Just as there wasn’t a plan for the 13-month adventure through SE Asia, The Baltics, and Poland, decided on a new travel chapter and ended up with a Fiat Ducato Autostar 1997 1.9TDI motorhome, as a new home for a while!
Travel to the UK
Considering this was my first flight with this low-cost airline, it was a value-for-money trip, although you have to watch your luggage weight, otherwise you’ll be charged extra. You also have to buy food on board, as this isn’t part of the fare.
The flight landed at 23:15hrs, Immigration was a breeze, then straight through to collect baggage, a hire car, and out of the airport before midnight…amazing! Only had an hour’s drive to Street, Somerset.
The sketchy plan is to buy a cheaper motorhome or campervan (undecided) and do some touring through Western Europe as this mode of travel should keep costs down by staying in campsites; here’s hoping anyway…
After extensive online research for about 4 weeks on a campervan vs. a motorhome and scouring numerous websites, we decided on a motorhome for the following main reasons:
- Lower mileage, typically
- Slightly cheaper
- Fixed bed
Having never owned or lived in a motorhome, to get a feel for what suited and would work best; we visited a motorhome dealer and checked out quite a few varieties, shapes, and sizes.
For sale privately, Reg was living in Swansea (Wales), which is about a 2-hour drive from Somerset. So off we set, seeking Reg. When we first saw Reg, it was love at first sight! Deposit paid, receipt in hand, and the promise to return the following week with the balance of the cash, we drove back to Somerset quite content that the search for our new home was finally over.
Reg is aptly named after one of the characters (a photographer’s workhorse assistant…see the similarity?) in the cult movie Blow-up.
If you haven’t seen this 1966 movie of a Mod London photographer that shoots in a desolate park and finds something very suspicious in his shot, then it’s a must-see. Anyway, I digress, back to Reg.
- 5.6 metres in length – easier to park, cheaper on ferries and Tolls, easier to drive through congested cities and smaller roads
- 3.5 Tonne – requires a regular Driver’s License not a Heavy Vehicle license
- Ample kitchen room
- 2.2 metres wide – roomy living layout
- Light and airy inside
- Fiamma fixed awning
- Bed’s headroom could be higher
- A 2.5 TDI engine would be good – 1.9TDI is a little underpowered up hills when Reg is fully loaded with food and fuel, but the 1.9 has better fuel economy
- Left-hand drive – whilst excellent in Europe, may not be so popular in the UK
Another trip to Swansea but this time with cash in hand, papers were signed, keys handed over, and off we drove back over the ‘border’ to Somerset (UK).
Reg behaved beautifully on the 2-hour drive back and we were impressed (it doesn’t take much). You have to remember that Reg was very light due to being bare inside (no crockery, utensils, pots, or anything) as apart from a mattress and a few items, nothing was left. So, accelerating to 100kms on the highway wasn’t too difficult – things were looking good!
Safely back in Street, we sent Reg to the hospital to be fully checked over.
The discovery and setbacks
Before collecting Reg in Swansea, we discovered that insurance companies in the UK would not insure a UK-registered vehicle driven by a non-UK Driver’s License holder. What a blow! The moral of the story? Never assume anything!
After some frantic searching online, stumbled across an excellent and extensive post by themacadames for Australians buying a vehicle to drive through Europe, which provides a ton of great information. This site also provides the Australian insurance company DUInsure that does insure Australians in this situation. Beware though as insurance for a motorhome is not cheap.
The other setback is that Australians also need an IDP (International Driver’s Permit) to drive in the EU. You need to apply for this permit in Australia and part with AUD$69, so NRMA was the chosen one. The permit turnaround time is supposed to take 2 weeks from when the paperwork is received in Australia to having it in your hot little hand; but that’s another story. Make sure your license is valid for at least a year as this is a one-year permit or only lasts as long as your current license.
As Reg was sold bare, many trips to the Op(portunity) shops to buy good quality kitchenware (crockery, pots and pans, cutlery, and more) proved invaluable. Several online Groupon purchases for bed linen and towels, and Reg is fitted out for comfortable living.
The previous owners did leave a few things: a couple of yellow chocks, thermal screens, a jack, the original EU number plate, EU safety pack, hose, electrical lead, and a couple of other bits and pieces.
After 2 new rear tyres, a full service, rear brake cylinders, and a few more fixes, Reg was home after a week and ready to be used for a weekend away.
With a stock-up of food and the Freshwater Beach Holiday Park in Dorset booked, it was time to go on a road trip…at long last!