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Planning to travel around Europe in a motorhome? Read our article on what you need to know
What you need to know before you go
Europe has many beautiful places to visit and so much to enjoy and explore and, as restrictions start to ease across the continent, many people are keener than ever to get away to sunnier climates. However, travel can be complicated at the best of times, but due to politics, economics and the pandemic, it has perhaps never been quite as difficult as it is now.
The news is full of stories about long queues at airports and delayed flights as the travel industry struggles to return to normal after the closures, restrictions and disruption caused by Covid. So, if you are keen to take a break, but don’t want to get caught up in the airport mayhem, why not turn to your own wheels?
More and more Brits are taking their caravans, motorhomes and campervans abroad, looking to take advantage of the freedom having your own wheels brings.And while a European caravan or motorhome holiday could be a lot easier than flying this summer, there are still lots of things to consider before you go,so here are some of our tips to help you plan a stress-free trip - but remember, always check official advice too.
1. Passport – Brits have been caught out with passport rules during the last year. Some European countries will count your passport expiration date as ten years from the start date. So, if you have more than ten years listed in your passport, the validity may be less than you think. There are also long wait times for anyone wanting to renew their passport so make sure you apply well in advance if you need a new one.
2. Money - when paying by credit card you’ll often be asked if you want to pay in GBP or the local currency. It is almost always better to pay in the local currency as the exchange rate you’ll get if you select GBP is usually worse than if you let your card issuer convert it. Some banks offer credit cards specifically for travel so do shop around.
3. Checks - before embarking on any journey in your caravan, campervan or motorhome it is imperative that you run your pre-journey checks; if you are planning a trip across Europe it is even more important. For example, you should make sure your tyres are all in good condition – check the tread is legal, they are at the right pressure and that you have a spare. You will also need to test the brakes and lights as well as the mirrors and windscreen wipers.
Check the fluids – oil and windscreen wash – and if you have gas, electric and water in your van, make sure they are disconnected, and the water system is empty before you set off. You should also check any smoke detectors and alarms, and make sure you have a fire extinguisher or blanket on board. If you are trailing your caravan, make sure you display the same number plate as the vehicle you are towing it with clearly on the back of the van or trailer. You will also need to make sure you have the right insurance, MOT and breakdown cover – see point 8 for more on this part.
4. How to cross the channel – there are several options available to you for crossing the channel with your caravan, motorhome or campervan. The first is by taking a ferry; if you want to arrive in France, Dover has crossings to Calais, Boulogne and Dunkirk, while you can get into Caen and Cherbourg from Portsmouth and Poole. If you want to get across to Belgium and Holland, you can go from Ramsgate, Rosyth and Hull into Ostend or Zeebrugge and for Spain, you can get to Bilbao or Santander from Portsmouth or Plymouth.
If you don’t fancy taking a ferry, the Eurotunnel le Shuttle will now accept caravans, motorhomes and other recreational vehicles, and is fast becoming a popular option as it is by far the quickest way to get into Europe - it takes around 35 minutes to get from Folkstone to Calais.
5. Know your size – if you’re travelling in a motorhome, campervan or with a caravan you’ll need to be aware that the roads where you’re going may not be the easiest to navigate. The roads around Southern Spain, for example, are not for those with a fear of heights – they’re narrow and windy and they have sheer drops. If you’re not confident about the size of the vehicle and where it’s positioned on the road, you may experience a few hair-raising moments, so plan your route before you go.
6. Where to stay – there are plenty of websites and apps like Park4night, Britstops and Searchforsites that you can use when touring in Europe. Some are free while others charge a small annual fee. You can try to park offsite in what it referred to as ‘wild camping’ but do your research first as it is illegal in many European countries. If you're not sure, use an approved campsite so you don’t need to worry about running into trouble for parking illegally.
7. Health - don’t forget to take your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to support you when it comes to emergency healthcare. If you have a UK EHIC it will be valid until the expiry date on the card. Once it expires, you’ll need to apply for a Global Health Insurance Card(GHIC) to replace it. The GHIC lets you access state healthcare in Europe at a reduced cost or sometimes for free.
8. Insurance – the rule changes since the UK left the European Union never cease to confuse so it’s more important than ever to make sure you’re fully covered in case anything goes wrong. InsureMy offers specialist insurance for caravans, motorhomes and campervans with a range of cover options to fit your personal circumstances. Campervan, caravan and motorhome insurance can cover your vehicle, the driver and passengers but you should also buy separate travel insurance which will cover the rest of your trip – for example, cancellation, delays, medical treatment, personal belongings etc.
More travel advice, visit Foreign &Commonwealth Office website Foreign travel advice - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).