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Hello everybody, been reading through as many forum posts as possible trying to swot up on as many useful tips  etc., having only stumbled upon this site inthe past few days.................why?

Well, I’m shortly going to hire a M/H and take it and my partner to the South of France on Monday (6th Sept), totally new to this hobby as a try it out and see how we get on kind of exercise. She needed some convincing our normal holiday arrangements usually involve the rental of luxury gite with all mod cons.

Anyway we’re hiring from a local company in Dorset called Abacas and the model we settled on is a Swift Bolero 680fb 2 berth 2010 vintage, it appears to come with pretty much everything most people will need on an average holiday which swung it for us + new vans.

Our intention is to use the Chunnel (already picked up on the Tesco voucher offer and received the appropriate boarding vouchers),purchased a Michelin road atlas, guide to Aires, and something called French Passion so I’m feeling reasonably confident (famous last words).  I do however have a few Q’s and welcome anyinput offered.

Am I right in thinking that without an electrical hook up the leisure battery and the cranking battery will both discharge i.e. the vehicle cannot be started on the key should we run things down too much ?

Is it practical to use  separate bike covers and strap them down whilst carrying bikes on the rear of van, or will the covers simply be torn to bits from wind turbulence, is there any point anyway will they get soaked??

Assuming the outside temps drop down, how much condensation can you experience in a motorhome, i.e. can it get damp in there (I have bronchial asthma which screws me right up in the damp)

Will a UK television system with freeview pick up French terrestrial broadcasts, (only required for weather forecasts) Abacus fit to all their vans.

Sorry this is a bit of ramble but I need to cram in as much info as possible, incidentally I’ve picked up an incredible amount of information from this site and its contributors already so thanks everybody!

(Sorry I can't seem to edit out all this code below - apologies)

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Hi , Good luck with the hire, they are a local firm and possibly associated with Marquis .


I made enquiries for some Aussie friends a year ago but the Aussies decided on B&B as better option for them.


Re France Passion, I have used them several times but the difficulty is finding them, the book directions are not always easy to follow, and I found on occasions that the access roads in the country were quite narrow and driving a motorhome when a country bus comes the opposite way on a single track is a bit of a challenge.

Those sites I have used have always been friendly, and have only once felt under pressure to buy some produce. Language difficulties rarely a problem as my schoolboy french has improved.


What is your proposed route, and do you have satnav on board. I have a file of satnav data for FP and could forward a few suggestions close to your route. As far as Aires are concerned, I feel that those on motorway should not be used for overnight as a general rule for safety, better to get off motorway and use the one in nearest town. This Is my personal preference of course..


Motorway charges will sting you based on vehicle height, so bear that in mind, and dont forget you must have yellow Jackets and breakdown triangles and a first aid kit on board, to comply with French rules. Never leave the vehicle without wearing yellow jacket if stopped by police on motorway, or it will cost you.


If you see an accident (not involved yourself) you must stop and offer assistance if you are first on scene.


Maps... I recommend Michelin book map at scale 1:200000, and I mark up FP locations on it to assist finding them


Good luck, Drive carefully, and enjoy the holiday



PS re battery.. I dont know about the vehicle you hire , but in our Autocruise, you cant run Habitation electrics of the engine battery so no likelyhood of start up problems .


Re TV... freeview is UK only but if TV is multistandard, you should be able to tune in French terrestial stations if you can point aerial in right direction.

I assume the van is not fitted with a satellite aerial, but if it is then you should be able to tune uk Freesat (if a Freesat box is provided)or Sky (if a Sky box on board as well)



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I can not say for certain about the electrics on your Swift model but I imagine it is similar to our Swift 630L

Under normal operation only the habitation battery will power the electrics.

However, there is a button on the control panel which when pressed will connect the engine battery to the habitaion battery. This will give you additional power for emergency use. Obviously running the risk if over used that you will not be able to start the vehicle. This function is useful to use for short period. Even although the fridge is running on gas it will not work without an electrical supply. As the fridge thermostat cycles on and off a power scource is need to re-ignite the flame. Similarly, the blown air heater needs power for the fan.

The control panel will give a readout of the battery voltages so it is easy to observe the state of each battery.

When using a hook up only the habitation battery is charged unless you press the said button on the control panel. Then the engine battery will be charged.


A cover for bikes is useful although it will not keep them totally dry. Although the Fiamma bike cover is totally enclosed there are small gaps around the bike rack mountings. I've not been impressed with the durability of the Fiamma bike cover, see my recent post on this subject.


We only experience condensation when the temperature drops close to zero and this is only evident on the inside of the windscreen. The skylight can opened to the first notch which does not allow rain in but gives a bit of air circulation. Using the air blown heater with just the fan on and no heating should aid air circulation.


We hired a motorhome prior to buying, although only for weekend. At first it all seemed stressful, remembering to turn the gas on, remove the water heater protection cover etc. But now it is second nature and seems so simple and relaxed. A check list of things to do on site arrival and departure helps.


Nice bike in your picture by the way.

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We found the bike cover had to be strapped down extremely tightly otherwise it was flapping around and kept catching the eye in the mirror.  Only used it if the weather promised rain or if we were travelling a long way otherwise we left them 'naked'.


Oh!  Re the battery; a possible cause of engine battery drain is using the cab radio when staying in one place for a while.  We couldn't understand why the engine battery power was reducing until the penny dropped that we were putting the radio on a lot.


Have a lovely holiday, I'm sure you'll love it.


