Please sign in to post.

Driving your own car in Europe

Almost all of the discussion about driving in Europe is oriented toward rental cars. My partner and I are shipping our 1986 VW van over from the US, thinking that camping in it will save us money on accommodations and give us more freedom of motion. We, and it, will arrive in Antwerp second week of August. Where can we purchase inurance?

Posted by
11945 posts

OK, I hope that you didn't already ship the van... ... because the van will need to be inspected and registered, European plates and all, before you can legally drive it anywhere. Insurance is usually easy enough to obtain. But unless you are using a service that specializes in shipping personal vehicles from the US to Europe, you will need to do all the legwork yourself. Since Antwerp is your first stop, expect the services you'll need to be available in Dutch only.

Posted by
21841 posts

Tom has laid it out for Europe, and it sounds remarkably like what I was about to say for the UK. It must meet all Euro regs before it can run, and must have whatever the Belgian version of an MOT is and the the mountain of paperwork for insurance. Brave. BTW - you wouldn't surely spend all this dosh shipping it if you weren't keeping it a while here. How long is your trip? Where? Not giving unsolicited advice, but are all your ducks in a row with your visa?

Posted by
2699 posts

An European plate is not necessary IF you are not a resident of the an EU country, but the car must meet European standards. There are many restrictions on driving older cars in certain highways and countries, due to pollution.

Posted by
8763 posts

Sorry but I gotta ask.....how will the cost of shipping a vehicle from North America to Europe save you money on accommodations??? Won't the shipping costs make any savings moot? Would it not be cheaper to rent something similar in Europe? And don't get me started on how much it will cost you to get a 1986 VW fixed when it inevitability breaks down:)

Posted by
30150 posts

I tend to agree with Frank (Centennial) that the OP needs to do some further "homework" on the subject of the "Schengen Visa". I'm certainly not trying to say that he "can't" do the trip he's planned, but I think it would be prudent to ensure that he's fully informed of the rules! AFAIK, for "tourist" travel, it's not possible to obtain a blanket Visa that covers all of the countries in the Schengen region of the E.U. That doesn't include the U.K. of course, but they have VERY stringent regulations of their own for anyone wanting to stay for a long period of time. I know their regulations are stringent, as I know someone who was deported within a few hours after arrival, simply because they couldn't satisfy one or more parts of the regulations (it's a long story). If one wants to spend longer than 90-days in a particular country, it's necessary to apply to that country prior to leaving the U.S. and jump through whatever "hoops" they require. Except for Diplomats, military personnel or whatever, I don't think there's an overall "Schengen Visa". I spoke with a couple from the U.S. last year who were staying in Italy for ~6 months, and they described the process for getting long-stay approval. It took months, LOTS of documentation and many interviews at the Embassy. It wasn't a "simple" process! This is not something that should be "taken lightly" as the penalties can be severe! Cheers!

Posted by
10 posts

Tom, yes we are shipping with a company that specializes in shipping personal vehicles. Our van is registered is the State of Oregon, and will not need a European plate, as we are only visiting, not taking up residence. Nigel, we are not visiting the U.K. this time. Our vehicle is designed to be driven on the right side of the road. Our trip is for as long as it takes for us to get tired of Europe, or family emergency at home in the U.S., or the van dies, or our finances fail. We anticipate at least three to six months, but we have sold our home (boat) in Oregon, and have told our kids we'll be back whenever we get back. Where? Wherever we get to. "Europe" covers a lot of ground. We have valid passports, and will apply for a Schengen visa. Micheal, our van, though not a Westphalia, is set up for camping, and we have all the gear we need. Last time we checked, by far and away the biggest expense of European travel was accommodations, and there are campgrounds everywhere.
Andre, thank you for answering Tom. Our van, though old, meets all modern emission control standards. The engine was rebuilt last year. We will not attempt the Autobahn--we are in our sixties and like to keep a slightly slower pace. None of you answered my question about obtaining insurance. And why so negative? I thought this website was about adventurous travelers.

