Select Page
Schengen Rules Explained

Schengen Rules Explained

Alan Gow Checked Out the hidden secrets of managing Schengen time restraints

***  UPDATED APRIL 2019 ***

Don’t Let Schengen Ruin Your European Holiday of a Lifetime

If you are contemplating an extended holiday (more than three months) around Europe then you may want to keep reading.

If either you or your spouse/partner hold a European passport then you definitely need to read this because if you rely on the usual information sources, then you might just miss out on the holiday of a lifetime.

Who am I and how do I know this stuff?

I am from New Zealand and I hold a dual citizenship, (NZ and Republic of Ireland, which is part of the EU).  I am married to a New Zealander who holds only her NZ passport.  We are travelling around Europe in a motorhome for a few years and to ensure we could do this hassle free, I engaged in some extensive research before leaving home.  The potentially most limiting factor was the time allowed to be within the Schengen Zone, which I will talk more about later in this post.  There was so much misinformation and lack of clarity around my situation, that I felt compelled to put together this document to help others to find the answers easily.

I went on a real emotional rollercoaster ride as I would read somewhere that there would be no restrictions on us – yay!  Then an embassy official would say that my wife would be subject to the Schengen restrictions but I wouldn’t – oh crap!  Then I would get other information to contradict this, and so on.  This continued for some months but over this time, as I researched more, my absolute certainty in my conclusions grew stronger.

At the end of it all, I found no official website or publication that categorically 100% stated that my wife was, or wasn’t going to be affected.  However, I found many documents, directives and other publications that said my wife enjoyed exactly the same ‘free right of movement’ as me.  This will be explained later in my post however I can confirm that we have been traveling for two years non stop, in and out of Schengen, usually exceeding the 90 day in 180 day limit (also explained later) and without any problems or questions from the border officials.  So it works.

What is this Schengen thing?

The Schengen agreement had a great goal, which was to abolish internal border controls within the European Union (EU), allowing passport free movement between countries.  When originally signed in 1985, five countries joined. However, this has now been extended and 26 countries, including four non-EU countries now make up the Schengen Zone.

Tens of millions of Europeans enjoy freedom of movement within the Schengen Zone.

Which Countries are in Schengen?

EU Countries

Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Greece, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Non-EU Countries

Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.
Schengen Map showing which countries are in the Schengen Zone

Who has been left out?

Britain and the Republic of Ireland chose not to join Schengen.

Croatia, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania are in the EU but have not yet joined Schengen.

What Does This Mean for Short-Term Travellers

For most short-term travellers to countries in the Schengen zone, this is all good news.  Citizens from a long list of visa exempt countries, which includes New Zealand and Australia, do not require a visa to enter Schengen.  Once you clear immigration at the first port of entry, you are free to travel to any of the above countries without needing to show your passport at any borders.

Citizens who are not from visa exempt countries, will need to apply for, and obtain a Schengen visa.  I am not going into the process for this but there is a wealth of information available on the internet, including on this site.

So, what is the issue?

The problem comes if you are travelling on say a NZ or Australian passport, and want to spend more than 90 days within a 180 day period touring within the Schengen Zone borders.  Because that is forbidden.

That’s right, you can spend about three months within that whole block of 26 countries, then you will need to leave the zone for a minimum of three months before being allowed back in for another three months.  As a non-EU passport holder, your passport is (or should be) physically stamped with the entry and exit dates and all data is stored in the Schengen Information System.  When exiting or entering Schengen again, the dates are checked to make sure you have not overstayed your welcome.  Significant fines and re-entry bans can be imposed on those travelers who do not comply.

I guess it made sense back in the day when there were only five countries in Schengen club.  It was common for those counties to grant tourists a three-month entry permit or visa, so when Schengen came into being, it was probably easiest to allow three months within the whole zone to make sure no visitors exceeded three months in any one country.  As more and more countries joined however, this has become increasingly restrictive and senseless (in my humble opinion) for long-term travelers.

I believe that there are moves afoot to create a 12-month ‘ tourist visa’ for Schengen which will certainly ease the problem but who knows when they will get around to that.

For the average traveler shoehorning in a European experience around their annual leave, this isn’t going to affect them.  However, for the lucky nomads like us, who have the opportunity to take an extended time out, this can really restrict where you can go, and when.

What about travelling to Non-Schengen Countries?

Each individual country has its own rules and visa requirements and you are best to research these for the countries you are travelling to.  Britain, for example allows a six months visa free stay for many visitors while most Balkan states (e.g. Croatia, Bosnia, Albania) allow a three months visa free visit.  Turkey also allows a three months stay however most travellers will need to obtain a Turkish visa on-line (New Zealand passport holders are one of the few Turkish visa exempt countries).

Planning around Schengen

Unless you or your ‘registered partner’ are European citizens, there are just a few options available to you.

