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Old 22nd March 2008, 18:20   #1
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Default Driving across Europe!

hey guys

my family and i are planning to make a trip to the EU in June this year..... we first thought of flying to geneva and taking the eurail pass which would carry us all around europe.

but this seemed a little too typical so my dad and i decided to drive across the continent!!!

as silly as it sounds i am quite excited about the idea. we plan to rent a mid-size car from avis or europcar or any other car rental service. the whole trip would be for about 21 to 25 days where we plan to cover swiss, uk, france, germany, austria and might try to cover italy and spain too.

i want to know must-see places, things to do and if driving across is really a smart thing to do.

so everyone please pour in your suggestions, opinions, advice...anything at all which might make our trip a lot more exciting!
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Old 22nd March 2008, 18:44   #2
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Thats wonderful !!
Please keep track of the costs, so that some of us can save so much and do it ourselves too.
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Old 22nd March 2008, 18:45   #3
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Sam is the best guy to ask for travel destinations and tips. Shoot him a PM.
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Old 22nd March 2008, 20:25   #4
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I have done 2 Eurail trips across West, South, East and North Europe and I think that is a great way to see Europe. I did my planning myself and this works to be the cheapest way to see Europe, but when you have more than 2 people, maybe car is a better option. here are several web-sites where you can check out routes and distances, but you can make a star by buying either a Michelin Road Map or Collins Road Atlas. I have planned drives (overland from India!) to Europe and have researched the routes, and it can be pretty easy.
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Old 22nd March 2008, 21:07   #5
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1. First decide on the starting point (like Lufthansa - Frankfurt, Jet - Brussels, KLM - Amsterdam, Air France - Paris, etc.) and get a good round-trip fair for that point. All the other parts of the itinerary would depend on this. Most countries you want to visit will be covered by the Schengen Visa, but you have to apply for the country of your first arrival.
2. Book a 5-seater van or kombi (station wagon). Rental depends on Class (A is Polo, 205 etc., D is large sedan) and you can get a good deal - including an upgrade - if you have definite dates. Conversely, landing somewhere and taking a chance also gets you a higher class at the lower class price, some times! A spacious vehicle = no hassle for luggage
3. Make sure you have International Driving License
4. Now think of a round-trip itinerary: Assuming you land in Frankfurt -
Leg 1: Luxembourg - Brussels - Amsterdam
Leg 2: Amsterdam - Paris - Mt. Blanc
Leg 3: Cross over to Switzerland: Geneva - Interlaken - Chur - Lugano (the first 2 are touristy, the 2nd 2 are off the beaten track for Indians). (If you want to avoid Switzerland, continue down to Nice after Mt.Blanc and follow the coastal road to Italy.)
Leg 4: Cross over to Italy at Lugano: Milano - Genoa - Livorno (Pisa) - Roma - Venice
Leg 5: Cross over to Austria: Graz - Vienna - Salzburg
Leg 6: Cross over to Germany: Munich - then decide where all you want to go in Germany - back to Frankfurt
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Old 22nd March 2008, 23:20   #6
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I don't know aobut driving around (since in there just sat shotgun) but boss, parking charges can cost a bomb. And kindly make sure that the car is loaded with people as per its capacity. Friends who were 6 in a 5 seater car (in '03) paid like a 130 euro fine.

And accidents can really pour in bills.

Plus inner parts of cities have extensive pedestrian areas/one ways/slow traffic where buses/trams rule (esp D/CH/F)

Europe has fantastic rail systems. Why not use the same? So many backpackers couldn't be wrong. Just my take!

PS: DerAlte, back in 03, my friends who interned in EU, got cars on rental on back of passport+indian licence. Logic was that for first six months in EU, you can use Indian licence. Is that not true? What I do know is that they came visiting

Last edited by phamilyman : 22nd March 2008 at 23:23.
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Old 23rd March 2008, 00:15   #7
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thanks a lot guys ...... for all the info you have to share! hope to hear from more of you.....

