A UK on-line community and information
resource for European motorcaravanners.

 
   
 
European Info - assorted!
 
 
 

EU 'Duty Free':  There is of course no longer any such thing as a duty free allowance when travelling within the EU but there are new guidelines about what you can "reasonably bring back" with you.  There are continuing arguments about the legality of all this but many travellers believe that UK customs are currently using these guideline quantities as 'limits'.  A recent court case has resulted in the cigarette limit being raised from 800 to 3200 but be aware that special conditions still apply in Spain for quantities over 800.

See www.hmce.gov.uk/public/yourcust/yourcust.htm for further info but here is the main gist ...

"You can: Bring back into the UK as much EU duty paid tobacco and alcohol as you like as long as it is for your own use, which includes: • Bringing back goods for your own consumption. • Bringing back gifts for family and friends.

You cannot: Bring back goods for commercial purposes, which includes:  • Bringing back goods for payment, even payment in kind.  • Bringing back goods for friends and family if they are paying you, giving you the cost price or paying for some or all of your travel costs.  • Bringing back goods for re-sale.

If you bring back large quantities of alcohol or tobacco goods and are stopped by Customs you may be asked some basic questions about your trip and purchases and the purposes for which you hold the goods.

This particularly applies if you have with you more than the following amounts

 • 3200 cigarettes

 •  10 litres of spirits

 •  400 cigarillos

 •  90 litres of wine

 •  200 cigars

 •  20 litres of fortified wine

 •  3kg of smoking tobacco

 • 110 litres of beer

These are only guide levels based on European law and Customs do NOT enforce any absolute limits"

"If the Officer is satisfied the goods are being brought into the UK for a commercial purpose, and are not for own use, the goods, along with any vehicle used to transport them, will be liable to seizure and may not be returned."  You have been warned!


Pets:  An complex topic but one well covered by www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/quarantine/pets/ and www.petplanet.co.uk/petplanet/travel/ and www.drive-alive.co.uk/pet-travel.htm 

Volunteer required to write up their own experience so others can get a real hands-on feel of how it's done! 


Camping Cheques + European Guide to Camping and Caravanning in Low Season:  Camping Cheques @ £9.95 bought in advance buy a 'fixed fee', 'go-as-you-please', motorcaravan pitch for 2 people plus hook-up for camping out of high season. Some offer 7 nights for price of 6 too. Refundable if not used. Ferry packages, Free magazine, Colour brochure.  Covers all Europe including Holland/Netherlands and Denmark, even some in Britain, camping on high quality sites.  www.campingcheque.co.uk or Camping Cheque UK, 96 High Street, Tunbridge Wells, Kent. TN1 1YF. Tel: 0870 405 4057 Email enquiries@campingcheque.co.uk

Touring Cheques:  Eurocamp has launched its own 'go-as-you-please' service called Touring Cheque. It's a low cost, low season option offering savings of "up to 55% on 44 top quality sites across France and Spain". Vouchers are £9-75 and cover pitch with electricity for motorcaravan and two adults. Ferry and 7 for 6 packages are offered too.  Hartford Manor, Greenbank Lane, Northwich, Cheshire, CW8 1HW tel: 0870 3667 828 Web: Touring Cheque. email: touringcheque@eurocamp.com see also www.eurocamp.co.uk.


European Fuel Prices Summer 2005:  (Averages in pence / litre)

Country
U/L
Diesel
Country
U/L
Diesel
UK
Austria
Belgium
Czech Republic
Denmark
Estonia
France
Germany
Greece
Holland / NL
Hungary
85.6
69.1
86.9
66.1
84.8
51.3
78.4
80.8
68.9
92.4
77.5
89.7
63.3
73.9
63.7
77.5
54.8
70.1
75.3
60.5
71.6
79.4
Ireland
Italy
Latvia
Luxembourg
Norway
Poland
Portugal
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
USA
70.1
82.7
52.6
69.0
85.1
71.1
76.0
65.3
81.9
66.4
32.0
69.7
75.1
52.6
59.2
77.3
65.7
62.0
61.5
78.0
72.6
34.8

Latvian / Estonian holidays then??!  Cyprus used to be very cheap - info anyone?


