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.

Preparing For A Gap Year

Those who wish to take career breaks or have a year out in between studies to explore far-flung corners of the globe will embark on what is known as a gap year. Not just limited to students anymore, more of us head off seeking adventures every year, usually to backpack around locations such as South-East Asia, South America and Australia.

A gap year can also be spent touring, especially if you like to drive. The long and winding highways of the United States are a popular destination for these kinds of trips. Volunteering is also a popular reason for taking a gap year, with organisations offering excursions all over the world to help with nature conservation and humanitarian matters such as constructing schools and digging wells.

Pick Somewhere

During a gap year, the world is your oyster. Now it’s a case of deciding where to dip your toes first, do you want to start in one part of the world and end up at another along the line, or just take your time exploring like a nomad?

After you’ve decided on where to start your journey, it’s time for the research to begin:

  • Research the countries you want to visit; and not just the tourist attractions either, take the time to familiarise yourself with the culture and traits of where you are going.
  • Brush up on your languages; look into phrase books and smartphones apps that can help you to get along in your country of choice.
  • Note down the locations of your country’s embassies in the country you are travelling to in case of an emergency for which you require assistance.

Make A List And Double Check It

When preparing to take a gap year, it’s important to make yourself a checklist before you go, ensuring that you have all the correct documentation needed and enough money and clothes to see you through at least the beginning of your journey.

Important Documents

Before you travel you need to make sure you are covered in case of any incidents which might happen during your travels, including falling ill and getting injured, so it helps to have the following:

  • Passport – the most important thing you should have during your trip – you can’t travel without it after all.
  • Travel insurance – vital to have in case you fall ill or get injured during your journey. Talk to an insurer about a gap year travel insurance policy, which can help to provide cover for the duration of your trip.

Bear in mind though that there may be some locations where insurers will either charge a little more or not cover you at all because of an increased risk, so pick your destinations carefully when planning your trip.

  • Health cards (including EHIC cards) – if you’re travelling within Europe, a European Health Insurance Card can help should you fall ill as it entitles you to access to treatment in countries within the EU.

It should be noted that an EHIC card is not a substitute for travel insurance, and should always be carried alongside a travel insurance policy to provide an extra level of protection.

  • International Driving License – if you’re looking to drive during your trip, you must have a valid International Drivers’ Licence, which is recognised all over the world and can help with getting rental car access.

Also, if you’re currently studying and have a National Union of Students (NUS) card, it can be worth taking this with you as a just-in-case. Some tourist attractions around the world may offer a discount for students, so it can be worth taking along and trying out!

Staying Safe

It’s best to be prepared for any situation when you go away, so packing a small medical pack before you travel is essential to your preparation for a backpacking trip.

Medical kits are available to buy at airports, and it can be worth looking into buying supplies once you get to your destination. Ensure that you declare any prescription medication you’ll be taking with you on your trip, as well as the prescription itself, and be sure to identify where your local pharmacy is in your destination should you need a repeat prescription during your trip.

Before you travel, book an appointment with your GP for a health check, and find out if you require any vaccinations for the countries you wish to visit. Diseases such as malaria, hepatitis or glandular fever usually will have an inoculation before you travel or a course of medication during your trip.

Find out as well if you require any medication as a result, including anti-malaria tablets, and be sure to stock up before you go.

Keep Clean Before You Carry On

Take a wash bag with you with a variety of items to keep you clean during your trip – including a toothbrush, hairbrush and wet wipes among others. Because airlines only allow a certain amount of liquids on your person during a flight, it can be worth seeing if you’d be better off buying items such as soap, toothpaste, shampoo and shaving cream once you get to your destination.

Finance

Budgeting is essential when it comes to a worldwide trip; you don’t want to fall short and be stranded far from home with no means of paying for a way to get home. So what options do you have when it comes to making sure you can afford things?

  • Save

Financial preparation is an essential part of a gap year experience, from saving for the flight to getting jobs during the trip to pay for food, lodging and your plane ticket home.

If you’re saving for a trip, think about taking out a separate savings account to drop a little of each wage packet each month, you’d know then that you can accumulate a good amount to travel with.

When it comes to buying flights, shop around, and be sure to research gap year companies who may offer your flight out to your starting destination as part of the price of their package.

  • Use a pre-paid card

Pre-paid credit cards allow you to load up a card with a certain amount of money, which essentially becomes your holiday budget.

Using a pre-paid card saves you the need to carry a large amount of currency on you at any one time, reducing your risk from thieves who might steal your wallet during your trip.

  • Take a mixture of currency to begin with

However, depending on where you are going, you might be crossing several countries during your travels. It can be worth taking an amount of each countries’ currency as loose money, especially for buying items such as food and clothing as not all places accept a contactless card.

Don’t Pack Too Much At First

When you’re starting out on a trip, “less is more” can be a good philosophy to stick to, depending on where you’re going. You can always buy more clothes while you’re there of course, but be sure to take enough for at least your first few weeks, or until you locate the nearest laundrette.