Posted by
21841 posts

Frank Thanks for your further information. I haven't given you any information on insurance because you are landing the vehicle in Belgium and I don't know anything about Belgian insurance which is what you will need. Have you spoken with the Belgian (Flemish) consulate? Do be advised, as you say your trip will be over 90 days, that you will need to either play the Schengen visa waiver game or obtain different visas for travel in the countries you are going to. If you use the Schengen Visa waiver route, the only paperless one, you MUST leave the 25 countries of the Schengen area for at least 90 consecutive days every cycle. You are allowed 90 days cumulative within the Schengen countries every 180 days. That's not being negative, that's trying to keep you out of trouble. It sounds like you have researched this a lot - I'm not trying to teach you how to suck eggs, nor are my colleagues. Even if you know all this there may be lurkers who don't. You say one of your options will be to go until the vehicle gives up. You do know you can't sell it in the EU, right? Oh, about the insurance. Either while in the States or immediately on arrival, certainly before the vehicle arrives, I'd use the internet. We have at least one Dutch speaker on this helpline (my Dutch is marginal) who may be able to help with particular phrases. Google translate is pretty good, but pretty literal and I would not rely on it in legal situations. You will need an IDP. I drive in Europe all the time with my own car, and have some experience in these things.

Posted by
21841 posts

I Googled and found this - http://www.expat-blog.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=87631 . It refers to EU citizens moving vehicles to Belgium and the difficulty one person had getting insurance. The getting Belgian plates before being eligible for Belgian insurance could be a problem. Can't your current insurer cover a temporary trip? Or suggest something?

Posted by
21841 posts

or your company that specializes in shipping personal vehicles

Posted by
8763 posts

"...Micheal, our van, though not a Westphalia, is set up for camping, and we have all the gear we need. Last time we checked, by far and away the biggest expense of European travel was accommodations, and there are campgrounds everywhere..." I don't mean to be negative or argumentative. But, I just can't wrap my head around the economics of this. I've just never heard of anyone going through the trouble of shipping a vehicle across the Atlantic for a 90 day vacation; not to mention all the bureaucracy involved. Most people do it if they are relocating on a long-term basis. How much is it gonna cost you to ship it; ballpark? Thousands of dollars...hundreds????

Posted by
2130 posts

Here's another idea. It would save you a lot of trouble, but cost some money upfront or be financed. Could you consider buying a new vehicle to replace your '86? We did this several years ago. We dealt with a US dealer, got a price that we liked, got free airline tickets, and picked up the vehicle in Europe. We then drove the vehicle around for 7 months, fully insured by the automaker, and had it shipped home at the end of our stay for no additional cost by the automaker. When the car arrived in the US we didn't have to pay any sales tax on it in the US b/c it was considered a used car (after 6 months I believe). Also, the price we paid for the car was less than the price a person would pay in the US. Look online to see if VW is offering anything like this for vans. For our manufacturer it is called Tourist and Diplomatic sales or Overseas Delivery. We needed a new car AND needed to go to Europe for a length of time (sabbatical) so this was a win win situation for us.

Posted by
2130 posts

You are correct Ed. I should have stated that no sales tax was charged in California because of the age of the car, it was considered to be a used car at that point. I should not have said that it was a US thing.

Posted by
19456 posts

I do not see anything negative just some questions trying to make sure you understand the situation and have crossed ALL you ts and dotted you is. You comment about obtaining a Schengen visa shows some lack od understanding given that there is no such thing as a Schengen visa. You still have some homework to do.

Posted by
2757 posts

I too see no negativity, just good advice, pointing out things you may not have considered in your plan. Speaking of Schengen, how will you spend more than 90 days driving around Europe if you are not including the UK?

Posted by
21841 posts

My previous post could be interpreted inaccurately, for which I apologize. The Schengen restriction is that in any 180 period no more than 90 may be spent within the Schengen 25 country area. As long as that is met the "away" time doesn't need to be consecutive. BTW I am not an immigration officer or an attorney nor do I play them on TV.

Posted by
4336 posts

Newport Frank, just for fun have you looked into leasing? Many here have done it, and if I'm not mistaken that's how RS got his hands on the cute little van in his first TV series. It would certainly be faster...I know the car-swimming-across-the-Big-Blue route takes awhile...Just wonderin'. Edit: I got curious, so apparently the van was Steve Smith's and he shipped it over when his family moved there. He and Rick "shared ownership" until it was firebombed during a riot :-( It appears it was only used the first season, but it seems like it was always there in those old shows...maybe just a look-alike took its place...I'll have to watch the old shows now. Darn it.

