Visiting Plitvice Lakes in your Motorhome

Visiting Plitvice Lakes in your Motorhome

Your Guide to Visiting Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Waking up on the day of our visit to Croatia’s iconic Plitvice Lakes, filled me with tingles. That excitement that flows through your veins when you’re about to embark something new. At last it was our turn to explore this magnificent gallery presented by Mother Nature. 

Whilst I could just regale you of tales from our sensory exploration, I thought it might also be helpful to explain how to make the most of your visit here.  I reflect back at my pre-visit research and the whole mind-blowing options available to us and this drives me to do a more practical blog. So that is our plan with this little ditty. We will entice you, of course with our autumnal tour, although more importantly we will share how to best navigate this Croatia National Park.

1. What is Plitvice?

Plitvice is a natural masterpiece that has required no intervention from man for its evolving landscape. Its name derives from the phenomenon created by nature’s formation of shallow basins – those pools are called plitvak in Croatian. 

Founded as a National Park in 1949, the world-famous Plitvice Lakes is the largest and one of the oldest in the country. It was awarded with the UNESCO accolade in 1979. The Park is an open air natural history museum, that tells you a story about yesterday and tomorrow with each passing season. The water course that runs through the Park trickles, gushes and cascades over 30,000 hectares until it reaches the river Korana, and eventually into the Black Sea. 

Plitvice, like much of Croatia is formed as part of a Karst system of lakes, waterfalls and caves that are all interconnected. The interaction between the air, water and plants constantly reshapes this environment. New layers of tufa sediment build up that alters water’s flow. With its 16 lakes and around 90 waterfalls, this iconic destination is so much more than a park. It is a sensory experience that transports you away from the world’s craziness.

For the eyes you have a spectrum of blues to dazzle you. There is azure, topaz, emerald and mint-tea green to name just a few. And it is thanks to the algae that thrive in this protected habitat, that we have such a kaleidoscope of colour. 

To the ears, an orchestral movement that sometimes hums, sometimes gushes and other times it simply bellows like a baritone.  The water’s course sings in chords that provide a constant background percussion. And then there’s the silence, which amidst the water’s sonnet, is immense, punctured only by the merest whispering of the reeds. In autumn, beneath your feet, the crunch of russet beech leaves bring out the child in you as you kick your way through the orange carpet. 

It is though the unspoken magic that makes Plitvice so intoxicating. The essence of water’s time-honoured tradition that somehow touches your soul. Walking through this fairyland moves you as nature permits you to share an intimacy with its lakes. Each corner gives you a new vista. Each lake a different personality. So you are never bored, just infatuated with the soul of this enchanting piece of natural beauty. 

 

 

 

2. How to best experience Plitvice Lakes

 

Now this is where you might be bamboozled by a ton of information as you trawl through the internet. So I am going to share our on-the-ground experiences, that I hope might help make your visit easier.

 

2.1 There are Two Entrances

Entrance 1 is the furthest north and gives you access to the four Lower Lakes.

Entrance 2 is the southern entrance and gives you access to the Upper Lakes. Do not worry about which you will choose right now as that will be driven by a number of factors, which I will discuss shortly.

 

The image below is a summary of the walks available at each of the entrances which should set the scene for the walk descriptions below. 

 

 

2.2 Eight Walking Routes

There are plenty of walking options that will suit your time and fitness.  I will describe each one in a bit more detail, each with their own map to show you how it looks in reality. Click the galley to the right for a map of each individual walk. 

Entrance 1 – is located at the northern end of the Park and all routes from here are signposted in Green. Your routes will take you up hill with all the waterfalls in front of you, which makes for a more pleasant experience.

Route A – this is the shortest route that takes in just the Veliki Slap waterfall – the largest in Croatia. Then it routes back on the upper path to the car park at Entrance 1. Around 2 miles in length (3.5km).

Route B – This is the next shortest option. It takes you to Veliki Slap and then onto the long boat across the river. Then you hop on the short boat which takes you back to the main route back to the Car Park at Entrance 1. Here you can take the Panorama Train or walk as you wish. This is 2.5 miles long (4km).

Route C – This is a long walk that encompasses both the Lower and Upper Lakes. It accesses both the long boat trip and the Panorama train. This is around 4.8 miles in duration (8km).

Route K1 – This route takes in both the Lower and Upper Lakes although doesn’t take any of the free transportation. So you walk around the lake that the free boat crosses. This is a long one at around 10 miles (18.3km)

 

Entrance 2 – is located at the southern end of the park and you walk downhill with the waterfalls behind you. The routes from this entrance are colour coded in Orange. All the routes accessed from this entrance are slightly longer than from Entrance 1. Click the galley to the right for a map of each individual walk. 

Route E – Takes you from Entrance 2 to the Upper Lakes with the short boat trip and the Panorama train – 3 miles long (5.1km)

Route F – The shortest of the Entrance 2 routes. You head north towards Entrance 1 where you then walk down to Veilki Slap and back uphill to the long boat trip, pick up the short boat trip and then returning to your Entrance 2 parking.  2.8 miles long, (4.6km)

Route H is the same route as Route C, you just head downhill towards Entrance 1 and then work your way around to the boat, the Upper Lakes and then the Panorama train back to Entrance 2.  This route is 5.4 miles duration (8.9km).

Route K2 – This is identical to Route K1, you are just starting from Entrance 2 and heading your way downhill towards Entrance 1 and following the route from there. This is around 6.5 miles (18.3km).

 

3. Walking Route Pointers

Things worthy of note with these Routes:

 

  • The long boat trip across the Kozjak Lake will take 30 minutes, so you get a good rest. They run every 10-15 minutes. If you miss one boat, the next will be along very quickly. There are refreshment huts and toilets at the waiting area. This crossing is a one way trip. So you will only ever cross it having completed the Lower Lake walks.
  • The Panorama Train runs frequently from each of the 3 Stations (ST1, 2 and 3) available to you. So you are never waiting long. If you need to conserve energy we do suggest that you take the trains to save energy. Bear in mind that the final Station closest to Entrance 1 (ST1) still requires a half a mile walk back to the car park. The boat and train are all included in the price.
  • Irrespective of which Entrance you choose, you will still need to pay for your parking. If you are arriving in your motorhome then it is 100 Kuna for the day.  A scooter is free of charge and by car is 8-10 Kuna per hour depending on the season.
  • During winter, Entrance 2 is shut, so from November- March you will only be able to park at Entrance 1.
  • There is a bird’s-eye view of the lakes from what they call The Cliff.  Although the path up to it from the Veliki Slap waterfall is currently closed (@November 2022). So you would need to take your vehicle to it. We decided after our Panorama Walk (or the train if you catch it) we had a sufficient fill of views. Plus in autumn the sun’s position makes for tricky photography. 

 

 

4. What will it cost?

Here are the all important fees that you need to know before making your trip.

 

4.1 The Entrance cost 

This will depend on the month you travel. This is what you can expect to pay, although please check with the official Park site to get up to date information at the time of your trip. Click here to buy your tickets online. OR you can purchase at the Ticket Kiosk at Entrance 1 and 2 (and the auxiliary entrance Flora close to Entrance 2).

Nov-March – the LOW SEASON option 80 Kuna per person (don’t forget that during the winter season the Upper Lake section is shut as is Entrance 2)

April/May and Oct – the SHOULDER SEASON price option 180 Kuna per person

June, July, August and September – the HIGH SEASON price 300 Kuna per person. You can pay a reduced rate of 200 Kuna per person if you arrive at 4.00pm during June/July/August or 3.00pm September.

For conversion rates for your currency, you might want to use XE.com 

Please remember that our entrance fees help with the Park’s maintenance. The price includes the boat and train ride although excludes refreshments and the Car Park which are all additional charges. 

 

4.2 Parking Charges

These also vary depending upon the type of vehicle you bring. 

  • If you travel by Shuttle Bus offered by your campsite, please check with them for their current prices.
  • If you decide to cycle in, there are limited option for securely locking your bikes, we found, although you are not charged.
  • If you travel in by Scooter there is no charge for parking.
  • A car is charged an hour rate that varies from 8-10 Kuna per hour depending on the time of the year.
  • If you visit in your motorhome you pay between 80-100 Kuna for the whole day irrespective of the number of hours you stay. 

 

For up to date pricing information for your visit we suggest you go to the Plitvice Park website which you can find here. 

 

 

 

5. Our Top Tips and Recommendations


1. Start at Entrance 1 and go up hill to get the best waterfall views.

As a photographer, light and easy access to my subject is really important. So when I came across§ advice about taking Route C so that all the waterfalls in front of me, it made total sense. Go uphill for the best view.

2. Go for the earliest time slot available.

In high season the Park opens at 7.00am. Whilst that sounds ridiculously early, to avoid the crowds and to have the boardwalks to yourself, it makes good sense. In the low season from November to May the Park is open from 8am and our advice is the same. Choose the first slot. 

3. Take Route C if you only have one day.

If you are only visiting for the day, we recommend doing Route C.  Make the most of the rest areas, the 30 minute boat ride and the full length Panorama Train to manage your energy. This makes the trip much more doable and accessible over 4-5 hours.

 

4. Visit in May/early June or mid October/November.

You may not have the luxury of specifying when you visit although if you do, then we would recommend avoiding summertime. The crowds will be intense with many coaches arriving from 10.30am onwards. The Park gets around 1 million visitors during the high season so this could impact on your enjoyment, particularly if you have a dog. So a springtime or autumn visit will award you with less crowds and a more self-paced experience. This was certainly how we felt at Krka National Park when we visited in mid-September. Of course we are not ruling out winter as an option; the Park can be affected by bad weather given its mountain location. Only the Lower Lakes are open during the winter. The Upper Lakes reopen when the weather conditions are safe enough to do so. We had 23º on our visit on 1 November although this is generally seen as being unusual for the time of year.

5. Check weather apps before booking.

The here and now is the only real accurate weather prediction. Although we recommend checking a weather apps like ventusky.com, to get a flavour of the conditions for your visit. Whilst people have told us that their visit in inclement weather was actually beautiful, clear and sunny must be a preference. So if you have the flexibility, then check the forecast before booking your on-line tickets. Of course you could also leave purchasing tickets until the day, if you have that level of flexibility.

6. Bringing children and pets

As non parents nor currently dog owners, we tread carefully with this topic. Yet having experienced the Park for ourselves, our observations may help.

