Van Life in Europe: A Starter Checklist for UK Travellers

Wow, can you believe it’s already been a whole year of us living on the road and exploring Europe? Time flies when you’re having fun! To celebrate this amazing milestone 🎉 I’ve decided to compile all the helpful information you need for your European adventure into one handy post.

With the freedom to explore at your own pace and the ability to avoid crowds, van life is the perfect way to see everything Europe has to offer. But before you hit the road, there are a few things you need to know, especially with Brexit impacting travel regulations. From packing essentials to navigating pet travel requirements, we’ve got it all covered. Let’s dive in and make sure you’re fully prepared for your European van adventure! 🚐✨

🇬🇧 Traveling from the UK:

  1. Check your passport: Since the UK left the European Union, passport rules have changed. You will need at least six months left on your passport to travel to most EU countries.
  2. Check your driving license: UK driving licenses will still be valid for driving in the EU, but if you are travelling outside the EU you may need an International Driving Permit (IDP) in some countries too.
  3. Make sure you have the right van insurance: You will need to make sure your policy covers you for driving in Europe for an extended period of time.
  4. Download the Park4Night app: This app shows you free and paid parking spots across Europe, suitable for van camping.
  5. Download Google Translate: Make sure you download the languages you will need so you can use a translator even if there is no signal.
  6. Check relevant water tap and gas adapters: These might differ in each country. Make sure you have the right ones for the countries you will be visiting.
  7. Withdraw Euros: Many towns in Europe still operate on a cash-only system.
  8. UK sticker: If you’re driving a vehicle with a UK registration, you’ll need to display a UK sticker on the back of your vehicle to indicate your country of origin.
  9. First aid kit: It’s always a good idea to carry a basic first aid kit when travelling.
  10. Warning triangle: In many European countries, it’s a legal requirement to carry a warning triangle in your vehicle. This can be used to alert other drivers if your vehicle breaks down or is involved in an accident.
  11. Hi-Vis jacket: Similarly, in some countries, it’s a legal requirement to carry a hi-vis jacket in your vehicle. This can be worn in the event of an emergency to make yourself more visible to other drivers.
  12. Environmental stickers: Some cities and regions in Europe have implemented low-emission zones. If you plan to drive through these areas, you may need to purchase an environmental sticker to show that your vehicle meets certain emissions standards.
  13. Toll fees: Many highways and bridges in Europe require payment of toll fees. Make sure to research the toll fees and payment methods in the countries you plan to visit.
  14. Winter tires and snow chains: In some European countries, it’s a legal requirement to use winter tires or snow chains during winter or in specific weather conditions.
  15. Breakdown Insurance: While basic van insurance may cover driving in Europe, you may want to consider additional insurance coverage for breakdowns or accidents.

🐶 Ready to travel to Europe with your furry friend? Here are some tips to make sure your journey is smooth and stress-free:

  • No more pet passports! After Brexit, a pet passport issued in the UK is no longer valid for travel to the EU or Northern Ireland. Instead, you’ll need to get an Animal Health Certificate (AHC) from your vet. It’s valid for four months and includes your pet’s vaccination and microchip information, as well as a physical description of your pet.
  • Microchip and vaccinations: Make sure your pet has a compliant microchip and a rabies vaccination at least 21 days before your travel date.
  • Muzzle up: In most public transport and many public places across the EU, a muzzle is required for dogs. So, it’s important to properly muzzle-train your dog before embarking on your journey. If your furry friend gets anxious during the trip, a calming spray can help. We’ve personally used one for our rescue dog, and it worked wonders!
  • Check the AHC: Your pet’s AHC must be issued within 10 days of travel and include accurate information about your pet’s vaccinations, microchip, and identity. Each country has its own requirements for pet travel, so make sure to research the requirements for the countries you’ll be travelling to and from.
  • Find an authorised vet: Not all vets can issue an AHC, so make sure to find one that is authorised. It can take some time to find one with availability, so start looking well in advance. Facebook groups like “Animal Health Certificate” or “AHC – Animal Health Certificate U.K.” can be helpful resources to connect with other pet owners and learn about their experiences with different veterinarians.
  • Check with the ferry company: If you’re travelling by ferry, make sure to check the specific requirements of the company you’re travelling with. Your pet may need to stay in your vehicle or a designated pet area on board.

