DRIVING

 Modern commercial chassis are very car-like to drive but this can create a false sense of security. Most motorhomes have a higher centre of gravity than cars, consequently they are much more prone to body roll on corners, so brake earlier on approach to ensure steady progress through the bend.

 Cab-over models (a bedroom located in a pod above the cab) are more unstable due to their being higher than they are wide and are subject to more body roll, especially if there is considerable weight stored on the over-cab bunk plus they are more prone to buffeting from side winds.

Be aware of the vehicles blind spots and exercise caution accordingly.

Consider having your travelling companion see you back when reversing using an agreed and understood set of hand signals. A pair of hand held radios are worth considering, having first checked the frequencies they use are legally permissible in the country you’re visiting.

 Do be aware of the exact height, width and length of your motorhome. Measure the height before loading and with near-empty tanks to ensure the height noted is the maximum. Adding fuel, fresh water and cargo will cause the suspension to go down, so this would not be the figure to use.

Be aware of the speed limits that apply to your vehicle.

 Don’t drive in to busy car parks unless you can be sure of getting back out again.

Don’t drive under a garage forecourt canopy without checking its height.

Know which side of the vehicle your filler cap is located.

Take extra care when filling the vehicle with fuel, as to fill a diesel vehicle with petrol could prove to be a very costly mistake indeed.

Travel with only the amount of fresh water that you require for your planned journey as the addition weight of fuel and water will have an adverse effect on performance, stability and fuel economy (1 litre of water weights 1kg).

 EUROPEAN DRIVING

Carry the motorhomes original’ V5C (logbook), MOT certificate (if relevant) and insurance certificate, full driving licence & breakdown policy – police or customs could ask for them.

Carry your passport and EHIC card.

You must have beam deflectors fitted on UK specified vehicles.

Carry a warning triangle (two if in Spain), first-aid kit and one high-viz jacket per occupant in the event of a breakdown, these must be accessible to be put on before leaving the vehicle.

Have a regulation GB sticker unless your vehicle has the EU-style number plate (blue panel with 12 stars).

Carry a fire extinguisher, spare bulb kit and consider snow chains if appropriate.

Not all garages will accept credit cards, so you may need to keep some cash handy. We keep one hundred euros 'emergency cash' in an envelope in the safe just in case a card is refused for payment.

Many European motorways, bridges and tunnels charge a toll for usage, which can add up to £100 to a journey. Check before a journey and have cash or credit cards to hand. It is often possible to find a toll-free alternative if time is not of the essence.

Alcohol limits are much lower on the continent, typically 0.05pc alcohol in the blood stream. Penalties are often severe, including withdrawing a visitor’s driving licence, or even imprisonment. Do not drink and drive. 

TOWING

I number of Brits when travelling down through France to Spain will tow behind them a small car to be used as a run about once they reach their destination. Products to assist in this include www.caratow.com . The idea is a good one, however in Europe this method is ILLEGAL. No matter what the spivs in the sales office tell you it is ILLEGAL. Many get away with it, but some do not, resulting in an on-the-spot fine and the motorhome driver's partner getting the job of driving the car seperately to the destination, or it gets left on the side of the road - your problem.

The technicality of it all is this:

In the UK this towing method is legal because the mechanics of the towing method is such that it is viewed that the car has been adapted in to a braked trailer and therefore can be towed with the appropriate speed restrictions for towing. However on the Continent this method of towing is NOT recognised, it is not considered a trailer, therefore the car MUST be mounted on a trailer and towed in the conventional manner. And if you are unlucky enough to have an accident on the Continent, and your insurer finds out you were towing in an illegal manner - good luck with your claim!

SNOWCHAINS

 Austria:          Snow chains should be fitted to at least two drive tyres on snow covered roads.

Belgium:        Snow chains should only be used on snow and ice covered roads.

Finland:         Snow chains must be carried in the vehicle, but should only be used on snow and ice covered roads.

France:          Snow chains must be carried in the vehicle and used according to relevant road signs. You must have chains on above 1400m, it is the law.

Germany:       Snow chains are required on snow covered roads. Chains must be fitted to drive axles.

Norway:         Commercial vehicles exceeding 3500kg are required to carry at least 3 chains, of which one must fit on the front (steering) wheel and 2 must fit on the drive wheels. Combination vehicles (truck and trailer, where both exceed 3500kg) are required to carry at least 7 snow chains on the vehicle; one on the front wheel, 4 on the drive wheels and 2 on the trailer.

Italy:                Snow chains must be carried in the vehicle and used according to local road signs.

