Driving in Europe

Dec 28th, 2012, 04:06 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 9
Driving in Europe

My husband and I are planning a trip to Europe. We are planning on flying to Paris and driving through Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Italy, and France where we are taking a train to London to fly home. We plan on staying two weeks.
My question is about the roads we travel on, are they safe? I am extremely afraid of heights, and I know we will be traveling on roads through the mountains. Are there less mountainess roads to travel on, or is that impossible?
I would love any advice.
jcparr is offline  
Dec 28th, 2012, 04:11 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 9,017
Advice: Wherever there's a mountain, there will always be a valley. What would you consider an unsafe road? You can kill yourself on any road.
logos999 is offline  
Dec 28th, 2012, 04:29 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Oct 2012
Posts: 64
My husband and I have driven in Europe a number of times, and I wouldn't say driving there is any more dangerous than driving in the States. Personally, we do not like driving in the big cities as there are too many limited traffic zones (I'm thinking Italy here.), and drivers do tend to be a little more reckless, but I find that in NYC, Chicago, LA, SF, Miami, Dallas, etc, too.

You say that you're going to be there two weeks. . . .Are you giving yourselves enough time to enjoy? You're covering a lot of mileage in two weeks, You're giving yourselves roughly 2.25 days per country, and that includes driving time. I might reconsider going through five countries and limit yourselves so you can do more than see them from your car.

Have fun!
Chris_Cutler is offline  
Dec 28th, 2012, 04:59 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 415
Unless you know for sure that you will never return, and there are sites you absolutely must see, you are tackling far too much for this to be an enjoyable trip. I agree with Chris C that you should consider cutting the scope of your trip.

Consider taking high speed trains between major cities and rent a car locally. That way you would minimise driving & parking problems.

As for driving, I doubt you would have any problems. With your itinerary you will be confined to main roads and all will be well formed & safe even in the mountains.
GregY2 is offline  
Dec 28th, 2012, 05:20 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 28,930
driving is very safe, same as usa or other westernized places... some drivers are not safe, just like home.. it is quite easy.


but in 2 weeks this is much too far... drop italy completely..

take a GPS with europe maps..

i might even suggest that you fly to the south of france rather than paris.. or fly to your western most point and drive back....

are you aware of the large car drop off fee? easy to avoid in some cases like picking up and droping off car in same country. fly to paris and drop off in nice
rhkkmk is offline  
Dec 28th, 2012, 05:22 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 46,422
You are taking on a massive amount of driving in two weeks - too much, IMO. Not fun.

The roads in Europe are fabulous for the most part, the drivers expert (but often fast). But without knowing the roads you plan to travel on, it's impossible to say if there are more or less safe ones.
StCirq is online now  
Dec 28th, 2012, 06:05 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 27,866
Isn't there an issue with taking a rental car obtained from outside of Italy INTO Italy??
DebitNM is offline  
Dec 28th, 2012, 06:06 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 64,318
All that PLUS a stop in London . . . in two weeks?

Sorry but being afraid of heights is the least of your problems. You could spend your two weeks in Germany, or in Italy, or in France, or in Switzerland - and barely scratch the surface in any of them.

Why the need to dash around like that?
janisj is online now  
Dec 28th, 2012, 07:08 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 3,820
"My question is about the roads we travel on, are they safe? I am extremely afraid of heights, and I know we will be traveling on roads through the mountains. Are there less mountainess roads to travel on, or is that impossible?"

Depending on where you are going, there may be less-mountainous roads. But, those may also take longer to drive to your next destination. Check google maps or vaimichelin.com.

I, too, am afraid of heights, but I drive on every trip... alone as a solo female traveler. I like the flexibilty/freedom the car allows. Do have to admit that there have been many roads (narrow winding roads, no barriers against steep cliffs, high bridges, steep switchbacks, etc.) that have totally freaked me out. When I die of stress/heart attack, it will be because I've done one of these drives once too much!!!

If someone else is driving, just close your eyes at the scary parts.
joannyc is online now  
Dec 28th, 2012, 07:13 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 7,138
You definitely don't want a car in cities. And it's expensive to park in cities. Another place you don't want a car is Switzerland. Some of the cutest towns are off-limits to cars. But the Swiss public transportation by train/bus/boat/funicular/ski lift/gondola is superb and superbly coordinated. You can enjoy the scenery, not have to keep your eyes on the road.

