Touring Europe in a motorhome is the dream of many travel enthusiasts. It was our dream for a long time before we were finally able to make it our reality in 2022 when we bought our motorhome and began full time travel. Since then we have travelled to 25 countries and it has been the best experience ever.
If you have a motorhome or campervan, you may be feeling a little apprehensive about leaving the UK to take on Europe. We’re here to put your mind at ease and tell you everything you need to know about taking your motorhome to Europe. Trust us, it’s much better than travelling the UK!
Ferry or Eurotunnel?
The very first thing you need to decide when taking your motorhome to Europe is how to get there. A question that many travellers may be wondering is whether the ferry or the Eurotunnel is best.
Each have their own pros and cons, and there are many things to take into consideration before making the decision.
We have written a blog post all about this subject in more detail, which you can find here – Eurotunnel Or Ferry – Which Is Best For You?
Preparing Your Van for a European Adventure: A Step-by-Step Guide
The first step to touring Europe in a motorhome is to prepare your van. It’s essential to ensure your vehicle is in tip-top condition and adequately prepared. Here’s a comprehensive guide to getting your van road-ready for the big adventure:
1. Mechanical Check-Up
Engine and Fluids
- Ensure the engine oil, coolant, brake fluid, and windshield wiper fluid are all at the recommended levels. If nearing their change dates, consider replacing them before the trip.
- Check the brake pads, discs, and fluid. If they show signs of wear or are nearing their lifespan, replace them.
- Inspect the tyre tread and ensure they’re properly inflated. Don’t forget to check the spare tyre and ensure you have a functional jack. In some parts of Europe you will need winter tyres in the winter months. It’s illegal to drive without them. It is worth doing your research into which countries these are required in if you are travelling during winter.
If you’d like to know more about motorhome winter tyres, check out our blog post here – Motorhome Tyres – A Guide To What Tyres You Need 2023
2. Safety and Security
- Locks: Ensure your van’s locks are working perfectly. Consider additional security like a steering wheel lock.
- GPS and Maps: Have a reliable GPS system and physical maps as a backup.
What Kit to Pack for a Motorhome Tour of Europe
Packing the right kit for your motorhome tour across Europe is essential to ensure a smooth journey. Different countries within the EU have specific requirements, and failure to comply with these can lead to fines. Here’s a breakdown of what you might need, with a particular focus on requirements for travelling through France.
These are items that you should consider packing for any motorhome journey, regardless of your destination:
- First Aid Kit: A well-stocked first aid kit can be a lifesaver. Include basics like plasters, antiseptics, bandages, pain relief, and any necessary prescription medications.
- Tool Kit: Basic tools for minor repairs on the road. Include items like a tyre inflator, wrench set, screwdrivers, pliers, and duct tape.
- Camping Essentials: Cooking equipment, food supplies, camping chairs, bedding, and other personal necessities.
- Maps and Guides: While having a motorhome sat-nav is invaluable, having physical maps and travel guides can be useful, especially in areas with poor signal.
- Insurance and Documentation: Ensure you have all the necessary paperwork, including motorhome insurance, driving licence, MOT certificate, and passports.
Specific Requirements for France
When touring France in a motorhome, there are additional items that are legally required:
- Hi-Vis Jackets: You must carry enough high-visibility jackets for each passenger, and they should be accessible without exiting the vehicle.
- Warning Triangle: In case of a breakdown or accident, you must display a warning triangle at a suitable distance from your vehicle to warn other drivers.
- First Aid Kit: While not mandatory in France, it’s highly recommended to carry a comprehensive first aid kit.
- Headlamp Beam Deflectors: Depending on your vehicle, you might need headlamp beam deflectors to ensure your headlights don’t dazzle oncoming traffic.
- Emissions Stickers: In some French cities, you’ll need an emissions sticker that corresponds with the emission standards of your vehicle. It’s best to do your research and look into this once you know which big cities you are going to be visiting.
- Spare Bulbs: A set of spare bulbs for all lights in the vehicle is recommended.
Packing these items ensures that you are prepared for various scenarios on the road and that you comply with local laws, particularly when travelling through France. A checklist is a good idea to ensure that nothing is overlooked, so you can focus on enjoying the unique experiences a motorhome tour of Europe offers.
Essential Paperwork for a Motorhome Tour of Europe
Another really important step in preparing for your trip to Europe is ensuring that you have the correct paperwork. The documents you’ll need to carry depend on various factors, including the countries you’re visiting, the vehicle you’re using, and the people travelling with you. Here’s a general guide to the essential paperwork you should have on hand:
1. Personal Identification
- Passport: Ensure that your passport is valid for at least six months from the date of your return.
