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Travelling abroad with your motorbike

Not much compares to hitting the open road on your bike, and an adventure abroad takes it to a whole new level. But before you head off, there’s a few things to consider…

Not much compares to hitting the open road on your bike, and an adventure abroad takes it to a whole new level. But before you head off, there’s a few things to consider…

Written by
Julie Daniels
Motor insurance comparison expert
Last Updated
5 min read
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Make sure your bike’s fit to travel 

It’s always worth giving your bike a top-to-bottom check before any significant journey. If you’re heading abroad, consider having your bike professionally serviced before you go. Not only will this flag up any issues before you leave, but it will ensure your bike is running smoothly and the oil and fluid levels are topped up.

You should also check when your MOT and tax are due, and make sure neither of them will expire while you’re away on your travels.

Prepare your kit 

Consider what you need to take with you to ensure the smooth running of your bike. Put together a small toolkit of the essentials, including basic tools, insulation tape, zip ties and bulbs. In some countries, it’s a legal requirement to carry spare bulbs. 

Also pack a high-visibility jacket in case of breakdowns. This is mandatory in France and several other countries too.

Check your motorbike insurance 

Make sure you have motorcycle insurance that allows you to ride in all the countries you’re planning to visit. All UK vehicle insurance provides minimum third party cover to drive in: 

  • The EU
  • Andorra
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Iceland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Norway
  • Serbia
  • Switzerland 

If you’re travelling outside these countries, you can usually contact your insurance provider to arrange temporary cover for the duration of the trip. 

In some countries you may need a Green Card to prove you have the minimum insurance cover required. The countries include:

  • Albania
  • Moldova
  • Turkey
  • Iran
  • Israel
  • Morocco
  • Tunisia 

It’s also a good idea to check with your insurance provider what you should do in case of an accident or if your bike gets stolen.

Check your breakdown cover

Even with the best preparation, it’s possible your bike will have mechanical problems while you’re away. Breaking down somewhere unfamiliar is likely to be stressful, especially if you don’t speak the language. To give yourself some peace of mind, make sure you have a motorbike breakdown policy - if one is available for your destination. 

If you already have breakdown cover for the UK, you can usually extend it for overseas by talking to your breakdown provider. You can also find policies that cover the UK and Europe on an annual or single-trip basis.

If you live in Northern Ireland and want cover for the Republic of Ireland, then you’ll find some UK breakdown policies cover it as standard while others will require you to add European cover to your policy. 

If you’re travelling to the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands, check to see whether these will be covered by your existing breakdown policy or if you need additional cover.

It might be more difficult to get breakdown cover for some journeys outside Europe. You may need to arrange cover on a country-by-country basis. And be aware that not every country has national roadside assistance.

Check your travel insurance 

As well as your bike, you’ll want to think about cover for you, your belongings and your trip. Travel insurance can cover you if an unforeseen emergency disrupts your trip – you become ill or have an accident, for example, or your belongings are stolen. 

Some insurance providers offer specialist motorbike travel insurance, which could offer additional cover for your helmet and leathers and the contents of your panniers. It might also allow you to claim if you can’t use your bike during your trip.

Make sure sports activities are covered 

If you plan to take part in off-road riding or track days while you’re away, you’ll need to make sure you have appropriate cover. This could be available in a specialist motorbike travel insurance policy or you might be able to add cover for extreme sports to a standard travel insurance policy. Always check the policy carefully to see that the activities you want to do are covered.

Prepare your paperwork

Check you have all your important documents in order, including: 

  • Your passport 
    For most European countries, your passport needs to be less than 10 years old and have at least three months left on it before you leave to return to the UK. It’s a good idea to keep it with you at all times while you’re away. You’ll need it to cross any borders, and most hotels and campsites require it when you check in.
  • Your driving licence 
    If you get stopped by the police for any reason, you may need to produce this on request.
  • Your V5 (owner’s logbook) 
    All EU countries require you to have your original V5 registration document with you. This provides proof that your bike is registered to you. In France, for example, the police have the power to detain you if you can’t prove the bike is yours – not a great way to spend your holiday…

Read up on the road rules in your destination

Every country’s highway code is slightly different so, before you go, take a look at the rules of the road in whichever region you’re heading to. Get familiar with traffic signs, rules for roundabouts and who has priority.

Crucially, you’ll need to know the standard speed limits for your destination and any countries you’ll be riding through. In many places, these are given in kmh rather than mph, so if your bike’s speedometer only shows mph, make sure you know the kilometre equivalent. For example, Germany’s 130kmh limit translates as 80mph. 

Attach a UK sticker if you don’t have an EU marking on your number plate. Following Brexit, you’re required to replace your GB sticker with a new UK one to ride or drive on foreign roads. The only exception is Ireland – there’s no requirement for a UK sticker if you’re taking your bike to the Emerald Isle. 

Make sure you know where you’re going. Sat nav makes that easier these days, but you may need a fail-safe option of a paper map.

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