What time of year do you plan this trip?

You need to do some more research, decide what you really want to see. Because you don't have nearly enough time for 6 countries. You're going to have to do some pruning of your itinerary. Assume you will return.
Mimar is offline  
Dec 28th, 2012, 07:52 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,133
I suffer from a fear of heights, so if you're like me, you're probably wondering if roads in the mountainous areas you'll be traveling in have steep dropoffs, lack of guardrails, lots of switchbacks, and the like.

You could possibly get specific answers to questions like that if you tell us which routes you are planning to take.

Other than those kinds of concerns, yes, the roads (especially the highways) are safe, just like they are in the U.S. And I agree with other posters that it sounds like you're planning too much geography for two weeks.
Lexma90 is offline  
Dec 29th, 2012, 05:01 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 2,911
Driving in Europe
Posted by: jcparr on Dec 28, 12 at 8:06pm Posted in: Europe Tagged: Austria , France , Germany , Italy , Switzerland
My husband and I are planning a trip to Europe. We are planning on flying to Paris and driving through Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Italy, and France where we are taking a train to London to fly home. We plan on staying two weeks.
My question is about the roads we travel on, are they safe? I am extremely afraid of heights, and I know we will be traveling on roads through the mountains. Are there less mountainess roads to travel on, or is that impossible?
I would love any advice.


The roads are safe. Are you safe? Have you ever driven in Europe before? You appear to be a newbee. I suggest that you get familiar with driving rules and signage before you take to the road. See http://tinyurl.com/3bc2ax for an introduction.

I've driven through much of Europe. The expressways are as good as any in the USA. Lesser roads through the mountains and along the coasts can be worrisome. Probably the worst I have experienced is the coast road from Genoa to Nice. Driving through the hills of Slovenia and Croatia was also a problem. You can alter your route when you see a lot of zig-zags for a road on a map.

Like everyone above I would say you are cutting too much for two weeks. I would do France first, and maybe pop over to Germany or Switzerland for a few days. If you keep Italy beware of the ZTL! It has been discussed frequently on this Fodor's Forum.
spaarne is offline  
Dec 29th, 2012, 05:03 AM
  #13  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 9
Thanks for all the great advice! I should have said scary roads for someone with a fear of heights, not unsafe roads.
We took a road trip through California last summer and covered quite a bit. It was wonderful, and we got to see most of the highlights of the state. We were sort of thinking of doing the same thing in Europe. We will of course have to adjust as we go. My husband was stationed in Germany 30 years ago and is familiar with driving through some of the countries on our list.
One more question; this trip is scheduled for the middle of June, what kind of weather should we expect? What type of clothes should we pack for the different areas? I am sure higher elevations are much cooler, but will it be summer like temps in most areas?
jcparr is offline  
Dec 29th, 2012, 05:14 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 57,890
June is summer everywhere - but naturally in the mountains you will need a light jacket and sweater in the evenings.

European roads are generally well-maintained - but there are many routes through the mountains that have limited shoulders and drop-offs next to the road. You will need to identify specific routes to determine the conditions on each road.

A much bigger issue is that you are trying to pack a 6 week vacation into 2 weeks. We have done MANY road trips through europe - and none were as extensive as this - not even my first trip when we had almost 6 weeks. In a typical road trip we would start in Rome (3 days) and end up in Paris (3 days) and stop in probably 4 towns (NOT countries) in between. But - this would be a 3 week - 22 days - trip - and worked only because we have been to Rome and Paris a couple of times before and seen most of the major sights.

What you have described is a road trip of the type done by college kids - with a couple of drivers taking turns driving 5 or 6 hours at a time, stopping overnight and starting over again in the morning - giving you very little time to actually see much of anything.
nytraveler is offline  
Dec 29th, 2012, 05:26 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 2,343
I notice you didn't ask "if" you should drive or "if" your itinerary was too much so I am glad to see that you ignored the responders who offered only criticism of your chosen vacation style.

If, by chance, you are undecided on what things you like to eat, or wear, perhaps you can post another question and get their advice on those subjective matters, too.