Posted by
643 posts

My friends parents shipped their 1986 Vanagon GL to Europe for a two month road trek. It had the weekender package which allowed them to sleep comfortably in the back of the van. They lived in Washington State and shipped it out of the Port of Long Beach in California. Can't remember if they needed a foreign plate, but they did get a lot of admirers while driving through Germany. Driving your own vehicle in Europe is a good idea, I think. I believe the orange VW Vanagon that Rick was driving around with his family in the early series was indeed his own car from Edmonds that he shipped over there. I don't think you'd be able to lease such an old car over there, he'd have been driving a Eurovan if he had leased, and it was clearly an older Vanagon in the TV series.

Posted by
4599 posts

Frank says that "camping in it will save us money on accommodations and give us more freedom of motion." It will of course be cheaper to camp than to stay indoors. But like everyone else here, I suspect the other costs of your adventure will be very large, as travel costs go, and that this is probably more about your adventure than about saving money on a European vacation. You are in fact not really traveling - you're moving into your van - so it's possible that without the costs associated with keeping a home, your overall expenditures might be less than they'd be for a homeowner who heads to Europe and books apartment rentals for 3 months. As a long-term VW campervan owner, I can tell you that while this really does sound like fun for a couple of weeks, over the course of 3-6 months, I'd tire much more quickly of my van and of the camping routine than I would tire of Europe. I'm sure there are others who might like to try this and others like me who'd be VERY interested to hear how this goes for you. I hope you will post your trip details, your comments, and an accounting of your expenses when you get back next year.

Posted by
7269 posts

Wondering if Frank has checked the price of gasoline lately? Also, most campgrounds are not near sight-seeing places, so having a vehicle won't be that handy, unless you like packing everything up each day that you want to go see something, and then drive there. Weighing the cost of shipping a vehicle, the insurance (if you can get it) the camp site fees, and the fuel, I doubt very much that there is any savings at all and the whole adventure will cost even more money than just training around and staying is small, low price hotels or renting an apt. You can easily rent apts. in many cities for much less than a hotel costs.

Posted by
687 posts

Before you all get carried away knocking the idea of traveling around Europe in a camper, you might read some of this blog: http://www.soultravelers3.com American family - parents and young daughter. Start back in 2006, when they arrived in Amsterdam and picked up the camper they had arranged to buy (they didn't ship one). They're still traveling, although not always in the van. Unfortunately I don't think the blog will help with Frank's original question, as I feel sure the outfit they bought from helped with the insurance, but maybe Frank can ask that company: http://www.bwcampers.com/

Posted by
21841 posts

Frank, from Newport How has the search for insurance gone? Do you accompany the van across the sea, or do you meet it? When do you leave? When we used to sail transatlantic it used to be nearly a week from NY on a liner. I guess it will be slower on a freighter?

Posted by
265 posts

I do not really understand the comments about registration, inspection etc. of the vehicle upon entering Europe. The US has signed the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic, in which the parties allow each others vehicles on each others territory for temporary use without changes to the vehicles or re-registration if they are legal and duly registered in their home country. This convention (and the following Vienna convention) is also why Europeans can drive around all of Europe without having to change licence plate at each border crossing. The most important requirements are: The car should be registered and legal in the home country. The car should display the international oval sign bearing the letters USA. The stay in the foreign country should be temporary and not exceeding one year (no permanent residence should be taken) The driver should carry a registration certificate.
and treaty states can demand that the driver carry an IDP, but not all do so.

Posted by
265 posts

When I lived near the American embassy in Copenhagen, I saw cars with US licence plates from time to time parked in front of the embassy and driving around in the neighborhood. And it is just as legal as a car from Germany in the Netherlands because af the Geneva Convention, just a bit more uncommon. OT: Have any of you US based travelers ever seen a car with European registration in the US? This should be just as legal as well (if driven by a European tourist), but probably even more uncommon than a US registered car in Europe.

