Driving holidays in continental Europe can be an excellent way to indulge twin passions for travel and driving at the same time – and some of the roads on the continent offer views as good as you’ll get anywhere in the world.
Having your own car gives you freedom to move from place to place at your own pace (subject to local speed limits, of course) but it comes with its own challenges too, so here’s some of the basics to watch out for.
The wrong side of the road
Driving on the right isn’t too hard in itself, once you get it into your head, but it has a few added obstacles that can still take your thought processes by surprise.
If you’re driving a car designed for the UK, you’ll be on the right-hand side of the car, so remember that your driving position should be quite close to the kerb compared with what you’re used to – which can impact on your visibility of the road ahead at times.
If you hire a car locally, you might want to consider an automatic. Otherwise, you’ll have to use the ‘wrong’ hand to change gear. Either way, remember that junctions and especially roundabouts also work the opposite direction.
From 0 to 100
Allow for the fact that speed limits are in kph, not mph. That means a speed limit of ’80’ is actually 50 mph, while a limit of ‘100’ is around 60 mph.
You have a choice – and it depends on what works best for you. You can either convert into mph as you go along so you can read the speedometer in mph as usual, or stick to the metric system and make sure you’re reading the kph ring on the speedo.
It makes sense to have an emergency kit anyway, as if you break down abroad you might not immediately know how to call for help, and even just a bottle of water can keep you comfortable while you wait for a pickup.
But in some countries it’s even more important to pack the legally required equipment – which can include items like high-visibility warning triangles and documentation you wouldn’t normally carry in the UK.
About the Autobahn
The Autobahn is one of the big reasons why many people decide to take a driving holiday in Europe, with the promise of unlimited speed and stunning scenic views across the continent – and it can deliver those things, but not along its entire length, so be careful.
In many places the Autobahn is limited to quite ‘sensible’ motorway-like speed limits, and especially in and around urban areas the limit can drop further, so if you’re determined to drive a no-limit stretch, plan your route ahead of time to make sure you’re in the right place.
Other motorists on the Autobahn often adopt a fairly aggressive driving style, so whatever speed you’re doing, be ready to give way to anyone who wants to overtake, and adjust your speed to stay safe whatever the road conditions happen to be.