Driving manual vehicle in europe

Old Jan 4th, 2007, 07:47 PM
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Driving manual vehicle in europe

I am travelling to europe May 2007 and was thinking of hiring a motorhome.
Only problem is, i can only find manual motorhomes for hire.
I am not used to driving a manual vehicle and was wondering if any others have experience driving these vehicles who had not driven manual before?
Have never driven in Europe, manual or automatic so any tips or advice on driving in europe would be appreciated. Will be travelling to Germany France Italy Austria Hungary Poland and Czech Republic.
trip2006 is offline  
Old Jan 4th, 2007, 07:55 PM
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A brief reply to your question: The rental of a vehicle with an automatic shift will be lots more expensive than a manual shift. You have five months to learn how to drive a manual shift, so consider taking some lessons from a friend, relative or pro.

Roads, other than the superhighways, in Europe are often narrow and twisty which would make driving a motorhome a difficult thing to do, IMHO.
Betsy is offline  
Old Jan 4th, 2007, 08:05 PM
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Also, the cost of fuel could be prohibitively expensive.
Underhill is offline  
Old Jan 4th, 2007, 08:23 PM
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I second the suggestion that you take lessons for driving a standard transmission. I drove a standard for 15 years, so I'm not a neophyte, but I don't think I will ever be comfortable with a standard transmission when I have to wait for a light to change and am on a hill. Sometimes I do just fine, and at other times, I stall, holding up traffic behind me.

European traffic is just not the ideal place to learn to drive a car with a standard transmission.
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Old Jan 5th, 2007, 12:32 AM
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If you haven't learned to drive a stick by now (some people actually never forget how to do it once they've learned, myself included) and don't feel inclined to learn, then spend the money for an auto.

For someone like you it is obviously part of the travel expense.

I don't think you are going to save THAT much money on gas, either...not all sticks are fuel sippers.
Dukey is offline  
Old Jan 5th, 2007, 12:47 AM
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Hi trip2006,

I'm sorry, but I think you're doing too much that's new:


I think that's a recipe for an accident, at least. Most roads in Europe are very narrow and wind through villages and towns with no room to back up or turn around. Parking will be a nightmare and expensive, if you can find it at all.

Trying to do all of this with no experience with a manual -- not smart.

If there's ANY way you can avoid this, I would do it. Rent three cars if you have to. Use campgrounds instead (many around the countries you're going to).

I just don't think it's a smart idea.

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Old Jan 5th, 2007, 12:58 AM
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swandav2000 is absolutely right. You "have never driven in Europe, manual or automatic." Therefore you have never parked in Europe either.

This is a recipe for frustration and potential disaster.
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Old Jan 5th, 2007, 02:25 AM
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We rented a manual transmission compact car for our trip to Germany and Benelux in June/July. What a pain in the backside it was in traffic--especially with a vehicle that doesn't have a great deal of get-up-and-go. Never again--even though I drove manual transmission vehicles (from my first car, a little 1959 Renault all the up to semis) 25 years.

The automatic transmission (especially the great varieties we have now) is right up there with the wheel and beer as one of homo sapiens greatest inventions.

Many ATs now give as good as or better gas mileage as their manual counterparts--in fact most manual transmission drivers are so bad at hitting the proper shift points that they'd get better mileage with an automatic no matter what the EPA estimates show.
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Old Jan 5th, 2007, 02:36 AM
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If you follow through with this plan, your first trip to Europe may turn out to be your last...you will be so frustrated and stressed that you won't enjoy it.
Suggeset you skip the motor home plan entirely--you have many options for inexpensive accommodations in Europe that will be just as cost effective (or more so) than a motorhome. Take the train for pleasure and rent a car for the off the beaten path areas not served well by mass transit.
Also, you plan to do 7 countries...in how much time? Even if you have the whole month of May, that's less than one week per country. Sounds too ambitious.

Re, AT v. Manual, Rufus is right. The differences in fuel economy between manual and AT are shrinking fast and only apply anyway to people who drive perfectly all the time.
I take taxis a lot in suburban UK and Brussels. More and more taxi drivers are switching to automatics--easier to drive, less stress, and they say the difference in fuel economy isn't worth noting. A survey of Belgian driving instructors also came out in favor of people switching to AT--they said it would significantly reduce road rage.
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Old Jan 5th, 2007, 02:45 AM
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Hi t,

I am assuming that you already have experience driving RVs and know how to find camp grounds, etc.

As noted, you should learn to drive a stick shift before you get to Europe.

>Will be travelling to Germany France Italy Austria Hungary Poland and Czech Republic.<

You might have difficulty finding an agency that will let you take the vehicle into Hungary, Poland and the CR.

You will need an International Driver's Permit for Italy and Austria.

Be sure to by a road tax sticker when you get to Austria.

Plan on dropping off the vehicle in the same country, if not the same place, that you pick it up.

That's a lot of travelling for one month.

ira is offline  
Old Jan 5th, 2007, 03:44 AM
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Would you even be able to take the motorhome or even a car into all those different countries? Aren't there restrictions on certain countries?
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Old Jan 5th, 2007, 05:02 AM
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Some things to think about:

1) why are you renting a motor home? For inexpensive lodging? Not really a good solution since you will have to sleep far outside of most city centers and spend time and money getting in to see the sites.

