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Tips for touring Europe in a motorhome

Motorhome Hire france

Touring Europe in a motorhome can be a fantastic adventure. Here are a few tips we have gatherd through our long experience and countless journeys to Europe. Many UK laws parallel those across Europe. This guide is intended to highlight what a motorhome hirer needs to think about in advance of a European trip, and the expectations on drivers in general. The AA is also a good source of country specific information.

  • 112 is a European emergency contact number that can be dialled in all 27 EU countries in case of accident, assault or any other distress situation.
  • Be aware of vehicle crime and do not leave valuables on show at any time.
  • Drinking and driving penalties are severe so the best advice is if you drink, don't drive.
  • European cover is an additional requirement on the self drive hire insurance – failure to purchase this cover will render the vehicle un-insured.
  • It is possible to get urgent medical treatment at reduced cost in the countries with which the UK has health care arrangements. It is important to get full information from the Department of Health about every country to be visited as these arrangements are not consistent from country to country, are not always comprehensive and it is always the case that the cover will not include bringing a person back to the UK in the event of illness or death. Always take out adequate travel insurance.
  • UK issued credit cards are not always accepted at petrol stations and stores; make sure you have a range of payments methods available.
  • The use of hand held mobile phones is prohibited in many countries. 
  • Drive on the left in the UK and Ireland, and on the right in the rest of mainland Europe.
  • Think right – it is easy to forget to drive on the right, particularly after doing something familiar, such as leaving a petrol station or car park.
  • It is possible to take pets on holiday into Europe – specific advice is available from Defra.
  • A GB sticker is compulsory and failure to comply could results in an on the spot fine. Euro plates – number plates that include the GB euro symbol – make the display of a separate conventional sticker unnecessary.
  • It is compulsory in many countries for visiting motorists to carry / wear reflective jackets. Headlights must be adjusted so the beam is suited to driving on the right so it does not dazzle oncoming drivers. It is compulsory in many countries to carry a warning triangle. In winter there are specific driving requirements in many countries, in terms of wheel chains and / or winter tyres. Drivers may also be liable for impeding the normal flow of traffic or causing an accident as a consequence of not adapting the vehicle to the prevailing weather conditions.
  • The use of devices to detect police radar is illegal in most countries and penalties can include fines, driving bans and even imprisonment.
  • Most countries require a minimum tyre tread depth of 1.6mm over the central three quarters of the tread and around the whole circumference.
  • Make yourself aware of specific country related driving requirements – for example, Restricted Traffic Zones in Italy where circulation is either prohibited or restricted to residents, in many historical centres and major towns

Campsites in Europe

In many ways, camping in Europe is very similar to the UK. However, there are subtle differences that the motorhome hirer should be aware of before setting off.

  • Camping and touring is popular across Europe and there is a wide variety of campsite provision to respond to this need; they range from basic fields to high specification sites and total around 30,000. In France there are also many campsites that are 'municipal' – that is, run by the local Council. Elsewhere many campsites are largely populated by static caravans and the number of touring pitches can be limited.
  • There are several websites that list European campsites and help with pre booking. Where you want some flexibility, and do not want to pre book, it is worth getting hold of guidebooks to take with you; try Vicarious Books for example. Alternatively there are roadside campsite signs in many countries.

There are some general differences between UK sites and those overseas:

  • Receptions may be open for longer hours but close at lunchtime
  • Some sites do not allow long shorts for swimming, only brief style shorts
  • Many have entry / exit barriers and may expect a deposit for the entry key
  • Not all provide toilet seats and toilet paper!
  • Many have unisex toilets and showers
  • Electricity can be metered
  • There are over 6,000 camping stops across Europe – these are places where a motorhome can stop for a few nights, dump and replenish water, often for free. They vary from parking areas to gardens, farms and vineyards and can take the motorhomer to places not otherwise experienced.
  • Wild camping is tolerated in some countries
  • The Camping Card International CCI is an essential item because it provides third party insurance whilst on campsites and sometimes a small discount on the fee. It costs as little as £5.00 for a year and can be obtained from the Caravan Club or Camping and Caravanning Club in the UK before departure.
  • The ACSI Camping Card is an excellent value discount card for reduced prices in the low season throughout Europe.
  • Electric hook ups may be different in some countries but are gradually becoming standardised to the blue three pin connector as used in the UK (about 80% of campsites have moved to this system). An adaptor will be required for sites still using the old system.
  • Calor Gas is not available outside the UK and empty cylinders cannot be exchanged or refilled. It may be necessary to buy a gas bottle locally if supplies run out but this will also require a different kind of hose connection adaptor – there are three versions in common use.
  • Grey water is the dirty water held on board from the kitchen and bathroom sinks and the shower. If left in the tank for too long in hot weather it can give off a smell, so it should be emptied regularly, rather than simply when it is full (as indicated on the motorhome control panel).
  • Most campsites have a specific tap and a hose for filling the motorhome with fresh water. Most motorhomes also carry a separate hosepipe should it be required.

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