For quite some time I had the idea of renting a car and go road tripping around Europe and this summer I managed to fulfill this dream! Take my word, it was totally worth it! Now after the trip I can say lessons are learnt and I’ve gathered you a package of info how you will make your road trip successful.
My journey started when me and three others flew to Vienna and rented a car there. After the intensive search we decided to rent a Citroën C4 to have the space and comfort for driving. We visited 5 countries during our one-week road trip: Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Croatia and Slovenia.
Before renting a car, check at least these things:
- The car type and size of course but also if it’s manual or automatic.
- The extra drivers – How many people will be driving the car since additional drivers cost more.
- Make sure what damages does the insurance cover if anything happens.
- What countries you are allowed to drive in and inform the rental company about the countries.
There are some charges and things you should consider when driving a rental car
- Some countries require a vignette (sticker) which allows you to drive in that country or its highways (Austria and Slovenia for instance). You can buy these vignettes in for example stores and gas stations.
- In some countries, like in Italy, be prepared to spend a significant amount of money on toll fees when driving through highways.
When planning a road trip, I would highlight to really count some extra hours to every travel phase because the rush hours and border crossings might take time. Our biggest delay was when we hit the traffic jam on a highway close to Milan. We drove 20 km/h on the highway for half an hour at least. Count also the kilometers beforehand on Google to get a rough estimate on how much you will be driving. Like I mentioned earlier, I visited 5 countries including 12 towns/cities and it was a long route. 2700 km to be exact, but it was so worth it.
Then comes the question if you need a satnav system or not. I used offline Google maps I had loaded on my smartphone before the trip with GPS tracking turned on and I only got slightly lost once and the delay was like 10 minutes. I highly recommend the offline maps or of course why not a satnav if you happen to have one or want to pay for it. Never hurts to have a backup system. We also had the old school map, but it really didn’t help especially in Italy where the roads are sometimes so tiny that they don’t show well on the map.
The advice I got before I headed on my journey was: “Don’t get a parking fine in Italy”. I’ve heard it’s super common to get a fine for parking on an inappropriate space in Italy. I didn’t get a fine but be careful with Zona a traffic limitato or ZTL zones which are restricted driving areas.
The driving culture is different in each country so be mentally prepared for it. Italians LOVE to drive their car right up your ass but don’t worry about it and don’t copy them. Keep your safety distance to the car in front of you. In Austria they just love to drive fast as in their neighbouring country Germany. If you are not happy about driving 150km/h then take a slower pace and use the right lane.
I can say that what I absolutely loved about traveling by car was the possibility to stop wherever I wanted and make small detours to see some other places. I didn’t drive myself, so I was also able to enjoy the breathtaking views that we passed.
When you start planning your trip, plan at least 1,5 to 2 days for each destination or city. I made the mistake of wanting to see everything and I only spent 1 night in each accommodation. I also reserved all my nights beforehand because I traveled during high season and I had a limited travel budget. If you are travelling more off-season such as spring or fall you can easily get affordable accommodation on road. Then you have also more flexibility if you want to stay longer in one place.
All in all I highly recommend seeing Europe by car! There are so many places that are easy to reach by driving and you can end up seeing a lot more than what you originally had in mind!