European roads are as good, if not better ,than most in North America, in my experience. If you stay on the major roads through the mountainous areas, you will probably be shielded from most of the vistas that could cause fear; smaller grades, dual lanes, guardrails, etc.. If you start taking smaller or local roads in the mountains, there will likely be some hairpin turns and narrow roadways that could cause you some concern. If you drag the "little yellow man" icon on Google Maps on to your potential routes you can get a picture of the specific road. Not a perfect solution since you can't view every but of a journey, obviously, but iy might give you some comfort.
Aramis is offline  
Dec 29th, 2012, 09:28 AM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 64,318
At the risk of incurring aramis' wrath . . .

"We took a road trip through California last summer and covered quite a bit. It was wonderful, and we got to see most of the highlights of the state."

My guess is you saw LA, SD, SF, some of the coast, maybe Yosemite, possibly Tahoe - most visitors think those are the 'highlights'. That is a rushed but doable two weeks. But isn't nearly 'most' of the state's 'highlights.

So fine - you enjoyed your road trip -- of one state. You want to hit five countries - each entirely different. And while there are big multi-lane highways (like I-5 and 101 in CA) in some of the places you are going -- they are not, for the most part, scenic routes. More often than not you'll want to get off the main roads - and the alternatives are much slower. Plus driving in old/congested European towns and cities isn't like tooling up the middle of California. The traffic in LA may be bad --but the city was built for cars . . . not so where you are going this time around.

If you mainly want to drive for two weeks - that is one sort of trip (and I take/enjoy 'road trips' ALL the time). But if you want to stop and see much along the way, you really would need to cut back . . . a LOT.

So mainly depends on the sort of trip you want.

Now aramis can load up her ammo . . .
janisj is online now  
Dec 29th, 2012, 11:32 AM
  #17  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 9
I think my original question was about how scary the mountainous roads are throughout our trip. I want to stay on the main roads throughout.
Did I mention my husband has driven from Bamburgh, Germany to la scala, Spain before?
We don't plan on driving more than 5 hours at a time, and we will probably use the trams/trains through Switzerland.(good advice)
No there is no way we saw all the highlights in CA, but we did see the ones we planned.
We, in no way think we are going to see all there is to see in Europe, but we will use the flexibility of driving as our main mode of transportation. We plan on two nights each in London, Paris and Rome where we will take some tours, and no driving in the cities.

I am in no way comparing the two areas, but good planning helps a great deal.

Our road trip to CA started when we landed in SF, rented a car and drove to Montery, where we stayed in a beautiful B&B. We drove on to Carmel,then down scenic Hwy 1 where we viewed Bir Sur,and eventually stayed the night in Pismo Beach. Next, we spent the day in Hollywood,took a tour, then headed on to Palm Springs where we spent 2 nights and played golf. The next stop was Yosemite, and Sequioa NP. From there we went to Napa Valley, stayed the night, toured the oldest vineyard in NV, and drove the scenic roads. We ended our trip back at SF, took a boat tour, rode the cable cars, visited Chinatown, Little Italy and stayed two nights before flying out.

I really appeciate everyone's advice, it will help tremendously in our planning. Please keep sharing!
jcparr is offline  
Dec 29th, 2012, 01:16 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 2,343
janisj - no need for ammo.

You desire to admonish, criticize, and "correct" people for not traveling they way you like to travel - even when the questions they pose are entirely unrelated to the worthiness of their itinerary.

I would call that self-inflicted damage.
Aramis is offline  
Dec 29th, 2012, 02:25 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,133
As a person with a fear of heights, if you could handle driving or riding in a car going south on Rte 1 to Big Sur, then you'll be ok driving in Europe!
Lexma90 is offline  
Dec 29th, 2012, 02:49 PM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 57,890
Not necessarily so. I have driven on roads in northern Italy and Switzerland that were two narrow lanes - one in each direction - and trucks or buses going in the other direction took part of your lane. And when you were next to a drop-off there was sometimes a small shoulder and sometimes just a small amount of grass ( 1 to 2 feet) with driveway reflectors stuck in so you could see the drop off after dark.

Granted if you stick to the largest highways you will almost always have a wall between you and a drop-off - but if you are really fearful, definitely check your routes in advance - including side trips to smaller towns.
nytraveler is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 10:50 AM.