Switzerland:  Snow chains are required on roads marked with the sign ‘Chains a                                    neige obligatoires’.

Sweden:        Snow chains are recommended in Sweden. 

www.spikesspiders.co.uk  Very expensive but easy to put on. 

MOTORWAY TOLLS

Croatia, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain

 Motorways are paid “as used”. Toll prices can be obtained by doing a route plan on www.viamichelin.co.uk if you put a tick in the box next to ‘caravan’ the route planner will work out your tolls costs (ticking the caravan will also work out the costs for a motorhome).

 Portugal

From October 2010 some toll free motorways changed to a system of electronic collection. For further information please see www.visitportugal.com and www.ctt.pt

 VIGNETTES

 Austria

 If your vehicle weighs under 3.5t you need to purchase a vignette, if your vehicle weighs over 3.5t you need to hire a “Go-Box”. Further information www.asfinag.at (click on tolls) Caravans/trailers do not need an additional vignette.

 Czech Republic

 If you car/motorhome weighs under 3.5t you need to purchase a vignette, if over 3.5t you need to hire a “Premid” box. Further information www.motorway.cz/stickers and www.premid.cz caravans/trailers do not need an additional vignette.

Hungary

Vehicles/outfits up to 7.5t need to purchase a vignette. Further information www.motorway.hu

Slovenia

If your car/motorhome weighs under 3.5t you need to purchase a vignette, if over 3.5t then motorways are paid as used via a toll system. Further information www.dars.si Caravans/trailers do not need an additional vignette.

Switzerland

Vehicles that weigh under 3.5t need a vignette, (if you are towing a trailer or caravan you will need to purchase two) vehicles that weigh over 3.5t need to pay a daily road tax with a minimum charge of CHF25. For further information and to order vignettes see: www.myswitzerland.com For more information on the daily road tax see www.ezv.admin.ch

SPEED LIMITS

FRANCE

Motorhome with a GVW less than 3.5t: Motorways 130kph, Dual carriageways 110kph, single carriageways 80kph ( a recent reduction from 90kph). In adverse weather conditions or rain these limits reduce to 110/100/80.

Motorhome with a GVW greater than 3.5t and not towing: 110kph/100kph/80kph.

Vehicle towing: If your vehicle is over 3500kg MAM, or if the combined MAM’s of you vehicle and any trailer exceed 3500kg (virtually all motorhomes towing anything), then different speed limits apply in France.

Specifically: 80kph  on autoroutes, whether toll or not, and on dual carriageways with a central reservation.

80kph (49.68mph) elsewhere, including dual carriageways with no central reservation and roads painted with alternate overtaking lanes – unless subject to a lower limit.

50kph (31.05mph) in built-up areas, except the Paris peripherique, where the limit is 80kph.

In fog with visibility of 50 metres or less, an absolute limit of 50kph applies on all roads, without exception.

There is no upward tolerance on French speed limits, the limits are absolute. French police with radar guns hide! Oncoming motorists will usually flash headlights to warn others of radar traps.

France also requires an approved breathalyser be carried, so you need to carry at least two because once it has been used the vehicle does not comply if it is not replaced. These can be purchased on ferries or at Eurotunnel or from AlcoSense, made in the UK to French standards. A twin pack costs £4.99 www.alcosense.com (although this rule was intended to become law it never was and is therefore not enforced – yet)

During France’s August grand vacance, be prepared for traffic gridlock. Here its Bison Futé traffic system comes in useful, pinpointing trouble spots and offering alternative routes. This can be checked before departure online or as an iPhone app.

The motorway operator has extended automatic tolling via the Liber-t automated system to UK motorists. You fix a Sanef Tolling télépéage (now emovis     https://www.emovis-tag.co.uk/ ) tag behind your rear-view mirror and payment is automatically collected direct from a UK bank account. This is what we use and I would never go back to rummaging for cash and stretching out the window to feed the machine.

SPAIN

In one-way streets in many Spanish cities, you can only park on the side of the road with uneven numbers on uneven days of the month, and on the evens side on even days. 

NAVIGATION

Use Satnav as a useful tool; don’t follow it blindly when on unfamiliar territory. Supplement its information with a good old fashioned book of road maps.

In France it is illegal to use a Satnav or other device capable of detecting speed cameras and this facility must be disabled. 

ROUTES

Accidents and other problems are much less likely, according to the AA, if you plan your routes carefully before you set off, and become familiar with the local layout and road rules.

Although many speed limits may seem higher, local rules differ.