Europe Travel Answers

change location
Tango&CBU's Profile Photo

Getting around Europe

by Tango&CBU Online Now Feb 23, 2009 at 9:26 AM

I have been to Europe a number of times before - and have always used the Euro Rail pass, however, this time - I think I may like to drive - as I will be visiting more countries. So a couple of questions:
Renting - should I obtain an international drivers license
Crossing Borders - into Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Netherlands - are there any issues I should be aware of?
Insurance - should I obtain more car insurance if I do drive?
Thanks everybody for your help with my other questions....
Cheers
Stephanie

Quote & Answer
18 Answers
  • royalempress's Profile Photo

    Re: Getting around Europe

    by royalempress Online Now Feb 23, 2009 at 10:09 AM

    Yes I would obtain an international Driv. Lic.. You should be aware that some countries require you to purchase a road permit sticker before you enter their country, other countries have road tolls, and yet, some have no charges. Usually you pay for the road stickers right before you enter the country, usually in a gas station.

    If you buy/lease your car the insurance is included in the agreement. This, by far, is the cheapest way to go. I'm not sure but I believe you need to use the car at least 17 (?) days. We have purchased the Renault car numerous times and traded it back in at the end of our trip. At first we were really apprehensive about the purchase but it went smooth and the cost very cheap. Renault guarantees you a brand new car with 100% insurance.

    If you rent a car be aware that the costs quoted usually does not cover the added insurance required. Once you arrive to pick up your rental they can tack25-$30 a day on top of the rental.

    Driving will allow you to explore much more than the train.

    Mike

    Be the first to rate this answer!

    Was this helpful? Quote & Answer
  • leics's Profile Photo

    Re: Getting around Europe

    by leics Online Now Feb 23, 2009 at 10:10 AM

    The European train system is excellent (and very reasonably-priced in many countries). You could easily visit lots of countries by train for far less that the Eurail pass costs, because Eurail is not a train operator and point-to-point fare totals are usually much less than the pass cost.

    However, if you do want to hire a car your first problem will be to find a car hire firm which allows international travel. I suggest you get this sorted out first, as you may well find the cost is very high. You will, of course, have personal travel & health insurance and any car hire firm will make very sure that the insurance you buy from them covers all eventualities (and you will pay for it).

    Carrying an IDP is well worth the small expense involved. It offers a bit of extra identification, may help smooth your path in the case of any problems and is a requirement in Italy at least (or a legal Italian translation of your licence).

    You should be aware that countries have slightly different driving laws, and should check out the relevant websites before you arrive.

    You'll need to budget for petrol costs (nowhere near as low as in the US), road tolls, parking costs and possible higher cost of booking an automatic (assuming you do not want a gear-shift, which is far more common).

    Be the first to rate this answer!

    Was this helpful? Quote & Answer
  • mccalpin's Profile Photo

    Re: Getting around Europe

    by mccalpin Online Now Feb 23, 2009 at 10:58 AM

    Yes, yes, yes, for the reasons given above...

    1. Yes, obtain the IDP, even if you see people saying online it's not necessary...

    2. Yes, the main issue crossing the border is whether that requires to buy a decal or sticker to drive on their highways...otherwise, the borders are open, except maybe for Switzerland, who are about to open their borders to the EU (I can't remember what date they were going to do that).

    3. Yes, you want the type of insurance that if anything happens to the car, you can just give it back and walk away...it will be expensive, especially when renting as opposed to leasing.

    My parents in their 70s did this trip starting in the Vienna area, swinging through Austria, Switzerland, Germany, and ending up in Belgium/Luxembourg, where he believes he found the crossroads at which he send the day in the ditch hiding from a German machine gun nest a few feet across the road during the Battle of the Bulge...for flexibility, it hard to beat a car...

    Bill

    Be the first to rate this answer!

    Was this helpful? Quote & Answer
  • leics's Profile Photo

    Re: Getting around Europe

    by leics Online Now Feb 23, 2009 at 11:04 AM

    Switzerland became part of Schengen on 12th December 2008.

    dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,38...

    Be the first to rate this answer!