@sankar - exactly!! sam should be invited to this thread pronto!!

@hvkumar - its interesting that you have done the trip twice by rail. i would love to hear how you went about doing it.... do's and don't..... useful website etc etc. cos i haven't rules out taking the rail route..... just fishing for opinions about driving across. please share more information. and its 4 of us in the family travelling.

@deralte - i think as a priority i should plan the journey as you have mentioned. you have listed down quite a few place which are on my list. i guess i should fix the itinerary now to get a clearer picture.

@phamilyman - your right i am aware of the high parking charges, congestion charges, pollution tax and what not!.... phew its an exhaustive list. but my idea was when 4 people are travelling together a car might be just as economical and muchhh more fun. i could be wrong..... but i would love to hear from all you guys.

Last edited by flipsyde : 23rd March 2008 at 00:16.
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Old 23rd March 2008, 00:39   #8
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Quote:
as silly as it sounds i am quite excited about the idea. we plan to rent a mid-size car from avis or europcar or any other car rental service. the whole trip would be for about 21 to 25 days where we plan to cover swiss, uk, france, germany, austria and might try to cover italy and spain too.
LOL... It DOES sound silly but if you really want to do it, go for it!

I'm from Europe myself, the Netherlands, to be exact. To be honest, such a
trip would never even cross my mind. Why? Because, even if I do like driving, with this itinerary, you'd probably spend most of your trip doing just that, driving. And miss out on all the other fun.

If you limit your choice to fewer countries you'll be able to see and
enjoy the places you visit more because you simply will have more time
to spend.

You could, for instance, start in Berlin, Germany then drive to Hamburg & Bremen. Next you could go to the Netherlands, drive through the Provinces
of Groningen, Friesland, Noord Holland & visit Amsterdam. After that you
could visit the Delta Works and enter Belgium to visit Antwerp. Next stop
would be Brugge and then onto Zeebrugge to take the ferry to the UK.
London would be your obvious destination. In the South of the UK there
are so many places you could visit. If you stick to the South disances
will be maneagable. After that you could take a ferry to France. I'd reccommend Le Havre. That way you can explore Normandy and the
Invasion beaches. Next on the list would be Mont Saint Michel. From there
I would head on to Paris. After some time you could head North again,
through the battlefields of WWI to Bruxelles. From the you could head
into the direction of Luxembourg. Then South again through the Eiffel &
Schwarzwald to Strassbourg and lateron, Bern, Switzerland. From there
on I'd reccommend a trip along the Bodensee to Muenchen. And then
it's back to Berlin.

This is just to give you an idea. Less distance is just more to see, imho.

Hope this helps.

TDR
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Old 23rd March 2008, 14:18   #9
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Hi flypside,
Europe is great holidaying in a car :-) You seem to have a good amount of time, so you can cover quite a bit. I did a 10day trip with my parents in a rented Passat in Bavaria, Austria and a trip across the Alps to Venice in Italy - thoroughly enjoyed myself. Driving in the Alps is a real charm.

A few pointers on your requirements. Except for Germany, you need a IDP to drive in other Schengen countries like France, Italy and Austria (I actually drove all over Austria - more than 3000km w/o an IDP since I was not aware that rules vary between Germany and Austria). If you do hit Austria (and I would say you definitely should), you also need a toll sticker and emergency vests for each occupant in the car. You can buy this at most petrol pumps in Germany close to the Austrian border. Check for requirements in France, Italy etc.

Germany has no speed limits on A-bahn except for some stretches where this is marked (road construction, sharp bends, accidents etc...) A8 is an awesome highway (Munich to Salzburg), which is fast and scenic! Remember, in Germany, you cannot drive in left most lane, its only meant for overtaking ... B-roads (fabulously scenic in South Bavaria and into Austria), only have speed limits of 100kmph. When you near a town or village, speed limit is 50kmph only (though some mad caps do speed on). I got a Euro 180 ticket when I was returning after dinner from Chiemsee in Germany to Kaprun in Austria at 10pm in the night and missed to see the town limit signal/speed limit in the night. I was clocked at 88kmph in 50kmph zone - the polizei were quite professional but in lot of confusion as to the procedure for visiting drivers, exact fine etc - changed the fines 3 times and talked to the station 3-4 times. Take care on B-roads.


