Help for International Trips

Checkswrecks

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#1
What follows is written toward riding in Europe, but generally will apply in other countries.

Unless you are going to be there for a month, call one of the BMW, Yamaha, or Honda dealers, fly in, and rent from them. There are also independent shops in many big cities, such as Holiday bikes. You probably will need to do a Google search in that country's language. For example in Germany, Google the city name plus motorad meiten



Because of the tight streets in towns and wet slippery cobblestones rent in the 700-1000 cc size works great, but the 1200GS is the McDonalds Big Mac of rental bikes. Steer away from the Goldwings, 1200RT, cruisers, and similar. Ducatis and sport bikes are sexy for photos but put my knees and thighs in agony on long days.



Always photo EVERY inch of a rental bike before signing for it. Photo every inch again when checking the bike back in. I've had a rental shop AFTERWARD say that I dropped a bike and they still had my charge card number. This saved me.


I rent very few motorcycles that have enough air in the tires, so have it checked IN FRONT OF YOU before starting out. I take a pencil-type tire gage.


Do take the offered insurance.


Take along a good locking cable or you may have to rent one, and same for having your own riding gear. (Who wants somebody else's head lice anyway?)


Prepare to ride in rain EVERY day, regardless of the month, and you may be pleasantly surprised if it's not the case. It sure beats being underprepared, wet, cold, and miserable. Buying gear in Europe will cost double what it does in the US. In Asia it is hard to find gear which fits.


You are expected to split lanes at lights and don't be surprised to be abreast at a light with a couple scooters and bikes.


Lanes are narrower and the person with the furthest forward fender has right of way.


Sidewalk parking is generally legal. And is wonderful!


Paper maps can be a pain in the ass and navigation is almost entirely by the names of little towns. Take a GPS and don't forget a mount. Euro maps are easy to get free online. (GPS maps near military bases in at least one South American country go blank.) My RAM mount for rental bikes replaces one bolt for the handlebar clamp and has an eyelet on enough wire that I can get power off the battery. My kit includes a Leatherman tool, tywraps, and a 10mm wrench.


Speed cameras are everywhere in Europe these days. On the up-side, a lot of them are in the GPS databases.


It's illegal to pass on the right in Germany. They are not nonchalant about their driving rules.


The Dutch are the nicest people in the world and pull the slowest travel trailers, especially in the mountains.


Expect animals in the middle of the road and around every blind corner in less populated areas.



If a police officer waives you over, DO IT. They have zero mercy on those who don't and do have authority to shoot in some countries (Germany is one).


Most pull-overs are for speed or for random alcohol checks. One drink can put a person right up to or over the alcohol limit and Euro police are VERY serious about this. Limit the drinks to the end of the day.


IF you get pulled over, most police in Europe will take your US or Canadian license on a pull-over, usually you will get asked for your passport, and a few will ask for your International Drivers License. (Rare but still required, so get one at AAA in the US or CAA in Canada) Carry a few hundred Euros cash because you may need to pay the fine on the spot. I think it was in France (or Spain?) where they got me to pay on the spot, Germany had a full page citation when I last got pulled but that was now decades ago, and am not sure about other countries.


Speed that you can get away with depends on country and even where. You can get away with following fast traffic in Germany like in North America. France has few cops but little tolerance for speeding and you learn to expect a radar cop on every overpass. Europeans generally don't take an extra 5-10 mph like we take for granted in North America, most don't speed and a few fly. Brazilians? Good luck in keeping up!


Take too big of a camera and you won't stop to shoot photos, too little or rely on your phone and you can't get good enlargements when you get home. I use a Canon G10 and a waterproof point & shoot. The point & shoot goes in my lower left pocket and has a lanyard so I can shoot while riding and not worry if I need to drop it. The Canon has a huge CCD for great enlargements and goes in a breast pocket to use when I stop for a quick photo.


In addition to hostels and B&Bs, Eurocamp can be relatively cheap places to stay where if you have a sleeping bag you can rent an RV or fixed tent: http://www.eurocamp.com (They bought out the KeyCamp, too.)
 

