Planning a motorcycle trip in Europe

Biking in Europe

A European bike trip takes a bit of planning – especially with vital paperwork and documents. Weve done the spade work to ensure your trip covers right for you.

What type of licence do I need to ride my motorbike in Europe?

You’ll need a full UK motorcycle licence to ride in Europe. The Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) assessment and certification won’t be enough.

If you’re determined to ride in Europe, do make some plans to get a full UK licence.

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 training and licence maze. It covers both A1 and A2 bikes as well as all age-group limitations.

It covers mopeds up to full size touring bikes, and we think it’s helpful and clear.

 

Does my UK motorbike insurance policy cover me in Europe?

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

And some policies might not be up to the standard you’re used to on home turf. Does it include fully comprehensive cover? Or is it third-party only?

If it’s third party then you could be exposed to theft and fire damage risk plus any accidents that are your fault.

Think hard about how often you intend to ride in Europe. Do you need single-trip cover? Or multi-trip cover that gives you protection for up to three months of the year perhaps?

Check the specific time allowance here. Some insurers might give you up to 60 days’ cover. Other insurers could stretch this to 90 days. You don’t want to be caught out if you’re on European roads for some time. 

Look closely at the countries you plan to travel in. Are there any country-by-country policy exemptions or differences in how motorbike riders are treated?

As the UK has left the EU, it means policy differences matter more than ever.

Compare motorbike insurance quotes

 

What motorbike insurance cover do I need for Europe?

Before buying a policy, you’ll need to decide if you want cover for just one machine – or any bike you use.

As always, be honest with your own attitude to risk. While you might be comfortable with a basic level of cover at home, beefing up your level of cover while abroad might sound sensible for many of us.

Some other considerations:

  • What are the time limits on your EU trip? If so, can you easily extend if you need to?

  • Does your insurance policy include the cost of breakdowns and most emergency repairs?

  • Are there limits to any breakdown cover you have?

  • Will your policy give you 24/7 access to an English-speaking helpline? If so, will they organise recovery to a local garage – or back home to the UK, if needed?

  • What bike or car hire options are offered while your bike’s off the road? Are there any financial cover limits?

  • Would the policy cover overnight accommodation if needed?

 

The UK motorbike insurance market remains competitive. But market forces play their part. It’s worth looking at the whole policy rather than just the price.

Going for the cheapest option could leave you vulnerable when you need most need support.

So always shop around and get to know the level of cover you feel is right for you, wherever you and your bike end up.

Think about any modifications you’ve made to your bike. If your insurer doesn’t know about them then your policy could be invalid when you make a claim.

While some modifications could push up your premium many common ones like crash bars and upgraded braking systems might have little impact.

 

Important documents youll need for a European trip

Until recently any UK biker or driver needed a green card from their insurer to travel in the EU. The EU Commission has now confirmed it’s now ditching this requirement. Good news!

In other words, nothing has substantially changed since the UK was part of the EU. This makes things simpler and less of a hassle.

There’s still a bunch of other paperwork you need when you take your motorbike out of the UK.

You’ll need your insurance certificate and original vehicle registration certificate or V5C document. If it’s not in your own name do get a letter of consent from the registered keeper.

You’ll need your passport (obviously). You’ll need to check whether you need an International Driving Permit (IDP). This is an area that has seen a lot of change.

You don’t need an IDP to ride in the EU, Switzerland or Norway if you’ve a UK-issued photo card driving licence. But if you only have a paper UK licence you will need an IPD card.

You can check online with the Post Office on the latest IDP guidance on any country in the world you may want to ride in. The cost of a permit is just £5.50.

Do make sure your bike MOT and tax is up-to-date as well.

Last of all, make sure you’ve got your European breakdown cover policy documents to hand. You might be able to access these details online as well, but don’t rely on it!

 

Travel insurance and the EHIC/GHIC

Confused about European health cover after Brexit? Relax. 

If you’ve got a UK European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) then it’s valid right up till to date it expires – see the bottom right on your card.

Once expired, every UK citizen has the right to apply for a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC).

