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Travelling in Green Card Countries PDF Printable Version E-mail

TRAVELLING IN GREEN CARD COUNTRIES

Barry and Margaret Williamson
March 2011

Introduction

This article responds to queries we get from British motorhomers planning to cross into one or more of the countries around the periphery of southern and eastern Europe, where insurance is not readily available.

These countries are: Albania, Belarus, Bosnia, Iran, Israel, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Russia, Serbia, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine.

We identify and describe three sources of motorhome insurance: fully comprehensive cover from a UK insurance agent, a Green Card from a UK insurance agent, and a Green Card bought at the country's border. We also provide notes on the nature and use of the Green Card (often a matter of some confusion) and list the countries requiring the Card.

Our article 36 Motorhome Insurance Agents has a broad-ranging introduction to the complex subject of motorhome insurance outside the European Union. There is further information on our article 'The A to Z of Long-term Motorhoming'. Both these articles are to be found on our website under 'Long-term Motorhoming'.

It will also be useful to browse the countries you plan to travel through. For each country, you will find facts about the country itself, details of campsites and very full information on the routes that we have taken on different occasions, including border crossings. Over 50 other long-term, long-distance motorhomers have also contributed their experiences to our website with.

Full Cover from a UK Motorhome Insurance Agent

All the 36 Motorhome Insurance Agents listed on our website extend their UK motorhome insurance to the 27 EU countries, plus Switzerland and Norway, as standard (this is usually known as the 'Territorial Limits). However, the nature of the cover may vary from that provided for the UK (eg Comprehensive + Breakdown insurance) down to the Green Card minimum. The length of time covered outside the UK may also vary, from a few days or weeks to a full year. Check the nature and duration of your cover before travelling.

Most insurance agents now also do or will (and certainly should) include Croatia, which is near to joining the EU, at least as a Green Card country. Some agents include Turkey, though some of these limit it to what they call 'European Turkey' ie west of the Dardanelles/Bosphorus. A number of companies will extend cover to Tunisia and Morocco.

One problem is that each and every company is different and they only ever advertise their positive features (for example, they will insure your awning), never mentioning all the snags.

Only a few extend your fully comprehensive UK cover to the former Yugoslavian countries, Turkey, etc and these include Saga (this is the best though they won't cover American-made vehicles) and the NFU.

Green Card Provided by a UK Insurance Agent

A quite separate matter for the UK insurance agent is the provision of a Green Card (see note below) for a non-standard country, outside the 'Territorial Limits'. The Green Card gives you the minimum required legal cover in that country usually third party only. It makes you legal, gets you through the border without extra payment, etc. Any insurance company should provide this as part of their service, when asked. Some do it willingly, some reluctantly, some make an 'administrative charge'; many refuse.

Croatia is a special case: if it is not included in the Territorial Limits (see above), you still have Green Card cover for that country under EU law (see note below).

Most mainland European motorists are routinely issued with a Green Card for all the countries in Europe. Once, while we were negotiating and paying for Green Card insurance on the Montenegro-Albanian border, we were overtaken by a Swedish motorhome that drove straight through, already covered! Even the Bulgarians get a Europe-wide Green Card. It may not cover much in the way of insurance, but it is cheap and it makes you legal.

Green Card Bought at the Border

A third possibility, and a last resort, is to buy insurance at the border of a given country. This is universally known as a 'Green Card', even if it is only a scruffy bit of white paper. We list some of the payments we have made below but we must emphasise that they can vary with time and between alternative border crossings - or even be forgotten. The period of validity for the Green Card will also vary. Some minor (back road) border crossings don't have the facility to sell insurance. One which we crossed a year ago, between Montenegro and the Republic of Srbska (that half of Bosnia controlled by the Serbs), was very much a one-man crossing and he wouldn't let us through. It was very remote in high mountain country and we didn't want to have to backtrack. Eventually he telephoned a friend in a nearby town, who drove out in his van to sell us a 'Green Card' costing 30 for 3 days!

What is for sure is that all these non-EU countries will check you at the border. They want to make sure you have a Green Card, as well as the originals of your vehicle's registration papers in the driver's name, and your passports. Driving licences are rarely checked. There may also be roadside checks by police or customs officials within the country. These are invariably friendly and they may just want a chat and a look inside your motorhome. But if they do want to see 'carspapers', these will be the Green Card, registration document and passport.

Some border crossings may also make a small charge for a visa, for the environment tax, for an exit fee, or just for the hell of it.

Above all, have plenty of Euros in hand in cash. Don't expect to be able to pay by credit or debit card! (A couple we know who resorted to this at the Serbian border had their card cloned and lost hundreds). All border officials want hard (not local) currency, meaning Euros cash. (US Dollars or German Deutschmarks were once demanded, but those days are gone).

