So, you’ve scored a great deal on airfare to Europe and now you need to figure out how to visit all the places on your bucket list. You likely won’t want to fly due to the cost, and though the train system in Europe is fabulous, it can also be a bit costly. Plus, you may have to take an odd route to get where you really want to visit. Renting a car for your stay makes the most sense and it gives you the ability to see sights and places that you otherwise might never have known about.
Going on a road trip through Europe is a lot like doing on in your home country, but there are a few considerations to keep in mind.
While car rental facilities will accept your current driver’s license, you should also get yourself an international driving permit before leaving your home country. One of these permits is valid in 150 countries. If you’re coming from the USA or Canada, AAA or CAA sells these for less than $20. An international driving permit is valid for one year.
Before you set out, take a moment to look at this guide to learn what each country requires you to have in your vehicle. You may need specific stickers on the vehicle, or a certain number of reflective vests. Don’t worry if you don’t have all of these things because you can often purchase them when you stop for fuel.
You’ll also want to brush up on common road signs and road rules for the countries that you’re visiting. For instance, if you’ll be driving in Italy, then make sure to avoid ZTL zones or you’ll be hit with a hefty fine.
Though it’s rare to have to get checked at a border crossing in Europe since the Schengen area has open borders, know in advance what is expected when there is a border crossing. For instance, if you’re driving through the Channel Tunnel, then you’ll need to check in with border security before departure.
Just like any other place you’ve driven, plenty of roads in Europe are toll roads. If you don’t want to waste your trip budget on toll fees, then use a route planner like ViaMichelin to plot out your route and avoid the toll roads.
If you do end up on a toll road, then you’ll need some loose change or a chip and PIN credit or debit card to pay the fees. Most of the tolls roads that I drove on during my European road trip did not have any staff at the toll booths, instead it was all automated.
A navigation system or smart phone with free data roaming can also be used for this purpose. If your cell carrier doesn’t allow free data roaming, then you can just purchase SIM cards in each new country for a cheaper data connection.
Don’t stress out if you miss your turn or get a bit lost when road signs are non-existent. When I did a two week European road trip last summer, I ended up going the wrong way at a roundabout. It ended taking me to the tastiest boulangerie of the entire trip. So, even though I added a little time to my driving that day, I also ended up with a box of delicious French pastries for the rest of the drive.
Andy is a car enthusiast who prefers road trips to other forms of travel. When he’s not driving down scenic highways, you can find him geeking out about cars at DrivingGeeks.com