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 is my first flight with this low-cost airline, it’s a value-for-money trip, although you have to watch your luggage weight, otherwise you’re charged extra. You also have to buy food on board, as this isn’t part of the fare.
Landing at 23:15hrs and breezing through Immigration, it’s straight through to collect our backpacks, the hire car, and out of the airport before midnight…amazing. From Bristol, it’s only an hour’s drive to Street, Somerset – the base.
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…
After extensive online research for about 4 weeks on a campervan vs. a motorhome and scouring numerous websites, we decide 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 suits and works best, we visit a motorhome dealer and check out quite a few varieties, shapes, and sizes.
For sale privately, Reg is living in Swansea (Wales), which is about a 2-hour drive from Somerset. So off we set, seeking Reg.
On seeing Reg, it’s love at first sight!
Deposit paid, receipt in hand, and the promise to return the following week with the balance of the cash, we drive back to Somerset quite content that the search for our new home is 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. Lets get back to Reg…
- 5.6 metres in length – easier to park, cheaper on ferries and Tolls, easier to drive through congested cities and on 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 ladened with food and fuel – 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 are signed, keys handed over, and off we drive back over the ‘border’ to Somerset (UK).
Reg behaves beautifully on the 2-hour drive back and we’re suitably impressed – it doesn’t take much really. You have to remember that at the moment, Reg is very light due to being bare inside – no crockery, utensils, pots, or food – as apart from a mattress and a few items, nothing was left. So, accelerating to 100kms on the highway isn’t too difficult – things are looking good.
Safely back in Street, we send Reg to the hospital to be fully checked over. I hear you say, “What, you didn’t get Reg checked over before you purchased?” No, we didn’t.
The discovery and setbacks
Before collecting Reg in Swansea, we discovered that insurance companies in the UK will 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 and stumbling across an excellent and extensive post by themacadames, for Australians buying a vehicle to drive through Europe, we learn 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 to part with AUD$69, so NRMA is 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 driver’s license is valid for at least one year as this is a one-year permit, or it only lasts as long as your current license.
As Reg was sold bare, this sees many trips to the Op(portunity) shops to buy good quality kitchenware (crockery, pots and pans, cutlery, plus more), which proves 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 in Reg – 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 is home after a week.
A further week sees more minor maintenance checks, and a good scrub inside and outside.
Removing loads of stick-on hooks and accompanying tough glue, re-caulking the kitchen bench-top area and the bathroom as the silicone is old, yellow, or mouldy, and Reg is ready to be used for a weekend away.
With a stock-up of food and the Freshwater Beach Holiday Park in Dorset booked, it’s finally time to go on a road trip…at long last!