    Was this helpful? Quote & Answer
  • mccalpin's Profile Photo

    Re: Getting around Europe

    by mccalpin Online Now Feb 23, 2009 at 12:17 PM

    J, I am delighted to be only 2 months out of date ;-)...

    Bill

    Be the first to rate this answer!

    Was this helpful? Quote & Answer
  • leics's Profile Photo

    Re: Getting around Europe

    by leics Online Now Feb 23, 2009 at 12:19 PM

    I'm impressed by even 2 months out of date, because I hadn't even twigged they were going to do it........ :-)

    Be the first to rate this answer!

    Was this helpful? Quote & Answer
  • mccalpin's Profile Photo

    Re: Getting around Europe

    by mccalpin Online Now Feb 23, 2009 at 12:36 PM

    "where he believes he found the crossroads at which he send the day in the ditch hiding from a German machine gun nest a few feet across the road during the Battle of the Bulge"

    arrgh - typing too fast with other things going on...
    "where he (my father) believes he found the crossroads where he SPENT the day in a ditch hiding from a German machine gun nest a few feet across the road during the Battle of the Bulge"

    Bill

    Be the first to rate this answer!

    Was this helpful? Quote & Answer
  • Tango&CBU's Profile Photo

    Re: Getting around Europe

    by Tango&CBU Online Now Feb 23, 2009 at 4:09 PM

    Thanks Mike - great help

    Be the first to rate this answer!

    Was this helpful? Quote & Answer
  • Tango&CBU's Profile Photo

    Re: Getting around Europe

    by Tango&CBU Online Now Feb 23, 2009 at 4:14 PM

    The last number of times I have been - I have enjoyed the train system - as it is far better there than here in Canada - as well, the price is reasonable. However, this time around, as I am travelling with my nine-year old daughter - I felt perhaps it would be easier to have a car at our disposal - stopping where and when we want (or when she wants I should say :))
    Thanks everybody - for all your help.

    Be the first to rate this answer!

    Was this helpful? Quote & Answer
  • royalempress's Profile Photo

    Re: Getting around Europe

    by royalempress Online Now Feb 23, 2009 at 4:38 PM

    When you go through Renault you actually puchase the vehicle through the manufacturer. All the paperwork is set up like you are buying it. We did a lot of research to make sure there was no hidden agenda. It really is a great deal. By purchasing the car you avoid most of the taxes and the expensive airport tax. We try to pick the cars up or drop them off in France. This saves the drop-off fee.

    When you turn your car in you have a option to keep your car and they will ship it to the US/Canada for you. We have picked up and or dropped off cars in Rome, Frankfurt, Paris, X provenance, Venice, and it all went soothly. I'm not exactly
    sure but I think the charge was about1400 for 25 days which included insurance and drop off fee. Once you are done with the car they ship it back to the plant in France and "restore it" then sell it to a "third world country".
    Mike

    Be the first to rate this answer!

    Was this helpful? Quote & Answer
  • royalempress's Profile Photo

    Re: Getting around Europe

    by royalempress Online Now Feb 23, 2009 at 4:44 PM

    I guess I wasn't exactly clear in my last post. If you pick-up or drop-off the car in France you save 1/2 the fee.

    Be the first to rate this answer!

    Was this helpful? Quote & Answer
  • Beausoleil's Profile Photo

    Re: Getting around Europe

    by Beausoleil Online Now Feb 23, 2009 at 5:08 PM

    Peugeot also has a lease/buy-back program if you will need the car 17 days or longer. We have always used their program and been very happy with it. They include all insurance and 24-hour roadside assistance. We've leased the car through a couple agencies but the last few years have used AutoFrance. http://www.autofrance.net/ I'm sure AutoEurope has the same program. http://www.autoeurope.com/

    The only hard and fast rule to the lease program is that you may not be an EU citizen. It is meant for tourists and business people.

    If you choose to rent, check with the rental company to make certain you are allowed to take the car into the countries you intend to visit and are insured for each country. Some agencies do not allow their cars into some countries. I'm not sure why, perhaps insurance problems. I suspect the countries you have mentioned above will not be a problem.

    I believe there is a Canadian equivalent to the AAA and you should be able to get your International Driver's License there very inexpensively. Be sure to take your valid Canadian license with you as you need both.

