I recently came back from a festive visit to Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber and most people I spoke to were suprised to hear that we drove from the U.K. Driving on the continent can be a fantastic road trip so I wanted to share my top tips!
Driving on the Continent – Top Tips:
Driving on the continent can be a long journey so we often book a room at the Travelodge or Premier Inn at the Eureka Park in Ashford, Kent the night before we’re due to travel. This is just fifteen minutes down the road from the Channel Tunnel which is our preferred method of travel, it’s much quicker than the ferry and every minute counts when you have such a long journey.
We always book an early morning Channel Tunnel train (think 6am or even earlier) which means that you can literally hit the ground running when you arrive in France. Don’t forget that you lose an hour straight away due to the time difference when you arrive in the continent, so if you can stomach an early start I’d recommend it!
Don’t forget that on the continent they drive on the right side of the road, with passing and overtaking on the left.
Plan your route carefully to avoid toll routes which can be expensive and add additional cost to your journey but they can also minimise your travelling distance.There are a lot of toll roads in France, Switzerland and Italy so be mindful of these when you are planning your route.
In France, you can purchase the LIBER-T tag before you travel which means you can keep zooming through the tollways and you will be charged accordingly, without having to physically stop at each toll point. The cost of each toll is the same, but the automation will definitely save you time in the long run as it’s the fastest lane through the toll stations.
In France, you are also required by law to carry a breath analyser kit, red warning triangle and high visibility jacket in your car so make sure you’ve got all this tucked away in your boot (but easily accessible should you need it).
In Austria, you need to purchase a vignette which is a toll sticker to drive on the roads. You can get these from all of the service stations in Austria but I’d recommend that you buy one at the first service station you see when you cross the border. You can get them for various lengths but the minimum is for ten days so if you’re return trip isn’t within ten days you’ll need to purchase the two month vignette instead.
You’ll need to make sure your car has a GB sticker as some countries require this. Your vehicle registration plate might already have a GB label on it.
Check the fuel prices on the continent and try to plan your route via Luxembourg if you can because fuel is significantly cheaper! A litre is typically 95 pence so it’s best to stock up when you have the chance, especially on your way back to the U.K.
Share the driving with all drivers and change every 2-3 hours. We’ve driven all the way to Venice, Italy in 13 hours using 3 drivers when conditions were favourable so you can get quite far!
If your journey is really long and you need to take overnight stops, try to locate small hotels or pensions just off the autobahns (motorways) for a quiet but convenient stopover because you need to get quality sleep if you still have a long journey the following day.
Make sure you’ve got some local currency handy for all the countries you pass through for tolls. You might also need some change for toilet stops; it’s usually around 50 cents in most service stations.
Before you travel, make sure you’ve got valid breakdown cover and make sure that this extends to Europe, the last thing you want is to break down and to find out that you’re not covered on the continent. Also check your car insurance to make sure that you are covered to drive on the continent. Print out your travel documents and take a copy of your passport and driving license just in case you are stopped by the police.
In most countries you’ll also need headlight adjusters so you don’t dazzle other drivers. Some cars will automatically adjust but you can get headlamp converters that you just stick on over your lights.
On such a long journey you’re going to need plenty of journey snacks to keep you going. I normally pack bottles of water and Diet Coke along with a few cans of red bull (needed after the early start!). We usually eat lunch on the move and only pull over to change drivers and for toilet stops so we pack some sandwiches, crisps and some snacks to eat on the way. We also have tonnes of travel sweeties like haribo and maoams in the car.
Of course you need some class entertainment for such a long journey. We normally create a music playlist of tracks to listen to – our last playlist had about 12 hours of tunes on! You can also play games or download some films onto your phone if you’re a passenger.
Have you driven on the continent before?