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Europe Road Trip: Need Suggestions and Advice

McLean
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Europe Road Trip: Need Suggestions and Advice

We (a couple and a 3-year old son) are planning a road trip through Europe in September by taking advantage of the Overseas Delivery Program of Volvo. This will be my first trip anywhere outside of USA, so I would really appreciate your suggestions and advice.

Our plan is to cover Hamburg-Berlin-Prague-Vienna-ljubljana-Venice-Rome-Florence-Monaco-Bercelona in 18 days.

Do you think this is possible, or a good plan? We do not need to visit every tourist spot in these cities, but would like to drive around and take some snaps and enjoy at least one dinner at the heart of each city.

What places would you suggest in each of these city, or on the road, as must-see?

How expensive could it be very expensive considering the fuel cost, decent accommodation and not-so-fancy food?

In which cities should I spend more than 1-2 days?

We know only English, and no other languages. Would you suggest dropping any of these cities from our plan because of that?

Please let me know about ANY other thing that you think would be helpful for us. Thanks in advance.

Edited: 30 July 2014, 17:49
Lewes, United...
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1. Re: Europe Road Trip: Need Suggestions and Advice

Hi

I don't have time to go into the details of what I feel you might need to know about for this trip of yours - especially as it's not just your first road trip, but your first foreign trip.

However, in the mean while, so I'm not offer irrelevant info, please would you explain what the Volvo delivery plan covers, as it seems you start and end in different cities. Also, what have you already booked, if anything? Do you have any commitments or is the whole trip plan flexible and able to be changed to accommodate better or different suggestions?

SWT

McLean
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2. Re: Europe Road Trip: Need Suggestions and Advice

Hi SussesWorldTraveller,

Thanks a lot for responding and willing to give an informed opinion.

We may take delivery of our new Volvo at any of 20 select cities across Europe. We have selected Hamburg. We may drop it off for shipping to US at any of those 20 cities. We selected Barcelona. Volvo would also pay for auto-insurance for 30 days across Europe. These are the only tight ends. Volvo has booked one-night hotel stay for us in Hamburg. No other hotel booking has been done yet.

Also, the start and end dates are fixed. We will reach Hamburg on Sep 15 and leave Barcelona on Oct 3.

The trip plan we have in mind (in my original post) is what we both want to cover. But we are open to any suggestions from seasoned travelers.

Thank you

west midlands
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3. Re: Europe Road Trip: Need Suggestions and Advice

i think both madrid and pamplona should be added to your trip, both fantastic places in my opinion, im not a massive fan of barcelona, watch out for pick pockets on las ramblas

McLean
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4. Re: Europe Road Trip: Need Suggestions and Advice

Thanks amesharvey3

Thanks for your suggestion. However, the last stop is Barcelona and that can not be changed now. I don't think we will have enough time to go up to Madrid and be back to Barcelona for the return flight.

Lewes, United...
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5. Re: Europe Road Trip: Need Suggestions and Advice

Thanks for explaining about the Volvo plan. I had no idea as I never buy new cars! However, I'd suggest you might still want clarification about the 30 day car insurance, to understand how comprehensive it is and what excesses there are, and whether you need any kind of top up insurance to cover other areas not covered by it.

Now to more boring stuff: Do you know that to drive in Austria, Czech Republic and Slovenia, you will need to purchase a vignette to allow you to drive on the express roads (interstate equivalents) in those countries? Each one is bought separately. Italy, France and Spain have toll road systems. These are expensive, too. While most toll booths are automated and will take credit cards, if you don't have a PIN, you may find a USA credit card won't work, so I'd have lots of cash instead or as well, in case. Some machines will give change.

