How to Plan a Road Trip in Europe ? – Basic information and driving rules for Indian travelers

Have you every thought of driving through Spain just like Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akthar and Abhay Deol in the movie Zindagi Na Milega Dobara ? I’m sure this has been a dream for all you Indian travelers out there. But easier said than done there are a lot of things to consider to make this a reality. How to rent a car ? What about the Licence ? Insurance ? and most importantly the driving rules. I have done two roads in Europe, and that is why this blog will answer all these questions and doubts you have about how to plan a road trip in Europe.

 Lets start with the basics. These are the essentials and you must know before you even start to think about renting a car in Europe.

Credit Card  –  The most important thing to know before you start renting a car in Europe is to have a credit card.  Make sure you have a credit limit that is equivalent to at least 1000 euros as the car rental company blocks a pre-decided amount on your credit card as a deposit and reverses it back once you return the car. The credit card must be in the name of the driver or people traveling in the car. 

 

Driving is on the right side of the road. It does take some to get used it but its not that difficult .

 Driving Licence  – Most of the countries will accept your Indian driving licence but do a personal pre-check before you go. To be completely safe and have no stress about this, best is to go down to the RTO and get an International Driving Permit.  For this, you will need your tickets and your visa, only then the RTO will issue it.  

An international Driving permit can be obtained from your local RTO with a flight ticket and visa of the country that you are traveling to.

Where to Book ? –   To get a good deal you must book your car in advance, as it will be cheaper when booked in advance. It will obviously be more expensive if you directly show up at the airport and ask for a car from the rental company. Sometimes they might not even have the car of your choice/ the one you need.  Cars can be booked from all major car rental companies like Hertz, Avis, Sixt, Europcar and many more local car companies. The multi national companies are more expensive but have better cars and customer service compared to the cheaper ones. The best place to compare prices for all these companies is on rentalcars.com.

Some countries also have local car rental companies, which are cheaper so just research before you go.  

Picking up a car at the airport is more expensive than picking it up from the city. So if you have a lot of luggage best to pick up at the airport or if you are just backpacking, take public transport to the city and rent it from there. You can at least save 60-70 Euros by doing this.

 

Best part about self driving is having the freedom to stop anywhere you like and enjoying the country at your own pace.

Insurance –  Buying an insurance is as important as renting a car. If you are a first time driver i highly recommend you buy full protection.  Basically you buy insurance for Collision damage, Third party insurance (that is, if someone else gets hurt by a car driven by you) and theft.  For seasoned drivers collision damage is not important as they are less likely to damage the car in any way.  But for first time drivers, i highly recommend you buy full insurance as repairing and refurbishing work in Europe is very expensive.  Insurance can be bought from car rental company at the time  of booking or when you pick up the car.

Once you start self driving in Europe, there is no going back. This will be your favorite mode of transportation.

Driving Rules – I cannot stress enough on this. Especially for all my Indian drivers. Because driving rules in India are practically non-existent. But in all western countries there are just so many things that you must keep in mind while driving. I am not trying to scare you, but it is easier if you know the basic rules of driving in Europe. You will be punished and fined if these rules are not followed, so read through them very carefully.

  1. Driving is on the right hand side of the road. It will be a little weird for like 10 minutes, but it will not take time getting used to  
  2. Traffic Lights  – Red is always stop. When it turns orange, you must not speed up, but must slow down. Otherwise there are cameras every where and if you break this, you will be fined and the amount will be deducted from your credit card deposit. 
  3. Junctions and Priorities  –   Unlike India, Priority and who gets to go first is already decided on the road and is followed very strictly.  First priority rules is, All vehicle coming from your right have the priority of way and you must let them go first. For example, you are at a round about and the car which is already in the circle and is coming from the right, has the priority to go first.  Unless marked otherwise, all roads have a sign that tells you who has the right of way. They signs boards are all over and people follow them religiously 
IF you are on a road that has the signs on the left, you have the right of way and do not have to stop for any one. If you are on a road that has signs on the right, you have to wait for all cars to go and only then you can go .

Unlike India, where the bigger, louder, faster car has the priority of way, the cyclist and pedestrians are not even considered. It is completely opposite in Europe, at a zebra crossing when there is a pedestrian waiting to cross, you must wait for them to go and only then go ahead. After pedestrians, cyclists are given priority of way and then bikers, small cars and at last the trucks. This rule is followed by each and every person there so make sure you do it too.  

4. Honking – Unlike India where honking is customary and thing that people do just for fun. In Europe, when you honk at some one, it is considered as abusing or insulting some one.  Honking must be done only at least resort to prevent a collision or as a last measure. Do no honk around randomly like you do in India. During my combined 40 driving in Europe, i did honk once. People are already paying attention to the road and their surroundings that it is unnecessary to honk .

5. Speed Limit – People and the police in Europe take the speed limit very seriously. At all places the speed limits are marked on the road and you must not go above that. There are sensors and cops at random places who keep checking your speed. Unlike Germany where there is no speed limit on the Autobahn. If you are found going above the speed limit, you will be fined. Do not worry of people slowing you down, almost all people will drive at the maximum speed allowed and in fact you will be honked at if you are not driving at the maximum allowed speed.  

6. Lane Discipline  –  People in Europe take lane discipline very seriously.  For example, on a highway, the left most lane is only used for overtaking and must not be used for cruising and the trucks will always drive on the right most lane.  Where as in India it is completely reverse. Truck drivers will drive in the fastest lane and will not let the other cars go.  

Also at intersections, if you want to turn left, you must signal in advance and come to the left most lane.  You cannot be standing on the right and then at the last moment turn left. You will be fined for lane cutting.  Then you might ask for indicating in advance you need to know the roads. For that i suggest you buy a sim card with data for google maps or rent a GPS from the car rental company.  Or if you wish to travel in the future, you must purchase one for yourself.  Maps and GPS will inform you which lane to use for exiting and turning. Do not mess with the lanes.  

You see how all cars are standing in the lanes they want to go ahead with . For going left, you must be in the left lane and cannot change after the solid line is marked on the road.

You must also pay attention to the road marking and dividers. If there are dotted lines on the road, you are allowed to overtake on a single lane. But if there is a solid lane divider, you cannot overtake as there is a blind curve ahead or for some other reason.  Even if there is a slower vehicle in front of you, there is no way you can overtake if the road divider is a solid line  

7. Parking  –  Overall parking in Europe is very expensive and every country and city have their own parking rules. Mostly on street parking is free during the weekends. But I always choose a hostel/AirBnb who offer free parking on premises.  Even in city centers there are paid parking places, where you need to feed the meter or print out a parking ticket from a machine on the road or display the parking card and mention your time on it (In Switzerland only). There will be signs on the street showing for how much time you can park. 

Most places will have such machines where you can pay for your spot number or print out a ticket and display on the dashboard.

So I hope this blog gives you a little bit of confidence to explore Europe by car. It is honestly one of the best experience I have ever had in my life. If you still have any doubts comment down below and i will be more than happy to solve those doubts for you. I have also made a video about this if you need a visual explanation. So check out the video below

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