Fail to plan, plan to fail’ might be going a bit too far, but it’s a good idea to do at least some planning before your holiday!
Study alternative routes and plan your trip around the places that interest you. Think of any snags you might encounter and go prepared to cope with them. If possible, leave details of your route and stopping points with someone at home, you never know what might happen.
Check that items such as tyres and brake pads have got plenty of life in them. A couple of thousand miles can easily be covered in a round trip so what looks fine at the start, might look a bit worse for wear by the time you set off home.
Check that fork seals, cables and hoses are in good condition and replace if they are not. Grease the bits that need to be greased (don’t forget that much neglected swinging arm) and check fluid levels and condition (oil, brakes and water) and correct as necessary. Check that nuts and bolts are tight. If you’re not into doing it yourself, get the bike serviced if it is going to pass a service point while you are away.
The choice tends to be quite personal, but a waterproof top box bag is very handy,and can be easily removed at stopping points this has the advantages of security and convenience.
A top box bag is really, really useful and deserves serious consideration. Not only can it hold a map and route instructions in its top ‘window’, it’s also great for keeping your wallet handy plus: a spare pair of gloves; camera; bottle of water; snack bars – all sorts of other stuff that you want to keep handy.
Whatever you do though, make your luggage secure, especially soft luggage. Use an extra bungee if in doubt.
Leathers might be your favourite wear but all countries in Europe can be very wet at times, even in the summer, so go prepared!
When touring abroad ( including EU countries and Norway and Switzerland ) have readily available the following:-
Current Passport (for each person).
Full Driving Licence (Provisional Licences are not allowed). Some countries will not accept National Driving Licences and you then need an International Driving Permit (IDP) which can be obtained from the AA or RAC.
A current Certificate of Motor Insurance to cover the whole period away. In some countries you may be asked for an International Motor Insurance Card (Green Card), but this is usually now covered by the Certificate of Motor Insurance issued by your Insurers (see reverse of your certificate. If not it is obtainable from your Insurers).
If you are going to Spain, to avoid the possibility of being taken into custody after an accident, it is advisable to have a Bail Bond. This is now often part of your Certificate of Motor Insurance. If not it is obtainable from your Insurers.
Vehicle Registration Document. The reason for taking your Vehicle Registration Document is to enable police overseas to verify that the vehicle belongs to you. In many countries it is a legal requirement to carry this at all times when riding / driving.
Accident Document. This is obtainable from your Insurers and should be completed if you have an accident.
For most European countries it is not necessary to obtain a Visa. However if travelling futher afield check to see if one is necessary. The Tourist Board of the country concerned will be able to advise.
A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) entitles you to reduced-cost, sometimes free, medical treatment that becomes necessary while you’re in a European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland. This form is available from the Post Office.
GB Sticker of the correct size. This must be fixed to the rear of the motorcycle and can be obtained from the Ferry Company or the AA/RAC.
NOTE: If you have a modern number plate with an EU marking “GB” then this is accepted anywhere in the EU (and Norway and Switzerland) instead of a separate GB sticker.
Other Necessary Items
You should have with you the following. (Police may check to see if you are carrying them):-
Medical Kit. These can be obtained as a small pack from most Chemists.
Replacement Light Bulb Kit. These can be obtained from your Motorcycle Dealer or for many cars from the AA at the port.
Accident Triangle. This is compulsory if travelling by car but appears to be optional if on a motorcycle.
Many tourists will want the security of Travel/Breakdown Insurance. This can be obtained through the BMF by contacting Jack Wiley House on Tel 0116 284 5380, Fax 0116 284 5381, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Maps (see map section)
Michelin have a web site which can be good for working out suitable routes and getting information on distances and other tourist information. Likewise you could try www.touringeurope.org for a whole range of useful information including ferry deals and www.mappy.co.uk for route planning, costings and toll details. Or, you could be brave and do it all yourself…
Reference books giving travel information are available from most good bookshops.
There are various ranges that are good such as ‘Rough Guides’, ‘Michelin Green Guides’, ‘Fodor’ and ‘Insight’. These can cover individual countries, or sometimes wider areas (e.g. Scandinavia). They cost from about £10 upwards.
The Euro has made life easy in those countries signed up to it, namely: France, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Finland, Spain, Austria, Italy, Greece and Portugal, but for other countries, some local currency for each country to be visited is advisable and can be obtained in the UK or before you enter the particular country. Do not take more cash than you will need in the short term.
Bear in mind that many European motorways carry tolls so some small change is very useful, but of course, you can use your credit card if you prefer.
For additional funds it is suggested that cash points are used (e.g. VISA or Mastercard). Bear in mind that if you use say “Maestro” on a daily basis, you will pay charges on each transaction. If instead you use the “Cirrus” facility to draw more cash in one go you can avoid multiple charges. Travellers cheques are usually less convenient than cards at Cash points.
Be careful with what you leave on the bike. It’s your decision but helmets left on a bike are tempting. Locked or not, if a youngster takes a liking to your £300 lid, a knife through the strap will release it. He’s not bothered about the strap!
Sub-divide and store cash, cards and cheques in different places within your clothing and luggage.
Store reference numbers and telephone numbers for cancelling cards in more than one place.
When walking around carrying cameras, or other items round your neck, they’re more secure if kept in front of you than to the side or back.
If you are inexperienced or travelling in wilder areas, tour with others. Any breakdown then leaves you less exposed and you should not leave your bike unattended.
These are almost a necessity when touring, but check with your provider before you leave the UK that yours can be used where you are going.
Think about how you will recharge it. There are a variety of different electric sockets in use in Europe!
If you get quotations for goods or services be prepared for these to be net of tax.
Hotels and Hostels
Unless the Hotel/Hostel is known to you, it is advisable to view the room and services, and obtain the cost, before you commit to taking it.
Campsites vary considerably in frequency and standard, from country to country. Maps showing the locations of camping sites can usually be obtained from the Tourist Office of the country concerned. When camping in more northerly countries (e.g. Scandinavia), it is a good idea to consider using huts/chalets, which are available on many sites, often at a reasonable cost, particularly if you are part of a group and can share.
More Remote Destinations
If visiting a remote country, it’s advisable to obtain and carry the address and telephone number of the UK Embassy in that country.
European motorways often have much tighter curves at the entry and exit points which can catch you unaware if you are also searching for route signs.
In Belgium and some parts of northern France towns have two totally different names, the French and the Flemish (e.g. Mons and Bergen are the same place). However not all signs are dual language, so it is worth a study of your maps if you are new to the area.