Understanding The Differences When Riding Motorcycle Abroad
Riding a motorcycle abroad is a unique adventure. It is high on many riders’ lists but they don’t always get around to doing it. It offers an immersive way to experience different cultures, landscapes and roadways.
Just a short hop across the channel, either by ferry or train and you’ll find yourself in a different world. The pull of near empty roads and fantastic views is the pull that brings riders back, year after year.
However, venturing into a foreign country on two wheels involves a great deal of preparation. A solid understanding of the differences in traffic laws, safety regulations and road etiquette are required before you go.
Ensuring that all necessary documents are in order is paramount when planning an international motorcycle trip. Smaller trips into Europe are a great way to start and if you get the bug, you can always spread your wings and go further afield.
Alongside your passport, you need to carry your driving licence, international driving permit (if required), vehicle registration documents and insurance certificate. Although riders from the UK are not issued with a green card as standard, it is a piece of paperwork that holds up proceedings at some eastern European borders.
To this end, do some research and be aware that the regulations around what is considered valid documentation may vary across countries. It’s crucial to check the specific requirements of your destination(s) before you depart.
Where you are not insured to travel through certain countries, you can purchase short term insurance at the border. Be aware, when paying in Euros they may not have change (a nice earner for the person taking your money.)
Navigating Waterways: Ferries and the Euro Tunnel
Using ferries or the Euro Tunnel can be an efficient way to take your motorcycle abroad. It depends on your destination to which one you choose.
If you want a long ride if travelling to Northern Spain, you can hop across a shorter crossing to Calais and have a long ride. But if you want to spend three or four days meandering with extra fuel and extra stops, you are better off catching a ferry to northern Spain.
Likewise for a quicker journey if you are heading east, thirty five minutes on the train will have you riding off into France. It is a very simple process and not expensive. A cheaper way is one of the ferries which takes three times as long but is still popular.
Before setting off when riding a motorcycle abroad, familiarise yourself with their specific requirements for motorcycle travel. There are plenty of books to read and companies that venture abroad.
Some are tour companies but we are unique as a business as we deliver bespoke high level Advanced Training Tours to our customers. This means you get a holiday and elevate your riding skills at the same time.
You will need to secure your bike during transit. Don’t worry though because on the ferry the bike is secured for you as it is the responsibility of the ferry company to secure their load. If anything happens to your bike, it is covered by their insurance.
It’s good practice and normally cheaper to book your spot in advance, particularly during peak seasons. This will mean you can get the transport you want and when you want to travel. Booking early during the planning stage is advised.
Route Planning and Deciding Where to go
A crucial part of riding a motorcycle abroad is efficient route planning. How far do you travel each day, how far can you ride each day, how far do you want to travel each day and what is the purpose of the journey. Are you sightseeing or do you want to travel to a specific destination? All these questions need an answer and it can only be answered by you and what you intend to do.
Some riders want adventure and the thrill of seeing the mountains or great views. If this is the case you would not be heading for Holland for your trip, as it is flat and quite boring for the majority of the riding. However, if you want to visit places where other riders don’t go, the coast around Holland is a great place to visit, especially in the north.
Mountains and scenery
If you want mountains, the Alps are not far away. If you want to visit different countries along the way, central Eruope will give you the chance to hop over borders easily. And if you want to rack up a number of countries you can get 10 Countries in quite easily, in a two week trip.
It’s beneficial to familiarise yourself with the local speed limits, road signs, and any peculiar traffic rules in the regions you’ll be visiting. This is because you can get a little bit disorientated initially when things don’t feel familiar. Take your time and absorb it all in when you first visit a new country.
Modern technology like GPS or satellite navigation systems can be invaluable for this purpose. However, always have a backup plan, like a paper map, or your mobile phone in case of technical issues.
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Travel and Medical Insurance
Before venturing off and riding a motorcycle abroad, ensure you have adequate medical and travel insurance cover. This can be the same policy or two different policies.This will help repatriate you and your motorcycle if required, having them could save you a lot of money if the worst were to happen.
While your domestic policy might provide some coverage, additional international coverage is often required. Make sure you fully understand the cover you have and ask questions about the cover provided if anything was to happen whilst you were abroad.
It is not expensive but something that can easily be overlooked.
There are many alternatives on the market for breakdown cover when riding a motorcycle abroad. They vary in price and cover, so buy the best one you can for the journey you are doing.
Some companies will not cover certain countries, so it is best to find this out during the planning stage. Don’t plot your journey first and then find travel insurance and breakdown insurance won’t cover you everywhere you might go.
In the event of an accident or breakdown, you want to have peace of mind that help is not too far away. Even if it is just recovery and help getting to a bike garage. There is nothing worse than feeling alone and isolated if anything happens.
Our recommendation is the AA European Breakdown cover, it has always been an easy and straightforward process. Whereas some others, that our riders have tried to use abroad when needed were woefully lacking.
Prepare for the Unexpected
Hopefully your ride will go smoothly, but it’s always smart to be prepared for potential issues. This does mean having a basic repair kit on hand for minor mechanical problems.
You could carry spare bulbs, a few extra fuses, a tyre repair kit is essential, and basic tools can go a long way to help get you going again. We always recommend you carry spare clutch and brake levers too, a small drop when stationary could mean the end of your trip for a few days if you break a clutch lever.
In addition, many countries require you to carry specific equipment like reflective vests, a first-aid kit, or a warning triangle. Check where you are going and find out if there is anything specific you need for different countries.
Just one example is to ensure you buy a vignette if you intend to travel on a motorway in Switzerland, as fines for not adhering to the rules can be very high. Do you need a visa to pass through certain countries? If you do, sort it out before you go and research these requirements properly before you depart.
Identifying Your Origin
Lastly, don’t forget to attach a nationality plate when riding a motorcycle abroad.
This identification, usually in the form of a sticker or plate, allows other drivers to quickly identify the country of origin of your vehicle, which can be particularly useful in case of an incident.
Different police forces will pull you over in different countries if you do not display the correct information. This allows them to pull you over and check all your documents. If you don’t give them the reason to stop you, they probably won’t.
Your Road to Adventure
When riding a motorcycle abroad, it can be an extremely thrilling and exciting experience, combining the love of motorcycling with the excitement of international travel.
However, this adventure requires careful planning, understanding of different road rules and attention to various legalities. The internet has made European travel much easier, if you have a question you can usually find it on the internet.
Be fully prepared for the trip, educate yourself about the differences you’ll encounter. You can make your foreign ride a journey to remember. If you have doubts or want to ride with experienced riders who have paved the way, our riding tours vary from new and novice riders with a week in France to break you in gently. Or for the more adventurous, longer trips that last two weeks and visit places like Portugal, Spain, Germany, Austria and down to Croatia.
We have taken groups to Auschwitz, Colditz and down to Montenegro too. These are bigger demanding tours so if you are interested in Advanced Training Tours with expert trainers sign up to our Touring list to get the latest information.