A touring caravan gives you the freedom of the open road – and if that road starts the moment you drive off a cross-Channel ferry or the Eurotunnel, the open road winds all over Europe.
Recent years have seen the widespread standardisation of rules of the road throughout much of the Continent, but local and regional variations may still apply – and catch the unwary offguard.
Since it is one of the favourite destinations for British caravanners – not least because of the accessibility of its free-to-use motorway network and the high standards of its campsites – let’s take a look at some of the things you need to know about taking your touring caravan to Germany.
Documentation and equipment
The AA has published a checklist of documents and equipment you need to carry with you when towing a caravan in Germany:
- you must hold a valid UK driving licence and be at least 18 years of age – but an International Driving Permit is not required;
- you must carry the original registration document of the towing vehicle, together with a valid certificate of motor insurance;
- the towing vehicle and the caravan must both bear GB stickers;
- headlamps on the towing vehicle must be correctly adjusted for driving on the right – and daytime headlights must be used when visibility is poor.
Driving through France to get your destination?
Unlike many other European countries, German rules recommend but do not make compulsory your having an accident or emergency warning triangle, reflective jacket, first aid kit or fire extinguisher – or, for that matter, the breathalyser that is required in France.
As in the UK, third party insurance for your caravan is typcially incorporated in the motor insurance that covers the towing vehicle.
Tourer insurance is essential, however, if you want to protect your caravan against accidental damage, fire and theft – so contact your caravan insurance provider for cover that remains valid for driving in both the UK and in Europe.
On the road
If you have had to fiddle with change to pay the tolls on many motorways in France, Italy or Austria, it will come as a welcome surprise that none of Germany’s excellent motorways (autobahn) have tolls.
Beware that you may face on the spot fines for some motoring offences, however, and do not be tempted to use radar detection devices – they are illegal in Germany.
You might have heard about the high speeds maintained by many cars on the German autobahn. This does not apply to cars towing touring caravans, which are limited to 80kph (about 50mph on the motorways). An exception is made for those drivers who have passed a special car and caravan test in Germany when the speed restriction increases to 100kph (roughly 62mph) and the vehicle bears a sticker accordingly.
If you are stuck at a leisurely 50mph whilst cars in the fast lane are flashing past at 100mph or more, the speed may prove a little frustrating for some drivers.
A contributor to the website Get Out With the Kids recounts his experiences of towing a caravan on motorways with only two lanes of traffic and the frustration of not being allowed to overtake if you are towing a caravan. The situation may be even worse when you approach the steep inclines of the roads in the German Alps and are stuck behind a heavy goods vehicle travelling less than 30mph, and you are unable to overtake.