Things to know before driving in Europe!
Many of my clients are “free spirits”. Travellers to whom a rail or bus schedule is simply seen as a barrier to having the freedom to hit the road when and where they please. I always make a point of recommending that they research the rules of the roads they are planning to drive!
1. Velocita Controllata – a common traffic sign in Italy, it’s definitely one you should abide by. The signs relate to the country-wide speed monitoring system called the Tutor System - a series of radar kiosks which monitor your speeds between each. If your plates register as passing too quickly between the monitors you are flagged as “too fast” and the fines begin multiplying. A big shocker when you return your rental car! Either stop for a café between kiosks or simply obey the speed limit to avoid hefty charges.
2. The Sport of Tailgating – popular through most Western Europe …. This annoying and dangerous practice is taken to Olympic sport levels by the Germans. There are stretches of the Autobahn that still have no posted speed limits. Maniacs in high end sport models will appear in your rear mirror and ride your rear unmercifully until you are able to move right. If you spot one of these idiots approaching, lower your window and place your arm out, palm down and slowly “pat the air”. This is the universal signal of “slow down idiot” I can’t pass yet!
3. Sunday is Best Day – if you have a long drive ahead, try to schedule it for a Sunday. Ninety percent of Europe’s truckers take a day of rest on Sundays which means the right slow lane is empty of big rigs and the left lanes have fewer speed maniacs trying to pass!
4. Parking Patsies – don’t ignore parking signs just because you can’t read the language! Foreigners are the ultimate target for tow truckers. Be sure to read (or translate) the required parking fees and restrictions. For instance in Florence, Italy you can’t even drive through certain areas of the Historic Centre of the city without a special permit, let alone park there! Cameras take pictures of your license plate and the fines are forwarded to your rental car company. A handy “translator” app is a useful item while driving through Europe.
5. Do Not Drink Alcohol and Drive – absolutely unforgiving. A complete non-tolerance of drinking and driving exists within many countries in Europe. Although you are allowed the equivalent of one glass of wine with dinner in Berlin ….. there is a “0” tolerance in the heavy drinking radius of Prague which is only a short four hours away. Be safe and leave the car at the hotel when a bottle of wine or partying is the plan for the evening. Remember, a drunken foreigner in a car can easily morph into handcuffs and blinking under harsh bright lights!
6. Toll highways are common throughout many countries in Europe - Most are based on distance driven however certain countries such as Austria and Czech Republic base their tolls on flat-rate, time based passes. You purchase windshield stickers valid for 1 – 10 day periods and/or monthly or yearly bases. If you are caught on an Austrian autobahn without a valid sticker you can face fines between $400-$4000 Euros!!!
Driving in Europe is easy, fun and a pleasurable way to see the various countries. With the correct planning and preparedness, it can be the best part of your holiday. Check with your travel consultant for restrictions about age, license requirements and the restrictions (if any) about travel between certain countries prior to departure to avoid any costly mistakes.
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