We saw a number of parents with babies and younger children, some of which started out the same time of day as us. The children were initially excited, although that was soon replaced by grumpy tiredness. Given that the boardwalks are right on the edge of the lakes, constant supervision is required unless they are significantly older. We also saw a family with a buggy although with the rough boardwalks having steps and oftentimes rocky pathways through the forests, it is not an ideal place for pushchairs of any description. They were even struggling to get the pram off the Panorama Train.

In terms of dogs, the Park is definitely dog friendly as long as they are permanently on a lead. Dogs are permitted on both the boat and the train and there seems to be no additional cost for dog entry.

 

7. What to do if you have mobility issues or are concerned about your fitness.

If you think that Route C is too much in one day, then we would recommend booking a Two Day Pass. Not only do you get a discounted Day 2 pass, you are also able to do both lakes justice without tiring yourself out.

We recommend doing Entrance 1 – Route B on Day 1. Have the afternoon to rest at your hotel or campsite. Then on Day 2 park at Entrance 2 and do Route E, again with the afternoon to rest. Then you see all the aspects of the Park at a leisurely pace without pushing your body to its limits.

If you have mobility issues then your options are, sadly, limited. The Park is not geared up to wheelchairs, walking aids or mobility scooters. There are though two ways of getting a glimpse of the Park. Firstly you could drive around to ‘The Cliff’ and the Postcard Viewing point. You can drive up here and whilst Google Maps doesn’t show much parking, it could be an option. Alternatively you could park opposite Entrance 1 and get a wheelchair to the Veliki Slap waterfall viewing point. That is pretty much all that is on offer. Neither the train nor the boats are really geared up for any disability. This is something that the Park need to address at some point. On presentation of a valid Disability Card, you will pay 50% of the entrance ticket.

Our recommendation is rather than come all the way to Plitvice, instead visit Krka National Park, which is much more oriented for disabled or low mobility visitors. 

8. Download the Plitvice App and buy tickets on-line

Whilst the App does need some further development, it gives you a basic summary of the walks and a route maps. So it did serve a purpose and it is free to download. You cannot, at the moment, order you tickets through the App nor does it have a comprehensive or complete list of accommodation or campsites. 

To save queuing up at the Ticket Office, we suggest that you book using the Park’s official website.  It is easy to co-ordinate and you get an email, which has your tickets attached. The Park wardens then scan your ticket at whichever entrance you choose to start from.

9. Be prepared; food, water and layers

We recommend taking your own packed lunch and refreshments with you. There are four ‘stations’ where you can get refreshments, although they may not suit your needs, timeframes or budget.  Plus in high season the food sellers will be busy. So a packed lunch is so much easier. We also recommend dressing appropriately. Whilst it may seem an obvious comment, we say it compassionately. In November despite a forecast of 23º, getting there at 8.00am meant that the sun was very low until 9.30am, so we were walking in shade for a while. Layers were needed until the air warmed up with the sun’s eventual presence. Sturdy shoes are also recommended as the boardwalks are not flat nor even. The paths up through the wooded section of the park are also rocky so sturdy foot-wear is essential, especially for the longer walks.

10. At the Upper Lakes’ station take the Panorama Train

After walking for four hours, our Route C took us to the Upper Lakes’ Station where there were toilets and refreshments. This is where the Panorama Train takes you down to Entrance 2 or within 1/2 mile walking distance of Entrance 1. We decided to walk rather than take the train and whilst it was pretty, it added another 2 miles to our journey. We did eventually pick up the Train at the ST2 by Entrance 2 although hadn’t realised that we still had the 1/2 mile walk back to the car park. So we would definitely recommend the train so save your energy and blisters. 

 

 

6. Where best to travel from

You have a number of options for arriving at Plitvice depending upon the trip you are taking:

 

  • Split is the furthest destination to Plitvice at 150 miles (240km) and will take 2 days, if travelling by motorhome. We had an overnight stop at historic Knin en route. 
  • From Croatia’s capital Zagreb, Plitvice is around 80miles (130km). 
  • From Bihać in Bosnia is just 6 miles (10km) from the Border. (If you would like to explore more of Bosnia and Herzegovina then check this out our free to download eBook here).
  • From Zadar 70 miles (120km)
  • And the shortest route from within Croatia at 37miles (62km) is from the gorgeous Roman town of Senj, which could potentially be a day trip.

 

 

7. Where to stay

Whether travelling by motorhome, by car or public transport, there are plenty of accommodation options within and on the outside of the National Park. The Park, over the years, has brought wealth to the region and so there are plenty of options to satisfy all our needs. For a list of Hotels, B&B and apartments, I found this blog, which might be a helpful reference point. 

For camping options there are a number of varied sizes of Park run sites, smaller and independent sites and Autocamps. Please note, this is a National Park, so no wild camping is tolerated at any time of the year and you are not permitted to stay in the car parks. So you must find a campsite option. 

We stayed at Camping Plitvice, which is the nearest and most convenient campsite with mobile homes and plenty of pitches. Whilst it is just 3miles (5km) away from Entrance 1 if you are thinking of cycling, it is an uphill trek all the way, so don’t tire yourself out before you’ve even started on your walking route. During the season most larger campsites run a Shuttle Bus which is an additional cost on top of the pitch. On request we found that our campsite’s Shuttle ended up being more expensive than parking the motorhome for the day. So we paid the 100 Kuna for parking and thought that this was reasonable for the whole day.

Campsite prices will vary depending upon the time of year, of course. From September to July the ACSI discount card should be in operation in a number of campsites. We paid €20 per night. Although please bear in mind that from end of October most campsites shut for the winter. Camping Plitvice says on the Search for Sites portal that it is open all year yet it was due to shut on 1 November. We managed to negotiate them staying open to accommodate our 2 night stay and because of the warm weather they agreed. 

Plitvice Holiday Resort, when I spoke to them said that they would stay open until the weather hit 0º. So camping in the late autumn early winter is a bit of a hit and miss affair. There is a free Camping Aire at Slunj which is just 30 minutes up the road. So if your budget is tight, then this is a good option that just requires you getting up a bit earlier to do the drive into the Park. 

 

 

8. Closing thoughts

Plitvice is a magnificent destination for your Croatian Road-Trip and is well worth the journey to reach it. The magnetism of the water’s movement through the lakes is mesmerising and irrespective of the time of year, your senses will be utterly bombarded. Out of season is a must if you want to really appreciate the soul of the Park rather than being trampled by other people’s soles. Although we accept that that might not be an option for you. 

And if you do go, don’t miss a near-by unique site at Rastoke. A 17th century and delightful folk village, known as Little Plitvice because of its harnessing of the river’s waterfall power, Rastoke is definitely worthy of a stop for the night. We stayed at an official aire that was free of charge to stop at. You can find the details here.

We adored our time in Plitvice and I would love, in truth to see it in winter and spring. Perhaps even slightly early in autumn to get a true sense of the forest colours. The Park is iconic, our visit was epic and our memories deeply embedded into our veins. This is one visit that we will not forget in a hurry. We hope you enjoy your visit as much and feel free to ask any questions in the comments below. 

 

Check out our video tour of Plitvice by clicking the image below.

 

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A Guide to Bosnia by Motorhome

 

With a three month autumn tour of Croatia pre-Schengen 2023, we had our sights on Bosnia and Herzegovina at some point during our trip. This was, in part because it was so close it would have been mad not to. We also wanted to prolong our Croatian stay and thereby our Schengen Shuffle allowance by dipping into a country not in the gang. A double whammy opportunity. So sat in Omiš after a wonderful family week we decided, now was the time.

In this brief guide, we want to share what we experienced both in the lead up to crossing the border, our entry experience and some of our flavours from what was a ‘mini tour’ of this much unknown country. Our hope is that it will give you the inspiration to dip your intrepid toes into BiH waters and put fear and uncertainty behind you. 

The Lead Up 

We waved goodbye to mum and Bob who were heading back to Dubrovnik via Herzegovina’s Mostar region, and we began deliberating our next steps. Mostar is one of BiH’s hottest tourist destinations and has been on my bucket list for ages. Yet my sights had been so focused on arriving in Omiš in time for Bob’s Birthday celebrations, that I hadn’t even looked beyond this point.  So thanks to their trip, we were inspired to put our BiH intentions into action. With Omiš just 2 hours from Mostar the plan was hatched. 

With the help of Google, a few phones calls and at bit of route-mapping, within 24hrs we were good to go. The blogs I read about BiH excited me, so we knew this mini tour was so much more than Mostar.  I love travel’s variety; some days simply feel normal when you work, clean the van, shop and all those other mundane tasks. There are others when you do something special with family and friends who share your travel experiences with you. And then there are times when you do something that stretches you out of your comfort zone inducing what I call my ‘excityscared’ emotions; that fusion of anticipation, excitement and nervousness. Such a tumultuous mixture of feelings that are like a kaleidoscope of butterflies doing an olympic workout. Bosnia and Herzegovina represented that for me.

I’ll be honest, I know so little about Bosnia and Herzegovina that I had concerns about its safety; after all we wanted to do more than just Mostar. Like so many, the media plays a huge role in shaping our perceptions. After the war in the early 90’s, Sarajevo’s destruction, the devastation across this country and its neighbours, those memories stay with you. Yet travel always my educator and guide, continually shows me the truth behind a country’s culture and history, not what the media choose to show you.  It didn’t take long for me to move beyond my fears and look to the awaiting adventure just a mere 33 miles away. 

 

Our Top 10 Planning Checklist for Bosnia & Herzegovina

Once Bosnia and Herzegovina was on the agenda, I initiated a checklist of essentials that ensured we had the necessaries to be safe and have a memorable trip. We wanted to share this with you as you consider whether Bosnia could be on your road-trip list.

 

1. Covid entry requirements

It looks like we are through the worst of the pandemic with most countries having now lifted their entry requirements. Although after such an intensive period, it leaves you hyper-sensitive about travel. So I did a quick check to investigate if there were any restrictions or vaccination proof requirements. At the time of writing all restrictions are now lifted.

 

When you plan your trip, just check in with this website or your country’s own Government website to assess the latest information about Covid or any other topical issues that might affect your trip to the country. 

 

2. Vehicle Insurance 

There was some debate on our Motoroamers’ Chat Room about whether our UK insurance would cover Bosnia and Herzegovina. We are with Comfort and I had a sneaky suspicion they didn’t cover the country and I struggled to find any information to give me peace of mind. So I started researching buying insurance at the border. There was nothing definitive about where we could buy it and how much it would cost. 

So I put a quick call into Comfort where they confirmed that we were in fact covered and that we have breakdown cover there too. Happy days. That was one big tick off my list. They just recommended that we print our on-line documentation so that we had everything to hand if scrutinised by Border Control. The campsite helped us with this, so that was a breeze. 