💡 Here are a few tips to help you ensure your AHC is in order:

  1. Check the expiration date: Make sure your pet’s AHC is valid for the duration of your trip. Some countries require a waiting period before your pet can travel, so plan accordingly.
  2. Check the vaccinations: Your pet’s AHC should include proof of current vaccinations, including rabies. Make sure the dates are up to date and the information is accurate.
  3. Check the microchip information: Your pet’s microchip information should match the information on their AHC. If the information is not up to date, make sure to update it with your veterinarian.
  4. Check the pet’s identity: Your pet’s AHC should include a physical description of your pet, including their breed, colour, and any distinguishing marks.

UK to France by Ferry

🇫🇷 UK to France by Ferry:

First things first, make sure to book your ticket. Prices can vary from a modest £80 to a steep £300, depending on the size of your van and the time of year.

On the day of departure, don’t be fashionably late – arrive with plenty of time to spare. You don’t want to miss the boat and have to walk the plank! When you get to the port, the staff will want to check your ticket and passport, so have those ready. And if you’re travelling with a furry friend, sorry, but they’ll have to stay in the van – no barking on deck!

Once you’re on board, it’s time to kick back and enjoy the journey. Here, expect to see the passport control line. Just take a deep breath and remember, all good things come to those who wait. Bon voyage, mon ami!

Here are some of the major ferry companies that operate between the UK and France:

  • Brittany Ferries: Brittany Ferries operates from several ports in the UK, including Portsmouth, Plymouth, and Poole. Their destinations in France include Caen, Cherbourg, Le Havre, and St. Malo. The duration of the journey can range from around 5-9 hours, depending on the route.
  • DFDS Seaways: DFDS Seaways operates from Dover to Calais, with a journey time of around 90 minutes.
  • P&O Ferries: P&O Ferries operates from Dover to Calais and from Hull to Zeebrugge and Rotterdam. The journey time from Dover to Calais is around 90 minutes.
  • Eurotunnel: The Eurotunnel Shuttle operates from Folkestone to Calais via the Channel Tunnel. The journey time is around 35 minutes.

UK to Spain by Ferry

🇪🇸 UK to Spain by Ferry:

¡Olé! First things first, book your ferry ticket and be prepared to pay anywhere between £250 to £800 for a one-way ticket, depending on the ferry company, route, season, and the size of your van. Best to book your ticket in advance as you will pay a lot more for last minute tickets.

On the day of departure, arrive at the port with plenty of time to spare. You’ll need to show your ticket and ID to the staff, so make sure you have everything ready to avoid any mishaps. And if you’re travelling with a furry friend, they may have to hang out in a designated pet area on board unless your for yourself a pet-friendly cabin. However, be aware that pet-friendly cabins are in high demand and often need to be booked well in advance, sometimes up to 6-12 months ahead of time.

Here are some ferry routes and operators to consider for traveling from the UK to Spain:

  • Brittany Ferries: Brittany Ferries operates a ferry service from Portsmouth to Santander and Bilbao in northern Spain. The journey time is around 24 hours.
  • LD Lines: LD Lines operates a ferry service from Poole to Santander, with a journey time of around 24 hours.
  • P&O Ferries: P&O Ferries operates a ferry service from Portsmouth to Bilbao, with a journey time of around 24 hours.
  • Euroferry: Euroferry operates a ferry service from Portsmouth to Le Havre in France, and then a drive-on, drive-off ferry from Le Havre to Gijón in northern Spain. The journey time is around 24 hours.

If you found this post helpful, don’t forget to leave a reply and let me know! And if you have any questions, please feel free to leave them below in the comments or reach out to me on Instagram or Youtube.

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