When it comes to driving long distances in your motorhome, taking regular breaks to avoid driver fatigue is essential, and familiarising yourself with your route and the rules of the road when taking your motorhome abroad can help to ensure your safe journey.
Here, our motorhome insurance experts have put together a guide of the legal requirements when driving your motorhome abroad through the different countries of Europe and what you’ll need to take with you to make sure you’re in line with the law and stay covered by your motorhome insurance.
Your motorhome abroad in Europe
Whichever vehicle you are driving in Europe, driving without due caution to the legal requirements of the country you are in can invalidate your motorhome insurance, and with the requirements changing as you drive through each of the countries in Europe – some of which you will pass through within the course of just a few short hours – double checking the law in every single country you plan to drive in, as well as those you may have to divert through in case of emergency, is an essential part of your holiday planning.
Keeping to the speed limits
While driving your motorhome abroad through Europe, speed limits vary from country to country as well as by road type. For many of the European countries the speed limit on built-up roads is 50kmh, while for most motorhomes weighing more than 3.5 tonnes motorway speeds can be as low as 50kmh in Gibraltar, to 110kmh in Portugal. You should also be aware of other motorway restrictions, such as the fact that in Belgium, vehicles weighing more than 3.5 tonnes are not permitted to drive in the left lane on roads with more than three lanes. So, while in Belgium your speed limit on a motorway is 74mph/120kph, in the majority of countries, including some of those bordering Belgium, the speed limit is reduced to 50mph/80kph on motorways.
Taking the right documentation
When driving your motorhome abroad through Europe you must carry your UK driving licence with you at all times. In Europe there is no need to carry an International Driving Permit but if you are driving through Europe to go further afield, you will need one for non EU countries. Your insurance documentation should also be carried with you, and it is worth checking your cover with your motorhome insurance company before you set off.
When it comes to your motorhome insurance, third party cover is compulsory across Europe and for many countries it is also recommended that you have a green card – the proof that your insurance covers the minimum requirements for the country in which you are driving.
Some European countries will also require you to purchase special tax for your motorhome to travel on their motorways, for example, in Austria if your vehicle is under 3.5 tonnes you need to buy and display a toll sticker, called a vignette, to prove payment, while motorhomes must have a ‘GO Box’ fitted by Velcro to their windscreen which will measure the distance you have travelled and charge you accordingly.
Your motorhome abroad and the equipment you’ll need
As with speed limits, the equipment you are required to carry within your campervan varies greatly from country to country in Europe.
Here we have listed some of the equipment you’ll need to take with you, and whether these are required while driving through the main countries on the Continent*.
This is required in every country you may drive through, and in Croatia and Spain, you will need to carry two.
First aid kit
While in some countries these are recommended rather than required, a first aid kit is a good idea no matter where you’re driving. Carrying a first aid kit is a requirement when driving in Austria, Croatia, France, Germany and Greece.
You’ll need to carry a reflective jacket if driving in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain.
Carrying a fire extinguisher is recommended in Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland.
When you’re driving in Austria, Croatia, Italy and Spain you are required to carry spare headlamp bulbs, while in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland these are also recommended.
Wherever you are driving on the Continent, a nationality sticker displayed on your vehicle is a requirement.
In Austria, you’ll need to purchase a motorway tax sticker, known as a vignette. And for vehicles over 3.5 tonnes you’ll need a ‘Go Box’. These are available at some petrol stations, post offices or in ÖAMTC offices.
In Croatia it is worth noting that dipped headlights should be used at all times.
In France you’ll also need to carry your own breathalyser test.
When driving on snow covered roads in France, you’ll need to fit snow tyres marked M&S, and in Germany winter tyres are also compulsory during snowy and icy conditions.
In Italy snow tyres or chains may be required in winter in some provinces. Plus, any overhanging loads, such as bike racks, need to have red and white marker boards attached.
In Spain it is a requirement to carry a spare tyre and if you wear glasses, you should also carry a spare set. Again, any overhanging loads, such as bike racks, need to have red and white marker boards attached.
In Switzerland, as in Austria, a motorway tax sticker called a vignette needs to be bought, available from some petrol stations, in post offices or in customs offices). Motorhomes over 3.5 tonnes are required to pay a heavy road tax every day that they’re in the country.
Researching your holiday – staying safe on the roads
Our guide offers just a small selection of the rules when driving abroad in the countries of Europe, and researching your route and the rules of each country you drive in before you travel is vital for your safety, to ensure that your motorhome insurance is valid, and for your holiday enjoyment.
*Correct at time of writing.