Plan your travels

The most common approach, for those who don’t have an EU passport, is to plan your travels around the ‘90 days out of 180 days’ restriction.  This means that you must exit Schengen on or before the 90 days expires, and stay out for 90 days.  You can then re-enter Schengen for another 90 days.  In reality this may mean flying over to Britain for 3 months, or driving/ferrying across the Schengen border to countries such as Croatia, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Albania, Montenegro, Macedonia, Romania, Morocco or even Turkey, and enjoying their charms for a spell.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and pushes many travelers to experience countries they wouldn’t otherwise have given a second thought to.

You can go out of, and back into Schengen during that 180 days period but you need to keep careful track of where you have been and when so that you don’t exceed 90 days in any 180 days.

Keeping an eye on the seasons while doing your planning is important. We met a lovely Australian couple in Thessaloniki, Greece in December 2017, who were planning on driving up into Bulgaria and Romania for the first three months of winter because they needed to get out of Greece within the next few days.  Now, those countries may be nice during the summer but they aren’t the ideal spot for a small motorhome in a Northern Hemisphere winter.  We suggested they consider Turkey instead and they experienced a fantastic and much warmer time exploring the south of that wonderful country.

Residence Permits

Another alternative is to apply for a residence permit in one of the Schengen countries.  However, these are not handed out easily, normally require you to have a fixed address with a property lease agreement, and a valid reason for being there.  These only give the right to stay longer than 90 days in that one country and aren’t intended for the purpose of then hopping from country to country.  You could theoretically then travel within Schengen and eventually exit from the country from which you obtained a residence permit however this isn’t strictly legal and if caught you could be in serious trouble.

So, short of quickly marrying a local, or having an EU spouse, are there not many ways of being able to extend the Schengen period.

One option that can help Kiwi’s and Ozzies, is to take advantage of the historical Bilateral Agreements our countries entered into with many European countries.

Bilateral Agreements

These Agreements are historical agreements between two countries to abolish the need for visas for non-working stays of up to three months.

New Zealand and Australia for example, established Bilateral Agreements with most European countries up to 50 years or more ago and these have never been cancelled.

Because these agreement pre-date the Schengen agreements, most Schengen countries will still honour them and allow a visitor to have up to three months in their country even if they have just spent three months in other Schengen countries. 

The catch here is that the individual countries seem to have different ways in which they allow these agreements to be utilised, for example, France will allow another three months under the Bilateral agreement only after you have spent your 90 Schengen days outside of France. Germany appears to be very flexible but some, for example, Hungary, require you to enter their country from a non-Schengen country and leave to a non-Schengen country.  Others, such as Italy are no longer honouring these agreements at all.

I strongly recommend that if you want to make use of these agreements, researching them thoroughly should be an important part of your travel preparation.

Contact the embassies concerned to advise them of your travel plans.  Here’s what to ask for in writing:

  • ask for confirmation that the Bilateral Agreement can be used for additional time in their country without reference to time spent previously in Schengen
  • ask about the process and any conditions around how to use the Agreement

    Keep records to prove that you did not exceed the 90 days in any of those countries, i.e. keep receipts.

What if My Spouse or Partner is an EU Citizen?

In this case, travel within Schengen just got a whole lot easier, especially once you know what I am about to tell you.

Firstly though, a simple defacto relationship will not be good enough here.  You must be either married or have a partnership that is ‘registered’ in an EU country, and the EU country you are entering has to treat ‘registered partnerships’ as equivalent to marriages.  Check the individual country requirements as to registered partnerships.

If you qualify, then the overriding European legislation that gives you the right to exceed the 90 days in Schengen is ‘European Directive 2004/38/EC’ which states citizens of the Union, and their family members can move and reside freely within the Member States’.

You should print out, and carry a copy of this Directive with you on your travels.  Highlight and be familiar with the sections that apply to you.

I apologise if this now gets a little detailed but it is vital that you understand your rights and why you have them, if you want to travel freely around Europe.

European Directive 2004/38/EC is a EU wide directive or instruction that the Schengen rules have to comply with, therefore all of the Schengen rules, codes, and regulations are written with this in mind.

Directive 2004-38-EC

In my experience, there is a lack of information, and in fact there is a lot of misinformation about how this applies to the spouse travelling with an EU citizen.

One of the fundamental freedoms of the EU Treaty is that citizens of member states can freely live and work in other member states, within the restrictions laid out in the Treaty.  However, there is no point in a citizen being able to move to another state if their spouse and children are not allowed to join them.  Therefore, Directive 2004/38/EC clarifies that all family members of a Union citizen have the same right of free movement as the citizen themselves.

 

What this means for you is:

  • You and your non-EU spouse can travel to any EU member state (Schengen or non-Schengen) and stay for up to three months with no restrictions. This is known as the ‘Community Right of Free Movement’ – remember this phrase as it’s important.
  • The only travel documents you need are your passports and marriage certificate
  • After three months, you can travel to any other EU member state and live in, or travel there for up to three months
  • This process can be repeated ad infinitum, i.e. forever
  • If you want, you can return to a member state you have previously visited, provided each visit does not exceed three months – again an important point.

