of the best ways to see Europe at your own pace is to hop in a rental car and
drive between destinations. While you might assume driving in Europe is very
similar to the United States, there are some important things to keep in mind.
are a few helpful tips to get you started on your European road trip.
as some cities are notorious for property theft against tourists, some European
motorways are hotbeds for property crimes and more. Be wary of people who jump
out in front of your vehicle on dark isolated roads. Some European countries
are popular with hitchhikers. Use caution if you plan to pick up a stranger in
your vehicle. And when parking, especially in city centers, make sure no
valuables or luggage are left visible to passersby. Even something as minor as
a phone charger or iPhone cord may be enough to incite thieves to break in.
you are in possession of a handicapped pass issued in the United States, this may
not be recognized in some countries. You need to research the disability
parking laws in the countries you plan to visit as the recognized placard in
European Union (EU) member countries is the “Blue Badge”. The FIA Guide for the
Disabled Traveller has a listing of what each country’s rules are regarding the
use of disabled parking permits.
close attention to some countries that require “vignettes” or stickers that
allow you to drive the bigger highways. Some countries like Switzerland check
at the border to ensure you have purchased the vignette, while others have
electronic monitoring checkpoints. Don't try to save a few dollars by not
purchasing the vignette as you may wind up with an expensive fine down the road.
you may find some motor officers actually running radar along smaller country
back roads; most highways are monitored by speed cameras. Unlike many spots in
the United States that just note “controlled by radar”, these are live and
active camera systems. Be wary, as, unless you have a GPS system in your rental
car, you will have very little warning when these cameras are coming up. It’s
not uncommon for unsuspecting drivers to come home to hundreds of Euros in
fines. And don’t rely solely on your GPS
either as, in some cases, speed limits may have changed, some places are now
using trajectory control which calculate an average speed over a length of
highway, some speed cameras are temporary and change locations, and some
countries’ cameras may not be loaded into your GPS.
Carry ample cash, as some countries will issue fines and expect payment on the
spot. And they may require local currency versus Euros if you are in places
like Croatia or the Czech Republic. Depending on the enforcement agency, you
may be eligible for a discount for paying on the spot – some even accept credit
not drink and drive in Europe. Yes, beer may be served to 16 year-olds in
Germany, but DUI or DWI laws are extremely strict in many European countries.
And some, like Romania, have 0.0% BAC laws.
you are renting a vehicle, it will come with the required equipment to be
utilized in the event of a breakdown. Some countries require vehicles to
display a warning triangle and passengers to wear reflective vests when on the
side of the highway. Check with your rental car company for provided equipment
and what the local laws are regarding disabled vehicles.
the often rundown and gas only stations seen on some US highways, Europe has
their act together when it comes to long haul drivers. Rest areas typically
have very clean restrooms, mini-marts stocked full of road trip munchies, free Wi-Fi,
and in some cases, restaurants and hotels. In countries like Italy, you can
find excellent sandwiches, pizzas, and a grocery area offering some of the best
in Italian gourmet food products.
of the biggest mistakes is utilizing the left lane as a regular driving lane.
It’s called a passing lane and Europeans take that very seriously. Drive in the
right lane and utilize the left lane for passing only.
you prefer an automatic vehicle, book your rental far in advance. Some rental
car agencies tend to stock mostly manual transmissions, and automatics may be
hard to come by, especially in Eastern Europe.
with your auto insurance carrier and credit card on what is covered for damages
to a rental car when driving in Europe. And pay close attention to your rental
car contract – many rental agencies have a list of countries in which you
cannot drive. If you violate that clause
and an accident occurs, you void any insurance coverage purchased from the
rental agency and may be personally liable for all incurred damages.
cautious of driving in city centers, especially spots like Rome, Athens, and
London. There may be a congestion charge or special permits required to drive
in spots like Rome.
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Erin is a travel and food writer who currently splits her time between the Netherlands and Belize. She's traveled to 60+ countries on 5 continents with a passion for culinary travel, luxury hotels, and all things Disney. Her writing has appeared in numerous online outlets including Gadling, BootsnAll, CNN, Art of Backpacking, TravBuddy, CBS, and more. She was the major author of Belize's official visitor magazine, Destination Belize 2013; wrote the official AFAR Guide to Belize; and is also AFAR Magazine's local Belize expert.. In addition to writing for other publications, Erin maintains several blogs, Our Tasty Travels, No Checked Bags, Pooh's Travels, and the brand new Caye To Belize. Follow Erin on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google Plus.
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