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Touring Europe on a motorcycle: What you need to know

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An motorbike tour overseas takes a bit of planning – especially with getting the right paperwork and learning the rules of the road abroad. But with a bit of planning, it should be no fuss and all fun. Let's take a look at what you need to know.

Motorbikes on the road in mountains with Alps in background

You need a full UK motorcycle licence to ride in Europe. The Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) assessment isn't enough.

If you’ve got an A1 UK licence – which lets you ride up to 125cc motorbikes – you’re still limited to the same engine size in Europe.

The DVLA has a useful flow chart to navigate your way through the different motorbike licence requirements. It covers both A1 and A2 motorbikes as well as all age-group limitations.

Every comprehensive UK motorbike insurance policy should have some basic measure of EU cover. But some policies might be more generous than others. 

Standard comprehensive motorbike insurance policies tend to give you third-party cover in Europe for up to 90 days. This covers other riders and their property, not your own.

This also means that if your motorbike is stolen while riding abroad, your policy might not cover you.

Some motorbike insurance providers might offer enhanced European cover. If you think you'd want this extra cover, contact your insurance company and see what they offer.

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Some policies might offer breakdown cover as standard, but this isn't common. Usually, European breakdown cover is an optional add-on.

These policies normally offer you the same benefits as a UK policy but covering multiple countries, including:

  • Roadside assistance
  • Help getting to the nearest garage or to your destination
  • Assistance if you can't get your motorbike started

It's worth comparing breakdown cover policies, especially if you want European cover. You might find a standalone policy works out less expensive than adding it to your motorbike insurance.

There are a few important documents you need when you take your motorbike out of the UK.

  • Certificate of insurance
  • V5C document or logbook
  • Passport
  • International Driving Permit (IDP) - this depends on which countries you're visiting
  • Valid tax and MOT certificate
  • European breakdown cover policy documents
The good news is that you don't need an insurance green card to travel in most European countries. These includ:
  • The EU
  • Andorra
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Iceland, Liechtenstein
  • Norway
  • Serbia
  • Switzerland

If you're riding to a county not on this list, check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).

It is possible to get travel insurance for bikers on a European tour. As with any insurance policy, it’s important you know what you’re covered for when you buy a touring travel insurance policy.

Make sure you're covered for:

  • Lost or stolen baggage
  • Delayed or missed departures
  • Cancellation or curtailment of your trip
  • The loss of your passport
  • Medical cover
  • Repatriation costs
  • Personal liability 

You can also apply for a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which provides healthcare for free or at a reduced cost in:

  • The EU
  • Montenegro
  • Norway
  • Iceland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Switzerland

Not all countries that accept EHICs or GHICs have a free healthcare system like the NHS. Having a card simply entitles you to receive the same level of healthcare at the same cost as that country’s own residents get.

This is where it can get a bit confusing. The threat of fines, in some cases, make it important to get this right.

It's best to check the specific requirements of the country you're visiting, but in general you should have:

  • UK stickers
  • High-viz jacket
  • Spare bulbs
  • Breathalyser kit

GB or UK stickers

Riders with GB plates can buy a new UK plate or fix a UK sticker over the GB symbol. Any extra GB stickers will also need to be replaced with a UK sticker.

High-viz jacket

If you’re motorbike touring in France you need a hi-vis jacket. If you break down, you must wear it. There are fines for not following the legal requirements for riding a motorcycle in France.

Spare bulbs

In most EU countries you must carry these, for the front and rear lights.

Breathalyser kit

If you’re stopped by the police without a breathalyser kit, you might be fined.

Always ride with caution. You’ll be riding on the other side of the road and the local driving style might be different to what you’re used to.

Here are some simple ideas to keep you safe, legal and relaxed:

  • Take a paper map
  • Take regular breaks
  • Mind your load
  • Be respectful of local traffic laws
  • Anticipate border controls

Take a paper map

Paper maps are super light and pack up easily. They’ll also serve as a great backup if your phone signal or battery stops working. Michelin, AA, Collins and Philip’s maps remain popular.

Take regular breaks

Most road safety organisations recommend a break of at least 15 minutes every 2 hours.

Mind your load

As your motorbike will be loaded up, this changes your machine’s performance. So, anticipate that braking and acceleration might be slower and less responsive.

Be respectful of local traffic laws

Different EU countries have different rules around slow-moving or stationary traffic. Some allow filtering. Other countries, like France, don’t.

The same goes for emissions standards. In some areas of Europe, you’re required to display your vehicle’s emissions category. This is the case in Paris and Grenoble, for example.

Anticipate border controls

You might need to use separate EU, EEA (European Economic Area) and Swiss lanes when queuing. Your passport should also now be stamped.

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