First Time Advice for Touring Abroad

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While a lot of Club members tour overseas regularly, it can be quite daunting for someone to try touring outside of the UK for the first time. We are putting together some advice for first-timers and would love to have some advice and stories from members to include. The following questions are the kind of queries we regularly get from members so if you have any advice or answers to any of them, we would love to hear from you. You can either post below of email your advice to kate.walters@caravanclub.co.uk

What are your favourite aspects of touring in Europe?

If you could give someone who had never toured in Europe before 5 top tips for an enjoyable holiday, what would they be?

Is there any aspect of touring in Europe that is better than UK touring?

I’ve heard that in France you can pitch-up almost anywhere because the laws about parking up in lay-bys, car parks etc aren’t as stringent as in the UK, is this true? Has anyone tried it?

I’m thinking of taking my dog touring with me to France, is it easy to sort out a pet passport? Any idea how much time I should allow for the paper work?

I’m considering touring abroad for the first time, I was thinking of a short initial journey to France, but I’m a bit worried about towing and driving on the other side of the road, am I right to be worried? Have you got any tips?

Thanks in advance for your help!

 
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Enjoyable aspects:

Favourite Aspects of Touring France (our main area of 'expertise')
The roads are quieter and there are caravan-friendly places to stop for picnics or comfort stops, even on the N roads.  On the autoroutes (some of which you have to pay for) there are service areas or picnic stops about every twenty kilometres.

You can still 'tour' -  outside of peak season - and don't have to book in advance.  You can stay for as little time as you want, or as long as you want, and usually have to pay at the end of your stay.

There are campsites to suit everyone, from the largest all-singing, all-dancing site with top facilities, pool complexes and waterslides, to the smallest 'five pitches in an orchard' farm-type sites.  Everywhere will have at least a toilet block, chemical toilet disposal, water and hook-ups.

The French 'Menu de Jour' often offers incredible value for money, with a three course meal and wine available from around 10 euros upwards (outside of tourist areas).  French food is delicious.

You don't have to pay for parking in most of France, even down by the beach.  Even in some large towns parking is free from 12.00 noon to 2.00 pm.  Many 'historic sites' are free to walk around, and you can have a two week holiday visiting a variety of attractions and not spending a single penny!

France is a beautiful country, with areas to suit everyone, from the wildest mountains and rivers, to the busiest beaches and you can spend thirty years touring without exhausting the possibilities of another lovely place to visit next year!

 

 
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FAQ's

If you could give someone who had never toured in Europe before 5 top tips for an enjoyable holiday, what would they be?

See above first. 

Is there any aspect of touring in Europe that is better than UK touring?

All the above – mainly you can still tour! 

I’ve heard that in France you can pitch-up almost anywhere because the laws about parking up in lay-bys, car parks etc aren’t as stringent as in the UK, is this true? Has anyone tried it?

Motorhomes (but not caravans) can park up almost anywhere providing there is not a notice or a bye-law which prohibits it.  There are often notices indicating that caravans staying overnight in the town is at the discretion of the Mairie (Town Hall) – which means you shouldn’t just stop anywhere.  However, there are so many campsites in France that it shouldn’t be necessary to stay in a lay-by.  There are municipal campsites in almost every French town or village, and you can just turn up and find a pitch (best around late afternoon rather than late evening).  Municipal sites are fine for an overnight stop, and some are superb and would make a good holiday destination in themselves.  Also larger commercial sites, outside peak times, usually have free pitches, and you can again find places without having to book.  You WILL need to book many of the larger sites from mid-July to mid-August though you’ll always find a smaller site somewhere, usually off the major routes and some of these are delightful.

A few words in the local language goes a long way.  At least practice asking for a pitch with electricity for (x) night(s) and understanding what they may say in reply.  Usually you’ll get a reply in English, certainly on the larger sites. 

I’m thinking of taking my dog touring with me to France, is it easy to sort out a pet passport? Any idea how much time I should allow for the paper work?

It is easy, and thousands of pets are now accompanying their owners on touring holidays.