- Visas: You won’t need a visa if you’re travelling for up to 90 days in the Schengen zone, but if you are hoping to stay for a longer period, then you may need to look into getting a visa.
This is a long and complicated topic to discuss, so we have written a whole blog post with everything you need to know – The 90 Day Rule In The Schengen Zone – How To Get Around It
2. Driving Documentation
- Driving Licence: Carry your full, valid driving licence.
3. Vehicle Documentation
- V5C Vehicle Registration Document: This proves that you are the vehicle’s legal keeper, so carry the original document, not a copy.
- MOT Certificate: If your motorhome is over three years old, you must have a valid MOT certificate.
- Insurance Documents: You’ll need your motorhome’s insurance certificate, and it should cover your destinations and the duration of your trip.
- Breakdown Cover: Carry details of your breakdown cover that includes European travel.
4. Health and Travel Insurance
- European Health Insurance Card (EHIC): This card allows you access to healthcare during your stay in EU countries.
- Travel Insurance Policy: Your travel insurance should cover your entire trip, and it’s wise to have a policy that includes medical and repatriation coverage.
5. Other Important Documents
- Pet Documentation: If you’re travelling with pets, you’ll need an animal health certificate or a pet passport or the relevant documents under the Pet Travel Scheme.
Getting a pet passport is not so simple in the UK since Brexit. We’ve written a blog post explaining exactly how to get your hands on a pet passport post Brexit – How To Get A Pet Passport Post Brexit
- Camping Cards: Some camping memberships and discount cards require specific documentation, so carry those if applicable.
Travelling with your pet across Europe can be an amazing experience, but it also comes with its set of challenges. From understanding regulations to ensuring your dog’s comfort, there’s plenty to consider. For a detailed guide on what to expect and how to prepare, check out our blog post about taking a dog to France – Taking A Dog To France – A Complete Guide 2023
Route planning is a fundamental aspect of a successful motorhome tour around Europe. Proper route planning not only ensures you get to see the sites that interest you most, but it can also help you avoid potential pitfalls and ensure your journey is as smooth as possible.
Choosing Your Destinations
The first step in route planning is deciding where you want to go. Europe is a treasure trove of diverse cultures, stunning landscapes, historic landmarks, and a foodies heaven. The range of possible destinations can be overwhelming, so it’s important to narrow down your choices based on your preferences and interests.
Do you want to immerse yourself in the romantic culture of France, enjoy the sunny beaches of Spain, marvel at the historic architecture of Italy, or embrace the natural beauty of the Scandinavian countries? Are cities or countryside’s more appealing to you? Do you want to visit famous landmarks, or do you prefer hidden gems that are off the beaten path?
Start by researching various European countries and regions. Make a list of places that interest you and consider their proximity to each other. Remember, Europe’s beauty lies in its diversity – a mix of different types of destinations can give your trip a rich, varied experience.
Planning Your Route
Once you’ve identified your preferred destinations, the next step is to organise them into a manageable and logical route. There are several factors to consider here.
Firstly, consider the distance between destinations. Long drives can be tiring, and you don’t want to spend all your time on the road. Try to organise your route so that driving times between stops are manageable – this will allow you more time to explore and less time driving.
Secondly, consider the roads themselves. While motorways might be quicker, smaller roads often offer more scenic routes. However, remember that not all roads are suitable for motorhomes, especially smaller, rural roads or mountain passes. You also need to take into consideration toll roads.
Another important aspect is the season and weather. Some roads might be closed in winter, while some areas might be particularly busy during the summer tourist season. It’s also a good idea to plan a few flexible days into your route for spontaneous detours or to cover any delays.
Finally, make sure to familiarise yourself with different traffic rules and regulations in each country you plan to visit. You don’t want to end up with a fine or worse, in an accident, due to unfamiliarity with local driving laws.
We have written detailed guides for our favourite countries that we’ve been to across Europe, including hints and tips and recommendations of places to visit. You can find the links to each country guide below:
Toll Roads in Europe: A Guide for Motorhome Travellers
Touring Europe in a motorhome offers endless freedom and exploration, but it also means navigating various toll roads across different countries. These toll roads can significantly affect both your route planning and budget, so understanding them is crucial. Here’s a guide to help you through the toll systems in Europe.
