Advice for first timers in EU

Many of us have been there and got the Tee shirt and enjoyed many trips to France and other parts of Europe, however it seems a lot more daunting for any new comer to the campervan or motorhome scene so whats the advice to anyone whois thinking of taking the plunge and booking their first trip across the pond.

  1. Do It - if you are thinking about visiting Europe... then do it! It is one of the best places in the world to explore with a leisure vehicle of any type. Few places in the world offer the diversity of culture, history, food, drink and language that Europe offers. You will no doubt hear horror stories, but don't be put off. Almost everyone camping in Europe would recommend the experience to your personally. Did I forget the cheap wine and beer :)
  2. Avoid July and August - if you can avoid these months, then do as the Ferry costs Double. The majority of Europe holiday makers take their holidays during these months. You will find everywhere busy. If you have to holiday during this period then it is worth booking at least the first few nights at campsites, to ensure you have somewhere to stay.
  3. Learn a little of the local language - Europe has so many languages. Learning a little of the language you are visiting will make a big difference to the way people treat you. Most people can learn the basics in a few days or a week with a good guide book. In Spain and Italy English is spoken very little apart form the tourist areas, whereas in The Netherlands, Germany and  portugal English is widely understood and spoken. France  more so than any other country, will appreciate you attempting to speak the local language. Whilst many French can speak English they do not like to do so and many older French cannot speak English at all. Use any French you have. If you are keen to learn get started as soon as possible. The French will appreciate your efforts so much that you are likely to be invited for drinks and nibbles. Well worth buying a guide book
  4. Get Road maps or GPS - Having good road maps or a GPS unit is essential. If you are buying a GPS unit make sure it contains maps for all of the counties you intend to visit. Or at least ensure you can buy the maps for a reasonable price. If you are going to use traditional maps invest in a good road atlas.Enjoy motorhomewilds download section for camp sites , wifi spots such as Mc Donalds, all the aires etc which help make things that bit easier
  5. Do research - Do at least some research about the regions you want to visit. The internet has made this so much easier now. Find out about the weather, water, festivals, or anything about your destination that might effect your visit. Also have a plan B if the your staying more to the north , ie lets head for the sunshine of the Med, We had intended staying around Brittany last year and ended over the mountains into Spain and through Andorra back onto the Med side of France, .......... Not planned but awsome :) 
  6. Buy guide books - If you intend to visit towns, monuments, beaches, etc then invest in good guide books. A good guide book can instantly inform you of the best places to visit, opening times, history, language, and more. 
  7. Know your vehicles dimensions - measure the height and length of your vehicle. Keep this information at hand in the cab (stuck to dash ), as you will at some point be presented with a narrow gap or low bridge. Knowing the dimensions can save a lot of hassle and embarrassment. Actually measure your vehicle., don't reply on manufacturer details, as they can be wrong, and you may have additions which change the original dimensions.
  8. Don't stop overnight on French Auto Route aires - the French roadside rest areas are great, and a wonderful place to stop during the day to break up your journey. However we have experienced, and heard of many problems from many campers who have stopped at these aires overnight. The main problems being theft. Don't stop at them overnight. In particularly the A7 and A9 seem to be the worst.
  9. Don't be scared of free camping - with the above point in mind, don't be put off.Free Camping is one of the best parts of camping in Europe, and people very rarely experience any trouble. Stopping at a beautiful beach, lakeside or mountain rest area, and then stopping for the night, week, or even a month, is a fantastic experience. Thefts are almost entirely occur at busy roadside stops in urban areas. Be careful and be alert and you should have no problems.
  10. Double check your insurance - check your insurance to ensure everything you think is cover is actually covered. You do not want to find out something is not covered once on the road or after an incident. Ensure you have insurance for the vehicle and travel insurance for the people in it.
  11. Take your  health care cards - The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) replaced the old E111 in 2006.

    Your EHIC lets you get state healthcare at a reduced cost or sometimes for free. It will cover you for treatment that is needed to allow you to continue your stay until your planned return. It also covers you for treatment of pre-existing medical conditions and for routine maternity care. The EHIC is valid in all European Economic Area (EEA) countries, including Switzerland. For more information about what is covered in each country see our country-by-country guide.

    You can apply for a free EHIC online. 

    The EHIC is entirely free of charge. However, other unofficial websites may charge you if you apply through them.

    If you're having difficulties with the online application form, you want to update your personal details or  replace a lost or stolen card, call the automated EHIC application service on 0300 3301350.  

    If you have any questions about the European Health Insurance Card then the section below may provide the answers. However, if you still have further questions then you should contact the Overseas Healthcare Team on 0191 218 1999. If calling from abroad ring 00 44 191 218 1999.

  12. Choose ferries carefully - If you have to take a ferry do plenty of research. If you are coming from the UK you pretty much have to take a ferry. If anyone in the party doesn't like being on water take the shortest crossing you can, to avoid unnecessary illness, and drive the rest of the way. Dover to Calais is still the shortest and quickest crossing. Rosslare is about the best and most direct form Ireland
  13. Check your passports - ensure all are in date. Some countries demand that the expiry date on the passport must be at least 6 months beyond your estimated day of return. Take photocopies of all of the passports. At campsites you will have to leave a passport until you have paid. Many accept photocopies.
  14. Use a bank that doesn't charge for oversees transactions - most banks will charge you for taking money out when abroad There are several banks that do not. Nationwide is one. You don't need to change banks, just open an extra account for travel money. You can save a good deal of money this way. Caxton pre paid credit cards are great for buying Euros when the exchange rate is high and they have no transaction costs. 
  15. Check your home insurance - check that your home insurance is still valid if you are away from home for a long period of time.
  16. Always be respectful to the police - when you are stopped by the police always be respectful and cooperative. many have been stopped several times, always as a routine check. The police are not trying to catch out foreigners. In fact in most European countries the police will not stop foreigners.
  17. Always keep a quarter tank of fuel - don't let you fuel drop below a quarter of a tank. Many places close on a Sunday, and finding fuel can be hard. If you are twisting around hills for a long period of time only half fill the fuel tank. This will save weight and make the vehicle easier to drive.
  18. Know the law - the road laws vary between each country, and some require you to carry equipment you might not already have.  
    Under French law, vehicles must carry one reflective jacket for the driver, although many French families store one for each passenger in case there is a breakdown and they have to wait beside the car.

Important Information

  • If you breakdown, or are stopped by the police, put the jacket on, or else you may find yourself with a fine
  • In Spain you require a jacket for each person.
  • In France, Spain and Germany you are required to carry a red warning triangle.  Should you breakdown the triangle must be erected 30 meters behind the car.
  • In Spain you require 2 red warning triangles per car.
  • In Spain you are also required to carry a set of spare lamps/bulbs for your car and the tools to change them

    Here's a quick kit list:

    - First aid kit
    - Fire extinguisher
    - Warning triangle

    - Warning triangle
    - Reflective jacket

  • - Disposable breathalizers 
    - Warning triangle
    - Reflective jacket
    - Headlamp adjustment

  • Spain
  • - Warning triangle x 2
    - Spare bulbs
    - Headlamp adjustment
    - Reflective jacket