What happens at Schengen Borders?

The guards at Schengen border crossings have to abide by Directive 2004/38/EC.  To assist them in correctly processing people passing through the border, a handbook, Schengen Handbook for Border Guards has been produced in all major European languages.

Although the border guards are supposed to know their job, there are still stories around about some of them not being aware of the rights of spouses and trying to deny entry or impose penalties for overstaying the 90 days Schengen restriction.  We ourselves have had three such border crossings so far where we may have been questioned by border guards and we had no problems whatsoever.  The first was from Greece to Turkey and back.  The second was leaving Finland for St Petersburg after eight months continuously in Schengen then returning to Finland a few days later.  The third was leaving Spain for Morocco then returning nine weeks later.  On all occasions, my wife and I exited and re-entered Schengen with no questions and without even being asked for our marriage certificate.

You should also print, and carry a copy of this Handbook with you on your travels.  Highlight and be familiar with the sections that apply to you.

 

Schengen Border Checks for Spouses of EU Citizens

As a spouse accompanying an EU citizen you should expect the following at a Schengen border:

  • You should only have to show the guard your spouse’s EU passport, your passport and be able to show your marriage certificate if requested
  • The guard should give your documents only the ‘minimum check’, which is defined as just checking that they are valid documents and show no signs of tampering, forgery or falsification
  • They should not ask anything about your travel plans, where you are staying, how much money you have to support yourself or question your Schengen entry or exit dates.
  • You can only be refused entry on genuine grounds of national security or public health.
  • Your passport is likely to be stamped unless you yourself have an EU or EEC identity card.

Note

If you are from a non-visa exempt country, you must obtain a visa to enter Schengen in the first place.  The documents I obtained were not clear on what would happen if your visa has expired and you are exercising your rights under Directive 2004/38/EC.  However it is clear that you still have the right to freedom of movement and if additional visas are required, they should be provided promptly and without charge.  You will need to do your own research in these circumstances.

Schengen Borders Code, Regulation 2016-399

EU Regulation 2016-399 defines defines how Schengen operates, however it clearly state that the rules “neither call into question, nor affect the rights of free movement enjoyed by Union citizens and their families….”.

What this means is that the Schengen Border Code cannot be interpreted in any way that affects or over-rules your rights outlined in Directive 2004/38/EC.

That sounds clear so what’s the problem?

The problem for me was that before undertaking dozens of hours of research, I didn’t know any of this and most embassy officials don’t know either.  If I had taken the first responses I received as the gospel truth, we would not be experiencing the amazing journey we are on now.  Luckily, I am a bit like a dog with bone about this sort of thing and kept digging deeper.

I’m not sure whether it is deliberate or just ignorance, but the embassy officials were the worst offenders at giving out wrong or incomplete information.  For example, the Italian consulate in Melbourne insisted my wife could only have 90 days and directed me to websites to back this up.  When I pointed out that the websites actually backed up “my” position he quoted lines from the website but added in extra words to support his claim.  When I pointed this out, I heard no more.

During this time, I was also in contact with other potential travellers in a similar predicament and they were getting different advice than me.  For example, the website ‘Your Europe Advice‘ is an official public service from independent lawyers giving advice on EU law.  After asking very specific questions, I finally got the advice that:

“Every Union citizen has the right to reside in the territory of a host Member State for a period of up to three months without any conditions or formalities other than the requirement to hold a valid identity card or passport” and

“The EU national and family members can move to another EU Member State after three months if they wish and repeat the above process and continue to do so”.

A link to the full response is provided at the end of this document.

However, Paul who is an EU citizen married to an Australia was told by the same organisation that:

“This means that your spouse would be entitled to travel to an EU country and stay up to 90 days. The 90-day limit on short stays applies to stays in the Schengen area as a whole, not to individual countries. The limit is not applied so that a visitor can spend 90 days in each country. Instead, the limit is applied so that a visitor can only spend 90 days in the Schengen area as a whole (Articles 3 and 6 of Regulation 2016/399 apply).”

Same question, totally different answer?  How can this be?

People are making massive decisions about their holidays of a lifetime and you can’t get a straight answer!  Fortunately, I was able to provide Paul with my research and documents and as a result, he and his wife travelled freely into, around, out of, and back into Schengen for many months in 2017 and 2018 with no problems.

Once I was very sure of my findings, I started asking direct and focused questions of the various embassy officials.  I was able to reference the Directives and Legislation and ask for their confirmation that I would have no problems crossing their Schengen borders.  It seemed that most just found my questions too hard, and either fobbed me off or ignored me.  I eventually had a satisfactory response from the German consulate in Berlin:

“You as an EU citizen can stay in Germany for up to 3 months without any further requirements. No matter in how many EU countries you have stayed prior to your arrival, you and your wife can stay in Germany for three months.”

The Hungarian official, after sending the question to the FREMO expert committee on Free Movement, in Brussels advised me unofficially that:

“I have received the official confirmation from Brussels that you and your wife can stay up to 3 months in each country without any administrative restrictions.”

