Aussie European Tour – The First 100 days
1 Some interesting Stats for us
1 No of days we had “cabin fever” 0/100
2 No of days we wanted to go home 0/100
3 No of days we argued 0/100
4 No of days we have been quiet with each other 0/100
5 No of days we have loved the trip 100/100
6 No of days we have loved each other a little more 100/100
7 No of days we have missed our kids and grand kids 100/100
8 How much money have we spent Not sure
9 How many times have we taken the wrong turn Not sure
10 How far have we driven Not sure
2 Countries Visited in the first 100 days
3 What has seemed to work for us
1 Buying our motorhome with the assistance of Mike Steers from UKMotorhomefinder otherwise it certainly would have been a lot harder to try to do it on our own from Australia.
2 Buying an A class LHD vehicle – an A class means it is a little wider (to accommodate the permanently made up double bed) but it is therefore roomier inside and a LHD vehicle makes it a lot easier to drive in Continental Europe where we will be spending most of our time, but more difficult to drive in the UK.
3 Paying for the motorhome using XE.com and not our bank (saved in excess of 4% of the purchase price)
4 Having the right accessories such as:-
2 solar panels,
2 leisure batteries,
Solar controller which charges both leisure batteries plus the starter battery
2 x 11kg Autogas tanks with auto cut over switch,
Large 2 door 150 litre fridge/freezer (AES) which switches over automatically to the best power source – 240V, gas or 12 volt.
The above accessories allowed us to wild camp for extended periods of time without having to worry about connecting to electricity or fill up little gas bottles on a regular basis.
5 Our biggest concern with wild camping was getting access to fresh water and emptying our cassette toilet, however we became very creative when it came to extending the time between dump stations for the cassette toilet (without breaking the law of course). Same with water – some countries make it more difficult than others to find water – so need to be creative – churches, cemeteries, town parks, advice from tourist offices etc.
6 Buying “High Tech” clothing, towels etc before leaving Australia such as :-
Sea to Summit Tek Microfibre Bath Towels, Face Washers and Tea Towels – these Microfibre products are so good they are almost dry before you have finished using them.
Columbia Hi Tech convertible long/short pants – also quick drying
Thermal long sleeved undershirts from Katmandu
7 Not having a rigid or fixed trip plan – we knew we had to pick up Ziggy from where Mike and Anne had put her in storage in Staffordshire and then drive to see Phil and Kay Davies in Wales (Ziggy’s previous owners) and then be in Biala Podlaska in Poland prior to Easter for the Easter celebrations with Barbara, Piotr and Kornelia Chilzuk (Krys’ relations) and to finalise Krys’ applications for Polish citizenship and passport.
Apart from that we just wanted to head up through Scandinavia to NordKapp in Norway, back down through Finland and central Europe in time to head back to the UK to reregister Ziggy – this reregistration has to be done in the UK – it cannot be done from Europe.
8 Organising a Commonwealth Bank Travel Money Cash Card (1 for each of us) with pre-loaded currencies (10 currencies available).
9 Organising a Bankwest zero fee, zero foreign currency conversion credit card (1 for each of us)
10 Organising a 28 Degrees zero fee, zero foreign currency conversion credit card (1 for each of us).
11 Buying a new Telstra Phone contract in Australia before leaving which gives us unlimited phone time from Australia to Europe, from Europe to Australia and within Europe.
No matter how well you think you have planned you still need to make many lengthy phone calls regarding parking, tolls, infringement notices, insurance, breakdown recovery etc and this has paid off for us already – not to mention phoning home to family and friends.
12 As well as bringing paper docs with us regarding all our passport info, Ziggy purchase contract, insurance, health insurance, health statement from our doctor, liquidity statement from our Tax Accountant and SMSF and Tax info we emailed all the info to our email addresses which are resident on the phones, Ipads and laptop so we have that extra level of backup.
We also have many Apps with their associated data to assist us with locating Parking and Camping Spots and general country touring information and some of them are quite hungry on storage.
We use NKC Parkings, Camperstop, CC Camping Card ACSI, ViaMichelin and Lonely Planet and some of these Apps require up to almost 4GB each if all the maps and photos are loaded so quite a bit of storage is required
13 We bought 2 x electric bikes in the UK prior to crossing the channel which have proven to be a great asset. They provide exercise – we tend to use them without the batteries turned on although most times we have used them so far the territory has been fairly flat. We bought the smaller wheeled folding versions which are easy to store on the Fiamma rack on the rear of Ziggy. We can park a few klms from city centres and cycle in and or go shopping at local supermarkets etc.
