Riding a bike in another country can be exhilarating and exciting, breaking routine from the roads you know and discovering somewhere new. For many, a trip abroad on the bike can be the highlight of their biking year.
It’s all well and good unless you’re unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident, only to find that you aren’t covered, or that your policy conditions change when you use your bike overseas, or that you’ve broken down and can’t get your bike back to the UK, there’s plenty to take into consideration. We’ve had a look at some areas to think carefully about before you head to lands afar…
Before you go
You’ll need to make sure that your cover will extend to riding in the country that you’re headed. Many countries in Europe will be covered when you take out a policy now, but it is always wise to check before heading out. Some insurers will include European cover automatically, while for others it will be an add-on. Head to MCN Compare to find the best policy for your perfect biking trip.
You may also need to inform your insurer of your trip before heading off, some will need notice at least a couple of weeks beforehand, while others won’t need to be informed at all. Check the requirements of your policy to see the know of the specific terms well ahead of your trip so you don’t get caught out.
If you’re going further afield than Europe, then you may well need to take out specialist insurance that will cover you for the countries you’ll be riding in. The insurance laws will vary depending on where you’re travelling to so it makes sense to find out what you will need at the very minimum to be legal before you go.
You also need to consider duration of your trip too as there may well be a limit on the time that you’ll be covered while overseas. Some policies will only allow brief coverage while out of the country and others will be less strict with duration of coverage. Again, check your policy details to find out if you will be adequately covered and extend your policy if necessary.
The Green Card
There’s some confusion surrounding the Green Card nowadays, while it was once absolutely essential to carry one to give proof of insurance to foreign dignitaries, it isn’t so much the case now. In some countries, an insurance certificate will suffice to provide proof of cover to the minimum required standard. It’s worth checking exactly what you’ll need though and in many cases, having a Green Card will still make proving you’re covered more simple.
It is still necessary to carry in some countries though and may still be asked for by some authorities in countries where it isn’t a legal requirement. So, in many cases it still helps to have one regardless, as for many years producing one has been the only form of evidence of insurance for foreign registered vehicles. A Green Card will be free provided that your policy allows you to ride in another country and your insurer should be able to issue one should it be required, if it hasn’t already come with your insurance documents.
Don’t get stuck
Some insurers will include European breakdown cover as standard that will allow for roadside repairs or that will even get your bike back to the UK in some circumstances, it’s worth checking your policy to see if this is included.
If you have existing breakdown cover, then it is wise to not assume that this will cover you riding in Europe or further afield too. Check your cover to make sure you are adequately protected for the countries that you will be travelling in and if not then extend your policy to include it.
Another thing to keep in mind when thinking of breakdown cover are the implications that a broken vehicle might have on your holiday, what will happen to your bike if it has a major mechanical? Will you be able to get it returned to the UK if needed and will the cover include the hire of another vehicle in the meantime? Nobody likes being left at the side of the road, especially in a country where language may well be a barrier and getting your bike either home or to a garage might be extremely costly if you’re not covered.
Cover can be purchased from the AA, RAC or the Green Flag, but it’s worth thinking about what you might need. If you’ll only be going abroad once in the year then it makes sense to get a 1-trip or short-term cover policy if it isn’t already included in your normal cover, on the other hand, if you’re planning a few or several short trips across the Channel then more extensive cover might be required.
There are some things that stand out when you’re in another country and one of them is your number plate. It instantly alerts thieves that you might not be savvy in the lingo and that you’re in a foreign country, in an area that you’re not too likely to know well, making you a prime target in some cases.
Think about where you’re staying and if you get a chance, enquire to see if it has secure parking before you go. It also helps to read reviews on sites such as Trip Advisor to get a feel for where you’re staying, if there are lots of negative reviews about how dodgy the staff are then it might be best to look for somewhere else. Also, you can get a rough feel for the general area by using services such as Google Street View, a pretty picture of the front of the hotel means nothing if you end up staying in a ghetto.
Also, if you’re unable to park in a secure parking area, think about where you’ll leave your bike. A quiet alleyway on some forgotten back street will only encourage the opportunist thief more than say a busy, well-lit area that has CCTV.
It also makes perfect sense to have a lock with you, anything that deters thieves can only be a good thing. Chains can be heavy and somewhat cumbersome to take around but will provide the best protection against bike theft. However, if you don’t have room to take a chain, or it is too heavy to reasonably in a rucksack then at the very least make sure you have a disc lock. Don’t get caught out.
Check out our top 5 disc locks here.
If it all goes pear-shaped
Take time to think about the scenario where it all goes a bit pear shaped too, it’s all well and good thinking that crashing won’t happen, and in the majority of cases it doesn’t. But it’s still prudent to ensure that your health cover extends to the country that you’re visiting, if not then it’s important that you have adequate cover in place that will see you taken care of should you need to unfortunately spend time in hospital.
You also need to think about your riding kit; is it covered in your policy and if so, will it cover the cost of replacing your gear should you need to. If you own the a Rukka jacket and trousers worth £1,700 and an Arai lid worth upward of £400, plus the potential cost of boots and gloves then it will be of little use if your policy will only cover your kit to a maximum value of £600.
“I know the law, officer”
You may well be versed in the laws applicable to riding in the UK better than a high court Judge, but that accounts for little in a different country where they all have their own laws and regulations. It’s definitely worth getting to know just what you can and can’t do in the country you’re headed.
This can extend to laws surrounding motorcycles or could even be a lower alcohol limit to be aware of if you have a few tinnies the night before. Some countries in Europe have restrictions on the age of pillion passengers and most have laws that require dipped headlights to remain on even in daytime (a consideration to riders of pre-naughties machines).
The speed limits also vary greatly, and while we all love the German autobahns and the stretches of tarmac where the only restriction is how much you turn your wrist, there are countries where speed limits are heavily enforced and can impose on-the-spot bans and vehicle confiscations. There can also be varying speed limits depending on the weather, in France for example you could be subject to lower speed limits if it’s raining and you’ve held your licence for less than three years. Don’t get caught out and check the requirements and laws of the countries you’ll be visiting before you go.
Start your journey by checking out the right insurance policy at the MCN Compare website.