France:  See the dedicated France page.

All Countries:  Here is a really useful link to a website listing a huge number of sanistations from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean www.eurocampingcar.com/uk, the /uk version is in English.

Health:  If you are a UK resident you are entitled to any medical treatment which becomes necessary, free or at a reduced cost, when temporarily visiting an EU country, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland. Only treatment provided under the state scheme is covered. However to obtain treatment you will need to take a completed Form E111 with you, which you can get, free of charge, from your nearest post office.  *New: As a result of recent changes to European law a new E111 form has been introduced to replace the old one. If you are planning to travel to the countries concerned during 2005 you should apply for the new E111, as the old ones are only valid until 31st December 2004. See Dept of Health Info.

Germany:  No motorway tolls. Fierce radar traps in some places particularly at the ends of motorways and entering towns or pedestrian zones. Free overnight parking on some parking areas if self contained. Numerous Motorhome Service Points in tourist areas. Look out for Stellplatz and Entsorgungstation.

Did you know you can listen to Forces Radio and TV in English in parts of Germany?  They have 2 channels of radio on 103.00 and 101.60 Mhz. It's possible to listen to British radio all the way throughout the Rheinland and Southern Lower Saxony from Aachen in the south west almost as far as Hamburg or Berlin. You can identify the transmitters by RDS, it reads 'BFBS' You can also watch British TV in that area - on the UK PAL system - but you have to be near a British Garrison. Check out www.bfbs.com.

Useful guides are Der große Reisemobil-Stellplatz-Atlas, Deutschland, Nordband and ADAC Camping-Caravaning-Führer [year] Deutschland/Nordeuropa. (& Südeuropa separately too).  Both are in the 15-19€ region. One source is wohnmobile.net/.  ADAC is the German equivalent of the AA - RAC.

Austrian & Swiss Motorways & Czech Republic:  You need a windscreen sticker called a vignette to travel on these motorways. They can be obtained at the border crossing (customs) and sometimes in the service areas just prior to entering the country. The Swiss rules are "...purchase the motorway vignette in Switzerland at post offices, customs offices, gas stations, garages and cantonal vehicles registration offices and abroad from the Swiss National Tourism Offices, automobile associations, partners of the Deutsche Post AG. The motorway "vignette" is valid from December 1st of the year prior to its designated year until January 31st of the following year.  It is sold for a price of CHF 40 and must be affixed to the vehicle’s windscreen (one "vignette" per vehicle).  Any driver using a toll motorway without a valid "vignette" will be liable to a fine of CHF 100 and at the same time required to pay the CHF 40 price of the "vignette".  For Austria the "vignettes" can be purchased at the border crossings or in petrol stations near the motorways. They are valid for various time lengths such as 1 week, 1 month, 3months, or a year, we don't know the cost at this time.  (Let us know?!

