It was only small talk, just another goal, for years we always dreamt of doing this… & now its an achievement, an accomplishment, just memories to be forever cherished.
We’ve always loved to road trip, even back here at home we planned our weekends going somewhere local. Getting lost and ending up no where, but obviously a good no where. Which is why for Mitch and I we knew that buying a van and travelling through Europe would be the way to go!!!
What to think about before buying:
Okay, first things first – I personally wouldn’t recommend doing this if you don’t plan to travel for quite a long time, we managed to travel Europe for exactly 4 months in our van but we could have EASILY stayed longer. (I’ll explain in more detail as to why we weren’t able to in the next few paragraphs).
If you’re planning to travel with someone for a long period of time, what you must be sure of is that you’re pretty comfortable with that person. From the beginning Mitch and I have always been close with sharing personal space and understanding when we need our alone time, but after being living under a tin roof for 120 days, accidental toothbrush swaps, emergency toilet situations, and god knows whatever else gross stuff happened along the way, we are wayyy past that “normal” comfort level. No shame ha!
There are so many different ways and routes to travel around Europe, but we knew that buying a van would be the best, easiest and cheapest way. Overall it really is about the journey, we had places marked off in each country but we didn’t really have a route to follow by. We allowed plenty of time during the day to truly enjoy what Europe has to offer. Didn’t rush it, and somehow we planed it just right as we always had time for those unexpected stops.
How much money will you need?
Please note all costs involved are in Australian currency.
In total, we spent just under $25,000. This paid for our return flights, travel insurance, the van with all the gear and costs involved to get it on the road, and our spending money – camping sites, fuel, groceries, tolls, activities/sight seeing, public transport, a week sailing in Croatia and abit of shopping. Although keep in mind that you will need some extra cash in case of emergencies.
Set your budget for at least $5000 minimum for a camper, the last thing you want or to even worry about is for your camper to break down! You really do want something reliable. Stay away from old vehicles or with ones with a lot of kilometers. Honestly it doesn’t really matter how much you spend because you will be selling. Keep in mind, if you spend a little bit of time finding the right camper, hopefully you get the chance to break even or to even make money once you do sell!
The best country to buy, how to buy/register and the costs involved:
I did a bit of research before we booked our flights and found that the best places to buy were over in the UK or in Germany. Lucky we had family who lived in Germany that helped us with the buy. If you don’t speak German, or know anyone who does, this may be quite tricky to do so but I’m sure someone in the registration office (Kraftfahrzeug-Zulassungsstelle) would have spoken English. Also please note, that this process is totally different to back home in Australia, there are so many “unusual” things that must be done in order to register your German vehicle/camper.
Once you purchase your camper you will receive (Zulassungbescheinigung Teil I & II). These little green cards are the title to the car and to prove your ownership. Also to cross borders into non-shengen countries you will need to show these at border control.
All German cars must be approved by TÜV (Technische Überwachungs-Verein) in order to register the car. I can’t quite remember if the TÜV for our camper had expired or was close to expiring, either way we had to get a new inspection done.
We didn’t have a residential address in Germany or in any other European country, so because of that we had to purchase “export number plates” (Ausfuhrkennzeichen). The maximum time for these and insurance for the plates is only 180 days.
To finalise everything, you will need to bring with you to the nearest registration office:
- Both green cards, documents of your TÜV, your passport, Australian license and International license, copy of your address in Australia (this should be on your license) and cash for tax/plates.
Half way through the process you will be given paperwork with the digits for your new export plates. To get the license plates made, the teller will advice you where to go. (Usually there is an office nearby).
Afterwards head back to the registration office with the plates, you will then pay the tax in a machine, make sure you grab a receipt as you’ll need this for proof. Once this is done, the teller will walk with you outside to check the VIN number on your camper againts the registration documents and then you are done!!
Breakdown costs for our camper:
- Vehicle cost (2000 Ford Transit): $5800
- Full Comprehensive Insurance & Roadside Assistance: $1300
- TÜV: $460
- Export Plates & Tax: $350
- European GPS: $150 (We took this home with us in the hopes to resell/reuse)
The cost of our camper and organising absolutely everything to get us on the road was at a total of $8060. We are so lucky to have sold it for $7500, with a loss of only $560. This pretty much means that for 4 months our accomodation only cost us $280 each travelling through 15 countries!
A really good website for campers that we used while in Australia and over in Germany was at: www.mobile.de
How long can you legally stay in the Schengen Area?
Legally you are only aloud to be inside the the “zone” for a maximum of 90 days if you do not hold a travel or a working visa. Obviously if you were granted a visa you could stay here for a lot longer but you don’t need one. Instead you can save your money and work your way around this by leaving the Schengen Zone and visiting other countries that aren’t apart of it.