Dogdaze

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#2
Good write up. Should add that there are many unmanned fuel stations that take credit cards, but only with PIN, so take cash too. Credit cards can be used when pulled over these days too, they have swipe machines!!
Switzerland will not give any grace km's over the limit so watch out as all tickets will be sent back to the rental company and you will be charged.
 

TimLaw

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#3
Speaking of Switzerland....81 in an 80 km zone. The tickets are from a camera system over the highways that take a pic of your car and the pass on the car.....anyway...1 km over the limit was 80 Frances....or 80 USD! One KM!!
 
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#4
The two times I was in Europe they did not seem to care about the speed as much distance between vehicles . Whats nice is they let you know where the radar was.
 

Tumer

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#7
Thanks Dogdaze ;),

Till now we did helped out 42 riders from different countries. Some asked for mechanics near by, some for routes, some for containers etc. The list goes on. We are riders and we know what counts most.

Peace.
 

RogerJ

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#8
Thanks ChecksWrecks for the good summary.
Dogdaze and TimLaw..........seems to be zero tolerance in Switzerland. Especially on having current road tax stamps on motorcycles.
Tumer......helpful website for Turkey. At end of August we met three riders from Istanbul in Sibiu Romania. Very helpful regarding our routes inside Turkey, must eat at restaurants, dealing with toll roads and so on. Also warned us wisely about car drivers in Turkey who generally don't respect motorcycle riders all that much. Good to get a heads-up about that. All excellent help and advice. :)
Cheers!
 

dcstrom

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#9
Taking a break in the south of France right now, but have covered a lot of Europe since May - very few issues. Police have been friendly on the couple of occasions I've encountered them (I have a pic of myself sitting on a French police FJR, and the cop sitting on the Tenere). The one time I got a ticket, speeding in Romania (82 in a 50 zone, so quite a lot over. I actually thought I was in a 70 zone but still, I knew I was speeding.) The cop said to me "The fine is $75 if you pay in 2 days, double if you pay after that. If you don't pay, we will chase you to Australia. {pause} You understand me?" And then a grin. His way of telling me don't bother to pay it, obviously we are not going to chase you...
 

MurphCO

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#10
Dogdaze said:
Good write up. Should add that there are many unmanned fuel stations that take credit cards, but only with PIN, so take cash too. Credit cards can be used when pulled over these days too, they have swipe machines!!
ALWAYS CARRY CASH, it can be pretty hit and miss finding ATM machines outside of decent sized towns and if you don't already have a credit card with a chip, make sure you get one and have it with you for your trip. There are a lot of places that can't accept credit cards without a chip.

Checkswrecks said:
Paper maps can be a pain in the ass and navigation is almost entirely by the names of little towns.
if you haven't been to Europe and used a GPS you may not understand how this affects things.....on my iPhone it wasn't as simple as typing in Fussen from Stuttgart, I learned once in Austria that you have to type in small towns as your destinations or the GPS takes you all over the place in weird directions for no reason. Sounds dumb and maybe i'm the dumb one, but it was a huge pain in the ass finding Switzerland from Austria, and it should have been easy.

In a lot of places everything shuts completely down on Sunday, finding things open other than gas stations or fast food is pretty hit and miss....


ALSO LAST BUT NOT LEAST, make sure you purchase and display the Tax Vignettes for each country you enter....just plan stopping after each border crossing to buy one, they sell them at gas stations. Some rental places will rent you a bike with them already, but make sure they are current, the fines are pretty steep.
 

dcstrom

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#11
MurphCO said:
ALWAYS CARRY CASH, it can be pretty hit and miss finding ATM machines outside of decent sized towns and if you don't already have a credit card with a chip, make sure you get one and have it with you for your trip. There are a lot of places that can't accept credit cards without a chip.
MurphCO, dunno if your info is a bit dated, but have had no problem finding ATM machines, even in one-horse-and-cart villages in Romania. The trickiest thing is keeping your card company informed of your location so that the card is not declined when you try to get money.

