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Driving/Parking in Europe

Melbourne
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Driving/Parking in Europe

My wife and I plan on spending 8 weeks in Europe next May/June and are trying to decide between hiring a car or catching trains/buses. Train/bus does not look flexible enough for where we plan on going (France, Belgium, Germany,Czech Republic, Austria, Croatia, Italy and Switzerland). The main downside of the car option appears to be parking, particularly in Italy.

I'm wondering if parking is as difficult as it sounds in places like the Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre and Florence or is it simply a matter of parking outside these towns and walking in? Obviously security then becomes an issue. I'm hoping in most towns and certainly in larger cities such as Rome I can drive to a Hotel and leave the car there for the duration.

Any suggestions/thoughts greatly appreciated.

Thanks

Peter

Sydney, Australia
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1. Re: Driving/Parking in Europe

In any major city in Europe, parking is a huge problem. The cities were built before cars were invented.

Taking Rome as an example, the whole of the city centre is a prohibited area for visitors' cars. There are almost no car parks in central Rome. Very few hotels have parking, and those that do will charge €25 or more per night.

You cannot "park outside" the villages of the Amalfi Coast or the Cinque Terre. The access roads are narrow, with no parking places. The parking available at the villages is very limited, no least because there is no flat land.

In Europe, a car can be very useful if you want to visit smaller towns that are not swamped with tourists, but in any major city in Europe a car is nothing but a very expensive nuisance. And if you pick up a rental in one country and drop off in another, there will be a very substantial one-way fee.

In any case, you cannot reasonably visit 8 counties in 8 weeks. You will be spending half your time travelling. I would urge you to rethink your plans, spending more time in fewer places, and planning a trip that can be done by train.

Sydney, Australia
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2. Re: Driving/Parking in Europe

How much time are you going to be spending in cities vs country. Because if your itinerary is going to predominantly country areas, then I would say car is the best way to go. But if your main destinations are cities, then the car will be a major hassle, and not just in Italy. Are your main destinations in Austria, Czech Republic and France going to be Vienna, Prague and Paris? Or are your plans to explore the countryside? Because a car would be a major hassle in any of the cities that I just named.

Melbourne
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3. Re: Driving/Parking in Europe

Thanks for the replies.

Yes I agree 8 countries in 8 weeks is too many and I am trying to get the numbers reduced but....

Paris would be our first city so I wouldn't get the car until we are leaving. Prague is on the list but not Vienna (Salzburg/Halstett instead) .

To highlight some of the issues I find when planning, we want to visit Fromelles and Ieper ( Ypres), but the nearest station seems to be Lille. We would then need a taxi or bus to get to our preferred destination.

We have friends in Kassell (Germany) and I can't find trains that will go there from Lille.

I am happy to drop the car off in Dubrovnik and catch a ferry across to Beri (Italy) but not many car rental companies seem very keen on that idea either.

Sydney, Australia
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4. Re: Driving/Parking in Europe

At least some of the rental companies still do not allow their cars being taken into the old Eastern Block countries, so Prague might be a problem.

I think you may need to consider having a number of separate rentals. Pick up as you leave Paris, spend some time around the battlefields, maybe visit the Champagne area, drop the car at (say) Strasbourg and take a train to somewhere suitable in Germany, where you pick up another car. You would pay a higher price per day for the cars, but would avoid the large one-way fees.

Melbourne
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5. Re: Driving/Parking in Europe

Thanks, yes I think I will need to consider multiple rentals. Looks like I really don't want a car for Italy. The Peugeot/Renault lease programs don't appear to have a problem with the old Eastern Block, but rental agencies do.

Lots of research still to do.

Takapuna, New...
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6. Re: Driving/Parking in Europe

When we travel around Europe for 8 weeks most years, we lease a car from start to end. Sure parking can be a challenge but with a little care in reserving appropriate accommodation, the problem can be minimized. Paris is not a problem for parking. There are plenty of parking buildings at around euro 25 per day, although on our last trip we had an apartment in the 9th with secure underground parking. The French cities and large towns have not been a problem. Places like Dinan, Le Mans, Bourges, Arras, Rouen, Reims, Troyes, Strasbourg, Colmar, Dijon, Grenoble, Antibes have all had convenient parking when we have been there. Likewise Venice. Just park at Tronchetto and pay euro 26 per day. Florence can be an issue but there are hotels with parking available. Again, on our last trip we had an apartment with secure underground parking just outside the ZTL. Most of the villages in Tuscany and Umbria have parking lots just outside the walls and well signposted. In Prague we had an apartment with parking provided in a stack within the courtyard. In Turino, we had valet parking at the hotel. In Verrana, we parked on the street outside our apartment. In Bologna, we parked in a covered parking lot arranged by hotel for euro 8 per night. In Lecce, we had valet parking. In Matera, we parked 500 metres from our B&B, but we were able to drive to the door to drop off and pick up luggage. In Alberobello, we had on street parking 100 metres from our Trulli. In Perugia, we parked in Piazza Partigiani parking building and rode the escalators up to our apartment. In Montepulciano, we stayed in a B&B with parking in the garden, about 10 minutes walk from the town gate.

As I say, it takes a bit of care selecting accommodation, and sometimes careful planing of the route to it to avoid ZTL's, but we have not had any problems in the past 15 years we have been driving in Europe.

We try to stay in city or town centres and try to find accommodation on the edge of pedestrian zones so we can drive to our arrival, yet walk into the restaurants and museums. We find Google Maps and Streetview useful in this respect.

Hong Kong, China
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7. Re: Driving/Parking in Europe

Plan to start and end your trip at big cities that are airport transport hubs. For example, if you fly into Paris and leave from Rome, then for those days, you won't need to rent a car and deal with parking, restricted traffic zones, etc. For the middle part of your trip, you may or may not need multiple rentals. It really depends on what your itinerary looks like. Generally speaking, given that your trip will be quite long, leasing can be considered. If not, then rent the car for at least week each to explore some of the smaller towns, village and rural places. Return the car at your next big city destination and repeat the process if you want. You can also elect the keep the car in the city although you will likely just end up parking it at a garage.

Imperia, Italy
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8. Re: Driving/Parking in Europe

Ypres has a train station. It is called Ieper.

For train journeys to Ieper and between Lille and Kassell see reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query2.exe/en? - this website will give you train times all across Europe, though it will usually only give you fares for journeys beginning or ending in Germany. For other fares use the relevant national train operator's websites.

For optimistic journey times (without allowances for rest stops) and costs by car, including costs of tolls or vignettes to use highways which are necessary for some countries, use www.viamichelin.com

Sydney, Australia
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9. Re: Driving/Parking in Europe

I have never rented a car for the full length of any trip. If I rent a car it is only for a small section of the trip. In your case it does seem that you have a number of places in northern France, Belgium and Germany which would be suitable. That gives you perhaps one or two weeks car hire. You could probably also do a separate car hire just for the Salzburg area.

A car does not sound suited to your plans in Italy. I would forget about driving in the Czech Republic as well, especially if Prague is your main destination. It might be useful in Switzerland, but you will be amazed how many places you can get to in Switzerland without a car. They have one of the most amazing transport systems in the world.

Melbourne
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10. Re: Driving/Parking in Europe

Thanks wigwam3, good to hear from someone who has used a car successfully. Still concerned about Italy but will look for some hotels/B&B's with parking and go from there.