It is always a little scary approaching a border crossing and not being sure what will happen.  Be prepared for the worse and 99% of the time you will just sail through without being questioned.

The bottom line is that as long as you clearly understand your rights, you are in a strong position.

I Have a British Passport – What about Brexit?

Great question and I wish I had an answer for that one, however at the time of writing that is up in the air.

It would appear that if and when Brexit actually happens, the British will lose their rights to freedom of movement.  I have not seen any proposed agreement or framework that will preserve this right.  After all, when you leave the club you can’t expect to keep enjoying the club privileges. 

There may, or may not be a delay to implementing the changes depending on the deal or no-deal that eventuates..

Who knows what the final result will be and it is a time of great uncertainty for British passport holders wanting to spend large chunks of time abroad.

My advice, get the hell over here before it all turns to custard.

Many British are trying to obtain Irish passports which would bring the right to free movement for them and their families. 

Document Links

Here are the links to the most important documents referenced plus some others I haven’t mentioned but gives you some more background.  I have highlighted parts of the relevant sections in some documents.

Directive 2004/38/EC

Schengen Handbook

Schengen Border Code – Regulation 399-2016

New Zealand has Bilateral Agreements with:

  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Austria
  • Netherlands
  • Hungary
  • Norway
  • Spain
  • Belgium
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

Freedom to move and live in Europe – A guide to your rights as an EU citizen

The RIght of Union Citizens and their family members to move and reside freely within the Union

Response from Your Europe Advice questions re Schengen

TyrePal Solar Tyre Pressure Monitoring System

TyrePal Solar Tyre Pressure Monitoring System

by Alan Gow  |  January 2019  | Reviews
If you are fortunate enough to have bought a motorhome with an inbuilt tyre pressure monitoring system then this review is unlikely to be of interest to you.

If however, you are one of the great majority of us who don’t, then reading this could save you a lot of money, and possibly a dangerous accident.

 

Why have a TPMS?

A TPMS constantly senses the pressure inside your tyres and alerts you to any changes which could be the result of air leaks.

This can allow you to pull over safely and change or repair your tyre before it blows out or deflates completely. If you carry a tyre inflator kit, you may be able to add some air and get to a tyre repair centre without having to have the wheel changed.

I had met several motorhomers who had experienced tyres blowing out at high speed.  Blow outs are often the result of slow leaks.  If the driver doesn’t notice and stop, the softening tyre gets hotter and hotter which decreases the strength of the side wall.  Eventually this just can’t take it any more and fails catastrophically.

Many motorhomes (including ours), don’t carry a spare wheel so any device that looks after your tyres and reduces the chance of blow outs or needing to call out your emergency repair provider has got to be worth considering right?

We also met a motorhomer whose tyre had been punctured by someone in a supermarket car park.  The perpetrator then followed them and flagged them down to ‘tell’ them about their flat tyre.  While they were ‘helping’, someone else slipped into the motorhome and helped themselves to some valuables.  A good TPMS would pick this up before you even leave the carpark.

Correctly inflated tyres use less fuel and incur less tyre wear so there is a direct cost saving for maintaining the optimum pressures.

I understand that some insurers offer discounts to motorists who have a TPMS system.  I haven’t investigated this but it makes sense because it can drastically reduce the chance of a serious accident.

Why did I choose TyrePal?

With no spare wheel, I have always felt vulnerable and with an extended trip to Morocco planned, I was looking for how to minimise our risks by being alerted early to any possible problems.  I put up a post on a Facebook technical site asking for recommendations and reviewed the responses.

Although there were much cheaper units than the TyrePal, they were set-up and calibrated for car tyres and reportedly gave a lot of false alarms at the higher pressures in camper tyres.  When it comes to safety, correct functioning is vital and in any case, these units are inexpensive especially when compared to a set of tyres, or the cost of an accident.  One poster recounted how his TyrePal had already saved him the cost of replacing a £160 tyre.

The TyrePal Solar is the appropriate current model and has the benefit of not needing to be plugged in or mounted on the windscreen.

Why did I buy this off Amazon?

I had the choice of buying direct off the TyrePal website or buying off Amazon, so why did I choose Amazon?

Firstly, although the item price was the same, there was no shipping cost with Amazon so it actually worked out cheaper.

Secondly, I was in a hurry to receive this and the Amazon shipping service and tracking system has always been first rate.  This was delivered within a couple of days.

If you click on the link in this review, you can buy it at the same price and a few pennies also come my way (if you think I am worth it).

First Impressions – in the box

The box is sturdy and quite plain and contains everything that you need, including the display panel with four sensors pre-labelled and coded for each of the four wheels.  Note that additional sensors are available in case you have a tag axle or caravan. Also in the box are the instructions, a semi-sticky dash mounting pad, a spanner for tightening the sensors onto the tyre valve stems, four batteries, a tool for opening and closing the sensors for battery installation/replacement, some spare O rings, dust covers, locking rings and a charger cable and 12V charger.

