Driving across Europe

Old Mar 1st, 2006, 06:38 PM
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Driving across Europe

We are driving from Amsterdam to Koln, Germany to Milan, Italy to Florence, Italy. Any advice on driving through Europe? Laws to know, finding your way, how to eat and do bio functions on the way. . .
ernieH is offline  
Old Mar 1st, 2006, 07:06 PM
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Drive in the right lane. Europeans, especially Germans, are serious about the left lane being for the fast drivers. You may be surprised, when you are driving 75 or 80, that there's someone breathing down your talipipe.

There are rest stops along major highways and autobahns, with restaurants, restrooms, gas stations, etc., at reasonable intervals.

Get a good map. Signs often seem to name all the small towns along the way but sometimes don't mention the major cities. Find your route on the map before you start driving.
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Old Mar 1st, 2006, 07:16 PM
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Assuming you're from the US:

1.Get an International Drivers Permit (translation of your lic) and carry it along with you regular license

2. Be aware of different road conditions/driving styles
-highway driving is much faster than in the US (some places have no limits - and cars will do 150 mph+) and you CANNOT drive in the left lane - which is for passing only (europeans are VERY serious about this and will essentially push you to the right if you try to do it)
-most road signs are pictorial and should not be a problem -just be aware how exit signs work - may list a route, or all towns on that road or just onemajor town
-local driving is on roads that are often narrow and twisting and parking places can be VERY small; many small towns have pedestrian only areas in the center
-don;t assume hotels have garages or lots - esp in cities - many don;t - and you need to plan for this in advance
-drinking and driving is an absolute no-no (allowed blood alcohol levels are much lower than in most of the US); they can pull your lic on the spot

3)Be sure you have GOOD maps - we us Michelin for countries/major areas and get car (not walking) maps for all towns we plan to enter off the internet - since many streets are one-way.

4)Separately, renting a car in Amsterdam and dropping in Italy will result in a very large drop-off charge (in case you haven;t looked at rates lately).

Also - european cars are generally much smaller than in the US - SUVs/trucks are few due to high price of gas ($5/$6 per gallon and up). Be sure to rent one that will hold you and your luggage - don;t judge by category - look at details on the web sites as to how many people and cases the car will hold.

Don't be overfaced - we find driving in europe to be a lot of fun (you can really let the car out to see what it can do - unlike in the US). As long as you are good, confident drivers (and do make sure you buy coverage for more than one driver) you should have no trouble at all.

As for bio stops - all the major highways have rest stops - some with basic food (like a 7/11) up to cafeterias and real restaurants. We have always found them to be immaculate and efficient.
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Old Mar 1st, 2006, 07:16 PM
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Buy a good set of maps; use mappy.com or viamichelin.com for driving directions and estimates of time.
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Old Mar 1st, 2006, 08:43 PM
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Most important is to know the international road signs. It could be your life.

A good introduction to driving in Europe is at

A good lunch with a glass of wine can be found about every 40 miles or so. Toilette facilities are clean and well maintained on the major roads. It's not much different than driving the Ohio Turnpike, except the food is better in Europe and you can really speeeeeed in Europe, especially on German Autobahnen where there are no speed limits.

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Old Mar 1st, 2006, 09:05 PM
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Don't frget to budget for pricey tolls on the Autostrada in Italy.
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Old Mar 1st, 2006, 09:19 PM
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Autobahns and Autostradas are good and fast, especially in Germany. One must be assertive, especially in Germany and certainly in Italy. DO NOT try to drive into the cities in Italy or Spain! (Especially Milan) Do keep change handy for toll freeways in Italy, France and Spain. Get a good map , get off the freeways to enjoy the awesome scenery once in a while and have a great time!
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Old Mar 2nd, 2006, 04:30 AM
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If you get off the main roads in southern Germany:

1. Many stretches of road designated as passing zones are very dangerous. We drove through passing zones on uphill slopes and around curves that no one should attempt passes on--and I'm not usually shy when it comes to passing other vehicles. I wonder if it's a remnant from the days when you could get stuck behind a honey bucket or wagon being pulled by a cow at 1/2 km per hour--you could zip around them in a second.

2. It's tough to find places to eat mid-morning and mid-afternoon--most places seem to have set lunch and dinner hours, and there aren't very many chain places that are open all day in smaller towns.

3. We're used to following route number signs in the USA. You don't see as many in Germany--as you leave each town, there's a sign showing the next few towns you'll be passing through. So your navigator needs to know which towns are along the route you want to take.

4. Some gas stations do not take Visa, MasterCard, AMEX, etc. Have some cash for gas.

Again, this is if you get off the Autobahn.
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