Crazy Idea #538 – Take Your RV to Europe

 Crazy Idea #538 – Take Your RV to Europe

happycanadianOK, I come up with some crazy ideas from time to time, and this one has been wandering around in my head for years now, so I might as well tell y’all about it – goodness knows it’s too late to try to persuade the world that I’m a conventional, normal person.

I want to take my Roadtrek RV to Europe and tour the continent, staying as long as possible, then ship it back home.

I have been sending and taking Sharon to Europe as often as possible in our pre-fulltiming days – she went over to visit her friend whose husband was teaching in an American school in Germany way back in the 1990s, and she got the bug. Since then, we took my parents in 2003, went together for a two week driving tour in 2006, and Sharon took her nieces for two weeks in 2009. Sharon says the time for a return visit is way overdue.

If you want to make your wife happy, serve her coffee on her Parisian balcony.
If you want to make your wife happy, serve her coffee on her Parisian balcony. Works every time.

The 2003 trip started out as two weeks just for us, but then she invited my parents, and the Female Planning Committee took over. The two weeks turned into a month, and when my father and I had to return to work after two weeks, our bags were out on the curb, and Sharon’s friend from Canada, my sisters, and my sister-in-law were flying over – it turned into Girls’ Month Out in Paris.  Strange things showed up on my credit card statements.  If I didn’t know better, I’d swear I got beat on that deal.  If we take our Roadtrek over, I’m going to have to maintain tighter control over the itinerary than I have in the past.

We did all the usual tourist things in 2003, but the 2006 trip was really much more our style - driving around in the countryside. Lots of good boondocking stuff out there.
We did all the usual tourist things in 2003, but the 2006 trip was really much more our style – driving around in the countryside. Lots of good boondocking opportunities out there.

So far I’m just in the preliminary planning stages. Getting people to Europe is easy – just jump on a plane. RVs are another matter, but there are several companies who specialize in so-called roll-on roll-off shipping of vehicles. You’ll see RVs from Europe here if you travel around the major tourist destinations – that’s what they’re doing. Current rates are 43 euros per cubic meter – about $1900 one way for a Roadtrek. Not bad IF you can stay long enough to make it worthwhile. You can keep your American-registered vehicle in the EU for six months out of any calendar year, so with a short trip over the border around New Years and  you could conceivably stay a year, July 1 to June 30 the following year.

The Ritz-Carlton in Cannes. I don't think they'll let us boondock here.
The Ritz-Carlton in Cannes. I don’t think they’ll let us boondock here.

Getting there is easy, staying there is hard. The standard tourist visa is three months, after which you have to leave for three months before re-entering. Long-term visas to France require you to apply in person at the French consulate and show you have sufficient income, plus a place to live  – a lease on an apartment or similar documentation. I’ll have to keep researching that one – renting an apartment would defeat the whole purpose.  I may figure out a way to go to Britain or some other non-EU area, but the weather is a factor – you don’t want to head north except during the summer months.  Because of the difference in latitude, there are very few places you can comfortably RV in Europe in the dead of winter – southern Spain, Greece maybe.

A lifetime dream for Sharon - this is the dressing room Wallis Simpson used to prepare for her wedding to Edward.
A lifetime dream for Sharon – this is the dressing room Wallis Simpson used to prepare for her wedding to Edward. Chateau Cande, Loire valley.

I still dream about our 2006 trip – we rented a little Diesel Citroen and drove all over – Rouen, Normandy, Chateau Cande, Limoges, Biarritz, the Pyrennes, all along the Riviera from west to east, Italy, Geneva, you name it and we were there. I want to do that in my Roadtrek, and stay for more than two weeks.  There HAS to be a way. We’re looking at early 2015 for a launch date. Still a lot of research to do, but like many of my crazy ideas, with perseverance and a little luck, sometimes they come true.  I never thought I’d be spending months at a time oceanfront on the Pacific Coast Highway, but here I am.  Fiona wants to hang out with the tomcats in Marseilles, anyway, so she’s ready to go. Sharon’s BEEN ready to go.