2) Do you know the cost of petrol in Europe??? ('nuff said)

3) I am pretty sure it will be hard to find a motor home rental that allows the same vehicle into all those countries

4) How long is the trip - that much driving is about 2 months worth.
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Old Jan 5th, 2007, 05:28 AM
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I agree with swanday2000...too many new things. My husband has driven stick on occasion and I can say that in some of the hilltowns it was a white knuckle ride for me. It takes some getting used to shifting on a hill with the roll back.

I would think that this would be a very stressful vacation for you under the circumstances.
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Old Jan 5th, 2007, 09:36 AM
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I'm sorry to say this - but I think this is a really bad idea.

Many roads in europe are very narrow and twisitng - esp if you'll be anywhere in the mountains. and motorhomes simply won;t fit in the center of many towns - which means you need to leave them on the outskirts and get public transit back and forth every day.

Second - I would never drive any sort of standard transmission vehicle in europe without extensive experience on the same type at home. And I don;t know where you're gong to find one here to practice on.

Third, unless you're used to driving this large a vehicle (either automatic or standard) I would never consider driving in a foregin country with different road conditions and traffic patterns.

Finally - with gas at $6 per gallon - or whatever it is now - along with toll roads and highway stickers - can;t imagine how this can be less expensive than budget accomodations.
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Old Jan 5th, 2007, 09:43 AM
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It wouldn't appeal to me, but I'm not the motorhome type and trip2006 is. I read his prior posts, and he's been talking about doing this for a couple years now. Apparently, he has had experience doing this in the US (but with an AT, I guess), and is from Australia and knows some bad roads. I guess it's just the long road trip idea, and that he likes staying outside cities. NOw I don't mean to speak for trip2006, but thought this info might help others with advice.
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Old Jan 5th, 2007, 10:25 AM
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I have a 34' Bounder, and while most RVs in Europe are not as big as my old beast, I wouldn't even consider it.

You will spend a ton of money on the rental, the fuel will be obscene and trying to negotiate the narrow roads and traffic just isn't worth the hassle.

Few places in Europe are like RV driving in the US. There are no Walmart parking lots. I agree with the others, there is nothing to gain by doing an RV and a huge amount to lose.
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Old Jan 5th, 2007, 10:29 AM
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Christina: That is interesting - but really wouldn't change my advice (can't speak for anyone else but I suspect several of them would say the same)

It is one thing to drive a motor home across the western US w/ the wide open spaces and (relatively) cheap gas, or Australia w/ even MORE wide open spaces.

But the logisitics of traveling through seven European countries in a Motorhome - I still don't think it is a great idea.
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Old Jan 5th, 2007, 12:23 PM
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First, just where are you going to rent a motor home, US style?

Second, have you looked at the cost?
Even a 7 passenger VW van is going to cost your nearly $5000 for a month before you put any gasoline in it.

Third, have you looked at potential restrictions on the rental. Auto Europe says the following: Cars may not travel into Italy, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, or any other Eastern European country.

Between the gasoline costs, parking costs, and rental costs with some insurance protection, you are looking at a total cost of at least $6000 minimum.

A manual shift on a motorhome is not going to be the same as a slick 5 or 6 speed manual shift on a good quality rental small car.

My main concern would be this: Where are you going to park it at night? You might be find places if you are in the Swiss or Austrian Alps where people drive into camping areas with "caravans", but to have a desire to see cities in a big vehicle is not my idea of a good plan.

For example, where would you park a motorhome if you went to New York City and Boston?

I haven't seen too many motorhome parks on Manhattan Island.

In short, I think this is a bad idea.

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Old Jan 5th, 2007, 01:49 PM
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If all those posts haven't scared you off yet you might want to look a alternate budgeting. Compare the cost of motorhome rental, gas, parking, tolls etc to hotels, and either rental cars or trains. Depending on where you want to go there are rail passes that include a day or two of car rental here and there. There are also dirt-cheap airlines availble to make the distance shorter.

How big is your famiily, where do you want to go?
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Old Jan 5th, 2007, 02:25 PM
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Hello trip2006,

Lots of non-RV types here, it seems. But you are reminding me of an very interesting story I heard on NPR a few months ago (note "a few months" could be anytime after the first Bush administration; I'm not good with time) about a woman who travels around Europe every year by RV. She said it is a lot easier than most people realize and that there are campgrounds very conveniently located in most European cities. She and her husband drive to a city, park, get settled, and then use public transportation or bikes to explore as much as they want to. It sounded like a lot of fun to me. No schlepping baggage on trains (although I love train travel too) and you save money not just on lodging, but on meals.

If you are hoping to stay on back roads and off the beaten track then I would agree that you might have a better time renting a small car. I've driven on roads in France where my Dodge Caravan would feel uncomfortably huge -- I can only imagine a RV! But, according to the interview I heard, a trip like the one you are describing is very feasible.

I tried searching the NPR archives and found several stories that looked promising but not the interview I remember. I also looked on amazon.com and saw a number of books (searching for "Europe by RV") including one that might be by the person I heard -- Take Your RV to Europe. If you haven't gotten that you might take a look -- it seems to be very highly recommended on amazon.

As far as your specific question about driving a manual, I have never driven a motor home, but if you are comfortable driving something that size, I just can't imagine that learning to shift would be all that difficult. I agree with Betsy -- get some lessons now.

Good luck and let us know what you decide to do!
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