RVing in Europe- Tutorial for the Clueless (from the Now-Only-Somewhat Clueless)

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How do you RV in Europe?  If you own a motorhome that you want to use in Europe, here's how to do it. 

Keep in mind -I'm no expert- I haven't done it yet, but my brain stored recent research - I'll share before it slips out.   Here's what I would recommend:

NoteRV Title- have in your hand  - Either the RV must be paid for or the lien holder must give "export" approval to ship the RV overseas. Idea:  If you must finance your RV, consider loans which allow you to hold the title while you pay the loan, like a home-equity loan for example.

Books:  Read how-to books by a some experts:

Blogs:  Read blogs of people who have/are RV'ing in Europe:

Here are some World RV'ers, just for fun:

Good Online Resources

Prepare your RV:

Buy your English books, maps, and campground guides on camping over there

  Buy your Camping membership and discount cards in advance (optional):

Get Tourist & Travel Memberships/Passes  (you must buy these in the U.S. before you go):

RV Arrangements:

Insurance:  Arrange liability insurance abroad with one of only a few brokers: (a few months in advance).  This is the "Green Card" that you'll need at the European port upon picking up your RV.  These are the only 2 choices I know about:

Shipping:  Arrange RV transport with a Shipping Broker (about 4 months in advance at the earliest):  http://www.seabrdge.com/  (Seabridge and Thum Insurance work together  http://www.thuminsurance.com/section.aspx?sectionid=47#Shipping )

Note: I've written 2 extensive blogs on Shipping Details:

  1. http://tinyurl.com/ljhflo  (3/28/08 in Blog 1)
  2. http://tinyurl.com/n34l7r  (10/21/08 in Blog 1)

RO-RO Carriers & Shipping Routes:  You aren't required to use a Shipping Broker (like Seabridge), but for their $125 fee, I think they're worth every penny.  If you want to see some RO-RO Carriers and shipping routes, check out this info:

Rig storage:  Here are some options in Amsterdam (usually in old greenhouses or outdoors)- you can figure out specifics when you get there:

Pricing per a 6/13/08 email :

 

The charge per meter is € 70,00 a year. We don’t store per month.

If you want to store at our place, you hire a place for the whole year and you are free to come and go.

So if your motorhome is 8 meters long it will be € 560,00 a year.

On our website you can find pictures and more information. ( www.caravanstallingdewit.nl )  

 

Kind regards,

Caravanstalling de Wit,

Ineke de Wit

 

Prepare your rig:

  • State Registration Sticker:  up-to-date
  • RV Title- have in your hand (RV must be paid for or lien holder must give "export" approval (which I think is unlikely, but I don't know))
  • State Inspection up-to-date- once over there, the Inspection can be handled by www.BWCampers (Dave Shore told me)

Prepare for problems (just in case):

  • Join AAA - reciprocal agreement for Emergency Road Service
  • Get your Will & Healthcare Directives together
  • Make sure your Health Insurance will cover you in Europe (call them and ask)
  • Take phone numbers of U.S. Consulates abroad:  http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1765.html  or http://www.usembassy.gov/
  • Make copies of all your important paperwork- put your copies in an organized notebook in sheet protectors, leave one copy at home by the fax
  • Get extra Passport pics and buy (or print out on photo paper) lots of copies (you'll need them)

Basically you can read the U.S. State Department's booklets: 

and if you still want to go anywhere but to your bedroom closet to hide, then good!  Get prepared and then head out for adventure!  Carpe Diem!

Medical:

  • Check CDC site for needed immunizations - print out and take to your physical http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx 
  • Get a physical and any prescriptions for any needed meds (make copies of those PRN's)
  • Get your immunizations done and PRN's filled

Get yourself to Europe:

  • Flights - Airlines work 11 months out, consolidators work closer to the date.  So 4-5 months ahead is good timing. Determing your end date of your trip and where 11 months out is from that:  http://www.bestfares.com/europe.php  or http://tinyurl.com/2wv4k6  
  • Coordinate flights to Europe with your RV shipping (time and location):  Remember that you might want to fly directly from the RV shipping port.  This is likely an East Coast port based on the shipping routes to Europe. 
  • Fly into someplace exotic:  If you have to wait a week to 10 days for your RV to float across the pond, fly directly to a country that you won't be visiting in your RV.  Then you can spend your hotel money in someplace like the Greek Isles or Prague.  Then get yourself back to the RV entry port city (fly, train, ferry, whatever) and pick up your RV.
  • Passports- make sure you have 6 months validity remaining by entry time (go look at your passport!) and enough blank pages in there - otherwise, renew your passport or order more passport pages http://travel.state.gov/passport/fri/add/add_850.html 
  • Any Visas:  Check website for requirements:  http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1765.html (Look at "Entry/Exit Requirements" for each place you want to visit)
  • Driver's License:  Get an International Driver's Permit (www.AAA.com  for $15) and make sure your state DL won't expire while you're there (go look at it!).  You must have both in Europe.