But right now it’s just a dream.

campskunk

"campskunk" is a blissfully retired former public servant who has left the challenges of how to run the government to younger and less cynical hands, and wanders the continent in his Roadtrek Class B RV with his wife and cat. In addition to his work in the public sector, he has also at various times been a mechanic and delivery driver, skills which come in handy in his new role. Because his former job involved the forensic evaluation and sometimes the subsequent detention of some not-so-nice people, he uses the name campskunk instead of his legal name on the Internet. His was not the type of job where customer service feedback would be welcome.

46 Comments

  • Do it, do it, do it! DH and I have also travelled multiple times in Europe, but now that we have a RT we’ve totally turned our backs on overseas and are focusing on the U.S. Yet I can see there will at some point come a time when that small voice in the back of my mind will say “go back”. I just can’t bear the thought of doing it conventionally. You would be our version of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, if you will. And what fodder for this column! I vote with Sharon, for sure!

  • What about the dog?

    • ok, now you’ve done it. Fiona the Fearless Kitty is not speaking to you. pet passports are making all the old quarantine stuff obsolete. you need an EU-readable microchip, which Fiona already, has being a sophisticated international traveler and all. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pet_passport

  • Question: does the $1,900 one-way price for the RT crossing include the two of you as well, or do you still have to fly over? Could be a challenge to make this budget-friendly, but we know you’ll leave no stone unturned.
    Also, did a double-take, seeing you all dressed up in a starched white shirt and tie, rather than the tie-dye t-shirt 😀 .

    • shari: the $1900 is one-way, shipping for the vehicle only. we would have to fly over. http://www.sea-bridge.de/html/shipping.php and yes, i used to be a respectable, hard-working state employee only a few years ago, before i retired and reverted to my slacker state. my driver’s license still has a photo from 2006, and it doesn’t look a thing like me.

      i screwed up the calculations for shipping – it’s 42 cubic meters (7 long x 2 wide x 3 high) times 43 euros times the exchange rate (currently 1.33) so it’s about $2400, not $1900. the longest ferry ride we’ll have ever taken, that’s for sure.

  • Hmmmmm…. I bet the rules on Ms. Fiona might just as convoluted! Keep us posted on your research.

  • Oops! I was adding my comment at the same time that you were. A microchip sounds cool!

    • Fiona is shopping for scarves already… i hurt her feelings when i told her the beret looked silly.

  • Sounds like a great adventure. The Europeans and folks down under certainly take advantage of visiting North America. Time for us to see what’s on the other side of “the pond”.
    Wasn’t sure what you meant but having take a short trip across the border after 6 months. You mean return to the US? Or just out of the EU?

    • the way i read it, it’s just out of the EU. they’ll allow you to run with US plates for six months out of any calendar year, but you can’t do it indefinitely. they’re also cautious about people importing private vehicles to sell there – come in the wrong port, and you have to post a cash bond equal to the value of the vehicle (!!!!) to ensure your vehicle leaves the EU within six months. if you try to bring it over permanently, there’s a 10% of the value customs fee, $5000 cost to get it modified to meet EU vehicle specs, etc. NOT worth it.

      • You may have already seem this but here is a short video on a Doug Cuthbert who built his own RV and took his family of 5 on a 16 month trip to UK and Europe. There were other links to his story but I can’t put my finger on them right this minute.

        http://www.travelchannel.com/video/a-year-long-rv-tour

  • I can’t wait to hear the details! This is an exciting possibility. I’d also like to know about bringing out two dogs. We couldn’t possibly leave them for a long trip.

    • Some countries like UK and Ireland don’t have rabies, so animals entering may be required to stay in quarantine for six months.

  • I’ve been thinking about doing the same thing, but I’m wondering if it’s easier and more cost effective to rent a similar type RV in the EU. It’s a drag always having to find hotels when you don’t want to keep to a schedule. Every time I go I think about how much fun it would be to camp.

