We know that as a motorhome or campervan owner, taking a trip over to Europe may well have been a regular highlight of your touring year. A wonderful way to explore the continent to your heart’s content, at your own pace and on your own terms. However, like many areas of UK life, Brexit had thrown this popular activity into doubt - until recently.
Now, with the last-minute trade deal reached between the UK and EU there has been some much-needed certainty offered to those European vacationers. Read our guide to find out how touring Europe in your home on wheels has changed and what you need to do to get prepared for your next trip.
From lounging on a summer beach to hitting the piste in winter, Europe is a very popular place to travel – provided you’ve got the appropriate motorhome or campervan insurance. Having the right cover means your next road trip is sure to be unforgettable for all the right reasons.
Check your passport validity
First things first, you won’t be going anywhere if your passport isn’t valid. From January 2021, there are different passport validity rules that apply to UK citizens visiting Europe. Some passport holders will need to renew their passport earlier if they’re travelling to an EU country, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland.
When you arrive in Europe, you’ll need your passport to have at least six months left and be less than 10 years old (even if it has six months or more left). If not, you’ll need to renew.
Fortunately for lovers of the emerald isle these rules don’t apply to travellers to Ireland. As long as it’s valid for the length of your stay, you can continue to use your current passport. Great news for those exploring Northern Ireland, who want to hop over the border to see what the south has to offer.
You can check whether your passport is valid for travel to Europe on the UK government website. You’ll need to know your passport issue and expiration dates and the dates you plan to travel.
Just like finding the right campervan insurance with Motorhome Protect, it’s simple to do and could save you from a big headache later! But be warned, it can take up to three weeks to get a passport online, and even longer by post. So, if you need to renew, leave plenty of time before you leave to allow for unforeseen delays.
Will you need a visa?
It was a big relief to discover that if you’re simply touring the country in your camper, you don’t need a visa for short trips to most EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. You’ll be able to stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period – more than enough for a decent European exploration.
Indeed, if you take your campervan to certain EU countries then different rules apply. For example, if you visit Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus or Romania their authorities won’t count visits to other EU countries as part of your 90-day total. Meaning you can easily lengthen your European stay by visiting these fascinating countries.
However, a visa or permit might be needed for example if you wish to stay for longer than 90 days or you want to work or study while touring.
Owing to the variety of visa or permit rules and regulations in different countries it’s important to check the government’s travel advice page as part of your trip preparation.
Be advised that while you might not need a visa, when driving across national borders there may be special checks required for non-EU vehicles such as yours. These checks could easily have an effect on travel timings. Avoid last-minute dashes by keeping up to date on ferry departures and traffic delays. After all, you don’t want to miss check-in!
Being in a hurry is a quick way to avoidable but costly accidents and damage. Although, if you have campervan insurance in place you should be covered for any mishaps.
Will your driving licence still be valid?
A concern for many British visitors who enjoy driving in Europe was whether their driving licence would remain valid in the EU after Brexit. Fortunately, most drivers will still be able to get by on their UK photocard driving licence. However, some drivers might also need an international driving permit (IDP).
An IDP is an official multi-language translation of your driving licence and currently costs £5.50. There are three types of IDP and all can be easily bought from a Post Office. You’ll need your current driving licence and a passport photo when you apply.
An IDP might be needed to drive in some EU countries and Norway if you have:
- A paper licence (no photocard).
- A licence issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man.
If in doubt, check with the embassy of the country you will be driving in. You might even need a different type of IDP for each country you’re visiting, so be sure to check beforehand.
Finally, if you’re driving in a country for a long trip then it’s also worth checking the government IDP advice for that country. For example, you will need an IDP to drive in Belgium for periods longer than six months. Don’t get caught out!
Get a GB sticker
You need to display a GB sticker on the back of your motorhome or campervan when travelling through Europe. And on your trailer if you’re towing one.
For most of the EU you don’t need a separate GB sticker if your number plate already includes the GB identifier on its own or with the Union flag. However, if you’re driving in Spain, Cyprus or Malta – which many of you do – a separate GB sticker is always required.
You will need a separate GB sticker displayed if your number plate has:
- A Euro symbol
- A national flag of England, Scotland or Wales
- No flag or identifier – just numbers and letters only
In view of slightly different requirements across some countries, it’s probably wise to buy and display a GB sticker in any event.
Health insurance while you’re away
If you already have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) then it will remain valid until its expiration date. But only within the EU, not in Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland.
