Helpful Tips for Driving Abroad
Driving abroad opens the continent up for us all especially in your Motorhome. Visiting multiple countries at our own pace, driving off the beaten track to find the places the crowds don’t know about and exploring places that holiday companies just don’t visit. We all have our own reasons for wanting to take a self-drive Motorhome holiday abroad however for some; the actual step of going is just too much. Driving abroad is not without its own risk and if you’re not prepared properly then it could become a very expensive holiday from hell, however with the right preparation and the right knowledge your self-drive tour abroad will be the holiday you always dreamt off. We have prepared a guide to help you prepare for your trip below.
Not all insurance cover allows us to travel abroad. Ring up your insurance broker and check that you and your Motorhome are covered for your trip abroad. You will need to tell them the length of the trip roughly; as again, some insurance companies may only let us travel abroad for so many days a year and so many days in one trip. Ask for an updated policy certificate (usually you can print it from your computer) and add it to your paperwork that you take with you.
2. Breakdown Cover
If you are like me and not very mechanical, then I would always recommend Breakdown cover. There are a number of advantages to having cover for your vehicle and for yourself. They can help with local companies to try and repair your vehicle, handy if you can’t speak the local dialect. They can also stop costly removals from motorways by arranging for you to be towed from the carriageway and they can also arrange accommodation for you and your passengers and, if all else fails they can arrange your vehicle and its passengers to be brought home if the vehicle cannot be fixed. There are numerous amounts of companies offering break down insurance so shop about and find the best deal which suits your trips needs.
So now we have our Insurance and breakdown cover, we need to keep them together in a safe location. We also need to add any other information regarding the vehicle that we might need. Prove of ownership could well be needed as well as any current MOT certificate (if applicable). Prove of vehicle tax is also handy to have in our folder and of course we can’t forget our full driving licence. I like to keep my ferry tickets with my paperwork as well so I know everything is in one place. Keep a photo copy of the above paperwork in a separate folder in case you lose the originals is a good tip. There would be nothing worse than having everything together and then losing the folder, the internal arguments would start then!
4. Prepare your vehicle
British vehicles are set up differently from European ones so make sure your vehicle is ready to drive abroad. The headlights need to be prepared for driving abroad as it is illegal to dazzle oncoming traffic. Headlamp convertors (stickers) can be purchased and placed on the lights to help with this. Tyre tread can also be different abroad as certain countries require deeper thread, or during the winter, winter tyres might be a legal requirement so think about when you are travelling and where you are going to. It is always a good idea to have new tyres when travelling abroad for any length of time s they will wear with the amount of miles that you may cover. A service is also recommended before travelling. This will mechanically prepare your vehicle. New oil, oil filters and topping up of any water or antifreeze will help keep your engine in the best possible shape.
5. Trip Preparation
So we have prepared all our paperwork and have our vehicle ready but where are we going? We don’t want to plan every second of the trip, that’s what makes driving holidays that little more special however having a general idea is always a good plan. Consider what time you will be getting off the ferry or train (if applicable), how many hours will you have drove by then and what time will it be. It is always a good idea to be fresh for your first days travel. If you are going via Calais, there is a motorhome stop in the city by the beachside or the port itself allows vehicles to stay overnight. If you require a hotel, there is many in the area. A Sat-Nav is always a good idea to take, however it is also worth taking a map just in case. I also like to print off a guide from google maps of the rough destinations I am visiting. To be honest, I hardly use them however they are there just in case.
Everyone’s number one priority when travelling anywhere, not just abroad should be the safety of the people in the vehicle, the vehicle and its belongings, so how can we be safe whilst travelling. There are a number of things we can do to help protect us and make us feel a little safer.
- Make sure we have all the locks and alarms working before we leave. Adding extra security like steering locks and security lights (if applicable) are also an extra security measure worth thinking about. Add a safe to your vehicle if it is possible to do so.
- Don’t leave anything in public view that opportunist thieves may break a window for, like handbags on the front seat etc
- If driving during the night, don’t stop for people who may be waving you down. It’s a sad state of affairs that this is advice as they may actually need help, however it is also the case people are using this method to stop people and hijack vehicles. Always look after the people in your own vehicle first.
- Park your vehicle in well-lit areas and by others if possible. Thieves will always target vehicles out of sight first as they don’t want to be seen. If you are by others, at the front by the shops or service station or in a well-lit area, you will be cutting down the risk of any untoward things happening to your vehicle
- Take a break. This is paramount when travelling. You are on your holidays don’t forget so don’t be driving tired. If you are feeling a little tired eyed then take a break, have a sleep or a rest. Tiredness kills!
7. Be Prepared
It is always a good idea to have a slight knowledge of the roads or destinations where you are travelling. If you are travelling on the motorways, (ie: France, Italy) you should always have change for the tolls or if you are in your motorhome and travelling up some of the mountain roads of Europe then you should know if they are open or closed and if your vehicle is allowed up them due to its size and weight. You may also need certain passes to drive on motorways. Austria has a “Go-Box” for its motorways and Switzerland a “Vignette” for example. It is possible to learn these as you go, however if you are prepared then you cannot get caught out, will avoid any fines and it will help your trip go more smoothly.
8. Respect the Rules
Each country across the globe has different driving regulations; they are similar in code however the slight differences can be the difference between good etiquette and bad. Don’t drive in flip-flops, move over on the autobahns, park in the direction of the flow of traffic. By respecting the rules and obeying the laws, not only will it keep you out of trouble, it will also help you understand appreciate the country you are travelling in that little but more.
Fear of the unknown can be scary however if we did not venture away from our comfort zone we would miss out on some of the most amazing places the world has to offer. Driving down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées from the Louvres to the Arc de Triumph; the winding road of the Stelvio Pass; the magnificent view of the Amalfi Coast; these are all drives that we would never experience if we did not take the step. Driving abroad is a big thing that some people are afraid off but by sticking to the above and in general using our common sense we can travel safely and securely in the knowledge we have done everything possible to keep safe
Which ever way you wish to travel, do it with style!