When you tell your friends that you’re going to Europe many never ask about driving in Europe, they just ask about the plane ride.
“Wow..how long of a flight is that?”
“That’s a long flight…and you do it overnight?”
“How expensive were the tickets?”
Our experience driving in Europe
Although the map shows Frankfurt is about 1″ away from Munich, I promise it takes some time to get between the two cities. That’s why on our recent European adventure we decided to HIRE a car! Yes…we hired a car. In Europe they don’t say “rent” a car, they say “hire” a car. And our experience driving in Europe was…AWESOME!
Sure, we could’ve trained it. Europe has amazing rail lines. But this trip was different. You see, we have a little girl (18 months at the time) who is still testing out how loud she can scream. So we felt it would be better for her to exercise her vocals in a car rather than on a train.
Highway driving in Europe
This is specifically for Germany and Austria: Respect the Autobahn! The left lane is for passing only! Do not, I repeat, do not hang out in the left lane. Not everyone drives lightning fast… actually…only a small percentage do. But chances are you will find them. Americans won’t get this right away. But after a few minutes of driving on the Autobahn you will encounter a driver coming up on you fast. There are no speed limits on the Autobahn when you’re outside of the towns. We didn’t see a single accident, either. There’s no speed limit, yet people know how to drive.
International Driver’s License
The hardest thing was learning the traffic signs. Most don’t have words on them, only numbers and drawings. Make sure you understand these BEFORE you drive.
Driving in Towns
Parking in small towns is pretty easy. Just like in the states. But parking in Europe is expensive! You’ll pay no matter where you go.
There are a lot of one-way streets. It’s best to get a GPS device. And as you approach many of the city centers you may find they are pedestrian areas only. Do your research when booking a hotel, as some of them do not offer parking because, well, they’re located in an area of the city where cars are not permitted.
Other things you just need to know about driving in Europe
- Your car could likely require diesel fuel, even if it doesn’t look or sound like a typical diesel vehicle.
- Know your gas pumps! In the states a green pump means it’s a diesel pump. In Europe green means regular gas. Black means diesel!
- Some countries make you buy a driving pass. They’re call Vignettes. There are plenty of places to buy these when you enter a country.
Pros and cons to hiring a car in Europe
Pros: You get to see the European countryside, and if you want to stop and snap pictures…you can! You’re on YOUR own time! Not a train’s time. Hiring a car is cheap, at least if you are staying within the same country, and returning the car to the same location. You can get a BMW for Euro 25/day.