 

Check your insurance policy for country exclusions and if in any doubt speak to your insurers to get up to date information. If you don’t already, ensure you have a printed copy of your documentation and Green Card just in case. My research suggested that many of the main tourist borders will specifically ask for your paperwork. And the official line is that online copies that you may have downloaded to save paper, is NOT sufficient. 

If your insurers don’t cover Bosnia, then you will need to get third party cover at the border. Bear in mind that not all borders are tourist crossings so may have nothing other than a Control Booth. We crossed at Aržano and it is not classed as a main Border so no insurance purchase looked to be available here. 

This interactive map might be helpful to find the borders around Bosnia. 

 

3. Travel Insurance – Health Cover

Of course travel insurance is an important companion and whilst we have our GHIC that offers basic cover  that for many countries may well be sufficient, for others, you may want some extra protection. With our exit from Europe, some countries might have travel insurance as an entry requirement. Although this hasn’t been the case for us in the last two years, other countries might have a different policy.  So we secured health cover through True Traveller, who we used for our trip to Morocco in 2020. This can be done on line or over the phone in an instant. 

 

If you are already travelling and have not purchased a UK-based policy, then you can use companies like True Traveller, Big Cat or World Nomads who will give you cover whilst away from your home country, subject meeting certain criteria. True Traveller covered us for 7 days for £66. For additional information, here is the UK Government’s website that shows what is covered under the reciprocal health agreement. 

 

4. Internet and International Roaming Charges

Whilst this wasn’t formally on my list – it should have been and I could have saved myself £50. Whilst I knew our Spanish Lobster card wouldn’t cover Bosnia, I foolishly thought we could use our 02 travel package. Wrong!  Travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina will initiate International Roaming Charges. It isn’t until you have no internet that you realise how much you rely on it. I couldn’t check Park4Night, use my Google Maps for navigation, get Google Translate or download my Bosnian maps on Maps.me. (Another school-girl error). So it is worth getting this sorted the minute you arrive.

Have no fear, if Bosnia and Herzegovina is not included in your allowance, then immediately search out a garage, convenience store, newsstand, post office or a cafe and ask for a Pre-paid SIM card. We bought a 20GB card for 7 days that we popped into our MIFI. It cost 20 BAM – £9. Given we work on-line, use a lot of data for our blogging and Myles’ investments, we simply bought a second card for 15GB for 10 days, so we could feel at ease about the internet situation. 

 

Check with your phone supplier to see if Bosnia and Herzegovina is covered. If not you will get a text from them saying that you will be charged for minutes of calls, text and data. Ours was £7.20 per MG up to 50MG capped at £51.50. I continued to use my internet to check where we could buy a SIM and in just 30 mins I had reached my cap! SO BEWARE.

 

5. Navigational Maps

As with our recommendations for Morocco, we suggest checking your membership with Park4Night is up to date to use their off-line option. This will save important data. If you have maps.me remember to download Bosnia and Herzegovina maps whilst you have ‘free and cheap’ internet. I didn’t and needed to wait until we had our SIM card to download my maps, which of course also used a chunk of my allowance up! Lesson learnt. 

 

6. Overnight Parking Options 

I did a lot of research on where we could stay and wild camping rules. I couldn’t find anything definitive from the Bosnia and Herzegovina Government although it seems that there are no laws prohibiting going off-grid. Of course, the normal rules must apply. Be respectful, be tidy and be discreet. No one should ever know we had been there. 

There are two big issues going off-grid in BiH; the first is the risk of land-mines from the war. So never go anywhere where the land hasn’t been tended to or that doesn’t have asphalt roads to them. There are signs warning of mines, so always take heed, however beautiful the location may be. The second challenge is that many reviews we read suggested that guys would turn up in the evening asking for payment on a seemingly free spot. They may not always be official parking attendants, so be mindful of this during the high season. 

There are not many sites on SearchforSites, whilst Park4Night is prolific with all camping options. Just read the reviews carefully and make sure that someone has stayed at your desired spot recently without issue. However, if you are going to a spot that has no reviews at all, then just google camping on Google Maps and see what comes up. We found some wonderful campsites this way in both Poland, Bulgaria and Romania that weren’t on any portals. You’ll always find somewhere. If you are really desperate, I would also visit hotels, restaurants or monasteries and see if they are willing for you to stay on their land overnight in return for a donation or a meal. ACSI also have some campsites on their books – check out their link although bear in mind that a campsite’s own rates are likely to be cheaper than the ACSI rate. 

 

7. Preparation for the Border Crossing

Whichever crossing you choose to take, be ready with your paperwork in case you’re asked for it. Arm yourself with your V5, passports, travel insurance documentation and motor insurance paperwork. We were only asked for our passports. Main tourist borders do check paperwork more thoroughly so being prepared will reduce stress and time.

At our crossing we first encountered the Croatian Border. Thinking this was the Bosnian side, I asked to be stamped which he didn’t do automatically. Then half a mile further on was the Bosnian Control and again all he wanted was passports; and he did stamp. So we now have ourselves a bit more time for our stay in Croatia, given we are only allowed 90 days under their Visa rules. Once they join Schengen in Jan 2023, then a trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina will help you Schengen Shuffle prolong your travel time. Just make sure you are stamped to record you leaving and re-entering Croatia. 

 

8. Language Barriers

Before entering any new country, I always have a handful of basic phrases under my belt. I think it is so important to at least try. So many don’t and with Google Translate it is very easy. Even if your pronunciation isn’t great, it will be appreciated. Bosnia is almost identical to Croatian, so here are some go-phrases to have up your sleeve. 

  • Hello (literally Good Day)  – Dobar dan (pronounced dobradan) 
  • Do you speak English  – Govoriš (š is a sh) li engleski
  • Can I – Mogu li

          – buy – Kupiti
          – have – Dobiti
          – stay – Ostati
          – pay – Platiti

  • Night – Noć
  • Here – Ovdje
  • Please – Molim
  • Thanks – Hvala  (Puno ti hvala is thank you very much)
  • Bye – Dovidenja (pronounced Dovigenya)
  • Please – molim

9. Money and Currency

With the deftness of a flying Swift I found my answer to Bosnian currency; it is called BAM or Bosnian Mark or KM. My research told me though that they will take Euros – although after searching the depths of my purse unveiled €10 plus €9 in coins, which they are not fans of. Otherwise all I had was Croatian Kuna. And many establishments especially campsites don’t take credit card. So we checked with the Money Exchange to see if we could buy BAM or Euros – the answers to which were a firm negative. So we decided that if we had to, we would resort to using my Tescos Credit Card – not ideal because of the exchange rate, although needs might must right?

Although have no fear – Bosnian establishments will take whatever you have, after all, they say, ‘This is Bosnia!’ So when we urgently needed a SIM card, they were happy to take our Kuna. I’m sure the rate wasn’t in our favour, although at least we could buy what we needed before getting to a cash point.  Part of my planning was to check out the nearest ATM’s to our border crossing. Be aware though that there will be a lot of BANKOMAT cash points and they charge £5 for each withdrawal. Either go to a private bank where they will only charge you the standard rate of £3.95 or google ZiraatBank locations; they are the only bank in Bosnia that do not charge for withdrawals.

At the time of writing the currency exchange with sterling is 1BAM = 0.45p, so roughly halve the BAM price and you will know what you are paying. We also have XE.com as a back up exchange calculator, which can make life easier. 

10. Inform family of your travel intentions

It might sound an odd item for the checklist. Yet if your plans are last minute, like us, then letting loved ones know your travel intentions will ease anxiety. If you suddenly go out of communication it can be stressful for everyone. So I dropped mum a message to say that if we weren’t in touch for a while, not to worry. Telling her where we were going in case of a lack of internet meant, she could be restful in the knowledge we hadn’t dropped off the face of the earth. 

What is Bosnia like?

In Part 2 of this blog, we will tell you more about our mini road-trip around Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although for now, here is a little taster of what we experienced.

The road up from Omiš was stunningly beautiful and our entire 42 miles following the Cetina Gorge guided us on a rollercoaster ride through the mountains. It took us about 90 minutes to arrive at our overnight stop at a beach beside a lake. What a great start that was.

As with most country borders, the cultures and landscape don’t tend to change in a flash; they mostly morph subtly and graciously. So for a while, Bosnia and Herzegovina feels as if you are still in Croatia. And then the reality hits you as you see political propaganda painted on walls and the ever-present bullet holes. These are a stark reminder of what has past, in our life-time. That is a sobering moment. Silence echoed around our van as we began to reflect on all that we remember from the news reels back in the day.  And then the landscape, for a moment soothes your soul as you wind around endless mountains, forests and plateau farmlands. Then the war memories are back, as in each village you see fresh graves from both the Muslims and Christians. The humbling moments are never far from mind.  And this makes Bosnia such an endearing destination and rich in its culture. Whilst a tragic moment in their history, it was their reality. As a visitor experiencing how this might have been for them, feels really important. 

Check out our gallery below.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is though a country that is rebuilding, with hearts and minds. We are greeted with intrigue as we drive through isolated mountain villages. We are not the sight most rural communities are used to seeing. And in truth we saw only a handful other vans ourselves whilst we were here. Soon enough more will arrive although for now, we are looked upon with a strange curiosity.

Camping here is easy and good quality. The local’s and campsite owners’ hospitality is second to none. We were treated to warmth, gifts and free drinks when we arrived at campsites. Like with Croatia, Auto Camps are popping up all over the place giving us a choice over where to stay. We paid between €10-15 per night all inclusive often with free WIFI too, although always very strong. Shower facilities were decent enough and whilst we could have gone more off-grid than we did, it felt important to put money into a community that needs our support.

The landscape is difficult to describe with a profound enough adjective. I had no idea that BiH was so utterly beautiful. It has a raw and untouched feel about it and for miles all you see are mountains, gorges, topaz blue rivers and forest.  So often we had to pinch ourselves and say, ‘We’re in Bosnia’.

The roads are generally good. There is a lot of new infrastructure connecting communities and much of the funding comes from the EU.  Some of the towns were quite industrial and scruffy with square, brick facia houses that look unfinished. Although what the new towns lack in character, the old medieval towns and landscape seriously make up for.  As with many Balkan countries, aside of Croatia, there is an animal welfare issue. We saw stray dogs, some with ear-tags, roaming the roads often in pairs, yet they all looked well nourished. So someone is looking after them, although they are not in homes being loved.  And sadly like Morocco, rubbish is a huge problem in Bosnia, which is such a shame. 

