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FAQ - Documents, Money etc

Documents etc.  
What if I have an accident?  
Emergency Telephone Numbers  
Border crossings  
Buying petrol  
Road Tolls / Charges  
FAQ main page
FAQ - Roads

Documents :

You will be expected to carry with you while on the bike :
Driver's Licence (or International Driving Permit),
Green Card (or other proof of 3rd party insurance cover),
and if your driving-licence doesn't have a photo in it (like the UK ones) then you'll need some other ID with a photo.

I was recently told (today actually, after he pulled me in for speeding) by an Austrian traffic "gendarm" that technically the British driving licence is invalid in Austria. That is, both the older pink-and-green paper jobbie and the new credit-card type. The first because there's no photo of the driver on it and the second because Austria doesn't accept the new format yet. This wasn't the case a few years ago, and only changed when Austria "improved" its regulations in about 2000. This means UK drivers technically have to have an International Driver's Permit as well just like any other non-EU citizen. The good news is that 95% of the police that are likely to stop you don't know this. The other 5% will probably let you off anyway as you're on holiday. I'll try and keep up to date on this situation.
Vehicle registration documents. Without these you can be banged-up on the spot until they decide the bike is yours, whack you with a substantial fine or confiscate your bike.
Some countries require you to carry a
first-aid kit, but you can normally get away without one as you're a foreigner. However, you can get small ones for cyclists and motorbikes from most motorbike shops and Polo and Gericke or the motoring clubs. They'll fit in the tank bag or under the seat. Austria will be tightening its laws from the 1st. January 2002 regarding what has to be carried on a bike. I'll keep this up to date.
Similarly, if you wear specs or contact-lenses most countries require you to carry a spare pair of glasses. However, you'll probably not be bothered by this as 1) it's unlikely you'll be stopped for anything other that speeding, and 2) they normally don't bother anyway, as you're a biker and the cops know you haven't got anywhere polite to keep a spare pair of specs. The law makers don't know this, of course.
If you're crossing borders, you'll only need a passport if you're going to or from Switzerland; however, you MAY be stopped anywhere within 5 km of any border and required to show a passport.
It is not strictly required to display an oval "UK" sticker any more - but it still costs you £10 if you fall foul of a grumpy Gendarme or Polizist.
This is what the Passport office says :
Always carry your passport
Although the United Kingdom is part of the European Union, you are still required to carry a full 10 year British passport with you every time you travel to a European destination. This includes day trips and travel by Eurostar.
Many countries have now abandoned routine passport checks at their land borders but they still expect visitors to be able to produce a valid form of identification. In the case of UK travelers this is the British passport. Remember, your passport will be checked at immigration control on your return to the UK.

British Visitors Passport
The one year British Visitors Passport no longer exists. Everyone who wishes to travel abroad must now hold a 10 year passport.


Medical Insurance:

The old E111 has, or is in the process of becoming obsolete and being replaced in most EU countries by a credit-card European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which will cover you for medical treatment. Otherwise you'll have to pay up-front, before you get treated. In an emergency, of course, you'll be treated first, then they'll ask you for the money. It provides basic medical cover in all EU countries and Switzerland.
UK citizens can apply for one online here: UK Department of Health

What if I have an accident?

Unlike the UK where you only really have to worry about the insurance company - unless someone is hurt, on the Continent most countries require you to call the police to any accident. You are normally expected to leave any vehicles/debris/bodies etc exactly where they are and NOT to clear the road to allow traffic to flow. If you do move anything, make sure you have photographed the scene before you do. Normally it's the Police who'll decide who's fault it is, then the insurance companies have to pay up. Make sure you have a copy of the international accident report form stuffed into your luggage or under the seat. Make sure it gets filled-out properly. If you don't you haven't got a chance of a claim when you get home.

If you see an accident it is your duty by law to stop and offer first aid to any injured. You can be heavily fined if you do not. Of if you leave the scene of an accident before the police or emergency services arrive.

Emergency Numbers

Unlike the UK where all emergency services can be reaced on the 999 number, most mainland European countries have separate numbers for each service. Bugger.
If you take a mobile phone, make sure you've got "roaming" access and know how to use it.

