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Latest News Guide to driving your motorhome or campervan abroad

Guide to driving your motorhome or campervan abroad

Guide to driving your motorhome or campervan abroad

For many people, owning a motorhome or campervan gives them the freedom and opportunity to explore, whether that be in the UK or further afield.

However, heading overseas means you have to consider a few extra things compared with a holiday in the UK. We’ve put together a handy guide for everything you need to ensure an enjoyable and hassle-free time.

Documents for driving in Europe

The first thing you need to do is make sure all your essential documents are to hand and are still valid, including:

  • Your driving licence;
  • Proof of ID, such as your passport;
  • Your V5C certificate (see below if you’re not sure what this is);
  • Proof of insurance for your vehicle;
  • Your travel insurance documents;
  • A European breakdown cover policy number and related documents;
  • Make sure your vehicle’s tax and MOT are up-to-date;
  • If you’re visiting France, you’ll need to display a Crit’air (Clean Air) sticker in some cities. Read more about clean air zones in our guide: Motorhome and campervan driving in low emissions areas
  • If you have travel cover you should take a copy of your policy schedule.
  • If you have breakdown cover then make sure to take the policy number and related documentation.

Some of these documents can take weeks to get if you don’t already have them or they need to be renewed, so make sure you apply well in advance of your trip to avoid disappointment.

Vehicle registration document (V5C)

You may be more familiar with the term logbook, which is commonly used to describe a V5C. It registers your vehicle with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and contains essential information about your car, including the date it was first registered, its manufacturer, the colour, and engine size.

You’ll need to keep this document safe but should take it with you on your trip. If you find that you don’t have one for your vehicle or it has been damaged you can apply for a replacement.

What is an International Driving Permit (IDP) and do I need one?

An International Driving Permit (IDP) is a multi-language translation of your driving licence, complete with photograph and vital statistics and can be purchased from a post office. It doesn’t act as a licence on its own but allows you to drive a private motor vehicle in another nation when accompanied by a valid licence from your home country.

Generally, if you are travelling in a European country for 90 days or less you won’t need an IDP as long as you have your driving licence photo card with you. There are a few exceptions though, such as if you only have a paper licence or if your licence was issued in Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man or Gibraltar. If this applies to you, or you’re planning a long trip, then we’d recommend checking the government website.

VE103 certificate

If you’re driving a rented vehicle in the EU or EEA, you’ll need to have a VE103 certificate with you, which is an authenticated document that acts as a substitute for the V5C you have for your own vehicle.

It is produced by the DVLA and contains details of the vehicle along with the name and address of the hirer. It must be produced on demand to prove that you have permission from the vehicle owner to be in possession of the vehicle.

It’s the only legal alternative to a V5C so letters of authority or photocopies are not acceptable substitutes. You can obtain a VE103 vehicle on hire certificate by contacting your vehicle rental or leasing company before you travel. Make sure you keep it in a safe place with your other documents as without it you could face long delays at the border or risk the vehicle being impounded.

Do I need an insurance green card?

An insurance green card is a document that acts as proof of insurance for your vehicle when you are driving abroad. While you obviously still need to have the relevant insurance you no longer need a green card if you are taking your vehicle into an EU country as well as Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Serbia, and Switzerland.

Some other countries do still require it though so if you’re unsure check the Government website.

Passports

You will need to make sure that each member of your group has a valid passport with them.

A UK sticker

From 28th  September 2021 the UK sticker replaced the GB sticker, and is used to indicate the country your vehicle is registered in.

If your number plate includes the UK identifier with the Union flag (or Union Jack), you do not need a UK sticker. However, if it doesn’t you need to make sure you display the UK sticker clearly on the rear of your vehicle. This also applies if your number plate has any of the following identifiers –

  • GB identifier with the Union flag
  • Euro symbol
  • National flag of England, Scotland, or Wales
  • No flag or identifier – so numbers and letters only.

Be aware that if you’re driving in Spain, Cyprus, or Malta, you must display a UK sticker no matter what is on your number plate.

European Accident Statement (EAS) form

The European Accident Statement (EAS) form is a standard form available throughout Europe in a variety of languages and is designed to help get an agreed statement of details and facts about an accident. It can help with insurance claims and if you’re driving in Europe you may have been given one by your insurance company before you head off, or one may be provided at the scene of an accident if you’re involved in one.

They’re not compulsory but if you have one make sure you keep it in a safe place with your other documentation so that it’s easy to access if you’re unfortunate enough to need it.

Make sure you only sign the EAS when you’re certain that you understand the situation and are happy with all the details. Contact your insurance company as soon as possible after an accident has occurred and they will advise you of the best way to get the EAS to them, including any relevant deadlines.

 

Equipment for driving in Europe

As well as the relevant documents it’s also worth being aware of the kind of equipment you’ll need for your trip. Essentials we’d advise taking are:

  • A warning triangle (these are compulsory in most countries)
  • Reflective jackets (you’ll need one for each passenger and they must be stored within the car cabin)
  • Headlamp beam deflectors (depending on your vehicle, you’ll either need to adjust your beam manually or use deflector stickers)
  • First aid kit (these are compulsory in Austria, France, and Germany)
  • Safety helmets are also compulsory for riders and passengers of motorcycles and mopeds.