1. What Are Toll Roads?
Toll roads are motorways or bridges where a fee (toll) is charged to use them. These fees contribute to the maintenance and development of road infrastructure. The charges, methods of payment, and rules vary significantly across European countries.
2. Toll Systems in Various European Countries
France has an extensive network of toll roads, particularly on motorways connecting major cities. Tolls can be paid in cash, by card, or through electronic devices like the Liber-t tag. Rates vary based on vehicle size, distance travelled, and type of road.
Italy’s “autostrade” are mostly toll roads, with tolls calculated by distance. Payment can be made at toll booths via cash, card, or the Telepass electronic system. Charges differ based on vehicle weight and the number of axles.
Portugal features electronic tolls that often require pre-registration or renting an electronic device. Some roads only have electronic tolls, so it’s wise to research beforehand. This is the country where we found the toll roads to be the most difficult to work out, because we hadn’t done our research beforehand.
You can find out more about toll roads in Portugal here – A Guide to Using the Toll Roads in Portugal – Portugalist
Countries like Spain, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands mostly offer toll-free motorways for private vehicles. However, some specific tunnels, bridges, or vignettes (road tax stickers) may apply.
3. How to Manage Toll Roads
- Plan Ahead: Research toll roads along your planned route and estimate costs using online toll calculators. Some GPS devices also offer toll cost calculations.
- Consider Alternatives: Many countries have alternative free roads that may take longer but could save you money. It is important to consider how much time this could add on to your journey, especially if you are limited on time. Also it’s important to consider the size of your vehicle and how difficult the alternative roads could possibly be to drive on. We generally find toll roads to just be the easier option for us having a larger motorhome.
- Use Toll Tags: If travelling extensively through toll regions, consider investing in a toll tag, which allows seamless passage through many European toll booths.
You can find more information about toll tags here – Emovis tag | The Caravan Club
4. Special Considerations for Motorhomes
- Size Matters: The size and weight of your motorhome might place it in a higher toll category, increasing costs.
Vignettes in Europe: A Comprehensive Guide for Motorhome Travellers
Vignettes are an essential part of driving in many European countries, especially if you are planning a motorhome tour across the continent. A vignette is a sticker or electronic permit that serves as proof of payment for road tax. They’re commonly required for the use of motorways and expressways. Here’s everything you need to know about vignettes in Europe:
1. What Are Vignettes?
A vignette is a form of road pricing, charging vehicles for the right to use certain roads. Unlike toll roads, where you pay as you go, a vignette allows you to use a network of roads for a specific period.
2. Countries that Require Vignettes
Several European countries use vignettes. Below are some notable examples:
- Types: Available for 10 days, 2 months, or 1 year.
- Where to Buy: At border crossings, petrol stations, or online.
- Motorhome Considerations: Vignettes are required, and rates may vary based on weight.
- Types: Annual vignette.
- Where to Buy: At border crossings, post offices, or online.
- Motorhome Considerations: One vignette per vehicle is required.
Czech Republic Vignettes
- Types: Available for 10 days, 1 month, or 1 year.
- Where to Buy: Petrol stations, post offices, or online.
- Motorhome Considerations: Different categories for vehicles over and under 3.5 tonnes.
- Types: Available for 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, or 1 year.
- Where to Buy: Online or at customer centres.
- Motorhome Considerations: Electronic vignettes are required.
- Types: Available for 7 days, 1 month, or 1 year.
- Where to Buy: Petrol stations, border crossings, or online.
- Motorhome Considerations: Varying rates based on weight and height.
- Types of Vignettes: Bulgaria offers daily, weekend, monthly, quarterly, and annual vignettes.
- Where to Purchase: Vignettes can be bought at border posts, post offices, most petrol stations, and online via the Bulgarian Road Infrastructure Agency website.
- Display: For physical vignettes, place them on the inside of the windshield in the top right corner. However, Bulgaria is gradually moving to an electronic system where license plates are scanned to check for valid vignettes.
- Roads Covered: The vignette is mandatory for all cars, vans, and trucks using the national road network, including motorways and expressways.
- E-Vignette: Hungary uses an electronic vignette system. Instead of a sticker, the vehicle’s registration number is recorded in a database.
- Types of E-Vignettes: Options range from 10-day and monthly to annual permits.
- Where to Purchase: E-vignettes can be bought at border points, petrol stations, and online. It’s essential to keep the purchase receipt, as it serves as proof of payment if checked.