The UK’s EHIC will gradually be replaced by a new UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) which will provide the same access to state medical care within the EU.
The UK government is advising travellers to Europe to obtain travel insurance with health cover. This is of particular importance if you already have a pre-existing medical condition. Whatever your circumstances, it’s well worth consulting the government’s detailed advice on buying travel insurance with the right cover.
Making sure your insurance covers all it needs to is vitally important. That’s why we always advise travellers to speak to their campervan insurance provider before travelling to check their level of cover.
Carry a Green Card
Just as driving in the UK, having the right motorhome or campervan insurance is vital to ensure you’re covered in the event of a breakdown, theft, damage or accident. From now on you will need to carry a physical copy of a so-called ‘Green Card’ whenever you visit Europe as proof of relevant insurance for your vehicle.
Drivers are legally required to carry a physical copy (not electronic) when driving in any EU country (including Ireland), Andorra, Iceland, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland or Liechtenstein. To obtain a Green Card you need to contact your insurer (leave yourself at least six weeks before travel).
They’ll either post you a Green Card or tell you how to download and print one off yourself. Despite the name, a Green Card can now be printed on white paper. You’ll need an extra Green Card if you’re towing another vehicle.
Don’t be tempted to leave home without one. You’ll need to show your Green Card if you’re involved in an accident. You might also be asked to show it at a border crossing or if you’re stopped by the police. If you don’t have a Green Card then you could be accused of driving without insurance, be prosecuted, fined or even have your vehicle seized!
This situation may change in the future as the government is currently working on the UK remaining part of the Green Card-free circulation area.
Will mobile phone roaming charges change?
With our reliance on mobile phones for a whole host of touring activities, it’s disappointing that surcharge-free roaming is no longer guaranteed in the EU. Before travelling, it’s a good idea to check with your network provider to find out about any new roaming charges.
That said, there shouldn’t be any ‘unexpected charges' on your bill when you return. The government has told providers that mobile data charges cannot go above £45 without you knowing.
Once you reach that limit your phone company needs to ask if you want to spend more to continue to use the Internet. However, if you’re relying on your phone for navigation or other essentials it might be difficult to say no and be left without a connection!
Travelling with pets
Many campervan and motorhome owners like to take their four-legged friends on tour with them – they’re part of the family after all! From now on you’ll no longer be able to use your existing pet passport when entering the EU and Northern Ireland. Instead, you’ll need an animal health certificate (AHC).
The government suggests allowing at least four weeks to arrange an AHC and to make sure the correct vaccinations have been performed. There’s more in-depth guidance on the government website.
Be careful stocking up before travel
While it’s unlikely you’ll do a big food shop before travelling over to Europe, it’s still important to be aware of the new rules about taking food and drink into the EU. You’re no longer able to take meat, milk or products containing them with you. There are some limited exceptions, such as for powdered infant milk, infant food, or pet food required for medical reasons.
For travellers returning to the UK, remember you’ll no longer be allowed to bring back unlimited amounts of alcohol, tobacco or other goods. See the UK government website for further information on this.
Changes for business travellers
As well as leisure and tourism, many travellers also combine work or business as part of their European trip. If this sounds like you then as well as the actions all travellers need to take, there are extra actions you’ll need to do.
Business travel can include activities such as travelling for meetings and conferences, providing services, and even touring art or music. Clearly Brexit has changed the rights of UK citizens working in Europe and it is up to you to find out how this affects your individual case.
Protect your European trip with campervan insurance
From wide autobahns to narrow mountain roads, driving through Europe is fun but can be a challenge if you’re not used to it. So always make sure you’ve got adequate insurance cover for your entire trip.
Exploring new places around Europe is the perfect excuse to use your campervan throughout the year. With its range of climates for keen skiers to cool surfers there’s always weather to suit. But this diversity also means you’ll be bound to find yourself in unfamiliar locations and perhaps more vulnerable to accidents or damage.
Using our trusted panel of insurers, the specialist team at Motorhome Protect searches out campervan insurance that is just right for you and your cherished vehicle.
Cover arranged by us can include benefits such as:
- Up to six months cover to complete a self-build conversion
- Cover for vehicles valued up to £150,000
- Cover for camping personal effects up to £3,500
We can also provide quotes for customers with claims and convictions.
Call Motorhome Protect and get a quote for campervan insurance today.
Policy benefits and features offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.