For more information about which countries are and aren’t apart of the zone, quickly just scroll through Google images.
To get yourself fully equipped up and your must needs:
Don’t worry about bringing over kitchen equipment or bedding as it’ll just weigh your bags down… Buy everything once you’ve arrived at a $2 store! You may even be lucky and purchase a camper with everything already included.
Toiliteres as well, don’t worry about them. Unless you have special requirements, the only toiletries we brought with us were new tooth brushes, medicine, organic sunscreen, face wash and deodrent.
A GPS is a must buy! Honestly we were unsure if we needed one, and after we finished our trip I don’t see how this could have been possible to not have one! We used this device the most, every single day actually. We didn’t have a sim card in our phones which meant we didn’t have service/internet. Our GPS was a life saver and came in handy when we wanted to avoid toll roads and to find camp sites/petrol stations.
If you’re planning to wild camp like we did most nights, I recommend buying a few solar power charger packs. This way you can keep your phone charged when you don’t have access to power every night! Plus they’re super tiny you can easily fit this into your backpack when your out and about in the cities.
A luxury item we brought was a portable gas cooker! We couldn’t find anywhere in Italy to refill our gas bottle for the camper, and as this was our 3rd last country to visit we didn’t worry to much about finding a place that did. Winning situation for us though, we got to take it up to waterfalls and down by lakes/rivers for morning coffees!
By European Law you must always carry with you in your vehicle a first aid kit, fluorescent vests for each passenger and a triangle to place on the road in case of emergencies.
Where we shopped for water, groceries and what we cooked:
Lidil! It’s much like Aldi but even cheaper. Our fridge was very temperamental and only worked while driving so we couldn’t buy bulk fresh groceries, instead it was roughly every 3-4 days. Mitch likes to eat the occasional meat but pretty much turned vegetarian like me on the trip as it was easier this way to cook.
We treated ourselves with bottled water and the cost wasn’t all that bad. For 1.5L of fresh water cost about $1.40. We worked out that 2-3L would last us a day, as well as using this for boiling pasta and doing the dishes.
We always made breakfast and dinner in the van and only sometimes made lunch. As most of the time we would buy lunch out because we couldn’t resist trying new foods. I think this is where a lot of our money went towards haha.
Our goto meals for breakfast were vegemite toast or seasoned vegetables on toast and with black coffees because we couldn’t keep soy milk cold.
Dinners would be whatever vegetables we had left remaining, throwing everything into the pan with olive oil, soy sauce and seasonings served with cooked pasta or potatoes. We would sometimes have spaghetti and if I felt like making the night a little special I would make some garlic bread to go with!
Always keep snacks on hand because nobody likes to be hangry. We always had water, chocolate, olives, chips or biscuits in the front to keep us busy.
Note: Always prepare and remind yourself to stock up on the groceries before Sunday as everything closes!
Toilet situation and where to shower?
You can get portaloos with special capsules which decomposes everything to a coloured liquid. Keep in mind that this will need to be disposed correctly at a camp site. I think if you have the spare money and the room to keep one in your camper then go ahead! I won’t go into to much detail, but for us a plastic bucket and a roll of small plastic rubbish bags saved us in the cities, or otherwise we would dig a hole in the bushes – remember to fill it back up haha.
Every night we cleaned ourselves with baby wipes and this would keep us happy for about three days until times got rough, then we would spoil ourselves with a hot shower at a camp site. Along the coast line of Europe are plenty of free cold showers which we took advantage of quite regularly.
Washing your clothes:
Camp sites will always have washing machines for a few extra dollars, or on your GPS it will have the locations of nearby laundromats. Many times we had to ask strangers for washing powder as some camp sites didn’t have any. This is a hassle when your in a foreign country and no one around you speaks English. I do recommend to purchase some, it’ll easily last your entire trip.
Note: We had 2 bedsheets, 2 beach towels and 4 bath towels. Always pack extra underwear and socks so you can avoid having to wash regularly.
It has been a journey beyond anything I imagined and I am so happy that we decided to take a leap of faith… On the other side of your comfort zone is growth and opportunity!
This whole “van life” taught us heaps. We’ve learned so much about each other and slow living. Travelling while being in the comfort of our own home. My eyes are widened, I can see the bigger picture now. My dreams sure did come true…
I hope I have shared enough information for you all to start you on your European journey. Note, I am not a professional and these are just steps and tips as to how we set ourselves up. This has taken quite some time to prepare and finalise so I really do hope I have cleared up all of your questions. If you have any enquiries at all in regards to seeing Europe by a camper, shoot me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be more than happy to answer your questions!
Much love, K xx