NB New rules for > 3.5t in 2004/5. The Austrian Tourist Board sent me this "All vehicles with a weight of ~more than~ 3.5t must be equipped with an on-board device, the so-called GO-Box. This weight only applies to the vehicle towing the caravan/camper van. The toll system, which does not require the driver to stop or use a certain lane while the toll is collected, has been in operation since January 2004. The system is as simple as can be; it consists of two components visible to the driver - the toll gantries and the on-board units. Drivers are obliged to install the so-called GO-Boxes in their vehicles. The size of the GO-Box is that of cigarette box. It ensures accurate toll collection from inside the vehicle. Communication of the small unit that is mounted on the inside of the windscreen and the toll gantries is based on microwave technology. The GO-Box is available from circa 220 GO-service and sales outlets (mostly Petrol- and Service Stations) in Austria and neighbouring countries. The GO-Box is available for a one-off processing fee of €5 (£3.30) including 20% VAT. The relevant vehicles are then broken down into three categories and toll is calculated on the basis of the number of axles, currently from €0.13 (£0.09) per kilometre. Installation is free, as the driver can easily and quickly mount it him-/herself. The GO-Box is simply glued onto the windscreen with the attached adhesive tape. Tolls are charged electronically; either from a credit stored in the GO-Box (pre-pay) or by deducting the amount easily and conveniently from a debit, credit or petrol card at a later date (post-pay). Safe transmission between GO-Box and toll gantry ensures that tolls are collected reliably. The distance between the GO-Boxes inside the individual vehicles and the toll gantries is short and with sound technology. The system therefore guarantees to register every passage of a vehicle subject to toll. As such, the GO-Box provides a highly effective system in avoiding toll dodging. More details and tariff information can be found on www.go-maut.at This website also offers an online toll calculator. Additionally, you will need a weigh bridge certificate with your vehicle registration documents. You can keep your box until the end of your holiday, it costs €5. Vehicles under 3.5t will only need a toll label for Austrian motorways, which is €7.60 for 10 days and €21.80 for 2 months and can be purchased at service stations close to the Austrian border or sales outlets at the border and is affixed to your windscreen. I hope to have been of help, please do not hesitate to contact us for further information. Wishing you a safe journey through Austria!"  Anyway watch out it'll be here soon - and note that bit about needing a weighbridge certificate!

Italy:  "Campeggio in Italia" the Italian Tourist Club publication lists all sites in Italy and mentions urban parking spots for overnight stops for motorhomes. Available mail order from Stanfords bookshop Tel: 020 7240 3611.  (we'd like to hear about good web sites for Italian information).


Getting Gas / LPG in Europe:  Unfortunately there's virtually no standardisation of LPG bottles and fittings in Europe. Some motorcaravanners travel with assorted bottles and/or adaptors to suit.  If visiting several countries, especially in the south, you may have to consider some of this equipment as disposable otherwise you'll finish up carrying empty bottles from the UK, France, Spain and Italy perhaps even more than one type from some countries to say nothing of assorted regulators!  It has become slightly easier if you have a newer post-2004 'van because the remote wall-mounted regulator allows you to simply change a pigtail or add an adapter to a 21.8LH pigtail to accommodate almost any European bottle.

In Spain LPG can be quite difficult.  You'll see orange butane cylinders all over the place for domestic use but you are not allowed to use these in motorhomes. Spain has strict laws about selling gas to non-householders and for 12kg Cepsa or Repsol bottles you need a contract from a gas agent which can be difficult.  Go instead to a Cepsa petrol station and get a silver 13kg bottle for about 17€ which includes a 10€ deposit (at time of writing).  You'll also need a local regulator if you have a pre-2004 system, this is often bought at a hypermarket or a ferreteria.  This only applies to the first bottle, once you have the first one you simply exchange it for another full one and use the same regulator.  One trick is to go to a second-hand shop and buy a second-hand empty bottle, then go to the gas supplier and trade it for a full one.

In Italy propane and butane seem to be readily available from gas agents. They are so cheap you can throw one away when you leave.  For example a 12kg bottle deposit + gas + adjustable regulator for about £12!

Gas Hoses & Adapters (BUY from our shop - click)In France both butane and propane are readily available at service stations and hypermarkets. As in the UK you pay a deposit on the bottle and sign a form to agree that it still belongs to the gas company, and pay for the gas itself.  Deposits vary but you may pay 30-35€.  You'll need a different pigtail and/or adapter/s for newer 'vans or a French regulator for older 'vans. This is not usually on sale where you buy the bottles but may be found in a hardware shop or 'bricolage' or hypermarket at maybe 9-10€.  Then you exchange your empty bottle for a full one at any sales point - as in the UK.  Again as here, there are different brands with identical fittings but they will not exchange each others bottles. (where UK brands are swappable they are between companies in the same group).  If you don't want a big 13kg bottle the French also do a 6kg black plastic 'Le Cube' which is very convenient. However it needs yet another different adaptor/regulator!