The sticky mounting pad is a great idea as this just sits anywhere reasonably flat on the dash and can be moved around (so you have room for your coffee).  It is way more convenient than having another suction mount on the windscreen or a permanent stuck on pad somewhere.

Everything looks good and fit for purpose.

Installation and Setup

I did this while we were parked by the beach in Valencia, Spain on a glorious winter’s day.

  1. Each of tlhe sensors needs to be unscrewed open, the batteries installed then retightened using the tool provided.

2. After removing the dust cap from the valve stem, and installed the dust cover and locking ring, the sensor is screwed on and tightened against the locking ring. In my case, the wheel trims didn’t have enough clearance due to the larger diameter of the sensor, but a little adjustment to the trims with a file resolved this.  A quick test with some soapy water and that part of the job was done.

3. By following the clear instructions in the book, you then setup the display unit with the units (psi or kPa) as well as the minimum and maximum pressure setting for the alarms.

That was pretty much it really.  I was a little concerned that no pressures came up on the display but that was because I needed to ’wake’ them up by driving around the car park.  The sensors are designed to conserve the battery by only turning on when you are driving.

4. Once the sensors were showing me the tyre pressures, I used my Fix and Go tyre repair compressor in ‘inflation’ mode to bring the tyres up to the exact correct pressure.

 

TyrePal TMPS on the semi-sticky mounting pad

The Verdict

I have now driven a few thousand km with the TyrePal and love the secure feeling that this gives me.  We haven’t had any alerts (real or false), and the displays shows exactly what I would expect to see.

It is interesting how much your tyre pressures change with outside temperature, direct sun and particularly with driving.  We would often check out tyre pressure after we had been driving for a while but that really isn’t good enough because pressure checks should be done on cold tyres.  Our pressures increase by nearly 10% when the tyres are fully warmed up and the ones on the sunny side by maybe more.  I am sure we did a lot of driving in the past with incorrectly inflated tyres, but no more. We have TyrePal.

The display is clear and easy to read.  The display unit can be lifted off the semi-sticky pad and put our of sight.

(Photo of unit)

For me, I am really happy that I invested in the TyrePal Solar TPMS.  Many of the gadgets we have bought were to make our lives easier, however this one makes our lives safer while potentially saving us ruining tyres.

I have no regrets and strongly recommend this unit.

Gadget Review – the 950i Motorhome Generator

Gadget Review – the 950i Motorhome Generator

by Alan Gow  |  December 2018  | Reviews

Do Not Buy a 950i Motorhome Generator if the Following Applies:

  • You typically stay at camping grounds with an EHU (Electrical Hook Up),
  • You have a solar panel and don’t go away in the winter,
  • You don’t have an inverter,
  • You have very low power needs,
  • You are really short of payload and/or storage space,
  • You like having the biggest and best of everything (and are happy paying for it).

However, if the following generally applies then this may be worth having on board:

  • You love the freedom of wildcamping,
  • You don’t like having to go camping grounds to charge your batteries,
  • You like to travel in the winter,
  • You don’t have solar or your solar panels sometimes can’t keep you charged,
  • You don’t like having to limit your power usage according to how much sun there is,
  • You don’t want to have to tell your wife she can’t charge her phone or her computer,
  • You can make some room on board for a small bit of extra kit

How We Ended Up With A Generator

Buying a generator wasn’t on our radar at all but we ended up with the 950i Motorhome Generator.

We have two solar panels and two leisure batteries and most of the time, this set up meets our needs for power.  We are however living full time in our moho and that means having to manage the short daylight hours and low powered sun that comes with a Northern Hemisphere winter.

Our first winter was spent in the Peloponnese region of Greece, and later down in Crete and while Facebook was full of tales of bad weather in Spain and Portugal, we bathed in fine weather nearly every day.  It was only occasionally that we had more than a couple of dull days in a row and with a bit of careful power management, we got through the winter without having to go to any campsites to recharge.  We were fortunate on quite a few occasions to find a free power hook up just when we were starting to get a little desperate.  Anyone who has travelled in that region in the winter would know that an open camping ground is about as rare as hen’s teeth.  Anyway, we managed and then as usual, our solar setup was great through the summer and early autumn.

On reaching Norway however in September the succession of dull days and the shortening daylight hours put us into new territory and we suddenly had to start visiting campsites, or somehow find an EHU to keep our batteries charged.  In addition to thinking about where to find fresh water and dump out the old stuff, we now had to think about where we would find power and it started costing us a lot of money.

By the time we arriving in Oslo in mid October, the sun had little power even on a good day.  We believed that replacing the batteries with AGM batteries would help as we suspected our batteries were not working effectively and AGM batteries can be discharged to a lower charge state without damage, compared to normal flooded batteries, which would have given us more days between charges.  We found some excellent Exide AGM’s at a great price however they would not fit into our battery compartment.  We then spied this wee generator, grabbed it and now enjoy the freedom and peace of mind that comes with being fully electrically independent. 