I've not checked the requirements, but each European country also has a list of different safety equipment. Speed limits and road signs can differ as well. You can google around for some of this info. Here's a link with some of the basics to get you started:

…wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_European_t…

I am assuming that a brand new car will have built in GPS. This will help immeasurably with navigation, but you'd need to check whether further east countries like Czech Republic and Slovenia are included, or whether you need to update the system or buy more CDs. You'll need to get maps for the USA as well, ultimately, I'd guess. You need to consult Volvo for this, I expect. However, please may I suggest you also get yourself a good paper road atlas for the whole of Europe. This is easier for route planning as you travel, and will help you get out of a hole if there's a traffic diversion where the GPS cannot help, or similar issues. Look on Amazon for a good atlas, I find those published by Michelin to be the best.

Now to route planning. You may be familiar with Googlemaps, but for Europe, I find the better website - and it shows the toll roads - would be:

www.viamichelin.com/

I have more questions, now, before I comment in detail on your choice of destinations and actual route options, places to visit, etc. What do you hope to get from this road trip? Are you after scenic drives? Are you wishing to use the car as a way of visiting many well known, historic cities? Have you any understanding of what driving is like in Europe, given that you’ve never visited any part of it so would find how things work and the set up hard to visualise?

Why I really think you need to consider this is because I suspect you may not have much idea what you are letting yourself in for with this road trip. Driving in Europe requires a totally different mindset and expectation from driving in north America. The car is not king. The built environment came long before the modern road system, so driving is not straightforward between destinations. Then there's the issues for cities, with traffic, congestion, complicated road systems, traffic lights, no drive zones, etc. Then parking.

It would be really helpful if others who follow this forum, who are from north America but have driving experience in Europe were to share their impressions of the differences and the kinds of aspects they feel you might want to be aware of, what you need to learn about, etc.

Another point I feel might be worth mentioning here is that to see most major cities, even briefly, most visitors need 2 nights there to give you a full day exploring. Then, up to a whole driving day in between each destination might be required. Thus, using this basis, you do not have enough time to see that long list of places on your list. However, without more information on your travel style and trip plan, I am not sure what your plans are.

Most of the destinations on your list are not car friendly, with cobbles, or complex one way systems, heavy traffic for much of the day, limited parking, etc. Thus you need to consider where you stay, and chose somewhere convenient to local public transport, which it would be better to switch to for inner city tourism. Venice has its own issues, as you cannot drive around it at all, anyway. Parking needs to be researched for convenience of location, and security. I’d be very selective of where I’d park a brand new car with foreign plates.

I realise some of what I’ve said may not be what you wanted to hear, and not exactly what you asked for in your post, but I do feel that before you can move onto the much more fun aspects of planning your trip, you need to understand the fundamentals of what you are undertaking.

Finally, however much I love Madrid and Pamplona, I really don’t think you have time to add them, nor really do they fit your plan – so I do think your view on this is correct.

SWT

Lewes, United...
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6. Re: Europe Road Trip: Need Suggestions and Advice

You also asked about how expensive Europe or perhaps just your planned trip would be. It's impossible to answer this question, as what I might consider cheap is expensive to you. With regard to the cost of gas, tolls, etc, the linked viaMichelin website will show that, pretty accurately. However, as to the rest, it rather depends on the type of accommodation you opt for, whether you eat fast food or like fancy restaurants, that type of thing. What are your daytime plans? Just strolling cities, or visiting attractions and amusements for the kid that charge entrance fees.

Once we have more info on your plans, and then have some idea of the whole trip route and stops, you can cost out the trip more easily and work out how this fits any budget.

However, if you want us to say whether in ball park terms you thinking is realistic, please quote in Euros. You will need to think in Euros for the trip, anyway.

Language. Of course, speaking the local languages would be useful, but we would not expect that. The only thing you need is English and a smile and patience. However, you may well get a much better reception and service if you go the extra mile and learn how to say good morning or afternoon or evening plus please and thank you in all the relevant languages. In tourist areas, almost everybody speaks English, often remarkably fluently.