Good point about the chipped credit card though. Many gas stations are automated, and will only take a credit card, no cash. And NO US credit card without a chip. Had a couple of close calls not being able to get fuel thanks to that problem. Having a chipped card sent now.
[/quote]

ALSO LAST BUT NOT LEAST, make sure you purchase and display the Tax Vignettes for each country you enter....just plan stopping after each border crossing to buy one, they sell them at gas stations. Some rental places will rent you a bike with them already, but make sure they are current, the fines are pretty steep.
Tax vignettes? What's that? :) I have Green Card insurance (compulsory 3rd party valid for most Euro countries), but never had a tax vignette. As far as I know they are only needed if you use the toll roads in some countries? I which case I don't use them - and hardly ever do anyway, they are too bloody expensive.
 

Dogdaze

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#12
Road Vignettes are what is used in Switzerland, Czech, Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, Austria on their highways, so not needed unless you intend to use them, Swiss is valid for one year and 40Chf, all others are for one week to 10 days minimum. Other countries tend to use conventional money collection points along the route.
 

johnpitts01

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#13
Thanks guys for the discussion.

We are heading to Europe for an 18 days tour of the lakes region of Italy and the Alps.


John
 
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#14
This is a great thread... Thank You all who are contributing! I've wanted to ride in Europe for EVER! Of course now that I'm retired money is tight so I've been thinking that perhaps I can do this without a tour company. Fly over rent a bike and ride the Alps for say... 10 days and fly home. I've had up to 3 who were going along now it's down to perhaps one more. I assume like here it would be a bit less expensive to travel and share rooms. I'm not a camper any more... that damn ground is way too hard!

I'm starting to look at rental places and at one time I had some GPS routes from a person on one of the other forums who had done what I'm trying to do and posted his GPS routes etc... He stayed in 3 and 4 Star hotels and that is beyond my budget.

I've heard differing stories on the best month to go... August/September because it's after the "holiday" season for Europeans??

I think I've located a third option for this trip... some of the tour companies have a "On your own" tour. Rent a bike from them with a GPS and some even offer the routes in the GPS.

Anyway I'm just starting to look so don't stop the tips!
 

Dogdaze

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#15
Brick,
End of August and September are good months, even later into October would not be too bad, get a GPS and load it with Euro maps, try not to rent one as they can be 10-15 Euros per day!!
Plan your route ahead if at all possible, get onto booking.com and search some cheap rooms, most of the Alp roads will still be open , but ski season is over so cheap deals to be had. lots of bike friendly places available. Where the economy is strong the bike rental prices will be slightly higher, so do some research. I'll be happy to assist anyone coming close to Zurich.
 

dcstrom

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#16
Brick, you can do it very cheaply if you want to do without the little luxuries! First off, travel eastern Europe more than West - much cheaper and scenery and roads a just as spectacular, if not more so. There you can find a hotel room for about the same price as a dorm bed in western Europe (15-20 euros). Or get a dorm for 10. Go shoulder season and you can often get a dorm room to yourself anyway.

I was in Romania/Moldova/Bulgaria/Croatia in October/November - very few tourists but the weather was still ok. Some of the places I went, especially the Croatia coast, would be crowded traffic-jammed nightmare in summer, but pleasant later in the year. Probably not warm enough most of the time to be hanging out at the beach, but if you don't need to do that it's fine. Still warm enough to go for a quick refreshing dip in the Adriatic!

If you want to stay longer, there's a guy in Ireland who will find a bike for you, buy it and resell when you're done. If you are going to be there more than a month this is probably cheaper than renting. Don't know all the details but if you want I can get his contact for you.

Maps for your Garmin GPS are free to download if you know where to look - ie open source. The ones I like most are at http://www.freizeitkarte-osm.de/
 

MurphCO

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#17
dcstrom said:
MurphCO, dunno if your info is a bit dated, but have had no problem finding ATM machines, even in one-horse-and-cart villages in Romania. The trickiest thing is keeping your card company informed of your location so that the card is not declined when you try to get money.

Good point about the chipped credit card though. Many gas stations are automated, and will only take a credit card, no cash. And NO US credit card without a chip. Had a couple of close calls not being able to get fuel thanks to that problem. Having a chipped card sent now.


