Driving in Europe can be a huge challenge for visiting Americans. Over the years, countless American tourists have had white-knuckled drives down autobahns and through twisting alpine roads. Though you may never feel totally relaxed when driving somewhere so unfamiliar, there are still various things you can do to make your first European road trip much easier. Here are just a few tips to remember…
When in Rome…
One of the first decisions you’re going to have to make about your trip to Europe is what you’re going to drive. The best advice for visiting Americans is to do as the locals do, sourcing a small car with manual transmission. You’ll find these cars much more convenient for European roads, not to mention much cheaper to rent compared to any of the larger gas-guzzlers we’re used to over here. The manual gears will give you much better control of your car when you’re tackling inclines and tight corners. Furthermore, going for a compact size means that navigating narrow streets and parking in tight spaces becomes so much easier. Just make sure you’re doing your research in advance, as when Europeans say “small” they really mean small. You may need to rethink the amount of luggage you’re planning to take with you.
Learn the Rules
Speaking of doing your research in advance, it’s also important to read up on driving regulations that apply wherever you’re going to be visiting. You’re not going to run into any rules that are going to really throw you off. However, on strange roads where you’ve got enough to think about already, you don’t want to be pulling over every few miles to re-read about priority rules and so on. Even worse, you don’t want to have a rear end accident because you were peering through a window trying to make sense of a sign! Excluding the UK, you drive on the right side of the road, just as you do in the states, and many of the priority rules are more or less the same as they are in America. However, when you’re on a highway, you’re widely expected to stick to the right lane unless you’re passing on the left. In some countries, like Germany for instance, it’s actually illegal to pass on the right.
Know When to Refuel
Service stations can be even rarer in rural areas of Europe than they are in remote American stretches of road. Keep this in mind, and refuel your car wisely. You’ll probably be working with a much smaller tank than you’re used to! It’s also very important to make sure you’re filling up with the right type of fuel. Many cars in Europe take diesel rather than petrol, and filling it with the wrong fuel can easily ruin the engine. If you’re worried about gas mileage and the cost of fuel burning through your budget, then again, you should do some research in advance, and learn about the way continental fuel prices can vary from place to place.