Austria has speed limits of 130kmph on A-bahn (though people do reach 140-150), and Italy has speed limits of upto 130kmph (though you will seldom see boards and people don't obey rules in Italy - its like European version of India). I was told it never pays to get into trouble with polizza there.

France is also strict on speed limits if they catch you. viamichelin.com is the best site to plan your route maps and trips - esp. it gives radar points all over France. Please input in your exact date and time of travel, because these guys route you around planned maintenance work etc etc (learnt it the hard way in one leg)... They also provide options for fastest, no highways, shortest, and minimum toll etc options.

Places I really recommend below:
* Bavaria :
- Chiemsee and HerrenChiemsee castle (off A8 on way to Salzburg)
- Neuschwanstein castle
* Austria
- Salzburg and around
- Kaprun - Kitzsteinhorn and the 2 beautiful lakes up in the alps
- Grossglockner scenic drive
- Kristalwelten (Swarovski Crystal world) for a different experience
- Vienna
* Italy
- Venice
- Pisa
- Florence
- Rome

-------------------
Though you have planned a good amount of days, it will be difficult to cover whole lot of Europe (too much driving and rushing through main spots). Since you plan to drive, I recommend spending more time visiting places you pass through and going to some less well known spots like Kaprun (truly stunning)... But, take your own pick and happy travelling :-)

Regards,
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Old 24th March 2008, 00:05   #10
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This site has some good driving tips for each European countries.

driving.drive-alive.co.uk

See the driving tips section.

Although driving thru most European countries is an excellent idea, you might consider the trains as well; at least for part of your journey.

If you want to visit main tourist spots then obviously train will be better choice. However, if you like visiting not so common exotic places, then driving is far better.

Why not hire a caravan instead of a car? Hope it doesn't sound like too adventurous
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Old 24th March 2008, 11:14   #11
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@flipsyde, yes, the costs even out between driving and public transport for 3 persons or more in a car. PLUS you have all the more fun together, and can start and stop whenever and wherever you feel like. I have logged more than 100K Km in multiple trips with family and friends in Europe, and loved every moment. Once you are on the road, sometimes the unplanned gives you more thrills and pleasure than the planned. Just prepare yourself for what to (and more importantly - what not to) expect - you will never be disappointed. For cities, the best is Park & Ride - park on the outskirts and then take the whole day pass to roam around on the public transport.
Quote:
Originally Posted by phamilyman View Post
PS: DerAlte, back in 03, my friends who interned in EU, got cars on rental on back of passport+indian licence. Logic was that for first six months in EU, you can use Indian licence. Is that not true?
True, the Indian license is valid for the first 6 months (or every business trip even if it is every month of the year). But, please empathize: most folks outside of cities in Europe don't speak or read English - the IDL helps.
Quote:
Originally Posted by TDR View Post
with this itinerary, you'd probably spend most of your trip doing just that, driving. And miss out on all the other fun...
To an Indian, driving around affords closer contact with all that one has only seen in books, magazines or TV/films. A tourist itinerary on a bus in EU may include a few well known ones, but to see the real stuff up close, there is no alternative to driving.
* I went to Gouda to buy cheese at a farm 10Km outside town, just because I had always wanted to. The lady there was astounded to see an Indian family turn up at her doorstep to buy cheese - first time she had seen Indians in flesh. Went to a working windmill, boated around canals, walked around the countryside - with no anxiety of missing the bus or train
* I love driving around the countryside in France - just to do the wine and cheese tasting. Imagine a bunch of 10 Indians in 2 cars turning up at a village inn near Luneville - to partake a 7 course French meal @FFR90 per head, wine included!!! This time it was we who were surprised - the inn-keeper had travelled around India in the late 50's, and had photographs with Pt.Nehru and Indira Gandhi.
* Mont St. Michel (rekindles old memories, sigh!), sure one can take a bus / train, but then one would miss out the villages on the way selling foie gras, cider, wine ... and foxes and deer running across the highway
* The feeling of driving around on the country roads in autumn is indescribable - one gets only a glimpse in the cities. The hues and shades from green to yellow to brown - if you want to see it outside of photos, you need to drive there
Quote:
Originally Posted by sbasak View Post
Why not hire a caravan instead of a car? Hope it doesn't sound like too adventurous
It WILL definitely be adventurous, however romantic it may sound. For most drivers not used to towing anything behind their vehicle, or driving a bus, driving around with such vehicles in Europe can be quite unnerving to say the least.
* The wind speeds are high enough that one wouldn't dare getting on to the fast highways. Even in a mid-size car, one can feel the buffeting by the wind and make steering corrections. Imaging holding the steering wheel of an inherently unstable jig
* At 60-70Kmph, one is a constant P-i-t-A to other motorists who normally drive at twice that speed
* Driving on meandering roads, cornering and parking is a totally different ball-game
* One has to subsist with basic facilities, especially for ablutions
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Old 24th March 2008, 11:25   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flipsyde View Post
@hvkumar - its interesting that you have done the trip twice by rail. i would love to hear how you went about doing it.... do's and don't..... useful website etc etc. cos i haven't rules out taking the rail route..... just fishing for opinions about driving across. please share more information. and its 4 of us in the family travelling.