In Portugal in LPG is reasonably priced with 13 kg GALP Propane bottles fairly common. Camping Gaz (907) prices vary greatly and this is often an expensive way to buy gas, many long term campers seem to have one local bottle and a 907 as a back up when the larger bottle runs out. On the Algarve there are a couple of outlets that will exchange a Spanish Repsol bottle for a Portuguese bottle.

In Germany there is a very similar system to Britain but I believe the 'mobile' bottles have additional safety features.  6Kg and 11Kg sizes seem to be the most popular propane supplies.  The 11Kg bottle is smaller than our 13Kg at 305 mm dia (which is the reason why a number of German motorhomes have gas cupboards too small for 2xUK 13s!).  It is reported as possible to get these refilled in the UK at some depots but we don't know about the reverse situation.  Adaptors are available for German fittings to convert the pigtails to suit the bottles sold in other countries including the UK - one of the reasons some importers keep the German regulators and add 21.8LH to UK-POL adapters.

Gaslow Refillable Cylinders (BUY at our shop - click)LPG Tanks & Refillable Cylinders:  Fitting user-refillable tanks is one way round this mess.  They are relatively expensive, anything from £150 to more than £1000 for a substantial complete system.  There are several types; fixed torpedo or doughnut tanks with vapour take off; refillable 6Kg and 11Kg Gaslow bottles that look very similar to conventional gas bottles, to user refill these in most European countries you must have a fixed installation with a fixed filler point and an auto-shut-off system.  You can of course use just one bottle since it doesn't need to be empty to be topped up.  Auto-shut-off at 80% fill seems only to be available on steel bottles which has led to their dominance.  Once fitted the gas is cheaper, typically 40p/l at a heating gas supplier and 50-60p/l at a service station compared with anything up to 150p/l or so pre-bottled from Calor and others in the UK.  European prices differ.  There is very little LPG refilling in Spain but it is there if you look for it - often in industrial locations rather than garages - a great resource for Spain is a privately created Google map guide that you can see on Google Maps here ... http://tinyurl.com/5fwfnh this shows nearly 50 entries for 2010.  A guide to European refilling can be found at www.drivelpg.co.uk/filling_up.php and a printed European guide downloadable from http://new.eurogasauto.egm.it/ as a PDF - about €20 in 2009. They have on-line searches too. Do look out for the language choices - down thre right hand side last time we looked.

Chunnel Rules Changed:  "Eurotunnel, the market leader for cross-Channel travel, has announced that caravans, campervans, motorhomes and other recreational vehicles fitted with LPG tanks for the purpose of heating, lighting, cooking or refrigeration will be able to use the shuttle service from Folkestone to Calais/Coquelles. ... Customers travelling with vehicles fitted with LPG tanks for domestic services have to adhere to a few simple conditions: The (fixed) tank must be part of the standard equipment of the vehicle. The maximum capacity of the tank should not exceed 93 litres (47kg). The tank/vehicle must be fitted with a capacity gauge. The tank must not be filled to more than 80% of its capacity (73 litres) All valves must be in the 'off' position."  You still cannot take an LPG Powered vehicle through the Channel Tunnel.

Camping Gaz is a very expensive way to use gas but it is the only format that's available all over Europe you can swap your UK bottle at large numbers of camping shops, supermarkets or campsites. However the biggest cylinder is only 6kg and it is very expensive. For comparison a Cepsa garage gave twice the gas for a quarter of the price. 

Many of the facts above were compiled by gleaning from other travellers' reports.  Although not individually credited I'm grateful to all of them, and indeed to all who share their experiences for the benefit of others.

 

 
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