The holiday season is here again! Months (or years) of planning have finally come down to this. You are finally going to take that backpacking trip and see the best of what Europe has to offer.
Europe is an awesome tourist destination offering a rich and diverse experience for millions of visitors annually. However, like many other international destinations, the different environment can be a bit challenging for would-be tourists. Driving is one of the areas that many first-time visitors often experience difficulties.
So if you are planning to head out to Europe over the holidays, these helpful driving tips will come in handy when traversing through the vast continent.
1. Driver’s License and the International Driving Permit
If you are coming into Europe from countries such as the U.S and Canada, you can use your driver’s license in most European countries. However, some require you to have an International Driving Permit (IDP), a small booklet that translates your native driver’s license into 10 languages. The IDP is also accepted in over 150 countries globally.
It basically resembles passport and contains your photo and additional information lifted from your driver’s license.
You will need the IDP in Germany, Italy, Spain, and a number of other European countries in addition to your driver’s license. Be sure to check with your consular on whether you will need one for the countries you plan on visiting.
2. Plan your Driving Itinerary
Most tourists often plan their itineraries around large European cities and towns. They then have to drive through nerve-wracking traffic, unfamiliar – and sometimes ruthless – city regulations, and scarce and expensive parking. If you must drive in European cities, try sightseeing on Saturdays and Sundays when most European cities are fairly sparse.
Most countries in Europe will also require you to be insured and have proof of insurance before allowing you to drive. You can buy short-term car insurance for the duration you will be in a specific European country. You can also check with your local insurance provider if overseas trips are covered since a number of them give about 14 days of international vehicle insurance.
If you can, have additional drivers insured during the trip. The extra insured driver will come in handy when you are tired or unable to drive during the trip.
4. Rules of the Road
The last thing you want to be doing on your trip is spending time in a foreign jail. Always carry your driver’s license, IDP (where applicable), passport, and other relevant documents and produce them when asked by a law enforcement officer.
Familiarize yourself with the local road rules for each European country you plan on visiting. Take note of local speed limits which vary in each country you visit. For instance, when driving in the UK, the law requires you to keep you drive under 70mph on motorways. However, countries such as Germany have no speed limits on long stretches of local roads, so beware of speeding motorists in such countries.
You might also have to keep away from alcohol before getting behind the wheel. Even a single glass of wine or pint of beer is enough, depending on where you are visiting. In Prague, for instance, a blood alcohol level above zero will put you behind bars very quickly.
Also, don’t forget to carry a car seat for kids under age 12 or under 135cm in height.
5. Servicing and Breakdown Services
Car servicing providers are often busiest during the holidays, so book your car early to ensure it gets serviced on time. There are plenty of online car rental services that will enable you to book your car and have it serviced before you get there.
You should also look into pan-European car insurance policies that cover breakdowns across most European countries.
The best policy cover isn’t a replacement for being careful and prepared on the road. Carry an emergency kit and ensure the spare wheel is in good condition when receiving the rental. A fire extinguisher can also come in handy so get one even if it isn’t a legal requirement.
Driving is undoubtedly one of the best ways to enjoy the sights when touring Europe. Plan ahead before getting behind the wheel in a foreign country and even take a refresher driving course if you need to polish up your driving skills. You don’t want your holiday experience ruined because of traffic infractions that could have easily been avoided with due diligence.
Featured photo credit: photoduet via freepik.com