- Roads Covered: The e-vignette is required for motorways, highways, and certain sections of main roads.
- Rovinieta: This is the term for the Romanian vignette.
- Types of Rovinieta: Romania offers options from daily up to annual vignettes.
- Where to Purchase: They can be purchased at borders, post offices, petrol stations, and some online platforms. Once purchased, your registration is entered into a national electronic system.
- Display: While the system is electronic and linked to your registration, if you buy a physical vignette, it should be displayed on the windshield. Authorities use a camera system to verify the validity of the Rovinieta.
- Roads Covered: The vignette is needed for national roads and motorways.
3. Fines and Enforcement
Failure to display or purchase a vignette can result in hefty fines. Many countries have police or automated systems that check vehicles for valid vignettes, so it’s crucial to buy the correct one for your motorhome and display it properly.
4. How to Purchase and Display Vignettes
- Purchasing: Vignettes are typically available at border crossings, petrol stations, post offices, and online.
- Displaying: Follow the instructions for displaying the vignette on the windscreen or registering it electronically.
Staying connected on the road is vital, especially in a motorhome. From navigation to sharing memories or streaming shows, good Wi-Fi can make all the difference. It is even more important if you’re working remotely on the road like we do. You can find out everything you need to know about motorhome Wifi and how it works in Europe in our blog post – Motorhome Wifi – Full Guide & Set Up 2023
Navigating Campsites and Stopovers
A major part of motorhome touring in Europe involves deciding where to park up for the night. Whether you’re after a full-service campsite with all the facilities or the perfect wild camping spot, it’s important to understand your options and the rules associated with each.
Campsites in Europe
Campsites across Europe are often well-equipped with a range of facilities such as electricity hookups, fresh water supplies, waste disposal points, shower blocks, laundry facilities, and sometimes even on-site shops and restaurants. These can offer a comfortable and convenient place to stop, particularly for longer stays.
In addition to traditional campsites, there are many other options for stopovers in Europe that can offer a different, often more authentic, experience.
Many countries have designated areas, known as ‘aires,’ specifically for motorhomes. These can be found in various locations, including town centres, rural areas, and even vineyards! While these often offer fewer facilities than traditional campsites, they are usually cheaper (free most of the time!) and offer more flexibility.
Moreover, wild camping – parking up in an area not designated for camping – is permitted in many countries across Europe, However, it’s crucial to research local laws as this is strictly regulated, or even illegal, in many places.
Whether you choose a campsite, an aire, or a private stopover, always remember to respect your surroundings. Leave no trace, dispose of waste responsibly, and consider your impact on local communities.
Navigating campsites and stopovers effectively is an important part of your motorhome tour of Europe. Understanding your options and the rules associated with each can help ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey.
If you’d like more tips on how to find the perfect overnight spot, check out our blog post – Overnight Motorhome Parking – Great Tips On How To Find The Best Spots
When travelling across Europe in a motorhome, it’s essential to plan and budget to manage costs. The open road has its own set of expenses, and being smart about money can make your trip even better.
Budgeting for Your Trip
Budgeting effectively for a motorhome tour requires understanding the various expenses involved and allocating funds accordingly. These expenses can be categorised into fixed costs and variable costs.
Fixed costs include your motorhome’s purchase or rental price, insurance, etc. These costs are incurred regardless of the specifics of your journey. It’s also wise to set aside a contingency fund for unexpected costs such as repairs.
Variable costs fluctuate based on the duration and style of your trip. These include fuel, campsite or parking fees, food, tolls, and entertainment costs such as sightseeing tickets.
When preparing your budget, consider all these factors and allocate your funds accordingly. Anticipating these expenses can help avoid financial stress during your trip, allowing you to focus on enjoying the adventure.
Saving Tips for Motorhome Touring
Adopting some cost-saving strategies can make your motorhome trip more affordable. Here are some tips:
- Plan Your Route Wisely: Fuel is likely to be one of your largest expenses. Planning a fuel-efficient route can lead to significant savings. Also, some countries in Europe have expensive toll roads, so consider routes that avoid these where possible.
- Choose Economical Accommodation Options: While campgrounds offer facilities like electricity and water, they come at a cost. Consider balancing your stay between campgrounds, free or cheaper parking areas, or ‘aires’ which are often lower-cost options.
- Self-Catering: One of the benefits of travelling in a motorhome is having your kitchen. Make use of this by preparing your meals. Visit local markets for fresh, budget-friendly ingredients.