.
Eurail is absolutely fascinating and maybe one of teh best ways to see Europe. I did it twice in 2004 and 2007, cost me hardly anything (USD 500 minus per head, savings for couples). I did all my planning myself, using the counry rail web-sites. here is so much of info in these web-sites and you can plan down to the last minute.

My 2004 Eurail trip:
Bonn (Germany)-Koln-Amsterdam (Holland)-Hague-Bonn
Bonn-Frankfurt-Basel (Switzerland)-Schaufhassen (Rhine Falls)-Zurich-Interlaken-Jungfraujoch-Milan (Italy)-Rome-Pisa-Venice
Venice-Lucerne-Interlaken-Geneva-Paris (France)-Frankfurt

My 2007 Eurail trip:
Brussels (Belgium)-Hamburg (Germany)-Copenhagen (Denmark)-Oslo (Norway)-Bergen-Flam-Oslo-Stockholm (Sweden)-Malmo-Berlin-Munich-Zugspitz-Innsbruck (Austria)-Salzburg-Vienna

Planned in such a manner that I maximised my time on board the trains (including some overnighters), saving on expensive hotel rooms. Also made liberal use of lockers in railway stations.
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Old 24th March 2008, 11:35   #13
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Flipsyde, Great on your adventure drive. Get yourself a IDP avaliable at the AA in Mt. Rd, Chennai -

Pl beware of the road rules and courtesies especially on a roundabout abroad. No one uses the horn!!

Stick to speed limits and practise your entry and exit of a motorway!
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Old 24th March 2008, 11:37   #14
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What is the cost of a 4 seater car rental in Europe(lets say you rent from Frankfurt etc.,)
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Old 24th March 2008, 11:50   #15
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What is the cost of a 4 seater car rental in Europe(lets say you rent from Frankfurt etc.,)
It depends on car class, duration of rental, kind of insurance and any special offers. It also helps if you have a Frequent Flier card etc. In 2005 Sep, I rented @ Euro 30+/day for 10 days. I had booked for a Astra, but the Avis guys gave me a brand new Passat :-) Petrol is paid by the renter of course (my benzin bill was higher than my rental due to 3000+ km)...

It also depends on countries you want to visit. Premium cars like MB, BMW are not allowed into Italy and East Europe unless you pay much higher insurance (apparently, more thefts etc in these countries)
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