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Many thanks for the advice offered, it's all useful and we're both grateful. No doubt we'll make a few errors, but I reckon that's all part of the charm time will tell lol...........


Oh and the bike in my profile picture is not mine I wish it was!


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  • 3 weeks later...

So that was that our first motorhome holiday .........................

Back in the UK now and back to work blues and should anybody be interested this is how it went.

Collected our van at the agreed time, the guy at the rental place went through all the basics, controls, water tanks, awning operation etc which took around an hour. The keys were handed over and I drove out of their preparation depot, a few things at this point we were promised a new van but ended up with an 08 with 40k on the clock clearly well used judging by the drivers seat but in servicable condition.

Back to our house (a short drive of about 10 miles) and then the big load up begins, plugged in the van to the mains for the first time no problem, steady blue light on fridge all good. Bicycle carrier however required some on the hoof mods, the securing straps were quite worn and wouldn’t hold so the deployment of bungee’s proved invaluable, finished off with a long cable lock.

All loaded we headed off towards the channel tunnel, Jeez the NOISE rattle clatter rattle, this really was getting on my nerves pulled over and managed to dampen most of it with socks, towels, and even a few sponges.

Eventually ended up finding an Aire on the north French coast at Le Touquet Paris Plage courtesy of our Aires guide, but try as I might I couldn’t get the sat nav to work properly. Rolled in at approximately 12.30 a.m., pouring with rain, turned on the gas, quick bite to eat and crashed into bed with rain hammering away on the van.

Next day I eventually got the sat nav working, but couldn’t get any hot water or blown air heating, ironically there was another van at this aire hired from the same place, same model just on a 10 reg. He tapped our window and asked how things were going and could I help him with his sat nav this was turning into a comedy. I agreed but not before he confirmed that I had the right control settings for hot air and water, which they were. Anyway I helped him out with his sat nav, but couldn’t sort out his toilet it failed to flush, oh dear..............

Eventually we made our way south via Paris? and the Péripherique ring road in full rush hour, great, what a nightmare lol, finally ending up on another aire or near it (it was full) in a place called Gurgy Bourgogne. Rained all night, so we left early and made a concerted effort to find some damn sun, headed south again, and found it in the Ardeche but not before being held up on the A7 in a 30km traffic jam (two dead the radio said) arrived late again stayed overnight on another aire, and that morning decided we needed a campsite with full facilities.

Just down the road was a fantastic site with everything we needed, pool, showers, washing up facilities, chemical toilet disposal, and the river ran very nearby so plenty of canoeing.  We decided not to move and enjoyed the rest of our break there. The mountain bikes on the back had been rinsed clean of any lubricant because of the rain and needed some attention, but they proved fine once I got to work on them.

The cost of the holiday with tolls hire charges and diesel was expensive, would we do it again probably not, or at least not in hire van. Appreciate we made some pretty fundamental errors, but on balance I think you can achieve a similar experience by flying and hiring a car at the other end for a lot less.  I think if you have plenty of time on your hands and your own vehicle, then the scales probably tip in your favour.

I did mention on our return that the heating never worked and hot water only when hooked up, they asked why I didn’t call so they could help me resolve this issue and to be honest maybe I should have. The problem seemed to be with a near empty gas bottle not providing enough pressure, but then we were promised two full bottles and the heating never worked from day one. We are currently in negation for some kind of compensation, other than that the van was fine, oh the waste pipe on the sink managed to detach itself allowing washing up water to penetrate the under seat storage area where my partner kept her clothes not good.

Anyway apologies for the ramble, and thanks for the previous advice it certainly was an experience.


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Guest JudgeMental

very decent to report back, many dont after seeking help and you do wonder sometime how things went......


How long did you have? South of France for less then 3 weeks would be a bit of a rush, and not that enjoyable IMO. So I dont think you have really given motorhoming a fair crack of the whip :-D For 2 weeks or less probably as you say better to fly and relax........


yes weather is at best unpredictable but south invariably better then the north...... Antibes near Nice has been between 25-28 deg c all this week (thinking of going soon)

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Stormy - 2010-09-23 4:28 PM


The cost of the holiday with tolls hire charges and diesel was expensive, would we do it again probably not, or at least not in hire van. Appreciate we made some pretty fundamental errors, but on balance I think you can achieve a similar experience by flying and hiring a car at the other end for a lot less


As far as I'm concerned having a van (and esp. renting one) is not about cost, it's more about lifesyle.

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Hi Judge, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, time allocation, that and our initial shambles and disorientation once in France clearly we headed the wrong way and lost precious time ending up on that awful Parisian ring road.

Two weeks that’s all we had so it probably was over ambitious in hindsight, but the weather didn’t play ball unfortunately and we were determined to find some sun. So our plan was to head south until it warmed up and when itdid we stopped lol.  

Don’t get me wrong the actual living in a motorhome was fine, once we checked out how everything worked, and got into the groove so to speak it was great. I even managed to strike up some conversations with other French /German / Dutch motorhomers, quite a friendly lot really.

The distances though were big, I think in one return leg we covered nearly 600 miles in one go, which was heavy going, and the rain in North France on the return was torrential which didn’t help.  

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colin - 2010-09-23 7:37 PM As far as I'm concerned having a van (and esp. renting one) is not about cost, it's more about lifesyle.

The lifestyle does appeal but for me it has to represent value and meet a similar pricing point for a similar type of holiday, my experience was it didn’t on this occasion.



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