If you are thinking that you would only use this in Scandinavia then I can tell you that we also needed it down through Holland, Germany, and France – the winter sun was just too weak and days too short to keep our batteries charged.  On a dull day your solar panel output can easily be less than 10% of their rated power so a lack of power can affect you anywhere and any time.

About the 950i

The 800W 950i is about the cheapest generator on the market, weighs under 10kg and at 380L x 340H x 200W is small enough to fit into a small slot in your garage.  There is also a 1200W model but in my opinion, you don’t need the extra power in most cases and it costs more, weighs more and takes up more room – so why would you?

The petrol tank holds 2 litres which seems to be enough for at least 5 hours running so the cost of running this is almost nothing.  I just fill up the tank at the petrol station rather than carry around an extra fuel container.

There is a a normal household 230V outlet plus a 12V outlet so you can charge a battery directly using the connector cable supplied.  There are the normal overload protection devices and the specifications state that it is compatible with sensitive electronics – we have had computers plugged in with the genny on with no problems.  There is an economy mode which is what we normally run on and I presume this just reduces the power output and fuel consumption. 

 

First Impressions

The 950i is a tidy, compact bit of equipment which is nicely finished and looks like it will do the job.  Overall, we were impressed with the small size, the weight, the price and the appearance.

We know that these generators are rebranded under several different brands.  Ours is blue, the one available on Amazon UK is red.

 

Using the 950i

After filling up the crankcase with oil (these are shipped without oil), and topping up the fuel tank, there is a short starting sequence to follow.

1. turn on the fuel tap

2. open the air vent in the fuel cap

3. close the choke

4. turn on the engine switch

5. prime the fuel by pressing the bulb on the side

6. pull the starting handle

7. allow the genny to warm up for a couple of minutes before turning off the choke, and plugging your EHU lead into the 230V socket

That’s all you need to do and in practice it only takes a few seconds.  You can then use the 230V inside your moho as if you were plugged into a normal EHU and your batteries will be charging.

The genny nearly always starts on the second pull from cold but once warm it starts on the first pull.  It then runs smoothly with a noise level at 7m of 58dB. What does that mean in practice?  It is noticeable but not too obtrusive.  We think that it is fine but out of consideration, we do limit where and when we run it, and if we have neighbours we check with them and advise how long we will be charging for.

We were asked by one of our readers whether a woman would be able to move and start the genny. Ruth was easily able to lift it from the garage and her up so the answer to that was “Yes”.

We have had two electric bike batteries, two computers, two IPhones and two electric toothbrushes all charging off the genny, and the leisure batteries are still getting charged at the maximum rate our on-board charger can handle.  The 950i seems to have enough power for all of our needs. 

Recommendation

We obviously survived up until this last winter without having a generator and could still have managed by being extremely frugal with power usage and booking into camping grounds on a regular basis.  That didn’t suit us and since having the genny we have experienced a great sense of freedom and independence.  Cloudy wet forecast for the next few days – doesn’t affect us anymore.

Without direct experience of other units I can’t really make comparisons other than to say that most of the ones talked about on Facebook sites for motorhomers are much more expensive, have high outputs (2kW plus), are bigger, and are heavier (20kg plus).  Our genny may not be a ‘big name’ model but for something that is really just there for the odd occasion, why would you spend more and carry more?

So far, we have used the genny at least a dozen times, it has done everything we asked of it and we recommend it.

We have put a link up to Amazon  on this page if you want to buy one.  If you buy it after clicking through on our link, we will earn a small commission however the price to you is the same as if you found the page directly.  So if you found this review helpful and decide to buy one, then it would be great if you used the link on our website.

Gadget Review – the Karcher VV1 Window Vacuum

Gadget Review – the Karcher VV1 Window Vacuum

by Alan Gow  |  September 2018  | Reviews
Do Not Buy One of These if the Following Applies:

  • You only camp in the warm months of the year or,
  • You have external window blinds or,
  • You don’t have an inverter or,
  • You love wiping down your windows with paper towels or cloths or,
  • You prefer driving with windows you can’t see through.

The Story of our Past – Pre Karcher

Unfortunately for us, none of the above applied so I knew in my heart of hearts that a Karcher window vacuum would be ideal.  I saw them in shops in various countries, picked them up, fondled them lovingly, then placed them back on the shelves because in my mind I couldn’t quite justify the real estate they would occupy in our moho or the empty real estate they would leave in my wallet. The ones I saw were quite heavy in weight and price.

Can you relate to waking up in the morning and drying copious amounts of water off the inside of your windows, then maybe having to clean the windows because of the smears left behind?   Then, when it is time to drive off, the windows have fogged up so you either have to wipe them down again or leave the engine running for ages to demist them.

Well, I did this grudgingly through our first winter but after a few weeks of cold dewy Finland mornings, I wasn’t looking forward to another four months of the same.