- Entertainment Costs: There are many free or low-cost entertainment options in Europe, from hiking in beautiful natural parks to visiting free museums or landmarks. Research your destinations in advance to make the most of these opportunities.
- Travel Off-Peak: Travel during the shoulder or off-peak seasons can offer significant savings. Campsite fees can be lower, attractions less crowded, and even ferry crossings can be cheaper.
Careful budgeting and savvy spending can allow you to experience all the joys of touring Europe in a motorhome without the stress of overspending.
If you’d like an idea of how much it costs to travel Europe for 90 days, we have given you an exact breakdown of how much it cost us here – The Cost To Travel Europe For 90 Days In Our Motorhome
Experiencing Europe on the Road
Touring Europe in a motorhome offers a unique perspective on the diverse continent. From its rich culture and delectable cuisine to its breath-taking landscapes, the road brings you close to the heart of Europe in a way few other travel methods can match.
Culture and Cuisine
Europe is a cultural mosaic, each country offering its distinct heritage, traditions, and lifestyle. Travelling in a motorhome offers you an immersive experience as you have the flexibility to spend more time in places that truly capture your interest.
Visit the ancient ruins of Rome, explore the quaint canals of Amsterdam, or wander through the vibrant bazaars of Istanbul. Attend traditional festivals, like Spain’s flamboyant La Tomatina or Germany’s Oktoberfest. There’s a richness of cultural experiences waiting for you on the European road.
Along with the culture, Europe’s diverse cuisine is a highlight of any road trip. From the mouth-watering pastries of France to the hearty dishes of Germany and the Mediterranean delicacies of Greece and Italy, there’s an array of culinary experiences to savour. Your motorhome’s kitchen allows you to not only try these dishes in local eateries but also to buy local ingredients and recreate your favourites.
Stunning Scenery and Landscapes
Europe’s landscapes are as diverse as its culture. With a motorhome, you can wake up to a different view every day. Snow-capped Alpine peaks, stunning Mediterranean beaches, expansive Nordic fjords, rolling Tuscan hills—the choice is yours.
National parks offer some of the best natural scenery in Europe. Experience the dramatic cliffs and waterfalls of Norway’s Jotunheimen National Park, or the majestic peaks of Slovakia’s High Tatras. Wild camping (where permitted) allows you to fully immerse yourself in these natural wonders.
Moreover, there’s a wealth of beautiful, man-made landscapes to discover. The terraced vineyards of Italy’s Cinque Terre, the charming windmills of The Netherlands, or the idyllic lakes of Slovenia are all within reach on your motorhome journey.
Remember, touring Europe in a motorhome isn’t just about the destination; it’s about the journey. The open road is an invitation to experience the continent’s rich culture, cuisine, and stunning landscapes at your own pace.
For more information on the ACSI camping discount card, which we have used several times across Europe and managed to make some really good savings, check out our blog post – ACSI Card – Everything You Need To Know About Discount Camping
What type of driving licence do I need to drive a motorhome in Europe?
Most standard UK driving licences allow you to drive motorhomes up to 3,500kg.
Do I need insurance for touring Europe in a motorhome?
Yes, it is required and crucial to have appropriate insurance coverage for your vehicle and travel.
What time of the year is best for motorhome touring in Europe?
It largely depends on your destination and interests. Spring and autumn are often popular due to milder weather and fewer tourists.
What should I do in case of a motorhome breakdown in Europe?
Ensure you have European breakdown cover. Also, learning basic motorhome repairs can be beneficial.
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I love everything about travel, from seeing new places, learning about new cultures and trying new foods! I believe that travel is one of the best forms of education you can get, I have learnt so much about myself and about the world from travelling all over. Travel is something I feel so passionately about, and I love the fact that we are now lucky enough to have this opportunity to do what we love as much as we can, it’s a dream come true.
Before we started travelling, I worked in local government in administration. I had been in this job for several years and had reached a complete brick wall where I was so fed up, but didn’t know what else to do. The only thing I knew that I wanted to do was to travel, and had wanted to do that for many years.
There were hundreds and hundreds of places on my wishlist that I wanted to go to, and I knew that going on a weeks holiday maybe twice a year if we were lucky wasn’t going to cut it.
After being in lockdown due to the Covid pandemic, and working from home staring at the same 4 walls every day, 2021 seemed like the perfect time for us to take the risk to finally do what we had dreamed of for so long.
It was a hard decision to completely change our lives, but so far it has been the best decision we have ever made!