Europe Road Trip Tips
With 50 countries and sovereign states packed into a continent roughly the same size as the United States, Europe can offer road trippers the chance to sample an extensive range of different cultures and traditions. Once you’ve booked, packed and secured the best travel insurance, you’ll be ready to hit the open roads of Europe, so here’s a handful of handy hints to get you on your way:
Learn the rules of the road
The importance of this tip should not be underestimated. The driving laws differ dramatically in every country and the authorities don’t go easy on tourists who break them. Find out everything from what side of the road you’ll be driving on — it’s left in places like England and right in countries such as France, Germany and Holland — to whether you need to modify your car. For example, you may need to buy headlamp converters and, in certain countries, ensure items like reflective jackets, warning triangles and travel-sized first-aid kits are in your vehicle at all times. Failure to do so could result in a fine or worse. In countries like Spain, children under the age of 12 are not allowed to sit in the front seat at all and smaller children need to have an approved child-safety seat — it pays, or saves, to do your research.
Don’t drink and drive
To stay on the same train of thought, stay off the roads if you’ve consumed any alcohol. It goes without saying that it’s just not worth the risk of getting caught, as you could easily end up in jail. Every country adopts a different stance on the issue; drunk driving is completely banned in places like the Czech Republic and Hungary. Also stick to speed limits, wear your seatbelt at all times and don’t use your mobile phone while behind the wheel.
Keep some loose change on hand
There are toll roads in most major European countries and they’re especially common in France. Make sure you always have a few Euros — the currency of the majority of the countries in mainland Europe — in your pockets to ensure that toll roads don’t hold you back. The last thing you want to be doing is pleading with other drivers — through language barriers — to borrow a Euro or two of theirs.
Get insured and have the right documents
Travel insurance is a must, of course, no matter where you’re going in the world or what you’ve got planned, but you should also look into the pros and cons of getting specialist European car insurance. Check with your current insurer to see whether or not your existing car insurance policy is for domestic use only and seek advice from them about the best course of action to take in your specific set of circumstances. Ensure you take your Certificate of Motor Insurance with you and check if you’ll require a Green Card (or International Motor Insurance Card) as you need to have one in countries like Albania and Turkey. If you invest in European car insurance as an optional extra, make sure that you’ll actually be covered in the countries you’ll be visiting as different companies adopt a different stance on which countries are included and which are not.
Add a few potentially life-saving numbers to your mobile phone
Having the peace of mind that you’ll know who to contact in case of an emergency in unfamiliar surroundings is important when you’re on the road — after all, accidents can happen. The European emergency number is 112 and this is the same across the continent, but different countries also have other emergency numbers available. Dial 999 in the UK, for example, for assistance from the ambulance, fire brigade, police and coastguard. Other countries have separate numbers for separate services, so run a quick check online before you set off and note down the relevant numbers. With a bit of luck, you won’t need to dial any of these numbers, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, right?
Book in advance for hire cars
Booking a hire car on the Internet and well in advance should mean you benefit from the vast array of online discounts readily offered by the major renal companies operating within Europe. Before disappearing into the sunset in your temporary set of wheels, check the small print in the terms and conditions and what criteria you’ll be expected to meet when you return the vehicle. It’s also worth enquiring about whether you are limited to the amount of miles you can clock up.
Set up camp
It’s cheap and readily available throughout mainland Europe, depending on what time of year you go on your road trip. Of course, only camp where it’s safe and secure and keep an eye on the weather forecast as you don’t want to be caught out.
Plan a route
While it’s always good to get off the beaten track and explore, Europe is huge and you can quickly get lost. Try to plan as much of your route as possible; it may be worth taking a satellite navigation device along with you or renting one with the relevant maps pre-installed.