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Navigating the Paperwork to take your RV to Europe

| Updated Feb 21, 2017

People have been asking me what all is involved in shipping your RV to Europe, and the answer is a lot – of paperwork. I've been noodling all over North America for six and a half years, and the most paperwork I've ever had to do is find Fiona's rabies vaccine documentation. Going to Europe is a little more complicated than that. Let me cover the broad categories for you, and tell you where I am with these preparations.


Navigating the Paperwork to take your RV to Europe 1
Our last trip, ten years ago, was simple – two weeks in a rented car.

First of all, the question is how long we're allowed to stay. The Roadtrek in US emissions and safety trim and a Florida plate can stay in the Schlengen Area (the EU, more or less) for six months of any calendar year, but we as tourists are only allowed to stay for three months in, three months out unless we get a long term visa issued by one of the countries. We're going down to the French consulate soon for an in-person interview to apply for one. We'll have to show adequate income, lodging, health insurance, and a bunch of other stuff to convince the French authorities that we're the type of people they want there. The lodging part is tricky – normally they want to see a lease or property ownership, I'm going to do some fancy footwork with my Roadtrek title and a story about how we'll stay in various RV spots. I'll tell you how well this gambit works out. Without a long-term visa we'll have to go to England for three months in mid-summer, and spend only three months total in the spring and fall on the continent, where we'd rather be.

Another limiting factor is Sharon's green card – you can only be out of the US for 180 days before the Customs and Border Patrol people start making noise about you abandoning your residency here. That would be an ugly mess. She's had a green card for about fifty years, but rules are rules, so we will be touching down back here 179 days after we leave.

Navigating the Paperwork to take your RV to Europe 2
Sharon says she has a deep spiritual connection with French cows. I think they were just hungry.

We'll need insurance – health insurance for us, and vehicle insurance for the Roadtrek, plus shipping insurance. GeoBlue works with Blue Cross policyholders to extend their coverage overseas for a reasonable rate, so that's what we're doing. You don't need a sky-high policy coverage limit – if either of us gets that sick, we'll come home anyway. I have two quote requests for liability and collision insurance on the Roadtrek and will be picking one of them soon, it'll probably be about $2000 for six months. Shipping insurance is 9/10 of one percent of declared value each way, which is another big wad of cash, but shipper's liability is limited to $500, and our Roadtrek is worth a lot more than that to us.

Navigating the Paperwork to take your RV to Europe 3
I actually found the Grande Corniche, the high road to Monaco. Traffic in Nice was hairy.

Shipping is the easy part, we are working with SeaBridge, who will ship it from Baltimore to Antwerp for about $6000 round trip. It's on the boat for two weeks, but you have to get it there five days early and pick it up two days after it lands, so three weeks total each way. We'll be flying over, which is normally not a hassle, but we're flying with Fiona the Fearless Kitty in-cabin, so we're negotiating all the restrictions, carrier dimensions, and fees. American Airlines doesn't do in-cabin on transatlantic flights, so we will go Delta or Air France. Fiona will be very, very happy to see the Roadtrek when we land. Fiona will also be armed to the teeth with paperwork from our vet here, plus a European microchip, all of which are required to import pets into the EU.

Navigating the Paperwork to take your RV to Europe 4
And, we got to Chateau Cande of Edward and Wallis fame. Sharon was ecstatic.

I hope I'm not forgetting anything – oh, internet and TV. We will have a SkyFree dish and receiver which will pick up English language programming in most of western Europe, and the European equivalent of a Verizon datacard, which will work all over the continent and give us the 30 gigs a month or so we use – for a fee. We also have to get some things like battery chargers which work on 240 volt supplies, plus a European spec TV, but that's just nuisance money. And I'm swapping out the toilet for a cassette toilet, since RV dumps in Europe are a different system entirely.

This is a lot of work. Of course, it was a lot of work to get ready to fulltime, but it all paid off handsomely, and we're fairly sure this European trip will be the adventure of a lifetime. As Jim Hammill would say, you don't want to be lying there in the nursing home wishing you had done this or that while you were able.

We'll be the ones in the nursing home with the big grins on our faces.

RV Lifestyle

Published on 2017-02-21

30 Responses to “Navigating the Paperwork to take your RV to Europe”

May 30, 2017at3:32 pm, John s said:

Hi. Question for the group. I’m a US citizen and my trip plan is to have an RV available to me in Europe for 2- 3 years. I’d go back and forth from the US and use the RV in Europe from 6-10 months per year. If I buy a class B in the US and ship it to Europe, how can I get around the 6 month limitation on having a US tag/ registration on the road in Europe? I gather there is a 6 month limitation. If ignore this formality, what are the consequences in terms of crossing boarders in Europe and on insurance matters?

