Most Americans automatically think of renting a car when they travel. From a cost, convenience, or comfort standpoint, public transportation may be a better bet when traveling through Europe. Here are same ways to make good transportation decisions:
- Europe was established around a system of cities, smaller related market towns, and even smaller agricultural communes. As such, suburban sprawl as found in America is limited, reducing the need for cars to take people from suburb to suburb. Further reducing the convenience of city driving are the very crowded, very narrow streets with severe parking restrictions and related fines for non-residents. If you’re staying within a city area, your best bet is to walk, rent bikes or scooters, or take an occasional cab.
- Going from Barcelona to Berlin? Regional airlines are very cheap compared to American standards.
- Going less than 500 miles from city to city? The European train system is terrific, with flexible schedules and fares. Warning: Book ahead, as trains get very busy during holiday and vacation periods.
- Going on a day trip to explore the countryside? Consider taking a round trip bus ride. We use buses all the time. They’re relatively inexpensive and allow you to spend your time viewing rather than driving. Plus, you’ll meet many local people who will be happy to tell you what to see and do when you get there.
- Renting a car to tour small towns? Check with your insurance company to see what types of coverage you can avoid or decline. Also:
- If you can’t drive a stick shift, make sure you notify the car rental company ahead of time, as most European cars are standard shift models.
- Make sure you know if the car takes regular or diesel fuel, as diesels are much more prevalent in Europe than in America.
- Have some type of GPS handy, either on a phone or stand-alone model. (Most rental car companies rent these as well.) Besides helping you get from place to place, many GPS systems will also alert you to radar box locations. The last thing you want is to get home and then receive expensive speeding tickets that you weren’t aware that you had received. (Trust us on this!)
- Show up at the rental place 10 minutes before it opens. Otherwise, you will wait a very long time to get your car. (Organization and speed of service in many European rental offices is way behind their American counterparts.)
- To avoid expensive fines for driving or parking in restricted areas, consider parking in the lots that surround the Old City sections of metropolitan areas. You can usually find them around bus and train stations.
Use the Resources tab on the top menu bar for more information and reservations. Bon voyage!
Masthead photo: Gondoliers in Venice Waiting for a Fare (Bob)