What do I need to ride my motorcycle abroad?

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Harley-Davidson in the hills around Yosemite National Park 700px

Road trips are fun and if sales of adventure bikes and tourers in the UK are anything to go by, they’re more popular than ever too.

For many people, riding abroad and lengthy road trips across different countries and continents are what dreams are made of but unless you’ve got the right documents, they’re not going to happen.

Motorcycle CBTs don’t cut the mustard

If you have a quick look across bike forums in the UK, you’ll find multiple posts about travelling abroad on two wheels.

There’s usually a collection of seasoned riders who’ve ventured across the US, traipsed to far flung MotoGP rounds or hopped across the channel to pootle around the French countryside.

What you might also see are posts from young riders who have recently completed their Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) assessment and want nothing more than to hop on a ferry and ride across Europe.

The only problem is, if you hold a CBT rather than a full UK motorcycle licence, legally you can’t ride abroad.

What do I need to ride a motorbike abroad?

First things first, a CBT is only worth the paper it’s written on in the UK, so if you’re that keen to get on two wheels in Europe or beyond, get a full licence.

Generally speaking, you need a full licence to ride the bike you’ll be using on foreign shores.

So if you have the A1 licence in the UK, which allows you to ride motorcycles between 120cc and 125cc with a maximum output of 11kW, you can only ride a motorbike of the same engine size and output abroad.

From there, a lot of what you need to travel abroad really depends on where abroad is, that’s why we’ve split this post into EU and non-EU riding.

wing mirror on Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail Classic in Nevada

European bike travel – the essentials

As well as a UK motorcycle licence (sorry CBTers), you’ll need the following to ride your bike in Europe:

  • Original vehicle registration certificate (V5C) or a letter of permission from the registered keeper
  • Insurance certificate
  • Passport
  • It’s worth buying a zip lock document folder where you can stash your most important paperwork because even the best luggage can leak on occasions and having a sopping wet V5C is not going to be helpful.
  • GB sticker if not on your licence plate
  • European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

On top of the documentation, you’ll also need a few other essentials in certain EU countries:

  • A breathalyser kit is a legal requirement in France but there is no longer a fine for not carrying one so we will leave that decision to you. One use breathalysers can be bought for just a few pounds.
  • A hi-visibility jacket (usually in case of a breakdown) ) and one for your pillion too need to be carried in France. There is a fine for not having one and a much bigger fine for not wearing one in the event of a breakdown on a French motorway.
  • Spare bulbs (required in France, Germany and others) and headlight adapters to stop the front light dazzling oncoming traffic.
  • Helmets (helmets are compulsory in every EU country but some require reflective stickers too)

Ensuring your bike is up to what’s to come is a basic bit of preparation. Make sure the bike is serviced so there are plenty of miles available before it needs another service.>

The same goes for tyres as heading off for a 3000 mile riding holiday with nearly bald tyres is not a sensible move.

Insurance

Before you go anywhere you need to check your insurance policy to see if you are covered to ride outside the UK as not every policy has this as an automatic level of cover.

European insurance cover can usually be added to a policy for a small fee if it’s not on your existing policy as a benefit.

If your policy does have European cover most have limits to the number of days per year you will be covered; this is typically 90 days but it’s worth checking your policy to be sure.

Check if there are any specific limitations on your policy to cover damage or theft while travelling as each policy can be different and it’s too late to discover you’re not covered for a bike stolen while abroad because it didn’t have an approved level of security fitted.

What about riding your motorbike outside of the EU?

Some riders are ambitious and like to ride motorbikes further afield than Europe.

Lots of riders have made the trip across the Atlantic to fulfil dreams of travelling Route 66 while others have taken to Africa but with different countries come different requirements.

Non-EU motorbike travel requirements

Travelling to non-EU countries like the US or Africa is not as daunting as it may seem and generally, you need the same documentation to travel there as you would to travel in Europe.

One of the biggest differences is the requirement of an International Driving Permit (IDP) and insurance that permits you to ride in the country you’re visiting.

It’s not a legal requirement but travelling outside of the EU without travel and medical insurance can be something travellers regret when presented with huge medical or repatriation bills.

When buying insurance, you need to check riding a motorcycle is allowed within that policy as some specifically prohibit this activity.

While most UK insurers will provide some level of cover for European travel, many may not for non-European breaks.

Mojave Desert

You have not told me much about riding outside of the EU!

We know! We have told you about as much as we can though without knowing which country it is that you plan to visit.

Laws in Thailand will be different to laws in Australia but generally the bare minimum will be a valid and relevant driving licence, an IDP and insurance.

Laws and requirements specific to the country you travel to should then be obtained from the relevant embassy website.

One last tip

Familiarise yourself with the road laws of the country you’re visiting.

As well as the majority of other countries riding on different sides of the road, there will be other differences between there and the UK.

Make sure you do your research before you go!

Next page: Our road trip - what we got right