  • There isn’t a doubt in my mind that you will accomplish this dream. I liked the picture…also like how you are enjoying being a slacker! I know there are sites for swapping houses for vacations. I wonder if there might be a site for swapping RVs? Well I checked. Check this out: RV Swaps
    Already own an RV? Want to hit the road in a camper in Europe, Australia, or anywhere else without having to pay high rental fees? Find a local motorhome owner in that country who’s willing to swap his for yours and you can both vacation for free (uh, plus gas):

    • icacaravanning.org
    • Motorhomeholidayswap.com
    • Nzmca.org.nz
    • UKmotorhomes.net/exchange.shtml
    • lsinzelle.free.fr/Echange.htm – See more at: http://www.reidsguides.com/t_h/t_h_rv.html#sthash.UGIqTZlD.dpuf This info was on this site but there were a lot of sites. http://www.reidsguides.com/t_h/t_h_rv.html

  • This is the greatest idea since sliced bread. (Guess you can tell what generation I’m from.) Have been (pipe) dreaming of doing this for years.
    Will be waiting to hear more on what you find out. I have even thought about taking a repositioning cruise from US to Europe and spending the summer traveling around and catching the repositioning cruise back in the fall. Isn’t it marvelous what our minds can dream up?

  • I spent 2 months in Australia and 1 month in NZ in rented campervans. It was my FAVORITE vacation and most definitely the way to travel, much better than hotels.

    From reading the earlier comments / replies – it may turn out that the best way to make it pay is to just stay for 2-3 years! 😉 then you can convert to euro standards, license over there and be set. I’ve also heard of folks buying a used RV there, using it for a year, then selling it when they leave. There used to be some Internet sites or lists where you could link up w/ like minded folks to buy / sell.. But, sending yours would mean you’d have ALL your stuff plus mods and be more comfy.

    There must be a way to deal with the visa issues, because backpackers travel for a year or so at a time and don’t need to deal with the 3 month issue… I do recall my last long euro trip I needed a return ticket to prove I was going back.

    If you stay a long time, your family will def visit and be happy for the excuse… I expect your extended family will start researching Gite rentals for Christmas where you can pull your RT up to their holiday house. I was in Tuscany in the fall and it was still hot, you could likely winter in southern Italy, or Sardinia or just time it for that long ferry ride to Greece. I think southern Italy is warmer in winter than Florida, but could be wrong.

    Best of luck doing this!

  • I am so happy you are researching this. My husband and I have been batting this idea around. We love France and will be renting a house in the spring for 3 months. I have read that the Long-term Visa is NOT easy to get; that’s why we are spending just 3 months. We have taken our dogs to France many times. It’s not a difficult process but you just need to get all the necessary paperwork. By the way, there is a tick-born parasite called Babeshia in the South of France (and maybe other places in Europe). The vaccine is not available in the US but you need to get your animals vaccinated as soon as you get there. Our dog almost died the first time we took him.

  • Just found this site! How exciting for you, Campskunk, to be considering shipping your Roadtrek to Europe! We shipped ours back in 2009 and have been enjoying camping throughout Europe ever since! We shipped out of Baltimore to Zeebrugges with no problems. We live and work in Germany so we don’t have to worry about the strict EU laws but when we have to move back to the US in a few years, we would like to leave our Roadtrek here . Good luck with your plans, let me know if you need any advice on transformers, campsites (which are generally very nice!) , European cities, etc!

    • i would love to pick your brain about how you did all that – there’s another Roadtrek i know of in England, but it’s got to be a rarity to see one over there. if you’ve got permanent status in Germany, you don’t have the visa problems i’ll have, but what about the Roadtrek? did you have to get it modified to meet German auto regulations?

  • The best thing to do in my opinion is go straight to IRELAND. Us a month there travelling around. Then head to the UK/Wales .. There you will have to pass through stricter customs, but it gives you an entry/exit stamp. So that frees up a month extra. Take 3 months travelling the EU. At the end of those 3 month, head over for 2 months at a non-EU country, like Switzerland. Then you can leave there and travel again through the EU to head up into Norway (for Summer). After that, head to UK, and then ship stuff home. You can do it.. You just have to watch your times in a country. You won’t get arrested if you stay over an extra month, but if you do that, make sure you can easily cross into another country for a 24 hour stay. Wife and I traveled for 3 years in Ireland/UK/EU by moving around a lot. If you land in Ireland, you can show a postal address of a friend who lives there, some health insurance, and pay 100 euros, and you can get an Irish ID card good throughout the EU as a residence, so you can travel at leisure.

    • you get those Irish IDs for temp residence through the local Guardai stations. We used the one in Waterford.

