Have you seen those dreamy videos on road-trips - the one where black and white polka dot scarves flutter against the wind, and the camera pans on a blue convertible with a baritone narration in the background?
A road trip in Spain, its all that, you think. Except it's not.
We were a little dreamy eyed when we thought of doing a road trip in Spain, because nothing sounded nicer than that and who wouldn't want to drive along the coasts in Europe. We ''planned'' this road trip way in advance but when it came to the actual bookings, we were as close as 3 weeks into our travel dates. Our options were unlimited - we had the whole map of Europe in front us when we wondered which road to take - Should we do Croatia? How about Spain to Portugal? Or maybe Amsterdam to Prague? Days, decisions and frantic phone conversations later, we decided to stick to one country. Best decision ever. Our road trip in Spain started in the picturesque Malaga to the beautiful streets of Seville. We took deviations to also ride through Nerja and the palace grounds in Alahambra. It did seem quite convenient to have a car at your beck and call and not rely on public transport for this. The beautiful blue waters along the coast could not have been better viewed nor can you really stop to take pictures in a public transport. The roads along Nerja towards Alahambra was the best views we'd seen from most of our travels. Our eyes were wide open and our noses were glued to the windows - some ooh's and aah's too.
Here are a couple of pointers that may help you plan:
1. International driving license
No prizes for guessing this one. Typically, an international driving permit may be obtained from your local Indian RTO within 6-8 weeks of application. If you do have a European resident with you, well, there's your driver. There are not a lot of checks which happen on this but its always better to not meddle with the rules in a foreign country.
2. Where can you rent your car from
Most countries in Europe have enough and more websites where you can pre-book your car in advance. A few of them would be Europcar, Sixt, Hertz, Booking.com, car2go, rentalcars as also expedia. Read through their reviews, terms and conditions, as also available pickup and drop locations before you pick your car. Booking a car way in advance is MUCH more cheaper. For instance, a 4 person Mini One Cabrio (or similar) could cost you around INR 8.500 per day if you book 8 weeks in advance. If you're lucky, maybe way lesser depending on the season rush. We were luckily upgraded to an Audi A4!
3. What car should you choose
Nothing looks as good as a BMW on those beautiful roads. But think again!
The car of course depends on the number of people you are. We were considering a Mercedes 7 seater for 6 people but then it wouldn't be much of a road trip rather will look like an airport shuttle. We therefore settled for 2 cars. However, we had an option to upgrade to a BMW convertible which we hesitatingly declined - second best decision ever. When you are driving on highways, you are bound by the speed limit and are at 120 km/hr.
While our BMW swooshed its way even in the tiniest of the lanes, our Audi A4 demanded two people to guide it back to the main road, where we all finally could breathe again.
4. What must you check once you book your car
Once you arrive at your pickup center and allotted your car, make sure you check for existing damages on the car. Make sure you duly point them out to your representative if not already highlighted. It would be a good time to check on the technicalities of your car should there be any. Once you are out of the pick-up center, you're on your own.
5. Cross border road trip
Are you planning to cross borders on your road trip? Cross border road trips are definitely possible however, it needs to be checked in advance with your car rental provider if this is permitted. While it may be vide something called a ''Green Card'', the same may endure steep rental charges. Some countries like Croatia, Bosnia etc have toll stations on highways and you may have to pay an entrance fee there. We however, sticked to Spain - which by itself is a huge country to drive along.
Even on the highways, it is advisable to keep some cash in hand for tolls. Our entire trip from Malaga to Seville and diversions to Nerja and Alahambra saw only one tolling booth.
7. The last and the most important one - LEARN THE RULES
If right hand driving is new for you, make sure you research the rules before-hand. For instance:
Vehicles will overtake you from the left side.
The exit is located on the right side of the road. If you are not taking the exit, stay in the middle of the road
Maintain speed limit - yes, we were gawked at some cars that went past us because we were fixated on google maps
Which also means, check your directions frequently - IF you do miss an exit, you need to travel a good distance before you can head back on track
Whichever European country you are in, ALWAYS check the rules ahead of driving
And also, do not forget to BRING SNACKS!!
Sometimes its okay not to follow Google maps ????
Sometimes, the best views are hidden away from the maps.
All in all, its nothing like that dreamy scene in a movie. It is much more than that.
-An experience of a lifetime indeed.