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INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL : The Checklist for Campers

March 06, 1988|MARK WALKER

Nuts and bolts:

Membership in the American Automobile Assn. is well worth the cost. Its maps, guides and other services are useful before you leave, and AAA has reciprocal agreements with auto clubs in most overseas countries for maps, road service, towing, etc.

Good general how-to books are the two-volume "Camper's Northern Europe" and "Camper's Southern Europe" by Dennis and Tina Jaffe. Consulates and tourist bureaus of the countries you will visit have maps and brochures. Write for them, but allow plenty of time. Some are very good, others useless, so buy good maps and guidebooks before you leave the United States. We also took pocket-size Berlitz phrase books for Turkey, Greece and Yugoslavia.

Good Guidebooks

We settled on the pertinent Harvard series "Let's Go" budget guides. For countries not covered, we chose Fodor guides. The Harvard guides are full of economical off-the-beaten-path suggestions and are not loaded with long lists of hotels and restaurants, useless to us.

For campgrounds, we largely depended on "AA Camping and Caravaning in Europe," which can be bought in the States, and "Europa Camping and Caravaning," in bookstores of large European cities. Indispensable in the U.K. is the British Caravan Club's "Sites Directory and Handbook."

In addition to your passports, other important documents are your vehicle certificate of title, registration, insurance policies and the Green Card (required wherever you go), your driver's license and an International Driver's Permit. Photocopy all of these and conceal the copies in a place other than where the originals are.

An International Camping Carnet will bring discounts at many campgrounds and is required at some sites. We got our carnet from AAA. It can be renewed (or a new one issued) at auto clubs everywhere in Europe.

Shipped From Baltimore

We shipped our camper to Le Havre from Baltimore via Atlantic Container Lines. Their agent (Motorships Inc., P.O. Box 9025, Dundalk Marine Terminal, Baltimore, Md. 21222) made the arrangements and we paid just under $1,000. The return from Emden, Germany, to Wilmington, Del., cost only $500 and the agent was in London.

If we were to do it again, we would contact Encore Cargo Services Inc., P.O. Box 27120, Baltimore, Md. 21230, the U.S. agent for the German shipping company that brought our camper home. For an extra $150 this company shipped our camper from England to Emden, facilitating our flight home from Heathrow.

For outside cooking, don't take your Coleman stove. Camping Gaz International butane cylinders are available everywhere and are universally used over there.

A portable toilet is not just a convenience; in many places it is a necessity and the chemicals for it are generally available. Our camper came with a water purification system and we always had our own potable water supply.

Other necessary equipment includes a tool kit, a transformer to adapt the camper's wiring to European 220-volt supply and a set of adapters for plugging into the varying receptacle outlets.

In cities our dash-mounted compass kept us from driving miles in the wrong direction. In the Moroccan desert, where we crossed a 25-mile stretch with no road, following diverse tracks in the sand, it kept us from getting lost and guided us to the tiny berber hamlet of Merzouga.

No Unleaded Gas

You can buy unleaded gas in only one country in Europe (Germany). So if your car uses unleaded, you'll have to get rid of the catalytic converter. You'll need a permit from the EPA to do so; you must show them your shipping papers to prove that you're really sending the car out of the country. Then you find a mechanic who'll accept the EPA permit and remove the converter. When you ship the car home you'll have to replace the converter.

Don't take a lot of clothes. Figure out what you'll need, cut that in half and you'll still have too much. You wash things out as you go.

Our expenditure for 424 days was $12,818, a monthly average of $907. The largest single item was gasoline ($2,507), followed by groceries ($2,437). Campground fees cost $1,542, ferries $865 and airline fares $1,104. Eating out, about once a week, cost $944. The rest was for museums, palaces, tours, medicines, snacks, etc.

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