One of the many things that impressed us was that almost around every corner was a petrol station and virtually every one sold LPG. So you never need to worry about filling up. At the time of writing their Dizel was priced 3.16KM – £1.42  and LPG was 1.56KM – 0.70p.  And there are plentiful supermarkets around which are on a par with Croatia; so cheaper than western Europe for sure. Bingo is a huge chain of shop offering absolutely everything you can think of – other brands are of course available. Every town seems to have a market; we’re not sure if they’re daily although they sell all you need and of course you are putting money straight into the hands of the entrepreneurs. 

Touring Bosnia and Herzegovina in our motorhome has been a beautiful surprise and a sublime experience that has anchored itself deep within me. It has certainly left us both wanting more. We can’t recommend Bosnia enough. It is safe. It is beautiful. And it is full of history that will shock and humble you. And with Croatia now joining Schengen, BiH is going to be a winner in the Schengen Shuffle race for our travel attention. Bosnia, we are coming!

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10 Tips for Navigating our Schengen Sentence

10 Tips for Navigating our Schengen Sentence

At Motoroaming HQ we are finally coming to the end of our first official Schengen Sentence. After 84 days in Europe through the winter 2021/22, we returned to the UK to tread water until we were able to step back into the Zone. The period from 21st February until the end of May has taught us so much about how navigate this ‘sentence’ (said of course tongue in cheek). Such have been our revelations during this time that we wanted to share our lessons about how to make the most of this period, based on our experiences.

Irrespective of your views of Brexit, we have it, fair and square; now we must navigate it positively in a way that meets all our travel needs and personal requirements. There’s no doubting for those of us who have been used to roaming freely across Europe, navigating the Schengen has had an impact on all our travels. 

As with all aspects of life, how we deal with our challenges is driven by the mindset we adopt when managing these changes. We can moan all we like, although these new rules are here to stay and so if we ‘bend with the wind’ we can learn a new way of travelling that creates a ‘new normal’. 

We have talked to so many people over the last six months and there’s no doubting that the prospect of coming back to the UK for long periods is faced with a dose of dread. As a result we have found many like-minded souls trying to string out their stay in Europe for as long as possible. Often we saw people choosing to bomb it back to the nearest ferry to maximise their time, some having issues with breakdowns that took them to the edge of their allowance, placing all manner of stress on their lives. 

It’s worth adding at this point that we all adopt our own strategies for making the most of our travel time, especially if we are full-time; so there is no judgement being made here. We are, after all, all doing our best with what we have available to us. There is no right or wrong way – just our own way.

As I reflect back to our return in February, I remember we stepped upon our English shores with heavy hearts. We knew that, for at least the next 90 days, we would need to manage our time in the UK otherwise it could feel as long as a winter’s night. We knew instantly that exploring ways to make this period productive and deal with our itchy feet would be a really constructive conversation to have. So having now experienced our first Schengen Sentence, we wanted to share our thoughts, reflections and tips, given we are all in the same boat. 

Scoobie Gamle Strynefjellvagen

10 Tips for Navigating our Schengen Sentence 

1. Hold back some of your 90 days 

When we started talking about our approach to the Schengen Shuffle, we decided our strategy would be not to use all our 90 days.  We wanted to have a buffer to make allowance for any unexpected events. So we choose to save some days in case we break down (which we have a tendency to do) or we needed to get back in hurry. And bizarrely this strategy has really helped us navigate our Schengen Sentence, albeit by default.

This year we ended up having 6 days spare from our winter trip. This enabled us to use these days for a surprise visit to Paris for my mum’s 80th Birthday. Whilst we considered ourselves lucky to have had these extra days, in fact it will now form the basis of our travel strategy catering for our UK lay-over. That break away to foreign shores was great to give us a bit of a European fix, which has proved to be a priceless lesson. Whether it is a City-break for a long weekend or a quick week in the sun somewhere, having enough days to facilitate that break away that could be a god-send during our time back in the UK.

2. Book things up ahead of your return to the UK

Psychologists and Life Coaches agree that to have something to look forward to every 13 weeks is important for our well-being. I think for us wanderlusters, we need something more frequently than that. 

Whilst we were in Portugal, three weeks before our winter trip ended, we began making plans for our 90 days sentence in our homeland. Those plans included a surprise Birthday trip to see my bestie on the Isle of Man, family gatherings to reconnect with loved ones and even practical appointments like Motorhome service, MOT and Dentists. We also took the opportunity to do different things to mark events such as Mother’s Day and Birthdays. This certainly made our time back in the UK more wholesome rather than simply ‘sitting out our time’  before our pass to freedom was released. It gave us a purpose, made life more pleasurable and allowed us to do things that added value to our lives. After all life is just too damned short. 

3. Build in a European non-Schengen or long-haul visit

We’ve talked a lot about the Schengen Shuffle and how to maximise our travel time outside of the UK. And there’s absolutely no reason why this couldn’t work in our favour during our Schengen Sentence too. So why not consider a week to Croatia whilst they finalise their Schengen membership?  At the time of writing, they are a non-Schengen option and will be until 2024. So that is a very viable option that has no impact on our allowance. What about Cyprus? They too are outside of Schengen for the moment; same with Morocco, Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria. We’re not suggesting taking the van; we are saying – why not fly for a bit of a holiday? If funds allow why not go further afield for an adventure? This will certainly be on our agenda for future years as we look to take advantage of what Brexit offers.

4. Put your van in storage and have a staycation

If like us you are full-time then some of the options above might seem a bit more tricky to navigate. After all what do we do with our van? Often our insurance small print says that we are not allowed more than 48  hours away from the van, so that can add a very real complication. Our Comfort Policy though does say that we can store the van in a CaSSOA Gold standard Site, so that is what we did. We found Cadeside Storage and Campsite in Wellington, Somerset, that allows members of the Caravan and Motorhome Club to store their van safely and compliantly. So we took advantage of this and on two separate occasions stored Scoobie for just £50 per week. There is also a monthly charge if you wanted to go away for longer.

This has been revolutionary for us and will absolutely feature in future Schengen Sentence periods. It has also confirmed our need to ensure we keep up with our C&MC membership fee. This storage facility allowed us to book up an AirBnB in the Roseland Peninsula, a part of Cornwall that we don’t know and would never dream of taking Scoobie to – and it was an amazing retreat. 

5. Tour the UK and Ireland

I think Brexit offers us a huge opportunity to explore our own country. And whilst we may prefer the balmy weather and cheaper lifestyle across the Channel, our homeland has some terrific sights to see. Whilst we didn’t do much exploring during this particular period, 2021 saw us explore areas that were brand new to us. Essex, what a joy that county is. Scotland – goes without saying, especially Dumfries and Galloway. And then there’s Wales with its hidden gems. Of course the weather is not guaranteed yet having seen some of the Spanish forecasts this spring, sunshine is never a banker.  

As part of our 2022 advantures, we are heading over to Ireland, both north and south. Neither of these countries contribute to our Schengen allowance so we are totally free to roam here either as part of a longer road-trip or as a way to break up your Schengen Sentence. You can sail with Stena Lines from Liverpool, Holyhead or Fishguard. Or why not take the opportunity to visit the Isle of Man, sailing from Liverpool or Heysham. Whilst the ferries are not cheap, if you go for long enough, then the cost is no more than hard hitting than our diesel costs. 

6. Buy a little run around car (if you don’t already have one)

Whilst I would much rather ride alongside my travel buddy in the van, having our little runaround car that we bought during Covid, has been a priceless resource for us; even though we have to travel in convoy. Finding little campsites tucked away in the countryside has allowed us to still roam and reach appointments having the car by our side. Granted this comes with additional complications when you come to return to the Schengen Zone again. Although we have found a campsite who will store the car for us for £30 per month and of course we can SORN it and don’t have to pay out for insurance whilst we are away. So we will just built it into our monthly budgeting.

 

7. Get your DIY jobs done

As we reflect back on our 6 years of travel, we have found that whilst on the road, we rarely have much time to do practical ‘stuff’.  You know things like clean the roof, bash the carpets and fix things that have rattled and rolled on the roads through Europe. The one thing about living or travelling in a van is that there is always something to mend – or so it seems to us. It is true that our travel lifestyle means that sometimes we need to stop to do our jobs, and so having time in the UK to be still and address our little niggles has been so productive.  Having access to DIY shops and places that fulfil your creativity is great and gives your van a whole new personality, ready for your next trip.

When we see that this period can serve a positive purpose, then it helps us navigate the time with a healthier mindset.

8. Start to plan your next Schengen trip

Talking about your next trip, use this homeland time to look forward; to dream, plan and organise. It keeps your wanderlust satiated and gives you something to work towards. This has certainly been true for us. Planning our next 10 months out has been a really good focus, especially given that it needs a bit more thinking through these days. I have really enjoyed finding places to visit when we head over to Ireland. Going through Pinterest and joining new Facebook groups to collect ideas keeps the excitement going. Whilst I am an advocate of being grounded in the here and now, having half an eye on the immediate future is also healthy, especially when you are trying to navigate being in a place where you might find yourself stuck. 

Planning for a trip

9. Find new places to visit and some ‘go to’ stopovers

Whilst we have focused our time and location on the M5 corridor, we have also tried to mix up our ‘homes’. We’ve balanced going to CL’s that we love for their location, walks and accessibility to the motorway. Also we have relished finding new spots that are so easy to bypass keeping our sense of exploration alive.

We loved our Orchard Farm Campsite and Glamping Pods near Glastonbury for a Mother’s Day surprise; being on the Somerset Levels exploring the Nature Reserves; finding a lovely wild spot at Dunkeswell Aerodrome and enjoying Broadhembry in Devon.  We have a go-to site in Hereford in the middle of the countryside at Holme Lacey and love our Golf Centre retreat at Cleveland. We have indulged ourselves in days out finding new hidey holes at Frampton on Severn and Otterton Mill down in Budleigh Salterton.

When we reflect back it’s been quite a rich set of experiences that are all too easy to miss waiting impatiently for our new 90 day allowance to begin. 

Avoid places that just make you feel uncomfortable for whatever reason. It’s important to feel at home whilst we navigate this period. We’ve chosen mostly CL’s with hardstanding to avoid sinking and which enable us to manage our UK budget, which is invariably more expensive than on the continent, where we wild camp a lot more. Also it is worth keeping a mindful eye on Bank and School Holidays as advanced booking may be required. We got caught out during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.  

