (7.5 tonnes) which would cover larger motorhomes and some smaller RVs.

When loading your motorhome in preparation for a journey, bear in mind the weight of the vehicle itself and the equipment on board as well as your luggage. If you overload your vehicle you risk not only a more uneven load but also put yourself at risk of potentially being stopped by the authorities.

What Documents Do I Need?

Depending on where you’re travelling to, making sure you have all the right and relevant documentation before you set off, is important. Some countries will require some documents from others, while some might have different legal requirements on the road.

Here’s a quick rundown on what you will need before you set off:

  • Passport – check with any countries you are travelling through in case an additional visa is required.
  • Driving licence – ensure that your driving licence is up-to-date and that you have the correct classification to drive your motorhome before embarking on your journey.
  • Details on your vehicle – including your V5C logbook, MOT certificates and motorhome insurance documentation.
  • Travel insurance details – including an additional European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which entitles you to healthcare while within the EU.
  • International Driving Permit – if you intend to continue your journey past Europe you’ll need an International Drivers’ Permit that is recognised by your destination country.
  • Tax disc – in some countries it is a legal requirement to display a tax disc, but in the UK the system for issuing tax discs has recently changed to a purely digital format. Ensure that you take proof of documentation of road tax just in case you need to provide proof.
  • European breakdown cover – it is essential to take out some breakdown cover when you travel abroad, this will help ensure that should you find yourself in difficulty abroad – you can get towed to a nearby garage for repairs to take place – helping you get back on the road as quickly as possible.
  • Camping Key Europe – this useful little card can provide you with discounts on pitches at campsites around Europe, even at high season, and provides a little extra security in the form of some basic-level third party insurance.

What Should I Have On Board?

Before setting off, you must also ensure that you have few essential things on board and on the show, including:

  • GB sticker – required by law for travel in Europe, check your numberplate carries a blue GB graphic on the left-hand side if it doesn’t you’ll be required to display a GB sticker on the back of your motorhome
  • Warning triangles – ensure you carry two, as some countries have a legal requirement that you must carry two, especially if you’re also towing.
  • First Aid Kit
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Spare Bulb Kit
  • Spare fuses
  • Spare wheel
  • High-visibility vests – vital in case you break down
  • Breathalyser – required by law in France, you can usually buy these on the ferry or train before you reach your destination

Useful Extras

Aside from important documentation, it can be worth carrying a few extra essentials in your motorhome during your trip:

  • Currency for each country you intend to travel through – most will use the Euro, but take a small amount of each currency from the countries you’ll be passing through on your journey, this will ensure that you have a means to pay for small purchases such as food and petrol along the way.
  • European adaptors for plugs – take a few for within the motorhome and some external ones should you need to make use of a power supply on site, to charge a phone for example.
  • Phrasebooks for each country you are visiting.
  • Sat nav – having a sat nav with European maps on board can help you to reach your destination accurately.
  • Maps of each of the countries you are visiting – for if you’ve not got a sat nav or if you just prefer the traditional route.
  • Address book with emergency contact numbers in – including family, helplines for insurance and breakdown, as well as numbers for UK embassies in each country you are visiting.

Be sure to check your mobile phone before you travel, see if you’ve got a European roaming plan or can purchase roaming data in blocks for the duration of your journey.

Getting Your Vehicle Ready En Route

Before you travel, ensure you’ve done a full check of your motorhome, checking that your equipment is working, your gas cylinders are safe, and your wheels are inflated to the correct legal limit.

Ensure that you also get your lights right, you must fit beam deflectors in order to avoid dazzling other drivers when night driving. These can be purchased at garages and car accessory superstores, and it’s worth picking up a pair before you reach the ferry as you’ll find them more expensive en-route. Don’t forget that you can fit them on the ferry crossing, so leave yourself plenty of time to take care of this.

Watch Your Speed

When travelling on roads in Europe in a motorhome, be wary of the speed limits of each country, and remember that the rules on overtaking still apply even in Europe, so keep your vehicle to within the first two lanes of a highway or autobahn.

Take time to check your vehicle, the rules of the countries you are travelling through and to, and checking that you have everything you need without overloading your motorhome so you can make sure that your holiday goes without a hitch.