Posted by
10 posts

Wow! So many responses. Thank you all. We are a retired couple in our 60s. Not wealthy, but we do have a steady income. We have learned how to travel light and to stretch a buck. Our van is an '86 GL w/204k miles on it, 13k on rebuilt engine, new exhaust system which meets modern emission-control standards, gets about 20mpg @ 60mph. We have the USA oval sticker and our IDPs, need to know more about MOT. My AAA insurance just ran out, and they do not sell coverage for Europe. We have inquired about the Schengen visa only because we will be visiting MANY countries, but none for more than 90 days, and will keep track of the totals in the Schengen area. Our "plan" is to walk the Camino de Santiago across northern Spain, then camp our way southward through Portugal, stopping over in a hotel or hostel every 3 or 4 days for shower & internet. Then continue eastward along the Med through the fall. Find someplace warm to rent a house or apartment for a couple of months in winter, invite some family over for a break from the rain and snow. In spring, begin working our way north and west. Micheal, the freight for the van was $1350 one-way. A lot, maybe, but when you add up six months' worth of hotel rooms and train-fares, not so much. Yes, gas is expensive, but freedom of motion is worth a lottrains only go from station to station, and taxis aren't cheap.
Sasha, the first response above was "Okay, I hope you didn't already ship the van..." Not negative? Read Jo's. We were in the UK and Ireland for 3 months in '07. Walked the first 50 miles of the Thames, and drove a horse-drawn wagon around County Mayo for a week. Loved every minute, but there's lots more on the continent we've yet to see. (BTW, I lived on Bainbridge from 1977-2002. See the bell over the bar at the Harbour Pub.)

Posted by
19456 posts

I still question if you clearly understand the Schengen visa issue .....We have inquired about the Schengen visa only because we will be visiting MANY countries, but none for more than 90 days, and will keep track of the totals in the Schengen area.... It is not 90 days per country it is 90 days out of 180 continuous days for ALL of the Schengen agreement countries which is most of Europe and then some. For a US citizen I do not believe that there is such a thing as a "Schengen" visa. You need to apply for an extended tourist visa in of the countries that you intend to spend a lot of time. Or any I missing something in your latest posting.

Posted by
265 posts

Be aware that under the Schengen rules, you are allowed 90 days of free travel in the Schengen states, not 90 days in each country. Also be aware, that camping outside official campgrounds is illegal in many countries. So: No camping on the beach, in the forests, on parking lots etc. Always use an official campground, also for your own safety. Unfortunately, there are criminals robbing people sleeping on motorway parking lots. Campgrounds are plentiful in Europe and vary a lot in amenities (and price) from a simple grass field with a toilet building to extensive resorts with swimming pools, spas, playgrounds, restaurants etc. As a minimum, all have toilets and showers. In some countries (e.g. Germany) there are also special campgrounds especially for RV's which are more basic and intended for one or two nights' stop. To be able to locate campgrounds as you drive around, you should buy a guide book over camping sites in Europe. There are many available. Unfortunately, I can't help you with the insurance question. All I can say is that insurance bought in one European country is valid in all of Europe because of the Green insurance card system. You will need proof of liability insurance to be able to drive in Europe (it is a legal requirement in all countries), and you will probably need to get the Green insurance card, too. Since you are from the US, which is not a part of this agreement, your insurance will probably be checked on entry since the authorities cannot automaticly assume that your insurance is valid as they can with other countries. Can your shipping company or your insurance company give advise on obtaining insurance valid for Europe? As previously stated: the green insurance card is the best and most known proof of motor insurance in Europe.

Posted by
265 posts

Regarding MOT (pollution and roadworthiness test), all cars in Europe have to undergo these tests at least once every two years (the frequency varies from country to country). Now, I am not an expert, but I do not think that your vehicle will be subject to such a test. Remember that you are not importing a vehicle, you are just a tourist. If you were to import the vehicle, getting it licensed in Europe, because you were moving to Europe, then your car had to go through the full process of testing: pollution testing, change to European specifications etc, but not for driving temporarily in Europe. A few things come to mind: In many countries a highway sticker is needed to drive on the countrys' motorways. This especially applies to Eastern Europe. In Germany, it requires a green pollution sticker to drive into certain larger cities, also for foreign cars. You will have to prove that your car meets certain specifications to get the sticker. It could be a bit tough for you to get the authorities to issue the sticker based on american documents. (the sticker is not issued based on a pollution test but on the basis of certificates). The sticker is available in all places where they do pollution tests, called "AU" in Germany.

