Travels with Papillon

 

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Preparations

 

This is not a "how to" primer about everything that you should be aware of prior to embarkation.  It is more a listing of what we did to get ready and what issues we felt were important.  The resources suggested below are designed to answer your questions.

It takes a lot of stuff to get ready for a journey like this.  Guidebooks, dictionaries, maps, Passports, International Drivers License, Green Card (insurance) GPS mapping software, Camping Carnet, Camping grounds locator software, adaptors for LPG, electric, water, 12 volt chargers, 220V to 110V converter,  plus your clothes, medicines, money and credit cards - no travel checks.

 

You could also take your cell phone if it meets European standards or get one there.  We belatedly joined Skype, the telephone via internet, and found it inexpensive and very good for our needs.  Internet access is available for a price or in internet cafes.  We took a "hardened" Laptop and utilized wideband and WiFi when we could find it.  Also used it for GPS navigation.

 

Research & Resources

Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are thousands of good written resources, buy your favorite or browse the titles at your library or big mall bookstore.

For the Motorhome enthusiast

Take Your RV to Europe by Adelle and Ron Milavasky

Europe by Van and Motorhome by David Shore and Patty Campbell

RV and Car Camping - Vacations in Europe by Mike and Terri Church

If you are serious about this subject - these 3 books are a MUST

Guidebooks

DK Eyewitness Guides are superior for basic research and are just filled with color photos - superb as Primers for a country or city

Lonely Planet and Rough Guide provide a detailed street by street description of towns with transportation options and much more, including camp ground locations.

 

Internet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a godsend!  The whole world at your finger tips.  The list of resources on line is simply endless.  Some of the more useful ones below.  (Note: "camping", "motorhome" and "camping-car" are useful search terms in Europe)

Google:  the Search function, and/or similar engines

Google Earth:  Aerial/Satellite photos of towns, campgrounds, sites

Yahoo:  Home of many European Motorhome forums - see by country or for example; United Kingdom Motorhome Group

Thorn Tree:  An all world message board that is very comprehensive

Slow Travel:  Advocates a slow approach to touring with knowledgeable contributors and an extensive resources section

Hidden Europe:  Actually a 6 times a year magazine but with monthly newsletters.  Devoted to the little places of the world and with simply superb writing.

UNESCO World Heritage sites:  Click on the list for the best of the best in the world.

Any good GPS & Mapping program.  Same familiar brand names in the US are available in Western Europe.  Eastern Europe not available as yet.

 

Vehicle Shipping

There are numerous shipping lines and ports that will handle the shipment of your rig overseas.  You can search by port or shipping line or use the services of a shipping broker.  We used a broker who made all the arrangements and filled out all the paperwork.

Seabridge International                               there are others

From the east coast you can ship out of Jacksonville; Brunswick, GA; Charleston; Norfolk; Baltimore; New York and Halifax Canada, perhaps more.  Most lines go to Northern European ports such as Bremerhaven, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Zeebrugge, Le Harve and UK stops.  You can also ship from the west coast as well as land in Southern Europe.

Your rig has to be empty.  Or so say some of the shipping company clerks.  You can crate up your stuff and that crate can accompany your vehicle, at extra cost.  We used the crate to go over.  We will not have a crate when we return.  Personnel at both the shipping and receiving ports asked why did we use a crate - it was not necessary.

Cost is based on the Cubic (LxWxH) dimensions of your motorhome.  Obviously the bigger the machine, the higher the cost.  Port costs can vary, often by hundreds of dollars.  At nearly 24 feet, Papillon cost $2800 one way from Brunswick, Georgia.

See Shipping Papillon for our specific RV shipping details

 

Insurance

Vehicle Insurance

 

 

 

 

 

You must have a Green Card proving that you have insurance in Europe.  Your insurance agent will provide this.  Now this is where it can get expensive.  Without a address or residence overseas you cannot register your rig nor get insurance coverage overseas.  Thus you either rent a unit or stay registered (and insured) in your home state.  (Florida for example requires providers to notify the state that they no longer carry you.  Thus if you drop your US insurance, Florida will recall your plates and registration.)

AIG insurance carriers will insure your US registered unit while overseas, BUT the cost is dear.  For Papillon it was $2800 every 6 months.  Without a US registration you will not get insurance from these folks.  We used Thum Insurance in the US for this coverage.

Medical Insurance

 

 

Long term travelers should have medical insurance that is good for where you are traveling.  Our Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan is valid wherever we plan on traveling, however it is of a reimbursable nature only overseas.  You should have a letter of coverage from your Provider stating that you are in fact insured.

 

Money        

Banking

 

 

 

We set up accounts in 2 separate banks just in case one or the other is compromised.  Automatic deposits, internal transfers, automatic and on-line Bill Pay capability in both banks that are mirror images of each other.  Others systems are in place to place funds at our disposal if necessary.

