It’s no surprise that many Aussie travellers heading to Europe, particularly those going for the first time, are apprehensive about driving there. After all, we Australians have right-hand drive cars and drive on the left-hand side of the road – the opposite to European drivers – but over the coming weeks I’m going to show you that it’s not too difficult to drive in Europe and hopefully give you the confidence to give it a try.
You’ll probably never be 100% convinced that driving in Europe isn’t difficult until you’ve tried it for yourself but in my mind, as long as you plan ahead and prepare yourself for the journey, it can be a stress-free experience.
Why choose a self-drive holiday in Europe?
With a bit of forward planning, driving in Europe doesn’t need to be hard and you’ll appreciate the freedom it provides. Having your own car allows you to stop where you like, when you like and get off the beaten track and into smaller villages that are off the tourist trail. With your own car, there are no more timetables to adhere to and your itinerary is as flexible as you want it to be.
So, what is it that scares you about driving in Europe?
In my experience, the following reasons are the main concerns that Australians have when considering a driving holiday in Europe.
• Gear stick and indicators on the opposite side to what you’re used to
If you’re the owner of a European car you will already be used to the indicators and windscreen wiper controls being on the opposite side of the steering wheel to Australian made vehicles. You’ll still have to adapt to the gear stick/transmission control being on your right so if you this is your main point of concern, book a car with automatic transmission so that changing gears is one less thing you have to worry about.
Don’t own a European car? Maybe a friend or neighbor would let you take their car for a spin around the block so you can familiarize yourself with the indicators.
• Driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road
Four eyes are better than two – It’s second nature to Australians to look right first when crossing the street or checking for oncoming traffic (how can you forget that childhood song we were all taught at school?!) but in Europe this can get you into trouble. To avoid any accidents, whenever we approach an intersection or roundabout when driving in Europe, both the driver and the front seat passenger check both ways for oncoming traffic to be doubly sure that it is clear to proceed. When both give the all clear, the driver knows it is safe to proceed, reducing the chances of an accident.
Until you get used to driving on the right hand side of the carriageway, I also suggest you avoid city driving wherever possible. If you can gain your confidence whilst driving on quieter roads to begin with, you’ll be much better prepared for city traffic as your trip continues.
• Worried about not being able to read or understand road signs
Most road signs in European are of standard international design and you’ll already be familiar with most of the symbols used on road signs. You’ll even see the word ‘STOP’ on stop signs in non-English speaking countries.
Using a GPS can also help alleviate apprehension about reading road signs. With an English-speaking GPS you won’t need to rely so heavily on deciphering road signs as the GPS will provide directions. As well as being a marriage and/or friendship saver, a GPS can significantly reduce the anxiety involved in getting from A to B.
• Concerned about parking and narrow streets
When booking your hire car consider parking options and whether or not you’re likely to be navigating any ancient narrow streets. A people mover is not the easiest vehicle to park, especially in underground car parks, or to maneuver down one-way cobblestone streets (believe me, we have tried!) so if a small car will suffice, make that your choice.
Taking these points into consideration when planning your self-drive holiday in Europe should allow you to enjoy a hassle-free trip.
You'll find lots more information about planning a self-drive holiday in Europe - and making it stress-free - in my new e-book. Order your copy now.