May 29, 2017at12:41 pm, Leslie Lindeman said:

Would love to be in contact with others planning to ship to Europe next year.

May 29, 2017at12:28 pm, Leslie Lindeman said:

Were you able to get the French visa? We are planning a similar trip and need all the help we can get with all the logistics. Really appreciate your sharing all this info.

April 18, 2017at8:02 pm, Heiner Biedermann said:

Ok, I have all the information together to ship our Mini-Van to Europe: shipping costs, broker costs, liability insurance in Europe, etc. One thing is missing getting details on how this works at the ports. Take Baltimore: taking the van into the restricted harbour (how?), leaving it there … now what. How do I get back to the hotel?
Same for the destination terminal. In our case, likely Antwerp, Belgium. How do we get to the terminal (car rental?), how can we get into the terminal with our rental (if needed) to pick-up the van?

Anyone has done this before and can give us detailed experiences/recommendations?

The devil is in these details …

April 06, 2017at5:04 pm, John s said:

I’m embarking on a very similar trip early 2018. I’m semi-retired, 55, and have been traveling North America fulltime in a fifth wheel rig since mid 2014. I’m going to buy a used Class B in the US, modify it for Europe, etc., then head to Europe early next year. My goal is to leave the van in Europe for several years, then shipping it back to the US. Since I have no Class B now, I’m also evaluating the option to buy a motorhome in the Netherlands using a sale/ buy back program. No matter what vehicle, I’m committed to this trip and am in early planning. Shipping seems to make more sense, because the sale/ buy back programs get expensive over numerous years. I’d likely dispose of the Class B after the European tour ends and would keep my other rig, which is my “home”. Your investigative and reporting skills make your blog so useful. I was happy to find your blog and hope to learn from you, and possibly buy you dinner over there somewhere 🙂 I couldn’t believe when I just found it, that you were undertaking a very similar trip at this current time. Wow!!!

May 29, 2017at12:30 pm, Leslie Lindeman said:

We are on the same journey, John s. Wonder if we could communicate directly as we gather the necessary information. Not sure if I can give my email address here though. sunnyharvy at gmail

May 30, 2017at2:22 pm, John s said:

Hi Leslie, I’ll email you. Please look for a yahoo email coming in. Thanks

February 28, 2017at12:01 am, Susan Adame Artist said:

We will all be living vicariously on this trip! Yes, you and Sharon will have some big grins on this trip with your home just steps away!

February 27, 2017at2:23 pm, Colleen Gosling said:

Another thought is do what we do – store your vehicle in Europe and do several trips (as we do in the US) – Europe is too big to do in 6 months and you will miss so much! We spend 90 days allowed in the US at a time and return again having relocated the RV to where we want to go next. Less mileage, less hassle, more time to enjoy the area:) You can reduce insurance here by keeping your mileage amount each year down and also cut back your policy from fully comprehensive to just 3rd party, fire and theft when off the road in storage.

February 27, 2017at2:18 pm, Colleen Gosling said:

Hi, we have did this other way as Europeans and brought a US RV to use in the states. Have you looked at European vehicle insurance as very different from the US. Comprehensive means everything and you do not have to put values on the damage you may cause. Everything is covered – much easier than the US system! You will of course pay more for a US licence I suspect (as we do in the US for a UK licence) and also not having been resident in the Uk in the last 3 years. Try and also Seviour Insurance [] in Spain for a quote/advice. Mark there is very helpful and we have been using then for years.
The comment about repositioning cruise is a good one and we have done this at great value – hmm you will spend a lot extras on board though that will top the cost up – check fixed daily extra rate you get charged for tips to staff.
Have a great trip

February 27, 2017at10:56 am, Ricky Morgan said:

Have you looked into leasing a motorhome in say Germany I would bet it is a lot less than $6000,00. Then the insurance would be alot less than $2000.00 on a local vehicle. One other thing You might want to look at is a repostioning cruise. This is a one way cruise when they bring the boats to the Med for the spring and take them back in the fall. They are very cheap and last about 10 to 14 days. They cost much less than plane tickets. and then you can bring as much luggage as you want. This is what I looked into doing. I have not researched health insurance yet but I have bc/bs like you and would love to hear what you find out about coverage. I had looked into travel insurance but they do not like to cover you for so long a time. I am looking to go over in the spring and stay till the next fall. Get it all done at one time. I am looking into a work visa as I am doing research for a book on travel in Europe. I hope they will go for it then I don’t have to leave for 3 months every 6 months. Well good luck on your trip. I would love to see your itinerary that is the one thing I am having the most trouble with is where to go.