10. Do things that make you feel good

Life is always about balance and when you find yourself in a place that feels less than appealing, it is important to nurture your physical and mental well-being. So dig deep and focus on what motivates you, makes you feel fit and healthy and that pleases you. Whether that might be finding a yoga class, doing some daily walking, eating nice meals or engaging in a hobby that you love. Or perhaps do things that you wouldn’t normally have time for when you’re out travelling. Treat yourself to meetings with friends, or making connections with people you’ve met on the road. Anything that gives you a focus, makes you feel good and inspires you. All these important little wins will help you manage any sadness you feel not being able to travel in the way you really want to. 

Whist we would undoubtedly prefer to be in Europe full-time (minus the MOT of course), that is not possible right now. So this time back in the UK has been revolutionary for us and has given us a new perspective of how we can travel differently. Small adjustments to the way we manage our non-Schengen time will help make a happy life rather than one peppered with irritation and longing. Life is short and finding ways to adopt a healthy approach to our challenges is key to our happiness.

So we hope that sharing our experiences from the last three months might give you something to think about with your travels. We would also love to hear from you if you have other ideas to add to this list. How have you managed your Schengen Sentence that we can share with others? Please feel free to add comments below or comment on our Facebook Page.

Here’s to a healthy, happy and heavenly travel experiences, home and abroad.

 

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6 Reasons to send you to Coventry

6 Reasons to send you to Coventry

Coventry is not the first place in England that I would naturally think of as a place to visit. Yet we have come to appreciate after 6 years of full-time travel that every place has a uniqueness to offer anyone who has a dose of curiosity. So in this short City Guide we share with you the highlights that we found during a recent half-day visit.  You never know, Coventry might well end up being on your ‘Travel To Do List’. Let’s see if we can persuade you.  

Coventry is perhaps famous for two things;

  • The idiom of ‘Sending you to Coventry’ suggesting that we are deliberately ostracising you, which really doesn’t sell the notion of visiting any time soon.
  • The infamous bombing of the city on 14 November 1940 that whilst it may have destroyed its Cathedral did not dent its spirit. 

 

Officially mapped in the West Midlands, Coventry is nestled in the heart of industrial Britain and as such leaves the city with a reputation that seems not worthy of a tourist visit. These days that industry has morphed from clock and watches to bicycles, motor and aircraft manufacturing.  Yet as England’s 20th largest city, when you open its Pandora Box you might be surprised with what it has to offer.  

 

1. City of Culture 2021/22

In 2017, Coventry was awarded City of Culture for 2021 due to its diversity, youthful vibe thanks to its 3 universities and central location. Postponed from 2021 because of Covid, Coventry has been celebrating its City of Culture status that has firmly put it on the UK map. Even Radio 1 are doing a Roadshow up there. The kudos of having this accolade does Coventry’s reputation the world of good and encourages us to see it through new eyes. 

 

2. The Reel Store

Triggered as part of the cultural celebrations, the old Telegraph Newspaper offices have been converted into a state of the art immersive, digital gallery allowing visitors to be entertained by an AI experience. The Reel Store is expected to be a permanent exhibition and on 13 May opened its doors with this unique art presentation – and we were one of the first to experience this incredible event. The current exhibition is a collaboration between Rafik Anadol and NASA, using a collection of 2 million pictures from space and calibrated into this unique immersive experience. For £10 per person you will be thrown into a 20 minute display of movement, colour and sound that will transport you to a totally different world.  Check out our video below.

 

3. Medieval Coventry

Coventry has a long history going back centuries and had, once upon a time the best preserved Medieval quarter of any city in England. Although Spon Lane’s offerings, where you will see magnificent examples of buildings dating back to the Middle Ages, didn’t in fact originate here. They have been relocated from around the city and brought together in one place. As you walk down the lane you see the fusion of Tudor designs and timbers at home alongside modern premises and businesses. Yet the paradox is that they are kept alive by this symbiotic arrangement. It is well worth searching out this area of the city, which is within walking distance of the train station. 

Check out our gallery below.

 

4War-time Coventry

Of course Coventry is perhaps best known for its World War 2 history, where on the fateful night of 14/15 November 1940, the Nazi’s blitzed the city, thought to be a target because of their ammunition factories. Coventry had no warning of the impending doom for their city and so they were at the mercy of the German’s bombs. Razed to the ground, Coventry was seen as one of Germany’s most successful battles; killing more than 600 people, bombing over a third of the factories and ammunition centres and reducing Coventry’s industrial reputation quite literally to rubble. To see Coventry’s strength in redefining itself is a testament to its spirit. Today the modern feel is shaded by unnaturally open city spaces that have clearly been shaped by that fateful night. It feels like an emotional journey to come here amidst the modern office buildings and tower blocks although their facades hide a pain from the past and a spirit of forgiveness. 

 

5. Coventry Cathedral, Old and New

One very noticeable victim of the bombing was the city’s grand Cathedral. Defiled by bombing, the building was almost completely destroyed much to the horror of the locals. And yet the very next morning, it was not anger that fuelled survivors to rush to the razed church body, it was forgiveness. It stands today as it did on 14th November 1940 with its heart ripped out and yet when you walk through the church gates into its seemingly empty belly, its soul is very much in tact. A skeleton that stands for forgiveness and fortitude.  The tower, which avoided destruction can be climbed for an aerial view of the city, which they hope to reopen in summer 2022. 

Then in direct contrast, the new Cathedral which adjoins the old has a totally different feel to it. Tall, hollow it felt to me and very soulless, although with a stained glass window that is its crowning glory and well worth seeing.

 

6. Coventry’s Parks and Canal 

Whilst on this visit we didn’t get a chance to visit, Coventry has a surprising number of parkland areas for walking, cycling or play if you have kids to entertain. In fact there are around 16 parks in total. If my intuition was to serve me well, I suspect that some of the parks are as a consequence of the bombing and using the demolished sites in a more positive way. I could find nothing to confirm my instincts, although it feels right. The Coventry Canal, the basin of which you will find to the north of the city is a 38 mile stretch of canal that eventually feeds into the Trent and Mersey at Lichfield. It is navigable by boat, Paddle Board or cycle – on the tow path of course (she says having steered her electric bike into the Llangollen Canal in Wales). 

 

How to get there

Coventry is dead centre in England and in the heart of the motorway network so whichever direction you come from, getting here is pretty easy. South east of Birmingham and directly north of Leamington-Spa, you can easily hop onto the M6, M1 or M40 to reach this understated city. Alternatively you have a great rail network that links Coventry north and south, so reaching this unusual hub is relatively easy. There are plenty of car parks in the city as you’ll see in the map below. For a day’s parking we paid £6.

 

Where to stay 

If you are travelling with your camper or motorhome, then there are no campsites in Coventry. Although you don’t need to go far to find a range of sites from which you can hop onto a train. We’ve included a map from Search for Sites of just some of the options. Leamington Spa in Warwickshire in particular would make a really nice base enabling you to explore more than just Coventry, which is just an added bonus. 

For hotels, check out the map below just to show you how many hotel options there are open to you and choose a booking platform to assess prices across the city. 

 

Where to eat

As with every city in the world, there are all sorts of eateries to choose from, from your branded restaurants to local bistros with food represented from every corner of the world. As a diverse city with multi-ethnicities and not forgetting that it is catering for its University population, Coventry has every food style you can imagine. We ate at Wagamamas as Myles had never been there, so we thought we’d try it. If you would like something that is slightly out of the city and combine it with a place to stay overnight to boot, then why not try The Old Mill in Baginton which is directly south of the city just a 10 minute drive. It is a quintessential English pub and definitely worth checking out and has an enormous car park if you happen to take the motorhome in with you.

So what do you think? Coventry – is it worth a visit? Certainly before our day’s visit I can honestly say that I would never have considered it on my must visit list. Although having been, I think it definitely needs promoting for a day’s visit. Much like an onion, when you strip away the ugly outer layers that perhaps shapes its national reputation, a sweet centre is revealed. We hope that you might give Coventry a chance and let us know what you think. 

 

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The Roseland Peninsula – Cornwall

The Roseland Peninsula – Cornwall

Whether you are full-time travellers like us looking to navigate the Schengen Shuffle or holiday seekers after a unique destination, we have just the place for you. Get out that map, head to the UK’s south west coast and find the path less travelled at the Roseland Peninsula. This is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and as soon as you pass St Austell you are entering the land of the Heritage Coast. Let us take you on a journey to Cornwall’s hidden treasure where you be greeted by traditional fishing communities, stunning coastal walks and azure waters that would fit seamlessly into Greek holiday brochure.  We’ve added a series of galleries with pictures that capture the Roseland at its best. So click on each picture to see the full gallery available. 

* Map below courtesy of Into Cornwall.

1. St Mawes

We based ourselves on the western edge of the peninsula at the old fishing village of St Mawes. Named after Saint Maudez from Brittany who settled here in the 5th century, St Mawes somehow still maintains its charm and quaintness without the hoards of tourists you might expect of such a stunning picture postcard place. 

With stunning views over the bustling harbour there is a constant buzz from the ferries, fishing boats and wild swimmers looking to master the ocean’s ice-cold water. As a destination all by itself St Mawes is a delight with its remarkably in tact castle, built by King Henry VIII, its narrow Cornish coast-hugging streets, thatch cottages and its waterscape. The ebb and flow of the tide makes for a mesmerising display the waters of which gently change the scene hour by hour. The toots from the Falmouth ferry every 30 minutes reminds you of how the communities along this coast have made the sea their companion and not their enemy. The clinking boats moored up just outside the harbour walls signal the wind’s command of the airwaves whilst the relative shelter from St Antony’s headline to the east brings a certain calmness to life here. 

The stunning walks around this finger of the peninsula will stretch your willing legs for either 3 or 5 miles depending how long you fancy. For a slightly longer circular hike you can encompass St Just in Roseland Church which will net you a nice 6.5 mile return trip. More on that in a moment. 

With art galleries, smart hotels, fishmonger huts on the quay and deli’s you have all that you could desire here. You won’t find a major supermarket, although somehow that part of the matrix’s life sits on the fringes of your holiday. Your days in St Mawes get blessed with a simplicity that is second to none and really needs no interference from the ‘outside world’. 

There is a car park just beside the Rising Sun pub which is chargeable. We paid £35 for the week. There is room for motorhomes to park here for the day although there is no overnight parking allowed. 

 

2. St Just in Roseland

Two miles north from St Mawes is the small hamlet of St Just in Roseland, named in honour of Saint Just the Martyr. The community itself has nothing much of note – although what puts it firmly on the ‘must visit’ map is its ancient church and famous churchyard. 

