Have you always fantasized about driving on European roads , but are afraid of doing so ???
Well... you are like me, rather like many Indians who have this on their wishlist.
Big broad roads, awesome scenery and lovely weather always attracted me to drive in Europe. But, left hand steering, right side road driving and strict traffic rules always kept me in check.
During my last visit to Germany with friends, I decided to tick this wish off my bucket list and went on to drive through 4 countries. Our first drive was from Dresden to Prague which was kinda trial for later trips.
Now, I can say that this left-right thing is no big deal and do not be discouraged by family and friends who always will warn you. Here is my step by step guide for your trial/first European road trip
1. Get International Driving Permit (always asked for in Europe, may not require in USA) well in advance.
2. Choose a destination which is :
-Between 150 to 300 km from your starting point
-Route does not involve difficult terrain
-Preferably not cross borders
2. Choose your car which has :
-Size not bigger than required (I rented a small Fiat)
-Easy controls that you are used to (e.g manual transmission)
- GPS/ or GPS can be added.
3. Rent the car:
- Obviously the cheapest one from Sixt/Europcar/Hertz
-Look for discounts and facilities like insurance and GPS
- choose pickup and dropping time wisely (you are charged 24hrly)/ charged extra for non-office hours.
- Choose the dropping destination nearest to where you will be during dropping time which can be before but not after (max 1hr) given time
4. Study the Map (in case GPS betrays you), know the main cities which you have to cross.
5. Look for parking facilities (free/less charges) at destination.
6. On the D-day:
-Reach before time (you will get more time with your car)
- Carry your Indian Driving License,International Driving Permit, Passport and Credit card. (Your credit card is swiped for security money which is refunded).
- Carry songs/pen drive
- Ask for demonstration of controls and ask if is there something about the car that I should know.
- Adjust seat and rear view/side mirrors, check for indicators (which also work opposite to us)
- Check fuel (as you will have to fill the tank before returning), ask mileage
-Wear seat belt, get a hang of opposite controls by driving around
You will be comfortable in a few minutes and then
1. Save money and time by using local transportation inside the city.
2. I found that driving on right was easy but you tend to forget so after taking a turn. So be aware at turns.
3. Follow the lane rules-
- Left most lane is for fast driving and you can not drive in it if you are being constantly overtaken.
- If you have to take an exit or a turn, you will find a lane for that.
-Its better to drive in second lane until you become expert -
-Follow speed limits. Read the road signs. Stop only at designated spots.
For later trips:
-Go for a difficult but more beautiful terrain like the road drive drive along the sea from Split to Dubrovnik.
-Get a luxury car with sunroof/ convertible car.
- Get some beer.