Six countries, roughly 29 hours, almost 2500 kilometers, 7 days, 5 nights in the car, 2016
This trip was conceived during a beer-fueled, manic plan-fest and almost didn’t happen. I had about a week off of work for Christmas and New Year’s and wanted to do something epic to ring in the new year. Itching for the freedom of the road and longing to see something of Europe other than its cities, we rented a car and sent back to America for our International Driver’s Licenses. Here I’ll talk a little bit about the process of getting the licenses, renting a car, driving, and some recurring themes during this week long trip. I’ll write separate posts to go into details about some of the individual countries.
In order to rent a car in Europe, you need an International Driver’s License. I have no idea what it’s like getting one for other countries, but for Americans, all you have to do is send an application and some money to Florida. The whole process can take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks. Don’t be like us and wait until the last moment to get it. Ours arrived the last business day before Christmas and we almost ended up having a staycation in Krakow. Once you have your permit, you’re good to go for a year in over 100 countries around the world. Just be sure you also bring your American license as well.
Even though you can drive in almost any country in Europe, that doesn’t mean that you can take a rental car there. Rental companies will charge extra to take the car out of the renting country. From Poland, you can go to most neighboring countries for a small fee of about $50. Our trip became limited by these restrictions. Liechtenstein is not including in countries you can go to so we actually parked the car in Austria and took a bus to Vaduz. Another restriction on road trips is that rental companies don’t like it if you drop off the car in a different country. The fee for doing this can be as high as $4000 so you’re pretty limited to round trips. If you really want to explore one particular country, I recommend flying there before renting.
The other big problem for some drivers with rental cars is that automatics are hard to find and very expensive. So besides going to 4 new countries, I also learned how to drive stick. Thankfully, continental Europe drives on the right side.
To save money, we spent many nights in the car despite it being the middle of winter. This is generally very easy to do in Europe. You can park at many rest stops along the way and be undisturbed, though you will likely have to pay to use the bathroom facilities. To make things in our tiny mini-sized car we brought winter grade sleeping bags and many blankets. The blankets we used to block the bright rest stop lights and keep our faces warm. It wasn’t the most comfortable, but it’s lovely to wake up with the sun and save money for gas. And there’s nothing better than turning off the headlights and finding yourself in a starry wilderness.
This was an amazing way to welcome 2016. I’ll write posts for the individual countries soon including our Vienna New Year’s adventure.