See the Defra website for up to date information http://www.defra.gov.uk/wildlife-pets/pets/travel/.  This will make sure you’re not reading out of date information, or relying on advice which has gone out of date.  

I’m considering touring abroad for the first time, I was thinking of a short initial journey to France, but I’m a bit worried about towing and driving on the other side of the road, am I right to be worried? Have you got any tips?

There is no need to worry.  Driving on the other side of the road will come naturally after quite a short time.  If you’re really concerned then book a campsite near a port so you have a short first day journey.  You could then either stay there for the duration of your holiday, or after a period of driving without the caravan, build up confidence to go further.  You could also look at the Caravan Club First Timers holidays – where you’ll receive all the help and support you need.

Or you could do as we did, the first time, tried towing in this country, and then three weeks later went all the way down to the Mediterranean with not a campsite booked – just a good map with campsites highlighted on it along our first day route, a good campsite guide book, and we had a fantastic time.  This meant that when we wanted to stop we knew exactly where there was a suitable campsite, and we just pulled in and asked for a pitch.

Once you’ve done it you’ll wonder why you ever worried.

 
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I agree with everything Val says. Like her, my experience is mainly France, having been travelling there for 30-odd years on motorcycles, by car, and for the last 10 years with the caravan.

A couple of other points:

French markets are wonderful - not to be confused with the stalls selling shoddy and counterfeit tat we see in the UK. Most villages of any size will have a weekly market, almost all with a few stalls with local people selling their homegrown fruit and veg, farm produced cheese, locally picked mushrooms etc etc - as well as the bigger stalls with a wide range of superb produce.

 Municipal sites are our favourites - again. most small towns and larger villages (and indeed cities) have them. Generally they are quite basic but usually well kept and clean. They tend to be inexpensive - €15 or under. Being close to the town / village gives another advantage - the morning stroll / cycle to pick up gorgeous baguettes, croissants and other delights.

 
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Agree as per ValDa info , We usually go peak season so book night stops in advance. Have previously been OK finding a site for night stop inland providing reasonably early afternoon. Would not recomend overnight on Autoroute Aires due to security issues.

Great scenery and majority of roads very good.

Post it note in front of driver "drive on right". It is easy to forget ie when coming out of a rest area / fuel stop etc.

Some good sites near the ports for short trial.

Good insurance cover - we use red Pennant - only needed to use services  once but was excellent service start to finish.

Have seen many camper vans using car parks / laybys by the coast in France - only a few have signs saying no camping. Not so for caravans though.

Best of luck with first trip.

 
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I agree with what Val has said. Don't forget the breathalysers which are now required in France.

I have been on touring holidays, first with a tent and then with a caravan. In theearly days, I offered the children what is now 10p each if they saw me start to stray onto the wrong side. Believe you me, they were keen to earn extra holiday money and I was mean enough to try and prevent it!!!

 

Off season, there is normally no need to book. We have just returned from 6 weeks touring France & the Spanish Pyrenees without booking a single site. On one site, we were the only people there.

Go for it!!

 
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My five golden rules in whatever country I drive in.

1. Never be in a hurry, take your time you are on holiday not a race.

2. Don't drive long distances, 200 miles a day is far enough. with a lunch break. 

3. Stop early, no later tha 4p.m., Allow plenty of time to find that campsite if you have not booked. 

4. Take time before your trip to know the rules of the road for the country you are visiting. I write out a crib sheet of emergency numbers and speed limits for the country being visited

5. Be sensible about security as you would at home. Don't put temptation in front of would be criminals. Don't wear flashy jewelry or leave valuables on display etc.

peedee

 
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We have been touring Europe for over 35 years with a car and the latest 9 with a Caravan on the back.

It is a wonderful experience we have visited 14 Countries in Europe with the Caravan and enjoyed all of them.  Val has expert knowledge on France but we have only been with the van twice we venture further afield  mainly to Germany, Austria and Italy for anyone who isthinking of visiting these countries and beyond have a look at my website http://www.joysofeuropeancaravanning.co.uk atthe 9 trips we have made and places to visit with details on each Country we have visited with excellent mainly, ACSI Camping Card Sites to stay at.   .   

 
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