A GHIC card gives everyone European healthcare for free or at a reduced cost.

While the GHIC card is good for the EU, you’re not covered for Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. And while the GHIC card implies global cover, in reality its EU-area cover only. But it is free.

Not all European Economic Area countries have a free healthcare system. A contribution might still be necessary, depending on where you are.

If for any reason you forget to apply for a GHIC card, you’re still entitled to the cover – as long as you’re entitled to the card!

The GHIC healthcare card is not accepted in:

  • The Channel Islands, including Guernsey, Alderney and Sark

  • Isle of Man

  • Monaco

  • San Marino

  • Vatican City.

You should be able to use your UK passport to get medically necessary healthcare in Norway.

 

Prepping your bike for Europe – what do I need to know?

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

 

GB or UK stickers

If your bike number plate already has a GB identifier then there’s no need for a GB sticker. If your number plate has a euro flag or no country identity, you’ll need a GB sticker.

But from 28 September 2021, the law changes again with a switch from GB to UK identifiers, which includes Northern Ireland.

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 biking in France you’ll need a hi-viz jacket. If you break down then you must wear it. There are fines –for not following French on-the-road emergency rules.

A simple hi-viz jacket packs up tight and they’re easily available online. So dont take the risk of skimping here.

 

Spare bulbs

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

 

Breathalyser kit

A simple breathalyser kit is required in some EU countries. If you’re stopped by the police without one you might be fined. This can be a bit of a fluid situation, depending on the EU country you’re riding in.

Do be prepared for requirements like these and try and think ahead while you’re out enjoying the road. 

 

Will my insurance policy include European breakdown cover?

Some policies might, but some won’t. Most motorbike insurance policies should offer a measure of European cover – but not all will be to the same level as you get in the UK.

Some insurance companies might let you have European breakdown cover as an optional add-on.

If you’re not offered full breakdown and accident recovery across the EU, perhaps ask yourself some questions:

  • What level of cover would make you comfortable in an emergency?

  • Will your policy give you unlimited roadside assistance – or is there a cut-off?

  • Are repatriation costs included?

  • Is there a 24/7 English-speaking helpline?

 

Road tips to keep you safe and legal in Europe

Always ride with caution. You’ll be riding on the ‘wrong’ 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

We don’t mean to be old-fashioned, but paper maps are super light and pack up easily. They’ll also serve as a great backup if your phone signal or battery packs in.

Michelin, AA, Collins and Philip’s maps remain popular.

 

Take regular breaks

Most road safety organisations recommend at least 15 minutes minimum every two hours.

 

Mind your load

As your bike will be loaded up, this changes your machine’s performance. So, anticipate that braking and acceleration might be different. Possibly slower.

Also pay attention to any balance issues, including passengers.

 

Be respectful of local traffic laws

For example, 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.

 

Call your insurer

If you’re unlucky enough to have an accident, call your insurer immediately. Most have emergency 24/7 phone lines. If you’ve got a smartphone, take photographs of any damage.

Also make any notes of local conditions – weather, time, registration details, exact location.

 

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.

 

Enjoy yourself

Which means an unhurried pace for many of us. Plenty of breaks for food, coffees and great views. So stop – a lot – and go with the flow.

 

Two last things we need to mention. Do take care with any roaming charges you now maybe exposed to. This is especially important if you’re using your phone as a sat nav.

Since 2017 UK citizens have been able to use their regular tariff – data, minutes and texts – when in the EU.

But from January 2022 EE, for example, is charging some customers £2 a day to use their allowance.

The UKs three other major networks – Three, Vodafone and O2 – have promised not to reintroduce charges. But as always, it’s subject to change.

 

In terms of Covid-19, you’ll still need to undergo pre-trip testing requirements.

Even if a country is on a green or amber list, it’s worth checking out the latest travel advice updates. Also, keep an eye on any entry and exit requirements.

As we know, these can be subject to last minute change. The vast majority of travel insurance policies provide emergency medical support and repatriation for COVID-19 claims.

But always double-check your policy.

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