Posted by
21841 posts

What Christophe says about the insurance is good advice. The "green card" is basically a document which summarizes all the cover in a standard format in many languages, much like an IDP does with a driving license, the difference being only an insurance company can issue a green card. By the way, it is usually neither green nor a card these days but still called that. Frank, the nature of these threads is that the volunteer helpers here will probably keep putting out advice after a poster has either found the answer or already departed on their journey, so they are talking out into the ether. You said that you and your van will arrive in Antwerpen in the second week of August you must be getting ready to go. When do you leave? I hope it is pulling together for you...

Posted by
1035 posts

I am amazed the shipping is so reasonable. This sounds like a really fun adventure (or maybe even a "long, strange trip..."). You are getting some very good advice here that will make the trip even better.

Posted by
10 posts

Again, thank you all, especially Christophe. Frank and Kent, I understand completely about the time limitation on the Schengen visa, and now believe it will be better for us to simply acquire visas for each country at their border crossingsI only meant to research it in the first place because I thought it might make things easier. I never heard of it before until reading Rick's book, "Europe through the Back Door." I believe our van in its current configuration can pass any emissions test or roadworthiness examination that might be required of it. Further, I believe that it is a common enough vehicle in Europe that there are mechanics everywhere who will be familiar with it, even more so than in the U.S., and that Volkswagen's extensive parts & service network will enable me to keep it running until we are ready to return home. For those of you convinced that we haven't thought this through, and that taking our rig with us to Europe is a bad idea, I can only say that we have been planning this for many months, we have acquired guidebooks SPECIFICALLY oriented toward car camping in Europe, and if we weren't prepared to run into some problems now and then we would never travel anywherejust stay at home and be couch potatoes like most of our countrymen. The economics of shipping and maintaining the vehicle may NOT save us money in the long run, but we're going to give it a try, and have fun along the way. I'm sure we will be posting on Rick's graffiti wall from time to time.
Thanks again to all of you, and please wish us luck.

Posted by
19456 posts

Frank, don't mean to be so blunt with you but you continue to show that you do not understand the Schengen issue. And it is a potential serious issue that can really screw up your plans. ,,,,,, I understand completely about the time limitation on the Schengen visa, and now believe it will be better for us to simply acquire visas for each country at their border crossings....... With the Schengen agreement that are NO more border crossing, no paper check, no buying of visas, etc. Within the Schengen countries you have free passage. Second, extended stay visa MUST BE acquired prior to entering the country. You are not entering Turkey where you can buy a $20 tourist visa at the border which is really nothing more than a tourist tax. Two completely different animals and you need to understand the difference. You need to get a good handle on the Schengen limitations. Time is running out.

Posted by
30150 posts

Frank (Newport), I have to agree with Frank (Centennial) regarding the Schengen rules. You need to get the necessary Visa's sorted before you embark for Europe! AFAIK you can NOT just pick them up at the border crossings in each country. From what I've seen lately, many of the Border crossing points are no longer even staffed. It's a very good idea not to take this lightly, as severe fines and penalties (including deportation) can be applied to those flaunting the rules! Good luck!

Posted by
265 posts

@Nigel
On request, insurance companies in Europe still issue the original green card which is both a card and is green (well, mine is). For driving between EU/EEA countries with cars registered in EU/EEA, it is not needed anymore, since all EU authorities assume that your car is insured when registered. Therefore the card is not always issued automatically. But I would certainly ask for and bring the original if travelling to, say Russia. Anyway, I don't know which format the US overseas insurer will issue it's policy in. But some form of proof of insurance will be required.

Posted by
687 posts

Frank (Centennial) is right. You need either a long stay Schengen visa or a residency permit. You need it either for the country where you will spend the most time, or the country where you arrive - which in your case appears to be Belgium. There is nothing obvious on the Belgium embassy's web site about long stay visas. I checked the Dutch embassy's site, and found this neat little Catch 22: "Holiday longer than 3 months It is not possible to apply for a short stay visa for a period exceeding 3 months. If you wish to stay in the Netherlands for longer than 3 months, you must apply for a residence permit. In order to be eligible for a residence permit you need a purpose of residence other than holiday and you must meet the conditions of the purpose of residence you have stipulated." You CANNOT get the kind of visa or permit you need on arrival. I recommend some research on both embassy web sites and expat web sites.