    The stickers people have menioned above are called vignettes and are tax stickers. It is a road tax that helps support highway maintenance. Switzerland requires a one-year vignette. Austria has limited ones such as a 10-day sticker. The places to purchase these are well marked. If you are on a dual carriageway, you may be stopped by uniformed agents who will sell you the sticker. This is easiest but is not available on smaller roads. There you stop at a local gas station right before the border.

    Enjoy your trip. Your daughter should have a wonderful time.

    Be the first to rate this answer!

    Was this helpful? Quote & Answer
  • mccalpin's Profile Photo

    Re: Getting around Europe

    by mccalpin Online Now Feb 23, 2009 at 9:29 PM

    "Switzerland requires a one-year vignette."

    hahaha, when my father and mother were on their car trip and stopped at the Swiss border (coming from Austria), he was 'greeted' by a stern-looking Swiss guard.

    "Are you planning on driving on highways in Switzerland?" the guard asks in a military, no-nonsense voice.

    My father looked at my mother, then looked at the road, because in another 2 feet, he'd be on a Swiss highway and the only way to avoid it would be to throw the car in reverse, then he finally looked at the guard and said, "Yes", all the while wondering if this was a trick question. ;-) That's how he happened to come to pay for the vignette...

    Bill

    Be the first to rate this answer!

    Was this helpful? Quote & Answer
  • kawanua's Profile Photo

    Re: Getting around Europe

    by kawanua Online Now Feb 23, 2009 at 10:35 PM

    On insurance:
    If you decide to rent a car instead of lease/buy-back, and you have an AMEX card, give them a call and ask for their car rental insurance coverage. I used a rental car in Germany before and AMEX charged around US$25 for something like 6 weeks. This is much cheaper than getting the insurance from the rental agency.

    Be the first to rate this answer!

    Was this helpful? Quote & Answer
  • royalempress's Profile Photo

    Re: Getting around Europe

    by royalempress Online Now Feb 24, 2009 at 7:45 AM

    On one trip that we rented a car I relied on my Gold Bank Card to fill in for the added insurance needed. The bank card company issued me a letter for each country we would be traveling in and that they, the bank card, would cover us for that country. Later, I learned that there were so many loop-holes in promised coverage that it was a farce.

    Mike

    Be the first to rate this answer!

    Was this helpful? Quote & Answer
  • leics's Profile Photo

    Re: Getting around Europe

    by leics Online Now Feb 24, 2009 at 8:55 AM

    I'm glad you pointed that out.

    The one thing I would be seriously worried about is insurance. It's not something on which one should try to cut corners, especially when one is travelling in several countries with different laws and regulations. Taking the hire company's insurance might be more expensive, but at least one knows one is covered for all eventualities.

    Be the first to rate this answer!

    Was this helpful? Quote & Answer
  • Beausoleil's Profile Photo

    Re: Getting around Europe

    by Beausoleil Online Now Feb 24, 2009 at 10:58 AM

    Bill, That is a funny story. Fortunately we were greeted by two very cheerful Swiss guards who offered us the vignette. I suspect you can turn around somehow and go back but we wanted to go forward. When we exited Switzerland, we were on a back road and there were no guards offering stickers. We wondered if we could have come in the back way and avoided the entire expense since we were there simply to buy a box of Swiss chocolates for our son (his only request on our trip!). It was a very expensive box of chocolates!

    We felt much better about paying the tax on a later trip when we were spending a couple weeks there. I must admit I like the Austrian system better.

    Be the first to rate this answer!

    Was this helpful? Quote & Answer
  • delcity's Profile Photo

    Re: Getting around Europe

    by delcity Online Now Feb 24, 2009 at 12:13 PM

    i think . i will. i may. looks like only i is going. maybe "i" schould consider renting a motor bike. if you are afraid of being on something small like many motor bikes are rent one of the three wheel type with two wheels in the front . they are as big as some of the cars in europe.

    Be the first to rate this answer!

    Was this helpful? Quote & Answer
Your Answer
Advanced Editor View Guidelines

Popular Europe Travel Answer Locations