Here is a sample of border charges we have experienced on different journeys in recent years:

Entry into Turkey: Visa 10 or 15 per person (valid 3 months)

Greece - Albania: Entry fee to Albania 10 (free a year ago, but it varies)

Greece Macedonia: Green Card for 15 days 50

Macedonia Albania: Green Card for 15 days 53

Albania Montenegro: Exit fee from Albania 8

Albania Montenegro: Environment Fee 10

Albania Montenegro: Green Card for 15 days 15

Albania Montenegro: Green Card for 2 weeks 15

Croatia Montenegro: Green Card for 15 days 15

Montenegro Albania: Green Card for 15 days 53

Montenegro BosniaHerzegovina: Green Card for 3 days 30

Croatia Bosnia Herzegovina: Green Card for 7 days 20

We hear that insurance for Turkey bought at the border can be as high as 70 but that will also depend on the period. The highest cost of all is that reported for a transit of Serbia up to 150!

Our insurance company has provided us with a Green Card (and it is Green) for all the above countries and many more.

Notes on the Green Card
(Issued by the Motor Insurers' Bureau, a really useful website.)

What is the Green Card system?

The Green Card System is a United Nations system overseen by the Economic Commission for Europe based in Geneva. The purpose of the system is to facilitate the free movement of vehicles over borders and to protect the interests of the victims of foreign registered vehicles.

The Green Card is a document which is recognized in over 40 countries including all the countries of Europe. A Green Card cannot be obtained for Iraq as this country is no longer a member of the Green Card System. The Green Card offers no insurance cover but is proof that the minimum legal requirements for third party liability insurance in any country for which the Green Card is valid are covered by the insured's own motor policy.

I have been told that a Green Card is not necessary for travel in Europe. Is this true?
It is correct that a Green Card is not required by law to cross borders within the European Union. This is because every EU country complies with the First Directive on Motor Insurance which says that every insurance policy issued in the EU must provide the minimum insurance cover required by law in any other EU country.

Green Cards are also not necessary for some non-EU countries who are signatory to Section III of the Internal Regulations, which is an international agreement between Green Card Bureaux. These countries are Croatia, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland (incorporating Liechtenstein) and Andorra.

A Green Card is required for travel to other signatory countries of the Green Card System (see list below).

AUKinsurer is under no legal obligation to issue a green card for Section II countries and if your insurer refuses to do so it will be necessary to "shop around" to try to find the cover. Alternatively, enquiries should be made into the possibility of obtaining insurance at the border.

MIB does not underwrite or arrange insurance so we regret cannot advise of any insurers who may be willing to provide Green Cards for these countries.

Please note that the Green Card document itself is only proof that the minimum third party liability cover required by law in the visited country is in force. You should check with your insurer to make sure that the full UK policy cover is in force when you travel abroad whether or not a Green Card is issued.

There is also a practical consideration beyond the strict legal position outlined above and that is, even within countries where frontier inspection is no longer required, the Green Card is still the insurance document most readily recognized and understood by national police forces. As you may need to produce evidence of insurance other than at a border (i.e. after an accident) you may consider it advisable to carry a Green Card to avoid inconvenience.

Why am I asked to pay additional premium for my Green Card?

The additional premium is not for the green card document itself, but covers the cost of extending your full (non-compulsory) UK cover to the foreign countries you propose to visit. Some insurers will extend your UK policy for foreign travel for a limited period at no extra charge.

I have asked my insurance company for a Green Card but they declined, saying that it is not necessary for travel within the EU. How can I obtain one?

If for the reasons above, you wish to carry a Green Card, your insurer, whilst taking the view that the document may not be necessary, should still be prepared to provide a Green Card. Nonetheless, to avoid administrative costs and at the same time to deal with the problem of translating your motor insurance certificate, some insurers do print on the reverse of your UK insurance certificate a statement in the principal European languages, explaining that your certificate is evidence of the existence of the minimum cover required by law throughout the European Union.

Why is it necessary to extend my UK Insurance cover to visit an EU country?

As explained above, your UK insurance policy provides the MINIMUM cover required by law in every EU country, and in many EU countries the minimum cover required by UK law, if that is greater. This may not, however, provide the same cover as exists for the vehicle within the UK (e.g. you may have comprehensive cover) and for peace of mind most people regard it as desirable to make sure before travelling that such an extension is arranged. If you are in any doubt as to the cover under your policy, contact your insurer or agent to confirm the position.

Does my insurance policy cover my vehicle whilst on a ferry between two countries?

Not all insurers adopt the same policy conditions and it is advisable to check in advance. If the extension referred to in the previous question is arranged, cover whilst on a ferry or indeed in the Channel Tunnel will be provided.

List of Countries Requiring a Green Card

Country

Green Card
Albania
Yes
Belarus
Yes
Bosnia
Yes
Iran
Yes
Israel
Yes
Macedonia
Yes
Moldova
Yes
Montenegro
Yes
Morocco
Yes
Russia
Yes
Serbia
Yes
Tunisia
Yes
Turkey
Yes
Ukraine
Yes
Andorra
No
Austria
No
Belgium
No
Bulgaria
No
Croatia
No
Cyprus
No
Czech Rep
No
Denmark
No
Estonia
No
Finland
No
France
No
Germany
No
Greece
No
Hungary
No
Iceland
No
Ireland
No
Italy
No
Latvia
No
Lithuania
No
Luxembourg
No
Malta
No
Netherlands
No
Norway
No
Poland
No
Portugal
No
Romania
No
Slovak Rep
No
Slovenia
No
Spain
No
Sweden
No
Switzerland
No