Posted by
21841 posts

In the UK the green card replacement (with all the same verbiage) is a white sheet of A4 paper. A4 is nearly the same size as 8.5x11, slightly longer and slightly narrower.

Posted by
687 posts

BTW, these Schengen restrictions are fairly new, so the books you've been reading may have been written before they became an issue. Also, since you won't be staying in hotels, you need to check whether you will have to register your presence with the local police, or whether campgrounds will do it for you.

Posted by
638 posts

As a holder of a Compostela for completing the Camino de Santiago I have a couple of questions and some information for you. What do you plan on doing with the van while walking the Camino? Do you plan on staying in alburgues or still sleeping in your van? If you walk you must complete at least the last 100 km to qualify for a Compostela, using a van would invalidate that, also you must get at least one stamp/sello per day in your pilgrims passport and 2 stamps/sellos per day if you only do the final 100 km, the pilgrims office in Santiago will also compare your pilgrims passport to how long you say you've been walking, by that I mean they know how long it takes on average to arrive in Santiago from anywhere along the Camino. Also you cannot stay in alburgues if you have a vehicle, they are only for use by people walking, cycling or on horseback, with walker getting first priority. The Camino is a journey unlike any other and one of the great treasures of Europe. If you have any specific questions about the Camino feel free to contact me.

Posted by
638 posts

As a holder of a Compostela for completing the Camino de Santiago I have a couple of questions and some information for you. What do you plan on doing with the van while walking the Camino? Do you plan on staying in alburgues or still sleeping in your van? If you walk you must complete at least the last 100 km to qualify for a Compostela, using a van would invalidate that, also you must get at least one stamp/sello per day in your pilgrims passport and 2 stamps/sellos per day if you only do the final 100 km, the pilgrims office in Santiago will also compare your pilgrims passport to how long you say you've been walking, by that I mean they know how long it takes on average to arrive in Santiago from anywhere along the Camino. Also you cannot stay in alburgues if you have a vehicle, they are only for use by people walking, cycling or on horseback, with walkers getting first priority. The Camino is a journey unlike any other and one of the great treasures of Europe. If you have any specific questions about the Camino feel free to contact me.

Posted by
7695 posts

For, Frank from Newport.....confused yet? I'm going to try to summarize some things: 1) Visas. Oh boy, has there been lots of confusing info. Here it is in a nutshell. There's this thing called Schengen. It's an agreement signed by 25 countries that allows travel between them without border checks. Sort of like traveling state to state in the U.S. If you're not a citizen or resident of any of these countries, and are from the U.S., you are allowed 90 days of travel within any 180 days in any of the 25 countries. This "visa" is picked up when you first enter one of the Schengen countries. But should you want to stay longer than 90 days, you need to get a visa from an individual country. No such thing as a long term Schengen visa. Normally, this single country visa is gotten for your first port of entry or the country you plan to spend the most time. It must be gotten BEFORE you arrive. And even though it's only for one country, the other Schengen signatory countries honor it and allow you to visit for the length of that visa. So, if let's say you get a Belgian visa and after 4 months you go to Spain, they will honor it. (A long term visa in most cases is more of a temporary residence permit.) And as long as you don't plan to work, and can prove you have enough financial resources to pay your way, it shouldn't be a problem.

Posted by
7695 posts

(Con't) On other matters.....my suggestion would be to look into getting insurance in the U.S. Many companies offer international coverage. And should something happen, you'll be able to talk to someone in English. (I'm not sure if a European carrier would write insurance on a U.S. registered vehicle. ) As long as your vehicle is properly registered in the U.S., and you have all the little details taken care of, as it seems you have, you shouldn't have a problem in Europe. (I've seen many vehicles in the U.S. with European license plates. And has been said earlier, if you're just temporary, you don't need European plates.) Most of this is just silly paperwork but it has to be done. Some other thoughts: 1) Although there are no more passport border checks between Schengen countries, you can still be stopped for customs checks. 2) Theft from vehicles is a problem in Europe. You may want to find a place in the van, not that easily accessible, to hide your valuablesat least those not small enough to fit into a moneybelt. Never leave anything of value in plain sight. 3) Have a nice time.