Hugging the water’s edge, this church, the site of which is thought to have had a place of worship since 550AD, is reputed to have the most picturesque churchyard in England and the only one with a sub-tropical graveyard. Resting places for the local community from a bygone era, share this humble yet tranquil space with camellias, rhododendrons, acers, bluebells and primroses. It is the most incredible place to sit, wander and marvel at how special this piece of land is. It really will blow you away whether you are religious or not.  If you can, check the tide times and visit at high tide for the most magical of settings. 

There is a free car park at the top of the village from which you can walk down the hill down to the church for 0.3 of a mile – just remember you have to walk back. Or you can drive down to one of two car parks run by the National Trust which need coins or the PayforPhone app. There is a little cafe here if you fancy making a longer visit. You can also follow the coastal walk from St Mawes, which is 2 miles, taking the upper footpath back to the water tower for a nice 4 mile round trip. 

 

3. Veryan and Portloe

The Roseland Peninsula is a delight to explore along the coast and inland. Whilst not quite as picturesque, just a few miles away from the sea you are presented with curvaceous fields draped in yellow blankets of Rape crops so bright you need sunglasses. In between and down classically narrow Cornish lanes, you will stumble upon traditional rural villages. The one we loved best was Veryan not least because of the five roundhouse thatch cottages built by Rev Samuel Trist back in the 19th century for each of his daughters. A pair of cottages were built at the two entrances to the village and the fifth, which we never found is hidden behind the village school. Legend suggests they were built round so that the devil couldn’t hide in any of the corners. The village’s 13th century church is also said to have the longest grave in the UK, being the resting place of 15 sailors from the wreckage of stricken cargo ship the Hera, on 1st February 1914. 

The other place worthy of note that we loved was Portloe. This is not a place I would want to bring a motorhome to given the narrow lanes that lead here, although if you have separate transport or come in a car, then this is a must. Portloe on the east coast of the Roseland Peninsula is a traditional Pilchard fishing community that has so much charm and tranquility in equal measure. It is said to be on of the quaintest villages in Cornwall. With its steep streets that loom high above the sea, its tiny harbour is sheltered behind a headland keeping it protected from the Channel winds. Sir John Betjeman said of Portloe “One of the least spoiled and most impressive of Cornish fishing villages”. Although steeped in tales of pirates and the smuggling of French Brandy, today there is less controversy surrounding the village and the remaining three fishermen now trawl for crab and lobster along these crafted shores.

 

4. St Anthony’s Lighthouse and Coastal Walk

With stunning views across the water from St Mawes towards Place, a whole world of stunning hiking awaits you. Accessed either by car parking in Porth Farm National Trust car park or via a twice hourly ferry from St Mawes you will be in walking heaven. A circular route of 6 miles rewards you with World War 2 battery buildings, St Antony’s lighthouse and secret coves to the south; bluebell covered woodland that radiate divine scents, Place Manor and ancient St Anthony’s church to the east. And on the west, undulating cliffs fall away to a craggy coast where seals harbour and you gorgeous views across the Cornish coast towards Mevagissey.  

This walk is so mesmerising, appealing to every sense and every interest as you scale up this shapely landscape admiring the views surrounding you. With the southern tip looming, you begin to see the west coast stretch out in front of you with Falmouth and The Lizard tantalisingly close. The Artillery Battery Station served in both World Wars although was actually built back in 1895. In 1956 the buildings were decommissioned and by 1959 taken over by the National Trust. (If you wanted to you could drive down to this location and start your walk from here. Just around the corner you descend along the South West Coastal Path and come across St Anthony’s Lighthouse which was built in 1835 and is now a holiday cottage, although it is perhaps more famous as being featured in the introduction to children’s TV programme Fraggle’s Rock. 

For us it was the western section that popped like candy in front of our very eyes. With golden sand coves encompassed by jagged rocks and sparkling azure seas, we were immediately transported to somewhere else far away from the UK. Wind-shaped pine trees framed the scene atmospherically as we hugged the rugged coastline with views of our home across the water at St Mawes. And then with sneaky peaks of the crystal blue waters in between the woodland trees, a pine carpet was laid out in front of us with primroses, blue and white bells lining up along our path as if we were celebrities. The smell rose up to tease our nostrils with that heady scent that only spring can offer and our walk morphed into yet another phase of deliciousness. Only the presence of orchids could alter the joy of our day. And there, in the final approach before the car park, a whole field of these beauties welcomed us on the home-straight. Typically a late spring or summer blossom, we were blown away by the early arrival of this precious plant gracing our walk so magnificently. What a way to end this 6 mile hike. 

The Porth Farm car park takes either £1 coins or you can use the PaybyPhone app. Although please bear in mind that there is no signal at the car park so you will need to move out to the coast to be able to pay. There is a cafe just across the road for refreshments or toilets and there are toilets at the Battery half way round the walk. There are plenty of benches to grab a rest and have a picnic. Or you can take the Place ferry from St Mawes, tickets for which can be made on-line with a 10% discount or you can buy full price at the ticket office at St Mawes harbour. In 2022 the cost was £8.50 or £7.65 on-line per person.

 

5. Portscatho and the Hidden Hut

On the east coast of the Roseland Peninsula you will find fine views along Cornwall’s enigmatic coastline where hidden fishing villages hold tales of a bygone era in Mevagissey, Looe and Fowey. Although of course you will have to share your experience with many  other visitors. Not so in this hidden gem of The Duchy. Perhaps the surfing waves of the west are more alluring to most meaning that this tucked away little haven is shielded from too many tourists. 

Portscatho is just a few miles from St Anthony’s Point and is known for its Art Galleries and traditional pilchard fishing community. Although for us, it was the draw of the Hidden Hut that so many had told us about that brought us to this spot. Parking in the car park you have a short 10 minute walk to Porthcurnick Beach. A vast expanse of white sandy beach awaits you that has dogs salivating at the potential for ball games and swims. It is though a different salivation for the two legged kind, as just up from the beach is the famous Hidden Hut, an eating experience that has many famous sort praising their culinary delights with adjectives abound. With a delicious menu that is delivered with efficiency, your taste buds are soon quietened as their eco-friendly serving plates and cups are filled with the most incredible fare. From chowders to curry’s, fish to veggie soups and naughty cakes, this takes the idea of street food to a whole new level. And after a sumptuous partaking of grub, you can then walk off your meal along the South West Coastal path as long as your feet can take you. 

The car park has a tricky entrance to it that has a huge hump that even with our little Hyundai car scraped the undercarriage. So please beware if you bring a camper or motorhome that you might need to enter through the exit to save your undersides. 

 

6. Falmouth

What a lovely surprise Falmouth was. As a general rule we’re not big town/city fans, preferring the charm of rural life that is brimming with natural life and energy. Although we have also come to appreciate after 6 years of full-time travel, that no travel is complete without experiencing all sides of the coin – even the stuff that we like less. And so we made the decision to see Falmouth knowing that a large part of the adventure was to take the ferry across from St Mawes. Seeing things from the water always has a different feel to a land view as it creates a broader perspective. So our 20 minute journey offered us a real treat as we saw the village with fresh eyes and of course had a super welcome into the buzz of what is the world’s third largest naturally deep port. 

Known as the Port of Protection, Falmouth has for centuries been a safe haven for merchant ships passing through the Channel and today large tankers can still be seen harbouring here in the sheltered waters. With a sparkle of tiered streets housing colourful fishermen’s cottages, Falmouth has a quintessential seaside town feel about it. Walking north through the High Street upon cobbled streets, you are welcomed by fluttering flags and independent restaurants overlooking the sea and shops offering a range of purchases to the eager tourist. And that, of course includes the must try Cornish pasties. 

Heading south takes you out of the town hub towards Pendennis Castle. Although before that, it might be worth a visit to the charity run Maritime Museum that focuses on seafaring life, community issues in Cornwall and around the world tthat please visitors of all ages. 

If you’re up for a bit of a walk then you can take the Scenic Route east towards the Castle that will show a bird’s eye view of Falmouth docks. Perhaps not the vista you might choose, although it is actually really interesting to read its history from the information boards along the route. And then you have the mighty fortress of Henry VIII’s Pendennis Castle to feast upon. This 16th century castle with its perfect position looking out to see, was built to protect the country and was one of a number of fortresses that Henry Tudor commissioned during his reign. Now run by English Heritage you can either pay to enter and explore or simply walk around the moat and see Little Denis for free, that perches right on the cliff edge at the peninsula. As you stand at the arch windows looking out towards St Mawes and St Anthony’s Lighthouse you can marvel at the crashing waves and just for a moment or two ponder on the battles that the past holds tribute to. And then walking back along the one way road to the west you will see the beach offerings of this lovely area, which at low tide must be a delight. Falmouth was lovely and albeit just a half day visit, gave us a flavour of this busy and significant port and its role in the shaping of Cornwall’s history. 

If you decide to drive to Falmouth then there is a free car park just before you reach the Castle where it looks like you can stay overnight without restrictions if with your camper (50.148623, -5048318). Or you can park at Little Denis again for free although there is no overnighting allowed here. 

The Falmouth to St Mawes ferry (like the Place Ferry) can be purchased on board for £12 or £10.80 with an on-line 10% discount. They ferries run every 30 mins to the Custom House Quay or the Prince of Wales Pier alternately. You can take dogs and bikes.  The Museum costs £13.80 pp or £12.40 for concessions and £7.75 for children aged between 5-18. Children under 5 enter for free. 

 

7. The Lizard Point – Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Whilst not technically the Roseland Peninsula, The Lizard is an easy to reach destination whilst you are in this beautiful part of the world. We don’t class ourselves as Compass Chasers, although it is always nice to place your feet upon the extremities of a country. And as a Brit, born and bred I am ashamed to say that I have not been to any of the four compass points of my own country. Well this week I managed to address that failing by driving down to the Lizard Point. Just 80 mins drive from St Mawes the drive was easy, made especially pleasurable thanks to the ‘rat-run’ route across the upper reaches of the Fal River. 

To save time and 27 miles, we did a quick hop on the King Harry Chain Ferry; one of only 5 in the country. Crossing the Fal on this historic route, that has been serving the area since 1888, was a great experience  – in the car. The ferry is brilliant and runs every 20 minutes with just a 7 minute crossing. With a few chinks of the chain, a few wistful looks up the river and a quick chat with the crew who take your £10 day return ticket, you have arrived using a totally green travel option.  

