If you’re camping abroad with a car or with a caravan, you need to be aware of the vehicle laws in Europe – although, of course, just to make it confusing, they differ from country to country. That means you’ll need to research the particular area where you’re going, but there are a number of things that are pretty much universal.
The main thing to remember is that, with the exception of a few places in the world, you’ll be driving on the right, not the left, and you need to be especially attentive about that, particularly when turning – it’s all too easy to automatically go into the wrong lane. Most of the time, simply by following traffic, you should have no problem, but be sure to leave ample room between yourself and the vehicle in front – for example, in France you have to leave a 50 metre gap.
Driving Licence and Documentation in Europe
If you have one of the newer pink photo licences, then you’ll have no problem in Europe. If you don’t, then you might want to consider upgrading, or at the very least obtaining an International Driving Permit, as some countries won’t accept the older style licences.
You should also have adequate breakdown cover. Check with your motoring organisation, but you’ll find that your standard coverage doesn’t extend outside the UK, so be certain to purchase what’s right for you needs. Similarly, buy travel insurance, and also obtain your European Health Insurance Card, which will mean you’ll get emergency health cover (but it only covers that) in the event you need it. Carry all documents (including insurance certificate and registration) with you.
What to Take with You
Several countries require you to carry a reflective high-visibility jacket in case you have to work on your vehicle, and others require warning triangles if you break down. As well as a tool kit and first aid kit (compulsory in some countries), ensure you have a fire extinguisher, spare bulbs for your car, and either Euro plates or a GB sticker for your car (and caravan, if you take one). For Spain, you’ll need extending mirrors if you’re towing a caravan.
If you’re going in winter, several countries insist on you having either chains for your wheels or special studded tyres that can grip in the snow. Apart from being the law, these are also a very good idea, offering far more control on snowy and icy roads.
Wherever you go, since you’re driving on the other side of the road you’ll need to have your headlights adjusted, so the beam doesn’t dazzle oncoming drivers. This is easily accomplished with beam deflectors or headlamp converters, which you can buy in many shops, with full instructions for use.
One thing to be aware of is the fact that Calor Gas isn’t available in continental Europe. That means you’ll need an adaptor to be able to use Campingaz, which is easily obtainable.
If you’re taking a pet abroad with you, then there’s no quarantine in force if you’re travelling in Europe, but you will need to have the animal checked by a vet up to 48 hours before your return to test for worms and ticks.
Many countries require you to have your lights on in the daytime when driving, and most countries prohibit the use of radar detectors, so be very aware of speed limits! Several countries also insist on brake lights on trailer tents, certainly if you’re travelling on high-speed roads.
Every country has a tourism board based in that country, or at least an online presence, and they will be able to inform you of the exact rules and regulations for their country, so make sure you’re informed and aware before you go.
For Warmer Climates
If you’re in places like Italy, Spain, or around the Mediterranean, where temperatures can soar, remember that nights cool off sharply, so don’t just have tee shirts and shorts, pack some trousers and long sleeved shirts and a light sweater or jacket, too. It goes without saying that you’ll need strong sun protection – possibly even factor 50 – and you should use it liberally. Insect repellent is also a good idea.
If you’re venturing into less charted regions, or where you’re unsure about sanitation, pack some water purification tablets. It’s better to have them and use them rather than end up with dysentery! Similarly, you should check with your GP as to whether you need any specific injections for diseases.