14 Breakdown Insurance – I tried to get cover from the German company ADAC prior to leaving Australia but they did not return my emails so I tried phoning but somehow it seemed as though as soon as my 07 calling code was detected I was blocked out so I waited until in Europe and then phoned locally and asked in my best German to speak to an English speaking operator, if one was available. The operator was most helpful and I have been able to take out compete coverage for Europe for 2 years, at a lot less than my Australian coverage costs
3 What we could have done better
1 We should have purchased a MIFI Dongle before we left the UK instead of sourcing it when in Europe.
We ended up sourcing the Dongle from Adam and Sophie at MotorhomeWifi in the UK and had in sent by courier for us to collect in Biala Podlaska – Adam and Sophie were great to deal with.
2 We should have purchased multi country SIM cards before we left the UK.
Trying to find SIM cards in different countries is a nightmare – there are different carriers with different plans and then trying to communicate with staff in another language can be a challenge apart from knowing where to locate the shops in the first place.
By far the best SIM card we bought in Europe was when we were assisted by our Dutch friends Robert and Marie-Louise de Reuver in Skierniewice, Poland (who now live in Poland and speak fluent Polish).
They translated and organised a 10GB card for us for around $8AUD. This card would work only in Poland and would last for only 1 month – which suited our requirements nicely.
About a week before the Polish SIM card was due to run out I contacted Three.Co.UK in the UK to order a SIM card and have it couriered to Biala Podlaska – they refused and said they would only send their “Internet with Legs“ cards to customers in the UK.
The “Internet with Legs” cards can be used in approx. 42 countries, inc Australia.
I then ordered the same card online through Amazon and had it couriered to Biala Podlaska – so what are Three.Co.UK on about???.
Each card can only be used for 2 months (apparently) – I only bought one card – in hindsight I should have ordered several – from memory I think they were around 25GBP for 10GB cards.
The Dongle and the SIM card were both waiting for us upon arrival in Biala Podlaska.
3 We should have bought paper maps of each country we planned visiting before we left the UK – the problem with buying maps once in Europe is they will be in the language of the country you are in and most definitely not English.
The Collins “Europe Essential Road Atlas” we purchased online in Australia does not have nearly enough detail, particularly in Scandinavia.
4 We should have organised travel money cash cards to cover the currencies not covered by the Commonwealth Bank Travel Cash Card – this card provides currency conversion to Euros and 9 other currencies but doesn’t cover the Scandinavian countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark) and Poland so we need to be careful not to double convert as there is a large loss then in real value.
Norway, Sweden and Denmark use the Kroner as their currencies but each Kroner can only be used in its home country and has differing values and Poland uses the Zloty.
5 We brought too many electronic gadgets with us and each device seems to have its own unique charging plug and cable thus creating the potential for a spaghetti junction.
The reason for so many devices is that I believed we would be broken into and we made sure we split up the locations where we hid the devices in Ziggy to make it harder for would be robbers and also I guess because of my IT background and making sure that we had sufficient backups of data, pictures, videos etc.
Our inventory included the following:
2 x Apple Ipads,
3 x IPhones, – 1 an older one which was to be left visible on the dinette table (for robbers)
1 x HP 2-in-one Laptop with solid state drive (to absorb all the bumps),
2 x Kindles,
1 x 2GB Media Player,
1 x 2GB Data Back-up drive,
1 x GoPro Camera
2 x Lithium Battery Banks (for recharging devices when not in Ziggy)
1 x Targus Multi Port Adapter
1 x Multi Card Reader
1 x External DVD Drive
6 Bike rack cover – we started out with a Fiamma Deluxe 4 bike cover which is made out of a thin PVC type material with a zipper as a fastener. It was totally inadequate and was blown apart before the end of the first 100 days (about 10000klms). It is fairly difficult to get it to fit over the bikes properly and has Velcro type joins which don’t seal properly, the zipper kept jamming and therefore it was difficult to keep the weather out. We will be buying another type we have seen on other motorhomes with an elasticised back part made out of sturdier material and hope this will work better (no zipper).
The second 100 days
Let’s hope we can get a few more things better in the next 100 days – everyday is a learning process.