Then onto The Lizard we went; both a village and your final destination at the Point just a mile or so further south. With endless walks along this spectacular coastline you will be treated to a sensory feast. 

As an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this region is host to 600 different species of flower, seals, sightings of dolphins, in season and the Cornish Chough. Your breath will be taken away by both its splendour and its Channel winds. Thought to have derived its name from the Cornish, Lys Ardh meaning High Court, The Lizard offers natural beauty, maritime history, tales of smugglers and a lesson or two in geology. What a magical place with its undulating cliffs, rock formations, cascading walls of flora and its azure blue seas. I would go back in a heart-beat.  

The King Harry does take campers and motorhomes, although if you have a big overhang like Scoobie, we strongly recommend you avoid this route. We arrived at low tide and the ferry entry would have ripped our rear bumper for sure. Even our return at high tide would have been a close run thing. If you have a camper or small moho, we reckon you would be fine.   

If you come to The Lizard in your moho, we suggest parking in the village and walking as the access road is very narrow. There’s a suggested donation of £3. If you come by car, there is a National Trust car park at the Lighthouse that costs between £1 for an hour or £3 for all day, payable by coins or PaybyPhone app.

 

8. Practicalities of visiting the Roseland Peninsula

Below we have outlined some of our recommendations for travelling to and around the Roseland Peninsula and where to stay depending upon your wheels. 

Getting here

Travelling to Cornwall is certainly getting much easier. The road network is much more fluid than in the past and traffic jams are less of a problem except in the height of summer. We travelled from Somerset having put our motorhome in a Gold Standard CaSSOA site at Wellington just outside of Taunton to ensure we complied with our Insurance T&Cs. It cost us £50 for the week and gave us piece of mind to go away on a holiday.

From there it took us 3 hours to get to St Mawes including lunch at the gorgeous Lifton Farm Shop – Strawberry Fields. They also allow you to park here overnight with your motorhome and camper van for free. 

If you want to travel to the Roseland Peninsula by train, then there is a main line train from London Paddington direct to either Plymouth, Penzance or Truro taking around 4 hours and costing from £73 for a single journey per adult. 

Getting around

As we’ve mentioned throughout this blog, getting around this coastal jewel is easy if you decide to leave the van behind.  After all the roads here are notoriously narrow, which out of season is not a massive problem, although I suspect from June onwards that might well change. We both agreed that even in our little car, driving these roads in summertime would be an absolute no-no. The stress that pulling over in very limited passing places would make for a very stressful time. 

So instead why not make use of the ferry network, which is outstanding and we highly recommend using these services. If you’re in the area for at least a week and want to spend your time exploring and walking, then we suggest you buy a Mussel Fal Card. It enables you to buy a card that you can then use, on consecutive days on either train, ferry or bus. Alternatively we recommend using this website for access to ferry information and on-line purchases which give you a 10% discount. All you need to do is validate the email you receive at the Ticket Office and off you go. 

Staying in the Roseland Peninsular

We chose an AirBnB apartment right in the heart of St Mawes overlooking the harbour. It cost us £705 for the week with £35 for car parking for seven days. There are of course plenty of other options in the village such as The Idle Rocks, which bizarrely enough I remember looking at when we were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary 7 years ago. Or you can stay at The Rising Sun restaurant and hotel .

If you choose to come here by caravan, camper or motorhome, then there are a few options for you to consider. Just bear in mind that the roads are narrow so if you have an additional mode of transport, we would highly recommend you take it, or at the very least choose a site where there are good transport links. Here is a link to the campsites in the area. 

Eating out 

If you love seafood then you will be in seventh heaven. A little pop up Seafood van is located in St Mawes and Falmouth. In fact in most larger towns you will undoubtedly find farm shop or fishmonger selling their catch of the day. The crab is just to die for and the scallops – well what can I say?  We would also recommend trying the local pasties. We hear on good authority that the Pasties down at the cafe at The Lizard are the best in the area. 

We also absolutely loved The Hidden Hut out at Porthcurnick Beach just next to Portscatho which is best experienced in fine weather so you can side outside or down on the beach. 

Parking and Petrol 

Most of the places to park around the Roseland Peninsula are fee paying parking. They are either cash or payable by PaybyPhone App, so it is worth having yourself armed with this already download on your phone before you go. You will of course have to pay 0.10p for the privilege although in today’s modern era where cash is used less and less, then the app works just fine. The most we paid was £4.10 for all day parking. 

We took advantage of cheap petrol just outside St Austell on the way in. There are no other petrol stations on the Peninsula itself and you would have to wait until you reach Falmouth, Truro or Helston to replenish. 

Food Shopping

St Mawes has a co-op, butcher and bakery and Falmouth and Truro obviously have the stable supermarkets available. Although many of the other small villages on the peninsula don’t have facilities so it is worth coming fully loaded to be on the safe side. 

 

9. Our final thoughts on the Roseland Peninsula

This is one of the finest corners of Cornwall we’ve visited and whilst we’ve not seen the far south west between St Ives and Penzance, so far this is our favourite spot. This is in part because of the lack of crowds and also thanks to the idyllic countryside and coastal scenery. There is so much to do here to fill at least a week’s break down here more if you wanted to expand your trip towards Fowey, Looe and Mevagissey.

We would definitely promote this area during the shoulder seasons to avoid the main tourist season. We visited in the last week in April and were blessed with amazing weather. Of course in the UK you take your chances at any time of the year.

If you want beauty, quintessential Cornish fishing villages, coastal scenery and just a little slice of heaven, then you would not be disappointed making the trip down here.

 

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The Schengen Shuffle for Motorhome Travellers

The Schengen Shuffle for Motorhome Travellers

Mention the word Schengen to most people and it will be received with a mixture of anger and frustration. We’ve been trying to come to terms with our travel restriction for a few years, although on 1 January 2021 it became real. Irrespective of your Brexit opinions it is here to stay and Schengen rules now apply to us if we want to cross into Europe.
 

We have decided to put pen to paper after seeing far too much confusion on our Motoroamers’ Chat Room in particular. It’s odd, I so thought we had ‘got it’ although one particular post challenged my thinking and got me into a right old panic. So we had two days doing more research, looking for blogs and trying to get clarity. Myles even built a spreadsheet so he could get it clear in his own mind. The one thing that I noticed was there was little by way of blogs relevant to motorhomers looking to extend their stays in Europe. So the culmination of our tears, tantrums and stress is this blog with the specific intention of providing information for those of us who want to do the Schengen Shuffle without risking getting a fine.

 
We realise that it’s a bit of a risk going public as you are so open to criticism although we wouldn’t do it unless we were totally comfortable in our information. So we offer our research, explanations and presentation in an attempt to help you. With examples of how trips might look, we want to give you knowledge and confidence in the Schengen processes. Although please we ask you to do your own calculations relevant to your trips. This blog is just to get us all clear on what we can and can’t do and all the terminology that seems to set out to confuse and get us tearing out our hair.
 
We also acknowledge that although Schengen is a reality for us right now sat in 2021, because of Covid travel restrictions have created a double whammy for us. So few of us as yet have been able to put all this into action. Please refer to the examples as hypothetical as we are currently not allowed to travel anywhere at the moment. (@March/2021). This is how the blog will shape up.
 

What is Schengen and what does it mean for us as motorhomers?

Schengen is the term used to describe the treaty that lead to a passport-free zone that currently covers 26 countries across the European continent. It was created on June 14 1985 resulting in individual countries ending border controls between members. The vision was to build ‘a Europe without borders’ creating a concept of free-movement. Five years later the Schengen agreement was implemented although in reality the policies and rules didn’t come into force until 26 March 1995. After this the Schengen agreement grew with more countries joining the original five members. And now 26 countries are part of the Schengen Area.
 
The essence of Schengen is that within the continent it abolishes border controls and the need for passports to cross from one country into another. This of course is favourable for those countries within the Schengen club. For all other countries outside of the Area, restrictions are imposed to the amount we can travel visa-free through the member countries. This has implications for us as we have now left the EU meaning we become a third nation country. We will be restricted to a 90 day limit in any 180 days. More on this shortly. At borders after leaving the UK, our passage into Schengen will be recorded either electronically and/or via a stamp on our Passport. It means that we will need to plan our trips more carefully to ensure that we don’t overstay our visit to the Schengen. At the moment we don’t have any data to state what the fines would be for exceeding our limit although we need to expect some sort of penalty. It is reported that different countries impose different fines and that won’t become clear for us until we are once again allowed to travel outside of the UK.
 
Currently 62 countries, including the UK  can visit the Schengen zone for business or travel reasons without the requirement of a visa. In order for the Schengen countries to control security there is an electronic application called an ETIAS planned for launch by end of 2022. This ETIAS enables citizens of third countries such as UK to enter Schengen without the need for a visa. So the good news is that we are visa-exempt for entering the Schengen area for up to 90 days. We will provide more information on this when implementation dates are announced. Although for the time being no ETIAS is required for our entry into Schengen.

 

Schengen Terminology made simple

Schengen country – Is a country who has signed up to the Schengen Agreement and thereby allowing freedom of movement across their borders. Visiting each of these countries means that we can only spend 90 days in each rolling 180 day period.

Non-EU Schengen country – There are members of Schengen who are not part of the EU such as Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein although have for economic reasons decided to sign up to the Schengen Agreement. 

Non Schengen country – There are three types of non Schengen countries. The first is Ireland who has opted out of being in Schengen meaning that we can visit without needing a passport or it affecting our 90 day allowance. The second are countries who are part of Europe although who are not part of Schengen such as Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Russia and Ukraine. The third are countries outside of Europe that we are able to access for up to 90 days that include Turkey, Cyprus and Morocco.

Pending Schengen countries – It’s important to set these countries apart from other non-Schengen countries as their membership is currently pending and under review. So Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia are expected to join at some point in the future, although for now we are able to travel around these countries for up to 90 days, without it affecting our Schengen allowance.

Microstate de facto principalities – Aside of all these categories there are also four microstates that are principalities with a small population and few natural resources that whilst in Europe are not in Schengen. They are known as de facto countries and we are able to visit these countries without it affecting our allowance. They are San Marino, Vatican City, Andorra and Monaco.

Third Nation – This is the description used for countries that are outside of the EU. UK is now recognised as a third country following our exit from Europe on 1/1/21.

ETIAS – This is the European Travel Information and Authorisation System. Similar to the system required to enter US, at the back end of 2022 it is expected that we will have to register an Etias prior to entering the Schengen zone. It will cost around €7 per application.