Time for a Dry Change

When I spied the VV1 in a shop in Finland, I immediately noticed that it was smaller and lighter than other Karcher models I had seen.  It didn’t come with so many fittings or fancy accessories but let’s face it, all we want to do is dry the inside of the windows.  Anything else is just extra volume and weight.  The kit included a window washing bottle with a microfibre cleaning cloth so that was really all I would possibly need.  Even though we were in one of the notoriously expensive Scandinavian countries, the price was reasonable.  So after consultation with my better half, who encouraged me to go for it, the VV1 made it into our motorhome, ‘Betsy’.

Experiencing the Karcher VV1

When we arrived back to Betsy we found a nice spot where the vac tucked into without getting in the way but unfortunately the windows were dry so I couldn’t try it out.   I woke up very excited the next morning and eager to test my new toy (I know, how sad is that).  You can imagine my joy when I peeled off the window blinds and saw the glass literally dripping and running with water.

I immediately whipped out the new device and watched in amazement as it hoovered off the water, leaving the glass spotlessly clean. A few swipes across the windscreen and side windows and the water was gone.  The vac has a small water container which was now full and this is easily detached and emptied out. 

The VV1 charges up quickly from a 220/240 socket and the battery lasts at least a week of water slurping before needing a recharge so there is very little drain your batteries. The weight is just over 500 grams (not much more than a can of baked beans) so it doesn’t put a dent in your payload.

I really didn’t appreciate just how much I would use the window vac.  Often, after parking up for a little while and making some lunch or a cuppa, the windscreen has fogged up again.  Rather than having to wait for the demister to do its stuff, a quick whip across the glass with the vac and the windows are crystal clear again.  It also makes short work of condensation on the habitation windows.

Recommendation

Although we could obviously live without the Karcher, it has added to our enjoyment of life, decreased our workload, and made driving safer (with crystal clear windows).  It was relatively inexpensive, not too heavy and not too big so for us it ticks all of the boxes needed to justify a place in Betsy.  It gets a 4 out of 5 stars recommendation from me.

These cool devices are available from many home appliance shops or you can buy one off our Amazon page for the same price (how good is that?).

Gadget Review – the Omnia Stovetop Oven

Gadget Review – the Omnia Stovetop Oven

by Alan Gow  |  September 2018  | Reviews

When we ordered our motorhome Betsy, she was supposed to come fitted with a full gas oven.  However, when we picked her up we were told that there was a problem and it wasn’t possible to install one without significant alterations and cost.  As we love to cook, this was a serious blow, so we immediately started looking for alternatives. We first tried an appliance called a Remoska, which many motorhomers swear by and consists of a roasting pan plus the lid that contains an electric heating element.  While this was excellent for roast dinners and other baking, it had three main drawbacks for us.  Firstly it was big and heavy and took up a lot of room.  Secondly, it was quite power hungry and as we live off grid we have to be careful not to drain our batteries, which limited how much we could use the Remoska. Thirdly, it just stopped working after three months.  Although we got a refund, it wasn’t replaced. After further extensive research, we came across the Omnia – an ingenious device from Sweden which we would now hate to be without.  It is not until you actually have something like this that you realise all of the great food that you are missing out on just because you don’t have the means to cook it. We have been using our Omnia now since October 2017 and have put a lot of other motorhomers onto them.  We mention them on social media a lot and keep getting asked questions, so we decided to put up a review here on our website so everyone can understand what an Omnia is, how it works, and how it would benefit them.

What is an Omnia?

An Omnia is an appliance that you use on your gas or electric cooktop.  This allows you to cook most things that you would normally make in an oven, without actually having one.  The Omnia greatly expands the range of dishes you can cook in your motorhome or boat. There are three pieces to the standard Omnia, (plus two optional extra parts which I will talk about later). These are:

  • the round steel base,  which sits directly onto the gas ring or electric element
  • the aluminium ring-shaped baking pan, which sits on the base and you fill with the goodies to be cooked
  • the bright red lid

The whole device measures just 250mm in diameter, stands 140mm high and weighs in at a paltry 500 grams.  It comes packed in its own neat little bag to keep everything together and tidy. The optional parts are a silicon mould insert which means you don’t have to butter and flour the baking pan each time you use it, and it makes washing up soooo much easier, and a rack which sits inside the Omnia for certain types of baking.

How does the Omnia work?

The steel base sits directly on a gas ring, camp cooker or electric element (not induction though), with the baking pan, then the lid on top. The burner heats the air under the pan and in the top compartment, through the hole in the middle of the baking pan. There are small holes in the lid which let out excess steam. You simply butter and flour the baking pan (if you have the silicon mould then ignore this step and insert the mould straight into the pan).  You then fill the pan with your cake mix, lasagne ingredients, roast dinner ingredients, bread dough etc, pop it on the base, drop the lid into place and centre the whole assembly on your fired up gas ring or cooktop.  The gas is normally turned down close to the lowest setting and then the Omnia is left to do its magic.  Most dishes take the same time as they would in an oven. We had our Omnia for several months before finding somewhere we could buy the silicon mould (from the Jula store in Sweden), and after having used it with or without the mould, we thoroughly recommend the mould is purchased.  The only real pains with using the Omnia were buttering/flouring the baking pan then washing it afterwards, and the silicon mould does away with all that.

