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Germany's Romantic Road, the next leg of our journey, can't be done by train. It's best explored
by rental car. We'll have this car for two days
and drop it in Munich.
You can arrange your car rental before leaving home.
Prices vary dramatically from month to month,
country to country, and from company to company, so shop around.
Even if you don't plan on driving, bring your license.
Your American license generally works just fine.
It's fun, and it's easy, to rent a car on a whim.
There's nothing exotic about driving in Europe.
While the British drive on the left,
everyone on the continent drives on the same side as we do in the USA.
Filling the tank here, whether diesel or gas, is like filling the tank back home.
Except it's Euros and liters rather than dollars and gallons.
Figure four liters per gallon.
Don't overreact to Europe's high cost of gas. Over here, cars get great mileage,
and distances are short.
Rental cars come with a basic insurance policy,
but the deductible can be really high.
You can pay extra for zero deductible, for your peace of mind,
but first, check with your insurance company at home to see how well you're already
covered in Europe.
When driving, to cover long distances in a hurry,
use the freeway.
This is Germany's autobahn.
Like most of Europe, Germany's laced with these super freeways. And around here,
fast driving is considered a civil liberty.
On the autobahn, you'll learn quickly — the fast lane is used only for passing.
Cruise in the left lane, and you'll have a Mercedes up your tailpipe.
Here and throughout Northern Europe, the autobahn is toll free.
In France and countries south of Germany, these super freeways usually come with tolls.
Learn some navigation basics.
In Germany,
"zentrum" means "center"
A giant letter "P" means parking.
And this icon means autobahn.
Color coding and arrows point you in the right direction.
And while many travelers go through their entire trips thinking all roads lead
to the town of Ausfahrt,
"ausfahrt" is German for "exit."
This sign means traffic circle or roundabout.
Merge safely into the circle and take the exit for the direction you're heading.
If you're not sure, relax,
take an extra loop, and explore your options.
Entering a new town
— this is Dinkelsbuhl — it's safe to assume that the church spire marks the center.
and the tourist office is nearby.
Old town centers are increasingly difficult to drive in —
one-way streets or closed to cars entirely.
Drive as close as you can and find a place to park.
Confirm you're parked legally.
Your time's valuable.
Just pay to park.
Know the key road symbols. They're the same throughout Europe. No parking anytime.
No traffic allowed. Wrong way — don't enter.
This means no cars or bikes from 8:00 till midnight.
No passing.
And you know this one.
Make educated guesses.
With this one, be ready for anything.
I navigate by town names because road numbers on maps often don't match the signs.
Distances and speeds are in kilometers.
On this road, 80 kilometers an hour.
A kilometer is 6/10 of a mile.
To change to miles, cut the kilometers in half, add back 10% of the original.
So, 80 kilometers per hour would be
40 plus 8 — 48 miles per hour.
Beware — photo speed traps can be really expensive.
And those with rental cars are billed by mail. Save time and avoid
wasted car rental days by picking up and dropping off your car
in different cities
like Rothenburg and Munich.
When using a bigger company
with many branches, you can generally do this anywhere in the same country
for no extra charge. While dropping a car in a different country usually comes
with a high fee, it can also be a great convenience.
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European Travel Skills: Driving in Europe

2431 Folder Collection
Chun-Jen Chen published on June 5, 2013
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