Rolling 180 days – This is one of the key elements of Schengen that is most misunderstood and yet so critical to our plans to Schengen Shuffle. Schengen is like an escalator; always moving, rolling. So not like a calendar where the months are static. The 180 days will move according to when you want to enter and exit from the area and it is a counting back exercise from those dates. I will talk more about this, although see your available time as moving and not static and this will ease your planning pain immensely.

Schengen entry and exit points – These dates are really important to us in getting our allowance accurate. Your entry date is the day you leave the UK (or a non Schengen country) and make your journey to a Schengen country and this counts as DAY 1 of your 90 days. Even if you leave the UK at 6.00pm at night, you must still count this as 1 day in Schengen, irrespective of the hours you have stepped onto Schengen soil. Your exit date is the day leave Schengen and move outside of the zone, either returning back to the UK or moving into a non Schengen country. This is also counted as 1 DAY, irrespective of the time you leave the Schengen area.  

Schengen allowance – This is the second key element that we have to get our heads around. Understanding how our allowance works and more importantly how to calculate days spent in the zone is vital, to both your sanity and your noiseless navigation around Europe. So here we go. We have 90 days available within any 180 day period – as we know from above. We also know that this 180 day period is a moving beast and not static. So every time we enter and exit Schengen we must look behind us to see how many days we have already used up. The way to calculate this is;

You take your proposed exit date from the Schengen zone and count back 180 days to establish how many days you will have spent in the area. So as an example let’s take a trip into Schengen from 17 May 2021 with a proposed exit back to the UK on 16 July 2021. Using that exit date count back 180 days = 17 January 2021. Now you can work out how much of your 90 day allowance you have used up during this period and assess whether this trip therefore is doable. If you have spent too many days in Schengen already, then simply make your proposed exit date earlier.

 

Schengen/Non Schengen Map

Understanding which countries we can and cannot visit is imperative to us as we plan our European road-trips. So hopefully this visual map will help to grasp how to Schengen shuffle. 

 

There are a few points to make on this map; the originator of the map didn’t differentiate Andorra, San Marino, Monaco or the Vatican City I guess because they were too small to annotate. So whilst these for all intents and purposes look like they belong to the Schengen area – they don’t. We can travel here Schengen free and save some days from our allowance. So for skiers this might make Andorra a strong possibility.

Ok, so as you will see from this map, it clearly shows those areas that are defined by the Schengen agreement and allows us to plan where we can and can’t go travel to. So first of all those countries that are purple are currently in the Schengen zone and means that we are restricted to 90 days in our rolling 180 days and so careful planning is required here to avoid any penalties for overstaying our welcome. More on this later.

The blue countries are those who are not in Europe although for economic reasons have decided that being part of the Schengen Agreement is important for their countries. So travel here impacts on our Schengen allowance and must be treated in the same way as the purple countries.

The green areas; the first is Ireland which has opted out of Schengen and the second are those countries currently with their application to Schengen pending. So for now we can travel here without having to use our Schengen allowance. Which is great news.

And finally the grey countries are those that are not part of Schengen and are known as Third Nations. So in theory we can travel here without our Schengen allowance being affected. Clearly we will have unlimited travel through UK and Northern Ireland whilst a trip to Turkey and Morocco will be allowed for up to 90 days. So this has some terrific opportunities for those of us wanting to do the Schengen Shuffle especially during the winter.

 

Schengen Shuffle Scenarios

I think to really bring Schengen to life in a clear and non-scary way, we need to create some scenarios for you that will help you work out how your trips might look. So below we illustrate some options and how to calculate the days so you can dance your way around Europe without risking a Schengen penalty. For each of these scenarios, let’s assume that because of lockdown, none of us have been into the Schengen zone because of our lockdown periods. 

Easy Schengen Trip – Out for 90 and back for 90

The easiest Schengen scenario is where you simply decide to leave the UK and head to Europe for up to 90 days and then come back to the UK for 90 days and then head out again for another 90 day block. There is little complication here as there is no Schengen Shuffling going on. You simply leave the UK on 17 May 2021 and enjoy your Schengen countries for a full 90 days and then return on 14 August. That means that you can return to Schengen again for 90 days on 13 November. This calculator image below demonstrates this nicely.

 

 

Schengen Shuffle – Travelling for 11 months out of UK 

Now we start to dance our way through Schengen and begin our shuffle. So you want to spend most of your time in Europe and perhaps not too much time in the UK. Given that most us need an annual MOT, coming back to the UK is necessary, although with some careful planning you can be out of the UK for up to 11 months. We have shown you an example of how to do this using a trip down to Greece, over to Turkey and then back through Bulgaria and Romania. You could of course map the same sort of trip to include Morocco or Croatia (until the latter’s membership is approved.)

You leave on 17 May and decide on just 80 days in Schengen so that you have a 10 day buffer should you need to get back to the UK in an emergency. (Bear in mind that if you did 90 in Schengen and then went to Turkey and something happened back home then you have no days available in your allowance to return to the UK. You would have to leave your van in Turkey and fly back. So just as an insurance policy, it is worth having a little buffer period if your circumstances back in the UK drive it.)

On 4 August you cross into Turkey and stay for up to 90 days. After which you return to Greece and take two days to travel to Bulgaria where with Romania you can tour for 90 days per country if you wish. For the purposes of our exercise I have shown 90 days in total for the two countries leaving Romania for Hungary where we re-enter the Schengen on 1 February. We now have a totally of 88 days to return to the UK allowing us to meander through Austria, Germany and France.

 

To illustrate this one further step; if you look at each of your exit dates and go back 180 days you can calculate how many days you have spent in Schengen. This is how it looks in practice;

 

  • 4 August 2021 exit date – go back 180 days takes you to 5 February 2021. You have no Schengen allowance to consider in this period. 

  • Your next Schengen entry and exit points are 2 and 3 November 2021. Go back from 3 November 2021180 days takes you to 7 May 2021. During this period (which remember is a rolling 180 day period) you have used 80 days, so you have 10 left.

  • Your next entry and exit points are 1 Feb and 29 April 2022. So again from your 29 April date go back 180 days, which takes you to 31 October 2021 where you have used 2 days, therefore your planned 88 days can be used to return back to the UK.

 

There are obviously lots of other options we could illustrate, although hopefully seeing how we could have 11 months out of the UK should give you some confidence to begin planning your own trips. The bottom line to remember is that if you shuffle your way from Schengen into Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Morocco or Turkey, then you can have an extended trip out of the UK and still get back in time for your MOT. Obviously in the examples that we have given above, it doesn’t take into account weather conditions that might influence your decisions and the dates are just illustrative. Also as a disclaimer, we must stress that it is vital for you to do your own calculations and planning to ensure that the trip you decide upon is doable without penalty. 

 

Schengen Allowance and Date Calculators 

As we have navigated our way around this topic both for our own trips abroad and also for this blog, we have come across some great tools that will keep you sane, safe and in allowance, which we profile here. 

 

The first essential tool is the Visa Calculator. This is our preferred calculator tool as it is clearer and easier to use. The calculator allows you to input your entry and exit date to Schengen and then it calculates when you must have left the area to prevent penalties. It also allows you to map in multiple trips, which is great. So no paper calculations are needed as in our experience they can lead to mis-planning. We strongly urge you to if not plan with this tool at the very least use it to check your predictions. 

The second tool we found incredibly helpful is the Date Calculator. Trying to work out what 180 days back can be tricky even using your Phone’s calendar. So make life simple and use this site instead. It allows you to put in a date and then either add or subtract the desired number of days. It is terrific and makes life simpler, quicker and far less stressful than the classic ’30 days has September, April, June and November’. 

I have saved both of these websites on my phone and popped them into a folder called Schengen so that I have easy access to them. You can do this too by going into their websites and tapping the three horizontal lines on the bottom right of your screen. Then you press Add page to and you can put it on your home screen. 

 

Schengen Top Tips

This final section is more of a hypothetic section given that at the time of writing, we have not been able to travel and put our knowledge into practise. That said I think for now, there are some planning tips that we can offer you to help you navigate your Schengen Shuffle more easily. 

  1. Perhaps the flexibility of travel may be jaded by Schengen with intuitive right turns limited under the restrictions. Although there is no reason why, certainly for now, we shouldn’t be able to enjoy full and rich travels through Europe. We just need to plan a little more precisely than we have in the past. Travel is still possible and so keep your minds positive and upbeat.
  2. Avoid going to the edge of your allowance. 90 days might be alluring, although in any plans we need to cater for the unforeseen such as family crises, illness, breakdowns and incidents and our Schengen Shuffling is no different. Make sure you give yourself some scope for emergencies or things that you hadn’t catered for. Don’t risk getting penalties for having to overstay because of that breakdown that cost you five days you hadn’t allowed for in your plans.
  3. Make sure if you visit Turkey and Morocco you will need to get additional insurance. We have recently found out that Comfort have suspended their Morocco and Turkey cover. So sadly unless Aviva’s policy changes, we will be leaving for Saga in December. Make sure that you provide the specific dates to your insurers of your stay in these two countries so that they can send you the Green Card that is a requirement. For more information on Morocco, check out our free Ebook which gives you more essential information about your entry to this exciting African country.
  4. Make sure that your passports have at least 6 months left on them otherwise you may be prevented from travelling outside of the UK. Also make sure that you get a stamp from the Border Control to show your entry and exit points. Whilst it should all be automated, for us this is still so new, a stamp will prevent any disputes along the line.
  5. When you use the calculator to plan your trips, especially if they are multiple, take a screen shot and save it on your phone so if there is again any dispute you can demonstrate your dates using the calculator.
  6. Remember when travelling to the continent there are restrictions on the food you are allowed and prohibited to bring in. Check this website for the specifics otherwise you risk these items being confiscated.
  7. If you travel with pets, you should look to explore getting an EU Pet Passport otherwise you will be restricted to just 4 months in Schengen and non Schengen countries using the UK’s Pet Passport scheme.
  8. Keep your eyes open for Visa Extension information from each Schengen country. Whilst there are visas that you can apply for, for work purposes, there are few that cover tourism extensions. This may change as Covid restrictions are lifted and countries want to encourage UK travellers back into their countries. Although at the time of writing there are no immediate plans for this to be offered.

 

So this brings us to the end of our Schengen Shuffle guide. We hope that is has helped demystify some of the terms used and the confusions that have been building around what we can and can’t do. The bottom line that travel is still possible and more than perhaps we thought possible. So we hope that this will all feel hopeful and positive for you.

If you have any questions please drop us an email at themotoroamers@gmail.com and we will endeavour to answer them.

 

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