Homemade Breads, Cakes and Sweets

Freshly Made Bread

Hot Cross Buns

Omnia Apple Strudel Cake

Moist Orange or Lemon Cake

Chocolate Cake

Sticky Date Pudding

Savoury Dishes to Delight the Tastebuds

Tasty Authentic Lasagne

Sicilian Eggplant Involtini

Individual Quiches

Turkish Borecik

Tandoori Vegetable Filo

Italian Style Meatballs

Would an Omnia Benefit Me?

Well that’s a great question and thank you for asking it.

An Omnia is certainly a benefit for us and if I explain why, then you can decide whether your circumstances are close enough to ours that you would benefit as well.

1. We have no oven so without an Omnia we couldn’t cook cakes, roast dinners, bread, lasagne, scones, quiches, or any of the other beautiful dishes that have come out of our little Omnia.  If you have an oven then you probably don’t need an Omnia.

2. We are very rarely on an electrical hook up so we can’t easily use electrical appliances that consume a lot of electricity.

3. We actually like to cook ourselves and only eat out very occasionally.  If your preferences and budget suit eating out most nights, then you probably won’t use an Omnia often.

4. We wild camp a lot and generally setting up barbeques and Cadac style cookers outside is not permitted.  If you typically stay at campsites and possess these items you may have less use for an Omnia.

5. We really like eating good food and the Omnia makes spectacularly tasty tucker.  We are happy to make the effort to cook food that makes us happy.  If your camping tastes are satisfied by baked beans on toast and you can’t be bothered taking the time to put more than two ingredients together then again the Omnia may not be for you.

6. We are also sailors and recognise that an Omnia would be a great device to have on an oven-less yacht.

If you relate to our situation then you are probably getting just a little excited now and just want to know how you can get your hands on one of these life-changing tools.

But unfortunately (for us), we are not making money from this website or selling anything so we have no magic link we can share to let you buy one easily.  There doesn’t seem to be a current UK distributor however many of the camping shops in Europe have them in stock and there are a lot of authorised European online retailers who I am sure would ship to Great Britain and other European locations.  For an online retailer, we suggest you go onto the Omnia website resellers page.

We have seen Omnia and accessories for sale at many locations around Europe and the prices do vary.  The three-piece base unit ranges anywhere from €37.50 through to €60.  Then the silicon mould is priced at about €16 to €19.  The rack insert is another extra item, however, this isn’t something we use a lot and I wouldn’t really recommend this as being critical to your gastronomic success.  You can also buy a thermometer with a spike which passes through one of the holes in the lid to read the actual temperature.   We don’t have this so can’t comment on how well it works, however, we seem to do fine without it.

We have shared quite a few Omnia recipies on our Recipes page.  There is a great Facebook Omnia Users group which shares ideas, experiences and more recipes.

If you buy an Omnia, please let us know how you find it and share any great recipes you find or come up with.  We are always looking for new tasty stuff to try out.

Bulk Cooking To Save Gas

Bulk Cooking To Save Gas

While traveling through Finland we had to conserve gas because there is no LPG available in this country.

We, therefore, headed to a camping ground to make the most of their cooking facilities.  Check out below what we cooked.  

Interestingly, we found that this has given us more time in our evenings and we are now looking at bulk cooking more often.

To access the recipes so you can make these yourself, please click on the recipe title.

Do you do this, and if so, what are your ‘go to’ recipes?  Please share.

Swedish Meatballs

We first cooked this in…., you guessed it Sweden.  The sauce is delicious and we managed to freeze extra sauce for future meatballs.

Caponata

We first learnt how to cook this flavour packed dish at cooking classes in Palermo, Sicily, Italy.  This can be scoffed warm when first made or cold on fresh white crusty bread.  The vinegar helps to preserve this dish for several days in the fridge.

Aubergine rolls  – Involtini di Melanzane

This is another recipe from Mamma Corleone Cooking Class.  Involtini or Aubergine Rolls are quick and easy to make and provide a yummy dinner, or two.

This is an ideal dish for Omnia Cooking.

Honey-Soy Chicken

With a bit of forward planning you can whip this dish together, pop it into the fridge to marinate and viola it’s ready in time for dinner.  Just throw onto the heat for half an hour and scoff quickly.  If you’re lucky to have any leftovers, they make for a great lunch the next day.

Lemon Cake

We started making this in Greece, due to the large volume of lemons going begging.

The thing I love about this cake, apart from its soft moist texture, is how long it lasts in the cake tin (and freezer).  It looks stunning with the white frosting and can be dressed up for a shared dish with glazed lemons on top.  It is also high enough to be sliced in two and filled with your favourite filled (cream cheese comes to mind).  Give this a go and thank me later.