SWT

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7. Re: Europe Road Trip: Need Suggestions and Advice

hi

some links to help in your planning before SWT returns to give detailed info

for route planning www.viamichelin.com Using avoid tolls for secondary, usually scenic, roads and, google maps with street view to look around the neighbourhood where the hotels are located.

for Italy driving in major cities there are ZTL; this will change your plans of driving into the cities. italybeyondtheobvious.com/dont-mess-with-ztl…

I use www.kayak.com to look for hotels as it has good filters to narrow down search; then look at read reviews on TA; then locate it on google maps and do a virtual drive around near the hotel.

in google when you first look for an address/town you can change the search bar to "hotel" where red dots appear showing all the hotel nearby. the dots has info about each hotel. the more you zoom in the better the results an example https://goo.gl/maps/15tqW

this is your route in google maps, it shows 3,500 km which means a min of 200 km (about 120 mi per day) this would not give you a lot of time to do any touring especially since most of it is in cities in Italy you want to visit have Limited traffic zones called ZTL which means you can not drive into the centre, thereby using up quite a bit of time getting in and out of cities italybeyondtheobvious.com/dont-mess-with-ztl…

and Barcelona even though quite easy to drive is not an easy city to find parking.

As a general rule I now only plan "road trips" in Europe if I plan on staying out of the major cities and mostly drive the country side with a stay in smaller cities and towns.

I did a similar route some 35 yrs ago when it was easy to drive just about anywhere in the cities and find cheap parking; now that driving is being discouraged in the major cities I tend to avoid them when doing a road trip. Most of the cities on your list would need at least 3 nights if you want to have a good look at a city, so I think you have too much on your list unless you only want to do a drive by.

edit: SWT returned before I got time to post (-:

Edited: 31 July 2014, 17:17
Penticton, Canada
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8. Re: Europe Road Trip: Need Suggestions and Advice

hi

please let us know if you would consider alternate routes; if yes then let us know which cities are a must see and not negotiable.

cheers

Lewes, United...
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9. Re: Europe Road Trip: Need Suggestions and Advice

cba - yes, seems we've been cross posting. I'm glad you've explained that road trips in Europe today work better if the destinations are smaller towns. I concentrated on some practical advice and was hoping somebody would express that view. Yes, our early road trips, we didn't really care where we went and what kind of cities were on the list and has no issues, we're much more careful these days.

SWT

McLean
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10. Re: Europe Road Trip: Need Suggestions and Advice

Whoaa!! That's a wealth of information. Thanks a ton.

Now it hit me that I am going OUTSIDE of USA.

I have talked with Volvo and it seems that I can change the city where I will drop the car off (of course I will have to pay a fee for this change). After reading your comments, we are now thinking of dropping Monaco and Barcelona. My wife does not want to drop Berlin or Rome. I really want to see Prague and Vienna.

I checked www.viamichelin.com and this is indeed better than GMaps for Europe. Thank you. I will have GPS and an atlas, too.

We wish we hadn't selected Hamburg. We did that just to save some money. The delivery fee in Hamburg is $150 cheaper than that in Berlin!

Now, to SWT's questions:

What do you hope to get from this road trip?

As you know already, this is my first trip outside USA. I really have no idea what to expect. I just want to see how the old world is - nature, culture, history and people.

Are you after scenic drives?

Scenic drives would be great if doesn't take double the time to travel. I expect 3 to 4 hours travel time between cities. That can be stretched to, say, 6 hours

Are you wishing to use the car as a way of visiting many well known, historic cities?

I want to soak in Europe as much as I can. Using the car is secondary.

Have you any understanding of what driving is like in Europe, given that you’ve never visited any part of it so would find how things work and the set up hard to visualise?

I just know that continental Europe allows left-hand drive, UK doesn't. Other than that, frankly, I have no idea. By the way, we will be driving a Volvo XC60 (SUV).

Thank you again. I can't thank you enough, though. My only source of information was GMaps. Now I realize how little information that was for planning this trip.