In addition to the essentials, it’s worth considering taking the following –

  • A fire extinguisher
  • Replacement bulbs
  • A good quality torch
  • A spare fuel can
  • Additional engine oil
  • Up-to-date road maps or a sat-nav
  • Snacks and water
  • Blankets
  • Sun cream
  • Any regular medication you use
  • Photocopies of your important documents
  • A UK Global Health Insurance card (they’re free so find out how to get one if you don’t already have one).

European driving kits are available from a wide range of retailers and will cover all the essentials you need for your trip abroad. So, if you don’t have some of these items already they’re worth investigating.

A final tip when packing your vehicle is to make sure you don’t overload it. According to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), 8 in 10 vehicles they pull over are overloaded, so before you head off its important you know the maximum payload and understand what could happen if you overload your vehicle

RAC has also put together this useful checklist which you can use when preparing for your holiday.

Read more: Guide to motorhome and campervan reversing cameras

Is my insurance valid in the EU?

At Alan Boswell Group we offer tailored, comprehensive insurance for your campervan or motorhome which includes cover for up to 90 days’ travel within the EU each year.

Similarly, if you are towing a car which you plan on driving at your destination, you will need to make sure that it has enough cover for driving in the EU for the period you are intending.

If you’re thinking about hiring out your campervan or motorhome you will need self-drive hire insurance and you should consider taking out public liability insurance as well.

European breakdown cover

Breakdown cover can be one of those things that you don’t think about much until you need it. Alongside our motorhome and campervan insurance we also offer discounted cover from RAC, one of the UK’s leading providers of motor breakdown cover which includes European cover in 50 countries and their offshore islands.

Before you head off there are things you can check to make sure your trip runs smoothly, you can read our tips to reduce motorhome and campervan breakdowns here.

Travel insurance

Having the correct travel insurance, tailored to your plans, is vital to ensure things go smoothly should you need help. Travel insurance provides cover for things like medical expenses, personal belongings, cancellation, and delayed or missed departures.

Can I tow a car with my motorhome or campervan?

There are a few things to take into consideration if you want to tow a car with your motorhome in the EU:

  • Firstly, you’ll need to check that you have the right kind of driving licence to tow.
  • You’ll then need to confirm the Gross Train Weight (GTW) your vehicle is allowed to tow. You can normally find this on a plate inside the driver or passenger door, or on the paperwork for your vehicle.
  • Then you’ll need to confirm how much weight you’re planning to carry. You can do this by checking the weight of your campervan or motorhome when it’s fully loaded, including passengers, and adding the weight of the car you plan to tow, along with any frames or trailers you plan to use
  • Once you’ve done this, you’ll need to confirm that your combined GTW is under the limit for your vehicle and your licence. Most people on a standard UK car licence are allowed to tow up to 750kg max trailer weight (fully laden) and up to 3.5 tonnes as a GTW.
  • Decide if you’d rather use a trailer or an A-frame. Most countries don’t have specific laws banning A-frames, but they may have a law which prohibits a motor vehicle towing another motor vehicle. You can find some useful general advice on A-frames on the Government website
  • Check whether you need to register your trailer before using it abroad.
  • Finally, check your tow bar weight capacity and consider how towing will affect your campervan or motorhome loading, such as the pressure it will put on the rear axle and how this might impact how your vehicle handles.

 

The duration of your trip to Europe

Generally, EU countries are happy for you to visit visa-free for up to 90 days within a 180-day period. Different rules apply in Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania though so if you visit any of these countries, visits to other EU countries will not count towards the 90-day total.

If your trip within the EU extends beyond 90 days within a 180-day period, you might need a visa or permit so check the Government website for more detailed, country specific information.

 

Taking food and drink into the EU

The EU places restrictions on food that you are allowed to bring with you.

For example, you cannot take meat, milk, or products containing them, into EU countries, other than powdered infant milk, infant food, and special pet food needed for medical reasons. Certain plant products including fruit and vegetables, also cannot be taken into the EU, with a few exceptions. Visit the European Commission website for the latest details.

 

Requirements for taking pets abroad

Many of us like to take our pets away with us so if you’re travelling to the EU or Northern Ireland your pet needs:

These requirements also apply to assistance dogs, and we’d advise that you check the rules of the country you’re travelling to for any additional restrictions or requirements before you travel.

Pet passports issued in Great Britain are no longer accepted.

When you arrive in the EU you’ll need to enter via a designated travelers’ point of entry where you may be asked to present your pet’s health certificate along with proof of their microchip, rabies vaccination, and tapeworm treatment (for dogs).

COVID-19 and travel abroad

You should check the latest Government advice on travelling abroad and any relevant Covid-19 restrictions at your destination before you head off on your trip.

 

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