Practical advice to caravanning abroad
Wherever next? If you’re thinking of taking your touring caravan abroad, especially for the first time, don’t forget to ensure that your caravan insurance policy will provide cover for the countries you plan to visit.
If you’re apprehensive about dealing with other languages, currencies and different ways of doing things... don’t be. Although it certainly pays to prepare and be aware. Just remember, millions of folk have done all this before. All you need is a bit of reassurance...
If you’re a member of the Camping and Caravanning Club (and/or the Caravan Club), both caravanning clubs offer excellent foreign travel departments – from ferry and site bookings, to general advice. There are also independent organisations providing similar services. Foremost among these is the Alan Rogers Travel Service.
Look out for schemes such as Camping Cheque and Camping Card ACSI that promise lower pitch fees on campsites throughout the continent, especially during low season.
Pick a caravan destination
True, there will always be no end of places to explore right here in the UK. But, there’s something a little bit more exotic about going abroad. It always helps to have a travel plan, including ideas of exactly where you want to stay and when. You don’t necessarily have to stick to it, but it is a useful foundation on which to build. Use the organisations mentioned above to select a campsite (or more) that will best suit you. But, bear in mind mainland Europe is far better geared to caravans (and motorhome) touring, offering services such as “aires” in France that are designed for easy stopovers en route to final destinations.
Passports... and other documentation
We may be in the European Union, but you still need a passport to cross borders. Make sure yours is up to date and is not in danger of expiring whilst you are away (good advice is to give yourselves at least six months’ leeway, just to be extra sure)
Europe is still not quite a level playing field. There are minor differences in requirements from country to country. Again, you need to check with the nations concerned regarding visas. You also need an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card), which entitles you to basic healthcare should you fall ill whilst abroad. Pick up a form at your local post office.
Get kitted out
It also depends which country/countries you are intending to visit. Consider the following as a more than useful start: first aid kit, fire extinguisher, emergency breakdown kit and replacement bulbs and fuses (for car and caravan).
Whilst visiting new countries is part of the caravanning experience, it always is comforting to take a few key essentials from home, too. Just for times of reassurance. Teabags, for example!
Sort your caravan and towing vehicle
There’s also plenty to do to ensure any possible difficulties with your vehicle(s) whilst away can be alleviated. Do make sure you have suitable spare wheels and/or instant puncture repair. Consider also taking a small package of spare parts with you, as a just-in-case measure. Likewise, from the short list above, a small toolkit will always come in handy – even if you don’t intend using it yourself.
You’ll need to double-check you are carrying items like a warning triangle (you actually need two in countries like Spain). A fire extinguisher and first aid kit are among the type of items it makes common sense to have in the UK, whilst abroad they are often considered a legal requirement.
Reflective waistcoats, too, and again there are country-to-country variations. For example, in some you are expected to have such items for every occupant of your vehicle. If you wear spectacles for driving, again note some countries expect you to travel with a second pair.
You do need to add beam deflectors to your headlights, even if you have no intention of travelling by night. Also, make yourself aware of speed limits for any countries you are travelling through; these can vary according to your vehicle’s weight, too.
Remember to drive on the right! Some drivers place a small notice in their line of vision, somewhere on the dashboard, as a reminder. And, of course, you’ll be dealing in kilometres rather than miles – for distances and speeds.
One final check? Make sure your tyre pressure is correct for the journey.
Ferries are fine
No doubt about it, wherever you’re thinking of going abroad, your journey will involve an element of travelling across water – whether by ferry (or Eurotunnel). Ferry operators are well attuned to coping with caravans. Just go where they point you!
Port facilities aren’t always brilliant, however (although they do offer the opportunity for the purchase of any last-minute essentials – including all the aforementioned key items).
Gas and electricity
You’re less likely to have issues with mains electricity supply on continental campsites these days, as by far the majority have now adopted the three-pin socket that we use across the UK (there are occasionally exceptions, so a continental adaptor can be a wise investment). Nevertheless, it’s always a good idea to take a polarity tester with you.
As for gas, Calor may be the caravanners’ choice in the UK, but it’s not widely available on Europe’s mainland. There are ways around this. You may have sufficient Calor to last your holiday, therefore no need for a refill. Or, you could buy the continental equivalent of a Calor cylinder (they’re widely available, and the system of making an initial cylinder purchase is the same as the UK), and use that and an appropriate adaptor for the duration of your stay. Campingaz, on the other hand, is in plentiful supply abroad, in exactly the same formats as here at home.
Finally, don’t forget that Shield Total Insurance offers competitively priced, comprehensive caravan insurance with the option of up to 365 days European Cover for touring caravan holidays in Europe.
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