Navigating the Paperwork to take your RV to Europe

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.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.




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  • Stoermersl

    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?

    • sharon campbell

      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.

      • Guy Frenette

        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.

  • Roberto Flores

    That is awesome, enjoy your European trip Campskunk!

  • Guy Frenette

    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!

  • Thom Metcalf

    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?

    • Guy Frenette

      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?

      • Thom Metcalf

        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.

      • Heiner Biedermann

        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.

        • Guy Frenette

          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…

          • Heiner Biedermann

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

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

          • Heiner Biedermann

            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?

          • Guy Frenette

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

          • Heiner Biedermann

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

          • Guy Frenette

            No but my wife is… Maryse Bourque…

          • Heiner Biedermann

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

          • Guy Frenette

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

          • Heiner Biedermann

            tried to link her …

          • Guy Frenette

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

  • Ricky Morgan

    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.

  • Colleen Gosling

    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 gocompare.com and also Seviour Insurance [sevinsurance@hotmail.com] 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

  • Colleen Gosling

    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.

  • Susan Adame Artist

    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!

  • John s

    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!!!

    • Leslie Lindeman

      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

      • John s

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

  • Heiner Biedermann

    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 …

  • Leslie Lindeman

    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.

  • Leslie Lindeman

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

  • John s

    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?