    • thanks, casey! see? there has to be a way to do this. being mobile is no problem for us – we have a hard enough time staying put long enough for someone to mail us stuff as it is now. maybe we’ll start in ireland and go from there.

  • I assume you have contemplated the propane and electric differences, also, correct? I have that dream also, of touring Europe in an rv.

  • Having travelled a lot in Europe I do think you’d be better off buying/hiring a camper from Netherlands or Germany. American RVs are huge and cumbersome, totally unsuitable. Don’t rely on “cross a quick border”, do the visa thing properly.

  • Michael – Camskunks RV is no bigger than a large van. Not huge and cumbersome at all, as far as I know.

  • This article intrigued me. I contacted a shipper (Schumacher Cargo Logistics) and received a quote of $3,505 one way from Baltimore to Dublin, Ireland. Would be interested to know where you received the $1900 estimate.

    • the 43 euros per cubic meter quote is from Seabridge: http://www.seabridge-tours.de/html/shipping.php

      • Thank you. Insurance is another $400 to $1000. It won’t be cheap but then it is that once in a lifetime trip.

        • seabridge lists the insurance rate as 9 euros per 1000 euros of RV value – for my rig it’ll be about $270. they also say there are port charges and fuel surcharges, so it will add up. i haven’t called them to get an exact quote.

    • if anybody is interested – our company Carex Shipping provides RV shipping services from USA to Europe.
      our fees to major ports in Europe are about $45-50 USD per cubic meer plus THC.
      http://www.carexshipping.com/rv/ship-rv-to-europe.html

  • I am looking forward to see how this turns out. Hope you keep us posted and often!

  • Fiona may need to stay stateside. You two and the Roadtrek can do it!

  • Please keep us all posted with updates on your dreams of an overseas Roadtrek adventure! My husband and I have the very same dream, but you’re ahead of us in making it a reality. Also, make sure you hit the Dolomites when you get there!

  • Rick Steve’s travel book “Europe Through The Back Door” has insider tips for independent travel in Europe. He also says customs goes much better when you are dressed up. So, you can switch from slacker to upscale while traveling from country to country…nobody will notice!!!

  • fuel compatibility?

  • Patricia Swindells

  • Should not be a problem with fuel besides the high fuel cost. but don’t ship to Germany, they make u deposit cost of rt in an account while you are in Europe to ensure you don’t sell it while there.

  • I will when ever I can afford an Earthroamer or a Provan Siberian Tiger with the full diesel set up….should be no worries!

  • Keep us posted!

  • Jill and Jose Ferrer toured Europe in a rental RV in 2012. They have tons of sage advice: http://www.rvcampingeurope.com/ You can even find designated boondocking areas (they call it wild camping) – see Aires in France and the Stellplatz in Germany.

  • Hoping to do the same trip years from now ! What’s the latest info for traveling in the eu / shengan rule for your travel schedule for time limits ?

    • three months in, three months out, unless you have a long term visa, which is impossible to get without a rental agreement. I figure spring on the continent, summer in the UK, fall back on the continent, and then back home unless we winter in turkey. US license plates are good only six months in any calendar year.

      • For the plates 6 months in a calendar year … Is that for the continent? I don’t think I’d be going to turkey right now. Too close to the Ukraine :(. I’d like to see Greece as well but I understand that it’s part of the shengan agreement too ? Are you going to ship over roll on roll off or container ship ? So excited for you all !

  • For all of you who love traveling: We have a Winnebago View Model H 24′ Mercedes diesel stored in Amsterdam that is for sale. It is licensed and registered in Florida with only 42000 miles and is in very good condition and fully outfitted. We have owned this motorhome since 2011 and have traveled various parts of Europe since then…staying for 3-6 months. For more details email us at degroodtravel@aol.com. Happy traveling….Phil and Pat DeGrood

  • I woudl also love to take an rv registered here (in canada) and then travel europe. But i think there is 1 major problem. Insurance. It’s seemingly impossible to get your RV insured for travel internationally.

    Is it possible to get RV/camper insurance for a vehicle registered in ontario but than use it to travel internationally? I’ve been searching a lot online and have not found anything like this. (Even for travel in europe for example)

    If you have any insight that would be great!

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