Driving in Europe can seem intimidating- especially if you've never done it before! I remember the first time we set off on a Road Trip through Europe- the list of things we needed seemed never-ending and there was so much confusing information out there. So here are 10 of the best Europe Road Trip tips for you to know before you go!
NOTE: We love to road trip Europe in our Motorhome, but we've also spent some time exploring by motorbike, car (and one memorable occasion on a bus *shudder*.) Most of the tips below apply to ALL vehicles you take with you and are responsible for, but I'll use interchangeable words throughout… I'm wild like that.
Driving in Europe Checklist
Want to download a handy checklist with all these tips and more? Perfect for printing out and keeping with you as you plan.
Europe Road Trip Tip ESSENTIAL- Check your paperwork
Before you leave the UK, you MUST check your paperwork is in order.
- Check your passport is in date, and has at least 6 months left to run
- Check your vehicle insurance covers Europe and for how long. Make sure it is fully comprehensive (some providers only offer 3rd party cover in Europe.)
- Check your breakdown cover covers Europe. If not, consider extending it. Personally, we're big fans of this one.
- Health/ Travel insurance for each person travelling, plus EHIC cards if you have them. Repatriation cover is a great idea- it can cost thousands to bring someone back to the UK if you need to.
- You need to carry your REAL vehicle logbook, not a copy. If it is a hire vehicle, you need a signed letter giving permission for it to go to Europe.
- You also need an MOT (in date!) and driving licenses for everyone who will be driving. We have been told the pink part of the licence is fine, but we carry both parts just to be safe.
- If you are taking a trailer, you need to provide proof of its EU certification.
Driving in Europe – what age do you have to be?
You need to be aged at least 18 to drive in Europe and at least 21 years old if you want to hire a car. And remember to check the weight of the motorhome before you rent it- most people under the age of 37 can't rent anything over 3.5 tonnes without doing additional driving tests.
Europe Road Trip tips after BREXIT
Two things to consider post-BREXIT: Whether you need an International Driver Permit (available from Post Offices) and a green card for the vehicle from your Insurance company. At the time of writing this, nobody really seems to know anything, but it is very likely that we WILL need an IDP, so we are getting ours next month (new forms come out in February 2019).
We have spoken to our Motorhome Insurance, and they are starting to issue green cards in March. Some insurers are already providing them.
Driving in Europe Requirements
Yep, you need to bring some extra stuff with you when you road trip in Europe, no matter which country you are visiting.
You need to carry at least the following:
- First aid kit;
- GB sticker;
- 2 x breathalyser;
- High-vis jackets for each person which are accessible from INSIDE the vehicle
- Warning triangle
- Headlight deflectors
Each country has a list of specific items too, such as a vignette for Switzerland or an emission sticker for Paris. Do your research carefully in order to avoid large fines. This post will help you find out what you need to carry!
Road Trip to Europe- Is it better to go by Ferry or Tunnel?
This is a personal decision, but consider a couple of factors:
- The tunnel is definitely cheaper, especially if you book in advance and go outside of ‘peak’ times. It’s also considerably quicker.
- HOWEVER, if you are travelling to the west of France, or from the west of the UK, it’s a LONG drive, which can take up a large portion of your holiday. For this reason, if we have only a week to explore France, we often take the ferry.
- Pets are easy to take on the tunnel, but they could be in the car less time if you take the ferry and get a pet cabin (Portsmouth to Le Havre with Brittany Ferries) Again, for this reason, we often take the ferry with our puppy, as it cuts down the time he’s in his travel crate for.
- Think about the weather. In winter, there’s a higher chance of storms; not fun on a boat. In summer the queues through the tunnel are horrendous, so we avoid them if we possibly can.
There really is no right answer, so plan out your journey and do whatever works best for you!
Europe Road Trip tips- where to stay
Where should you stay on your road trip? This depends entirely on what you like to do!
For Motorhomes/ Caravans
- Are you hoping to relax, soak in some sunshine and let the kids play on the beach? You’ll probably find a campsite easier and more relaxing, but they do get pricey in high season.
- Do you enjoy moving around every few days and seeing different areas within a country? Look for aires (France), Sostas (Italy) or Stellplatz (Germany). These are approved Motorhome parking areas, often with facilities for fresh water and waste disposal, which are offered first come, first served for a small fee (often 5-10€) Most towns and villages have these throughout Europe
- Prefer to be completely away from it all? Consider wild camping. This is one of our favourite ways to travel- we love the freedom. Bear in mind the legalities- you can’t just park wherever you like! You will also need to collect and find somewhere to safely dispose of all your rubbish. But we’ve met some wonderful people whilst wild camping and stayed in some breath-taking spots.