Ferry Crossings:  You'll take likely take your RV on many ferries to get to different countries.  I priced a round-trip with 5 of us and the RV Dover-Calais and it was 87.50 Pounds total.  Here's more info on ferries:

Ignore the Nay-sayers:  

I was so surprised to repeatedly hear:  "You can't do that!"  Where do people come up with such boxes to jump inside and stay?  Of course you can!  People are over there doing it right now.  It might not be commonplace and it might take work and money, but you most certainly CAN do it!

You will hear: "Rent over there":  Price this out.  If you're going for the summer or longer, it costs nearly twice what shipping one way does.  Since we'll leave our RV there for summer travels for as long as we want (it is the same price to store it here as there), then it becomes even more economical to take your own RV (not to mention comfortable).  Check prices here:  http://www.ideamerge.com/europe_rv_motorhome_rental_camper_van_hire.html and http://www.bwcampers.com/estimator/bin/calculate.php   

You will hear:  "Your RV is too BIG!":  A 26.5' RV is not too big.  The Scherer Family has close to a 40' RV.  Yes, they have had difficulty with the size.  But under 30' is not too big.  The width of my older RV is 8'.  It is not a wide-body (8" wider).  If you're really worried, drive the highways straight to the campgrounds and park it, then use public transportation or bikes to get around. 

You will hear:  "Gas is so expensive over there":  Yes, but the continent is much more compact.  It's just over 1000 miles between Rome and Amsterdam.  So stay longer in one place!  Use more public transportation and bikes.  Be conservative in your driving.  Problem solve some.  High gas prices are no reason to stop living. 

You will hear "Their electricity is different":  Buy the transformer before you go.  Done.

Now big RV's with 50 Amp service will not be able to find 50 Amps of power at most European campgrounds.  When you read that a European campground has 10 amps, you double that because it's 220 service.  So that would be 20 amps comparable to the U.S. standards.  Ciao Baby is a 30 amp (one A/C).  Europeans are more conservative with their power.

You will hear:  "They don't have sanistations for dumping your tanks" and "they use cassette toilets."  That was a few years ago.  Now there are more than 10,000 sanistations in France.  Besides, a macerator or a Blue Boy rolling tank should help that issue in a pickle.  Good gracious!  If you're really fearful, use the restrooms at the campground and you'll never have to empty your tanks.  There are books that show you where the sanistations are located.

Some other things I've learned:

European Hotels:  Most require 4 people to get 2 rooms, even families.  No wonder going to Europe seems so exotic!  Because by the time you pay for the hotels and all the restaurant meals, the cost is prohibitive.

Car Camping:  Now this is a very interesting option... if you don't have an RV, go Car Camping!  Lease a European car while you're in the U.S. (don't rent when you're in Europe- arrange & sign from the U.S. http://www.ideamerge.com/ ) and pack camping equipment in the trunk and GO!  There are books on this topic - many Europeans vacation this way.  A wonderful option for enjoying Europe on a budget!

European Camping:  Is not like the American camping.  Here's what I've read:

As David and Patty describe in their book, Americans like to play "Pioneer" and go out into the wilderness and build a campfire.  Europeans use camping as a touring method and campfires are not allowed in campgrounds.  

We Americans are very territorial about our campsites (where the campsite "property line" is located) whereas European campgrounds don't get "full", they just get more crowded as others may set up on "your" campsite.  Great way to meet the neighbors!

Europeans value using less:  Less electricity, less water, less space, less needs.  It is very different from the "bigger is better" U.S. values.  In the U.S. I often feel the need in the U.S. to explain why I didn't want to buy a 40' bus type (Class A) diesel pusher - whereas in Europe, I'm pushing my luck now with a 26.5' RV.  Adventure motorhomes should be as small and spritely as you can stand to live in with the number of people traveling.

Hope this helps someone!  :)

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