Emergency Telephone Numbers
Country Police Ambulance
Switzerland 117 144 112
Austria 133 144
France 17 15
Italy 118 112
Slovenia 112 112

If in doubt, try 112

Border crossings

between European Community countries are usually unmanned and no passport needs to be shown. In fact, most are now deserted. You will probably need to show a passport between Switzerland and other counties(if not, they'll likely have customs guards waiting a few miles inside he border to nab smugglers), into and out of the Livigno region (I) and also on the Slovenian border (That's the one I crashed doing a ton Oops!).



The euro symbol

Well, it's all over bar the shouting: most of the Alpine countries are using the Euro (€). That is going to make things a darn site easier and the endless hours spent trying to work out who owes whom how much and for what will be a thing of the past. In theory. Of course Switzerland will still have the Swiss Franc, but everywhere will accept the Euro anyway.
The countries that use the Euro (€) are:

  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Belgium
  • Austria
  • France
  • Luxemburg
  • The Netherlands
  • Portugal
  • Spain
  • Eire
  • Finland
  • Greece

It came into circulation on the 1st January 2002 but by the time anyone on a bike gets there the original currencies will have gone.
If you still have any cash in any of the Euro currencies (DEM, ITL, BEF, ATS, FIM, FRF, IEP,LUF, NLG, PTE, ESP, GRD) get it changed before March 2002 or you'll be stuck with it.
For more information visit the UK Treasury Euro site at http://www.euro.gov.uk/home.asp

Getting Cash
Nearly every cashpoint machine (ATM for you colonial cousins) will accept most major credit-cards (VISA, Mastercard, AmEx...). If you have a cashpoint card and it has the maestro cashpoint card logo sign on it, that's good. The Euro-Cheque card is history from the 1st. January 2002. It has been replaced by the Maestro card and will be the preferred type of cashpoint card.
Credit cards
VISA, Mastercard, Diners Club, and American Express are accepted at all banks and most post-offices. Major shops and restaurants will also accept credit cards, but don't expect the little pizzeria in the Dolomites to do so.
Travellers Cheques
Very safe, of course. Take $ or € Travellers Cheques from January 2002. You can cash them at most hotels and banks.
Personal Cheques
Forget it.


Buying petrol:

In Germany, Austria , and German speaking Switzerland it's called Benzin. Unleaded (Bleifrei, Sans plomb, Senza Piombo) is available everywhere, Leaded isn't. Watch out for Italy on Sundays and lunch time during the week, most of the petrol stations are closed and the few that are open only have automatic machines taking Lire notes. In Switzerland some are permanently unmanned and automatic. Some take credit cards. France, Germany and Austria are easier, taking cash and credit cards. So make sure you have enough notes in various denominations. Visa and Master Card are the normal ones used in Europe. "American Express? you'll be lucky sir".
The Swiss also have strange suction caps around a lot of filler nozzles to suck out petrol-fumes. Of course the petrol delivery won't work unless there's a vacuum seal - tricky to get on most bikes and impossible on some.
[JS:] CH- most stations off the A-bahn have automats at night/weekends Which often don't take normal (non Swiss!) EC cards or the pin ID (or VISA). Carry cash in small notes or you might be doing this before you realise!


Road Tolls / Charges

Called the "Vignette" (vee-nyett-eh) in Austria and Switzerland, you should purchase one BEFORE you ride on to the motorway. They can be bought at border crossings, and most newsagents and post-offices, as well as from the motoring clubs like the Swiss STC, Austria, ÖAMTC and ARBÖ, and the German ADAC, and of course all motorway service stations. They are only worth getting if you really want to cover miles quickly in bad weather - otherwise why waste all those good roads ?

The Czech Republic and Slovakia have tolls for the motorway, but motorbikes are excempt.
Watch out in Hungary, the year's motorway pass costs a scorching 29.000 Forint (118,40) ! A week's ticket costs 1.900 Forint (7.75).
Country Price Duration Fine for not having one
Switzerland CHF40 flat rate
(approx. €27 / £17)
1 year from Jan-Jan CHF100 + CHF40 for the sticker
Austria €29
(approx. £18.10)
1 year from Jan-Jan minimum€400 (approx. £270!)
maximum €4000 (approx. £2700)
Or € 120 on the spot in cash.
(approx. £6.80)
2 months
(approx. £2.70)
10 days
N.B. Bike+sidecar counts as a bike.
Trike counts as a car [prices(€): 72.60 / 21.80 / 7.60]
France French toll calculator here:
Distance ridden.
Italy Italian toll calculator here:
Distance ridden