For cars/ motorbikes
If you're not camping, you have plenty of other options. You can rent an AirBnB for a week or a couple of nights before moving on. You can rent a hotel room or an actual B and B (although this can get expensive once you have older children.) Before getting our Motorhome, we loved B and B's, as the owners were generally friendly and could tell you all the best places to visit in the area!
Driving in Europe- Be Sensible about Safety
Nobody likes to think about it, but a little caution can save a lot of heartache. We follow these simple rules when we road trip:
- Keep your passports well hidden and ideally don’t leave them in the vehicle unattended, even in a campsite.
- Don’t bring much jewellery. It’s just one less thing to worry about.
- Don’t advertise when you are going to be leaving the motorhome all day (although this can be tough, especially when we roar off on our motorbikes!)
- Never leave your vehicle unattended in a wild camping spot. If we are going for a bike ride, we park in a campsite. Unless we are in Norway, which is possibly the safest place in the whole of Europe!
- Carry a set of spare keys and keep them separate from your other keys.
- 112 can be dialled from anywhere in Europe in an emergency.
Europe Road Trip Tips- Electronics
Check your mobile contract to ensure you won’t be charged high fees for using your phone abroad. The biggest thing to look at is data- we use our iPad as a Sat Nav and regularly use the internet to look up places to stay as we travel, so we made sure to get a package which included free data use in Europe.
Also, beware of using your phone on the ferry- the network charges are EXPENSIVE!
Lastly, it is illegal in many European countries to use a headset whilst driving, even with a hands-free kit. It needs to be on speaker phone in your car.
If you rarely use the internet whilst travelling, you might not need additional internet. However, we work from the road, either writing blog posts, uploading videos or communicating with Mr WB's clients. We also love to look up things to do in the local area, so we carry a wifi dongle, which has been brilliant. There are many on the market and they’re all pretty similar- just be sure to get one which works in Europe.
This is something we didn’t think about until after our first Europe trip- which meant that we paid a fee on every single bank transaction we used in France! We have now switched to an account which doesn’t charge for foreign payments and if you travel regularly it might be worth looking at.
Your bank might need to know that you’re going abroad, especially if you don’t go regularly. Otherwise, you run the risk of them blocking your transaction. Many banks accept notice over online banking. I think our bank has just given up and accepts that we travel all over the place without any warning! 🙂
Travelling to Europe with Pets
We travel back and forth to Europe monthly with our puppy, Mac. It's not complicated, and it doesn't cost much more than it would without a pet.
Pets (cat, dog or ferret) need:
- a pet passport (read how to get one HERE)
- rabies vaccination (and a blood test to prove the vaccination has worked post-BREXIT)
- Dogs also need a worming tablet administered by a vet between 1-5 days of your return to England.
Take this into account when you are travelling back with a dog. Most vets near the British border are used to ‘walk-ins’ and will do their best to fit you in, but others may not have an appointment for a day or two so try to book in advance if you can.
Also, make sure your pet is secured in the vehicle- it is no longer ok for them to be sitting in the back untethered. If police see a ‘loose’ animal in a vehicle they will stop and fine you.
Driving in Europe- Tolls
Tolls are a fact of life whilst travelling in Europe, especially if you want to use major roads. Ideally, you want your motorhome to be under 3m tall (any higher puts you as a commercial vehicle)- this is one of the biggest reasons we changed our motorhome to a lower profile one. Carry cash for the tolls, or get a toll pass if you’re planning to travel regularly. We use eMovis, which sends us a bill at the end of the month for whatever you’ve used and allows us to speed through the ‘fast-lane' at the toll booths!
Europe Road Trip tips- what Food to bring?
You don’t need to bring a lot of food with you- people in Europe eat amazing food and trying local delicacies is part of the fun! However, I always try and bring enough food to last a day or so, so we don’t have to find places to shop en-route if we don’t want to.
Keep things simple- cooking in a small space can be tricky, especially if there’s a few of you. If you have kids (or husbands!), you might want to bring a few things you know they’ll eat on the journey to keep them happy. You can read more about our meal planning & ideas HERE
I hope you know feel much more prepared to deal with your European Road Trip! Let me know where you end up- and if you see us out on the road, be sure to say hi!
Planning a Road Trip?? These posts might help: