An Overview for Travelers of Europe
These are our views based on our experience in Europe in 2006/2007. We are on a limited monthly income based on South African Rands and found Europe to be very expensive. The UK was the biggest drain with Spain, Greece and Eastern Europe the most affordable. We could not afford many campsites and only used hotels when absolutely necessary.
Having lived in South Africa we found Europe to be cold and wet. Nice warm days were few and far between. But the traveling is easy.
Type of vehicle
We started with a Land Rover Defender 110 with a rooftop tent. This was not at all suitable for the rain in Europe.
We purchased a UK registered Renault Master that had been converted into a camper. This is not a bad option but brings with it the expense of annual licensing. We overcame this by staying in Europe once the license ran out. The Renault was ideal for perfect European roads.
We could not sell the Land Rover for a decent price and the Renault has a low clearance making it unsuitable for further travel east. Therefore we purchased a demountable (afzetunit or truck camper) for the Land Rover. This is rather like a caravan but it fits onto the chassis of the bakkie (pick-up, utility). There are several companies making these type of units but not many selling them second hand.
Perfect roads do not require special tyres
Spares and Maintenance
Everything is available anywhere - for a price.
Everything takes at least a day. This the same all over the world when you are away from home as you need to find out which garage can do the service, find the garage, then hope they can attend to you immediately. Service centres are easy to find though.
Petrol and diesel are always available
Perfect in most places. There are side roads which may be bumpy but you do not need to go on these. Roads can be steep in the mountains.
There are toll road in many places. French toll roads are the most expensive. To drive from Genoa to Calais cost 133 Euro.
Third Party is apparently available in the form of a 'Green Card'. We were waived through the border when we entered Europe and were unaware of this. Queries to an insurance company did not elicit any information so we ignored insurance all together. We only heard about the Green Card when we entered Turkey.
We do not have comprehensive insurance as this is far too expensive being based on European and US prices.
A carnet is issued by the Automobile Association in your home country. It is a guarantee that you will either not sell the vehicle or will pay the import duty if you do sell. For this reason a deposit is required by the AA.
This is not required in Europe.
We spent 18 months in Europe, 4 of these waiting out the first winter in Spain in a camp ground. The rain forced us into hotels occasionally. Once we had the Renault Camper we stayed away from camp grounds. If we exclude the Spanish winter we only spent 35% of our nights in camp grounds. We spent the nights in Service Areas on highways, Shopping centre car parks (our favorite is Lidl), and off the road in rural areas. England is a problem for this kind of stay but Scotland, Norway and Bulgaria are perfect for it.
Camp grounds provided electricity, dumping place for the contents of the Porta Potti, water, hot showers, washing facilities for clothes and a place where Pieter could maintain the car. We also used laundromats in major cities. Electricity is supplied by the standard SA / European 3 pin blue camping plug, or European 2 pin. The exception is Italy which requires the Italian 3 pin.
A porta potti is essential. There are no bushes to pop behind and it is not always easy to get to a public toilet when needed. This especially applies in the early morning!
Supermarkets, small shops, shopping malls are in abundance. Restaurant meals are expensive.
The Germans, French, Belgiums and Dutch know how to make the most fabulous cakes. The Norwegians and Finnish do not have a sweet tooth.
The water is drinkable everywhere. It is not necessarily easy to obtain though. We mainly used Service Areas to fill up and occasionally purchased water. Strange after always having water available in Africa.
Medical attention is expensive. Medication is highly regulated. I did manage to obtain chronic medication in Spain and Czech Republic without a doctors prescription though. I expect this to change as the general European standards are imposed.
What borders? Entry into Europe and UK required a stamp in my Australian passport. End of entry requirements. They were totally uninterested in the Land Rover and its contents. Eastern Europe has drive through border control where you do not leave the car, merely hand your passport over for checking and a possible stamp.
The Euro is king and is readily available from ATMs.
We spent an average of Euro 73.55 per day. However, we were selective about which museums and other historical sites we visited.
People everywhere are friendly even though they are obviously busy, stressed and not overly forthcoming.
Internet connection was not as easy as expected. We were told there would be wifi everywhere. In practice we rarely found it. Libraries and Post Offices are a good source of free internet. There are Internet Cafes around but as in SA people have their home or office computer.
A GPS with European data is absolutely marvelous for navigating through busy, large cities. We used it over and over to route to shops we needed to go to or to find a shopping centre for the night.
|Genoa to Holland||England||Spain||France||Britain||Norway||Finland||Russia||Baltic States||Poland||Czech Republic|
|Cost per litre diesel||1.22||1.55||0.98||1.12||1.24||1.58||1.06||0.52||1.00||1.20||1.18|
|Camping per night (2 people)||0||23.26||21.00*||14.42||16.08||20.92||21.00||0.00||13.33||17.67||7.98|
|Days in country||16||12||163||23||42||16||18||5||6||8||17|
|Cost per litre diesel||1.04||1.14||1.14||0.90||0.89|
|Camping per night (2 people)||20.00**||15.27||18.42||11.67||0.00|
|Days in country||43||14||81||35||40|
NB: Currency is Euros
*Does not include the 4 months spent wintering in Spain. Because of the length of our stay we paid 8.15 Euro per night in Roquetas.
** We also stayed 3 nights in different cheap hotels at an average cost of Euro 52.33. If you must a Formula 1 is the cheapest but often full.