Posted by
2757 posts

Hi Newport Frank---so maybe we were neighbors? I'll have to run to the Harbour House and check out the bell to see what you mean. How was the Thames path? We have thought of walking a long-distance path in the UK and hadn't considered that one. Looking at Hadrians, but if the Thames Path is scenic/historic that might be nice. My comment about the UK was based on the idea that you could solve your Schengen problem (and you DO have a Schengen problem with your current plan) by spending 90 days in the UK after your first 90 days in Spain, Portugal, etc. This would have you wintering in the milder clime of the UK, then you could return to the continent to spend another 90 days. The alternative appears to be what Frank II suggests, apply for a long-stay or resident visa in a particular country before you depart the US. Maybe someone knows what the chances of getting one are?

Posted by
813 posts

Frank in Newport, The US Department of State website has the information you need regarding visiting various countries.
http://www.travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_4965.html Also, just FYI on car costs. Yesterday outside Paris we got a flat tire. We called our AAA Europe equivalent (ADAC). Our tire was unfixable and didn't want to drive home the 6+hrs at 130km/hr on a tiny spare, so had to get flatbed towed to the garage for a new tire. The tire was 140Euro ($205), the tow was free due to our insurance.

Posted by
2334 posts

To the OP Frank-No one here is trying to ruin your trip. Quite the opposite-they are trying to help you avoid ruining it. Suddenly getting kicked out of Europe, banned from returning, and fined would not be a fun travel experience. Have you looked at the Shengen Visa thread currently running in General Europe?

Posted by
10 posts

Once again, thank you all. Okay, okay, I GET it! 90 days maximum in the area of Europe covered by the Schengen treaty (all twenty-five countries) in a six month period beginning the day you arrivebut the 90 days do not have to be consecutive, as long as you don't exceed the total before the six months have passed. In other words, you can leave the treaty area and come back, but the number of days must not exceed 90 before the six-month clock runs out. So if, for example, one travels from Belgium through France, Spain, Portugal, Spain again, Italy and Greece between August 8th and November 1st, and then crosses into Turkey, spends a couple of months there in a condo on the Aegean, and another month in, say, Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, and Albania, and doesn't venture into Schengen territory again until AFTER the end of February, he should be good to go, right? Ken, what the heck does AFAIK Sstand for? I think I've got the insurance thing covered. Geico's overseas office is in Germanysix hour time diffI just missed them today, but will call tomorrow.
This is turning into quite an adventure, just getting our ducks lined up in a row. Thank you all for your help especially Frank II, and the State Dept.

Posted by
21841 posts

By George, I think he's got it.... AFAIK = As Far As I Know...

Posted by
2334 posts

Oh, Frank of Newport-WE thank YOU! You listened to us and then you thanked us. Bless you. Now, as payment, we require that you don't forget us and that you periodically post here about how your trip is going. Most of us here fantasize about travelling in Europe for years at a time. Maybe not in a VW van, but...Now we all feel comfortable in telling you to have a great trip.

Posted by
1705 posts

For the sake of the discussion..... Suppose Frank was just a complete Shengen rebel and said "F' it I'll just drive around for a few more months!" what would happen? How could he get tripped up and nabbed by the authorities?

Posted by
19456 posts

Also with a vehicle you chances of contact with police is increased. Over the years we have been stopped by two, random roads check, where the our "papers" were checked. When deciding to just blow it off you need to understand the downside risk. It is not just a slap on the wrist and ticket that you can tear up later. We get so unset in this country with illegal aliens so why would we expect our European friends to behave any better. Once you go over the limit you are an illegal alien in that country.

Posted by
988 posts

KENT - Can you repost that link? Click here isn't working.

Posted by
1705 posts

Yes Kent please repost that link. I'm curious to know how Dennis' daughter was caught as she was leaving. Do the airlines notify the authorities? That would be surprising to learn!