 

 

Credit Cards

 

 

Again, 2 separate debit cards and 2 separate credit cards. We do not use Travelers Checks - they are no longer practical anywhere in the world.  Mostly we use ATM's and pay cash for purchases.

 

Safe

 

We had an angle iron frame welded on all sides of a small safe, and that box was then welded to the frame of the motorhome.  It is hidden from view.  The rig would have to be half destroyed to get into it.

 

For the Motorhome/RV

 

American RV's are quiet different from European rigs.  Basically we have greater carrying capacity in terms of water, waste water and LPG.  And we are set up for 110 volts electricity rather than the 220 volts which is the European standard.

Since Europe is not going to change to suit your rig, you must adapt to acquire supplies for your machine in Europe.

Don't panic, it is rather easy.

 

First - water.  No issues here.  Connect your hose to their spigot and fill 'er up.

 

LPG  again, no real problem.  (Called GPL in France)  Purchase some adapters to connect your LPG tank to their dispensers.  In almost all European countries it is done at a gas station and you fill up your own tank.  (Many European's drive LPG powered autos).  We have filled up with diesel and LPG in one stop at a number of places.

Below are the 2 adapters that you need and a photo of gassing up with LPG outside Venice, Italy.  We filled at stations in the Netherlands, France, Italy, Turkey. Poland, Scotland and Germany.  At the station in Germany we did not need an adapter.

I purchased these adapters on line (actually I called the guy).  See the bottom of the page at Tinley Tech - and he shipped them to the US.  Friend Bob had his drop shipped to his hotel in Antwerp.  I highly recommend that you have these in hand upon picking up your rig at the dock.  I have not seen them in European stores.

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Electricity

You absolutely MUST have a voltage converter.  Again I recommend that you ship it over with your rig.  I purchased a 3000 watt unit on line for around $200.  There are many brands available that will convert 220 to 110.

You must also have a adapter in order to connect your 30 or 50 amp power cable to the 15 amp output of the converter.  (Bigger rigs with higher amp requirements may have issues greater than the ones I mention here.  I am not knowledgeable about those issues.)  Most RV supply stores carry these adapters.

 

Here Bob shows his converter to RV connection for his Winnebago View J model.

 

Most campsites in Europe use a weather proof 3 prong connection such as the blue ones shown.  Bob's extension cord is a smaller 2 prong line.  In his left hand he is holding a adapter.  If not at this end, then at his converter he would have had to adapt to the smaller two prong cord.
In some countries or campsites, the norm is the standard 2 prong connection.  Here I am holding an adapter to go from 2 prong to heavy duty 3 prong cord.

 

These adapters can be purchased at most camping supply stores or hardware stores in Europe (but not all of them).

Most campsites run 10 amps at 220V, but many run 6 or even 4 amps.  However when you convert 220 to 110 your amperage will double - thus their 6 becomes 12 amps at 110V.  But we have popped many a breaker here, especially when the missus turns on her hair dryer.

 

Emptying Waste Tanks

Drain and sewer holes are usually available in every camp site and service area for the US standard 3 inch hose.  You may have to ask for the specific location as the European standard is the 2 gallon cassette (marine type).  I have never dumped a black tank on the ground and I was required to use my macerator only twice in the 6 months of 2007.  Grey tanks are usually dumped with black but any sewer hole will be okay.

 

Laundry 

In a word: Nightmare

Very very very few laundromats here.  Most campsites will have only one machine - many have none.  And very rarely will you see a dryer at all.  And the machines are small front loading units that take 2 hours (yep 2 hours) to do a wash and rinse cycle.  And the cost!!!!!!!!!!!  Low is 5 dollars a load, high has been 9 dollars.  And the instructions!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A mysterious bunch of knobs with the instructions (if any) in a language you do not read.

Most European campers pack enough for the entire trip or they hand wash daily.  We found the first impossible and the second option lost its charm shortly after beginning the first wash.

 

Some hope though.  

We met an English couple who had a small washing machine with them at the campsite in Munich.  We liked it so much we took a gamble and ordered one and had it shipped from England to France.

 

Here it sits in the shower of our Winnebago View H model.

 

Pour water into the left bin and place no more than 3 pounds of clothes or less and run it for 15 or so wash cycle.  Drain the water, pour in rinse water and turn it on for a couple of minutes.  Drain and place clothes into the right "spin" side and 3 minutes later they are very "rung" out.  Hang up your clothes to dry and repeat as often as necessary.

The missus has been most pleased.

See the website for a vendor

 

Diesel Fuel

Is commonly called Gasoil, or similar in Europe.  Though most folks (but not all) will understand the word diesel.  It is readily available, usually less expensive than gasoline.

 

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