February 25, 2017at11:38 am, Thom Metcalf said:

We are looking to do the same with our roadtrek in 2018. What Ins. Company did you use for your Europe auto insurance? How is the long term visa going?

February 25, 2017at12:13 pm, Guy Frenette said:

Hi Thom
We should try to find a way to communicate all together to share those info. It’s a lot of prep and by sharing info we may be able to find better way! What do you think?

February 25, 2017at6:26 pm, Thom Metcalf said:

Any info on traveling to Europe would be great. There have been many that have shipped their Rv to Europe and have written about it. the down side is many blogs are 5 and 10 years old and things change quickly along with companies the use to be in the business.

March 24, 2017at8:26 pm, Heiner Biedermann said:

Yes, I would like to know. We are Canadians and planning to bring our van over in January 2018. Shipping and all is accounted for, but we have issues with liability insurance in Europe – cannot find any underwriters.

March 25, 2017at11:57 am, Guy Frenette said:

Try with Thum Insurance in USA… My wife found it with a reference from Joe Campbell…thanks again Joe… We got a quote and everything seems to be perfect. Also found Euro Transport to ship our RV from Montreal or Halifax. If you find others…please share the info. We also leave in a year from now. Also found the perfect transformer: 110/220V AC 4000 WATTS TRANSFORMER, HD 4000 at Addison electronics. Propane adaptor ACME to All Europe Refill Adapters Set, from LPG Shop….Almost ready to leave :))))) Let us know your research…

March 25, 2017at1:14 pm, Heiner Biedermann said:

Thanks for the info. Got previous night the last piece of information/quotes) we needed.
In essence, there is to insure the car against theft etc (USA company). There is for temporary liability insurance in Europe (The Netherlands company). And for transport, we got quotes (Halifax – Antwerpen) from (Germany). Will compare with what you have.

We also looked at shipping from Baltimore (same company), but the harbour fees are significantly higher.

March 25, 2017at1:19 pm, Heiner Biedermann said:

Looked at Thum Insurance. My reading is that they insure European visitors here in North America, but not us (Canadians, US) in Europe. Did you get other information?

March 25, 2017at1:36 pm, Guy Frenette said:

Yes and I got a quote. Talk to Sue Blood.

March 25, 2017at2:07 pm, Heiner Biedermann said:

Are you on Facebook? I see your name there …. but might be someone else.

March 25, 2017at2:08 pm, Guy Frenette said:

No but my wife is… Maryse Bourque…

March 25, 2017at2:37 pm, Heiner Biedermann said:

I will be waiting for her request. You have many “wifes” on Facebook!

March 25, 2017at10:40 pm, Guy Frenette said:

She is Maryse Bourque from Drummondville. Only one like her !hahaha

March 25, 2017at10:47 pm, Heiner Biedermann said:

tried to link her …

March 25, 2017at1:20 pm, Guy Frenette said:

Many thanks… I’ll take the time to contact and compare.
Will let you know very soon.

February 25, 2017at11:12 am, Guy Frenette said:

Does your insurance company is in USA or Europe? We’re from Canada and we have problem finding an insurance company for our 6 months road trip that we’re planning in 2018-2019..
Thanks… all the best for your road trip!

February 21, 2017at1:34 pm, Roberto Flores said:

That is awesome, enjoy your European trip Campskunk!

February 21, 2017at9:43 am, Stoermersl said:

Yes, was curious if you looked into renting a RV while you were there instead of shipping your own and the cost difference? Also the cost difference if renting a car and staying in a hotel or other rental home?

February 21, 2017at6:36 pm, sharon campbell said:

RV rentals are about $1000 a week, so with anything over six weeks it’s cheaper to ship yours over. hotels are $100 a night/$3000 a month, so we’ll make our shipping cost back in two months.

February 25, 2017at11:24 am, Guy Frenette said:

We did the same calculation… Not to forget that you won’t find an RV as best of our Roadtrek and with all our high tech equipment.
Thank for sharing.

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