Posted by
10007 posts

I fixed the link in my post above.
Here it is again: @ Richard's question: How do they catch you? Click below to read Dennis' post (4th post down) describing what happened when his daughter getting caught. It was upon her departure from Europe. http://www.ricksteves.com/graffiti/helpline/index.cfm/rurl/topic/44403/5-months-in-europe-on-a-serious-budgetshould-i-buy-a-eurail-pass.html Additional posts by Dennis on this are here: http://www.ricksteves.com/graffiti/helpline/index.cfm?topic=42779

Posted by
10 posts

Well, folks, while I am grateful to all of you for your help, here we are two weeks from our sailing date, and I am no closer than when I started. True, I have a much better understanding of the Schengen rules on visiting Europe, but I still have not been able to buy insurance, and time is running out. Geico first told me I needed a certificate of inspection, which I now have, but still won't sell me a policy without a document certifying that I've made arrangements to ship the van BACK to the USA within ninety days. If I am to get the "green card" before I leave, it will likely have to be from an insurer in a European country., probably Belgium, since that's where we will land. But I'll buy it from anyone. UK? Spain?
Any ideas?

Posted by
687 posts

@Frank - have a great trip! Will you be blogging? You can get a free (and easy to use) blog at wordpress.com.

Posted by
10 posts

Kathy, no I didn't. I went to their website and it looks like a camper rental outfit (which was starting to sound not so bad to me after all this runaround) but yesterday I made contact with a company called Clements that we hope will be the answer to our prayers. Once again, I wish to thank you and all your colleagues here for your efforts. The assistance, and encouragement, is much appreciated.
See you all on the graffiti board.

Posted by
10 posts

Thanks, Kathy, Nigel, Christophe , and all the rest of you. As of today, we have all the documentation and insurance coverage we will need, I HOPE! Rick's website is a godsend, and I will be returning to it often, I'm sure. We sail a week from Monday and will arrive in Antwerp beginning the second week of August. I have a dual-SIM card phone, for roaming and local, and we're taking our laptop for whenever we have internet. I'm sure I'll be posting on Rick's Graffiti Wall, and I even have a web-page if I can ever figure out how to construct a site.
AGAIN, THANK YOU ONE AND ALL.

Posted by
10 posts

If any of you are still following this at all, we made it to Europe. We are presently working our way westward across northern Spain, along the Camino de Santiago, with me accompanying my partner on foot for a couple of hours in the morning, carrying our pack with the water and food, and then handing it off and backtracking to the van. I drive ahead to the day's destination, park, and walk back to meet her. The van was delivered a week late, without the title, and with the driver's side mirror in eight pieces. Using my Oregon registration, I managed to get it through customs, and have been driving it more or less without incident. The learning curve is steep, the campgrounds ("campings") are nothing at all like what we are used to in the States, and gasoline is frightfully expensive, but we are glad to have our rig and and the freedom that it offers. The insurance problem was finally resolved, although the policy does not cover some interesting eastern European countries that we would like to pass through on our way to Turkey. We'll see how it goes.
Thanks again, everybody. I'll try to post on the graffiti wall sometime soon, but internet access is not as readily available as we had hoped.

Posted by
21841 posts

Thanks very much for the Frank. You, and your partner, are clearly the battling on kind. It is good that both of you are able to participate in the pilgrimage. Did you get your mirror fixed, or is a scotch tape or duct tape job? Sorry about the fuel prices. Hope to hear from you again when next you surface.

Posted by
10 posts

The mirror is held together with duct tape for now, but a replacement is on the way from California, and with luck will catch up to us in Rome. It WAS a bit of a battle, and there are still some things to be worked out, but we're on the move and watching the clock on our Schengen timetable. My partner is in Morocco today, while I take care of errands and van maintenance in Algeciras. Next week the Alhambra, then on to Barcelona. Meeting lots of wonderful people, having great adventures--taking it day by day. Thanks, Nigel, for your interest.

Posted by
2757 posts

Hi Frank! While you are on the Internet, you might want to book your tickets for the Alhambra. Tickets do sell out, and if you arrive in the morning hoping to visit that day you may be disappointed.

Posted by
1241 posts

Hi Frank - Are you still in Europe? How about an update?