Europe, the old continent as some refer to, is maybe the best place to travel by car for visiting many exciting places. The cultural and historical diversity makes Europe an entertaining journey for any visitor, local or from another part of the world.
If you plan to visit only one city, then traveling by car might not be the best choice for you, but instead we recommend flying to the destination as it is cheaper and faster. However, if you really want to enjoy the beauties and diversity of Europe, traveling by car is a recommendation.
There are a few things you should consider for traveling by car around Europe: speed limits in each country, road taxes, cost of fuel as it varies from one country to another, parking spaces, breakdown alternatives (insurance).
If the speed limits are signaled on each road and also available on your GPS device, the cost of fuel changes as the international petroleum market moves, the road taxes are quite diversified in Europe. In some countries you are required just to pay for a vignette for the duration of your driving (1 day, 4 days etc.), and you are allowed to drive on all roads and highways available, while in some countries there is no vignette required, but you will have to pay for the use of the highways through a ticketing system.
Countries you are required to buy a vignette: Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Romania. Vignettes are available for purchase at most gas stations in each country.
Countries you will be paying for the use of highways (no other taxes required: should you prefer to drive on national roads of these countries, you will not have to pay anything): Italy, France, Spain.
If the vignette is not an expensive road tax to pay, paying for highways in selected countries might be quite costly. It is true you will get to save time, but in the same time you will miss a lot of the beauties of each location. That is why we recommend using national roads: it is cheaper and you will also get to check new interesting places on the way as you’ll be crossing villages and towns. How to drive on tax free roads? If you are using a GPS device, simply enter the settings menu and select road facilities where you can un-check tax roads / toll roads. The distance by tax free roads is many times smaller than on highways, however the time required to travel same distance could be up to 50% higher as there will be more speed limits applied.
Other things you should consider if traveling by car are parking spaces. Parking differs so much from one place to another, that is why we recommend using paid parking while staying especially in a larger city in order to avoid having your car picked-up and pay release fees. To find a parking in a city you have a few options:
- use your GPS device menu to show parking locations available around you (the GPS will mainly show paid parking)
- use the website Parkopedia.com, where you can find parking spaces available in many cities around the world, mapped and many times with fees up to date (it is best to plan ahead, as you could find some cheap or even free parking spaces). This website is supported by drivers just like you, updating information and reviewing each parking place. Parkopedia.com also has an iPhone app that can be used live
- use OpenStreetMap.org – this website is the Wikipedia of maps, supported by a large community of people around the world. It has marked on each map many parking spaces available, but no fees are available
- read the signs in the city, look for the P sign on blue background (Parking sign)
In some places parking on streets could be reserved to residents that pay a local tax fee, therefore do not get fooled it is free parking if you do not see a parking meter nearby. In other locations, anyone can park on designated areas for free for up to 60 minutes, but in this case you need a parking clock set in your window and make sure you get back to your car before the 60 minutes expire or you could be in for a big surprise if your car get toed.
For long trips we really recommend having a breakdown cover. There are a few companies in Europe that offer such a comprehensive insurance for all European countries. Regardless of which countries you drive, the breakdown cover will save you a lot of money in the case of required technical assistance. This cover will offer free toll around Europe to a required car service or back to home country as the driver requires. The price for such a cover is around 100 EUR / year, and trust me, for a car trip in other country, you would better get this cover otherwise your costs on sight can go up 10x.
Traveling by car around Europe will be a joy if time limit is not fixed and more locations/ countries are on your itinerary.
For visitors that can’t get by car to Europe, there are a few rent-a-car options, available in many locations around Europe.