Tax vignettes? What's that? :) I have Green Card insurance (compulsory 3rd party valid for most Euro countries), but never had a tax vignette. As far as I know they are only needed if you use the toll roads in some countries? I which case I don't use them - and hardly ever do anyway, they are too bloody expensive.
Dogdaze said:
Road Vignettes are what is used in Switzerland, Czech, Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, Austria on their highways, so not needed unless you intend to use them, Swiss is valid for one year and 40Chf, all others are for one week to 10 days minimum. Other countries tend to use conventional money collection points along the route.
If you are riding in any of those countries I would check to make sure if you need them or not, better safe than sorry with a big Euro fine
 
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#18
Dogdaze, thanks for the reply. Sounds like good advice on the GPS. I have a Garmin 660 so I would bring it. As far as planning my route ahead... Hmmm... I do that a lot here but know differing roads/areas here and there is the language barrier. I'm a dumb American and only speak English.
Regarding your offer of assistance. I heard that Switzerlad was considerably more expensive so thought Munich would be better. ??
I'd love to discuss a bit further with you. Perhaps you could email me? I'm at dwbrick at gmail dot com.
Thanks.
 

Checkswrecks

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#19
Brick said:
. . . I assume like here it would be a bit less expensive to travel and share rooms.

I'm starting to look at rental places and at one time I had some GPS routes from a person on one of the other forums who had done what I'm trying to do and posted his GPS routes etc... He stayed in 3 and 4 Star hotels and that is beyond my budget.

I've heard differing stories on the best month to go... August/September because it's after the "holiday" season for Europeans??

I think I've located a third option for this trip... some of the tour companies have a "On your own" tour. Rent a bike from them with a GPS and some even offer the routes in the GPS.

Anyway I'm just starting to look so don't stop the tips!

Hi Brick -


The key to keeping costs down on rental bikes is all about engine size and city you rent from. Since you are trying to go inexpensively but are used to big American bikes, I'd suggest checking into a 650/660 out of Rome. Something like a 650 VStrom, 650 Honda, or 660 Tenere will be WAY cheaper than a 1000+ cc out of a German or Swiss city. A trick for finding rentals in any country is to simply zoom in on Google Maps and just type in motorcycle rental. I think my last trip to Italy, I used Joy Ride Rent and they held my suitcases for the days I was on the road. They were an easy downhill walk from the train station. For some countries, Google Maps works better with the native word for motorcycle, such as motocicletta for Italy.


Airfares to Rome are reasonable, you take a cheap train from the airport to the central train station and then walk to a choice of rental places, you can ride up the spine of Italy toward the Alps or eastern Europe and back along the coast, inexpensive small inns are easy to find anywhere in the countryside (Rome is expensive), plus Italy and Rome can be their own fantastic destinations for a week. Stay off the Autostradas (highways) as the tolls can be pretty stiff and you would truly miss the best riding.


The best time to go is when the World Cup is playing. Just saying.
::008::


As Trevor wrote, there are plenty of free sources for maps. The trick is to practice using and loading them before your trip. And hostels aren't just for kids in Europe if you are saving money, like he wrote. I've also used Eurocamps, which did require taking a light sleeping bag, but they have either RVs or permanent tents with kitchens and cots, so no sleeping on the ground. Most seem to get a couple of other bikers so you can meet folks you have a common starting point with.


I have a Garmin Montana and bought a Ram mount that is just used for rental bikes. The positive and negative wires have large eyelets to connect to the battery and I do take a few basic tools (Leatherman, 10mm wrench etc) For the bottom, I have a 10mm threaded stud for bikes where I can use the mirror hole and a 10mm bolt for those where it replaces a handlebar bolt. We noted that most people use the simple U-bolt base on rentals and I'm going to add one to my bag.
 

MurphCO

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#20
My experience in Germany, Austria, Switzerland (the Alps) is most people speak English

Typical exchange goes like this "do you speak English?" They say "A little" Then you have a 20 minute conversation no problem ::025::


I have had more trouble understanding and conversing in rural UK than countries that actually speak a different language


France, well....rural areas it's a challenge but they are friendly, in the cities it's hit and miss
 
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