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Driving from UK to Europe

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1. Posted by loydall (Budding Member 9 posts) 5y

Hi - this is my first post here - hello all!

I'm thinking of doing a driving holiday with my family (wife and baby daughter) I'm thinking of driving to the south of France then across to the top of italy and then back through the Alps, back up through France.

I don't really know how long this would take (obviously we'd be stopping loads along the way). And also what the best route to take would be. Has anyone here done anything similar?

What considerations do I need to make when planning this sort of trip?

Are there any routes that anyone could recommend?

Thanks.

2. Posted by t_maia (Moderator 3291 posts) 5y

The motorways in France are toll-roads, this is why most Brits and Dutch heading for Italy use German roads. They drive down the Rhine valley, via Brussels, Cologne, Stuttgart, Munich, Innsbruck.

You can find a lot of info on driving in Europe from AA. See www.theaa.com .

The distance London-Venice via Germany is approx. 1500 kilometers (1000 miles). I would plan on a 2-day drive from London, with a small baby may be a 3-day-drive.

3. Posted by Redpaddy (Inactive 1004 posts) 5y

You are driving to the South of France.... From where??

4. Posted by loydall (Budding Member 9 posts) 5y

We will be driving from London

5. Posted by t_maia (Moderator 3291 posts) 5y

Since it is now established that you will be driving from London, where in Italy are you headed to? Or is your real goal to drive around France, sightseeing along the way?

6. Posted by Redpaddy (Inactive 1004 posts) 5y

You can do the whole of Europe (Western and Eastern) without paying a single toll. I've done just endless thousands of miles across the place - and rarely do I pay tolls. If you're in a hurry (surely not while on holiday), then tolls are fine - in theory, but otherwise they're so easily avoidable.

7. Posted by loydall (Budding Member 9 posts) 5y

Quoting Redpaddy

You can do the whole of Europe (Western and Eastern) without paying a single toll. I've done just endless thousands of miles across the place - and rarely do I pay tolls. If you're in a hurry (surely not while on holiday), then tolls are fine - in theory, but otherwise they're so easily avoidable.

My thought was:

London to Marseille - Then off, through Monaco to Pisa. Then back through switzerland, back into france and off to london.

Spending most of our time in the south of France and Italy (pisa and surrounding areas).

8. Posted by t_maia (Moderator 3291 posts) 5y

You can avoid paying toll for roads if you only use the backroads (no motorways). But it is slow, expect the driving time to go up significantly.

Toll for all of Switzerland is 40 SwissFranc, about 25 pounds. You get a sticker that is valid for the year in which you bought it. (The sticker for 2009 is valid from Dec 1st 2008 to Jan 31st 2010.) Toll in France depends upon distance travelled and road used. Some motorways in France were built by private investors, they recover the costs through tolls. You pay at the exit or at toll points. http://www.autoroutes.fr/ will help you calculate costs for tolls in France, www.viamichelin.com will help you calculate costs for petrol and plan your route.

I would suggest driving down to Marseilles via Paris. Most routeplanners will suggest going via Reims, but the difference is only a few miles. And while Reims is a nice city, it is not Paris. Stop in Paris for a day or two, rest and see the city a bit.

If you continue to Marseilles you can drive via Lyon and Avignon or via Clairmont-Ferrand and Montpellier. The route via Clairmont-Ferrand and Montpellier is toll-free, but takes about 130 kms and 4 hours longer because it goes through mountains (11 hours vs 7 hours, not including breaks).

Marseille can be nice and I also heard good things about Avignon. The Provence is generally a nice area to be in, just note that it can be pretty hot during the day. (So plan on getting up early and have any driving for the day done by 11 am.) See http://www.avignon-et-provence.com for more info on the Provence. I would recommend getting of the motorway here, travelling the backroads and hitting the small villages with the lavender fields.

Monaco is not particularly interesting, even if it is a must for you don't plan on spending more than a day there. It is just a spot on the Cote d'Azure where every centimeter of land is covered in concrete from upscale apartment blocks and posh houses. The F1 Grand Prix might be a reason to go there, otherwise pass it up.

BTW, the closer you get to Cannes, Nice and Monaco the higher the prices get for everything.

Near La Spezia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinque_Terre

Also: if you are going as far as Pisa, you might as well continue on to Florence and maybe Bologna. And going north, Lake Como and Lake Maggiore are worth checking out.

Travelling into Switzerland, consider driving over the Great St. Bernard Pass (Aosta - Martigny.) The historic road that winds over the pass is very scenic and very popular with motorcyclists and other people driving for leisure.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_St_Bernard_Pass

From Switzerland I would then drive back up through Germany, avoiding the toll-roads in France. There are some very nice spots along the Rhine Valley, Lake Constance, Koblenz, Heidelberg, Cologne. From many parts of Switzerland there is no big difference in distance whether you go via France or via Germany to London.

[ Edit: Edited on 16-May-2009, at 17:24 by t_maia ]

9. Posted by fabyomama (Respected Member 560 posts) 5y

I'd consider at least two weeks, preferably more.

I pretty much did what you're planning but the other way round and kind of zigzagged my way along a fairly rough route.

I kept to smaller roads for most of the time and did a mixture of wild camping, sleeping in the car or just flopping on the beach for the night if it was quiet - but I was traveling alone so had those choices. I'm not sure I would do the whole thing with a young child, even if I was staying in hotels. It does get very hot and I did get lost many times - but that was the nature of my trip.

Have you thought about a cheap flight to somewhere like Marseilles and then hiring? I'm sure you can cross borders in hire cars and it might even cost the same considering the savings on ferry, fuel and time.

My best memory was the simplest one of all. Sitting outside a cafe in a remote Italian village north of Alba trying to eat an ice cream faster than it was melting - and failing. But the Italians have a saying. 'To the day!' - which sums up them, life itself and that ice cream.

[ Edit: Edited on 20-May-2009, at 06:25 by fabyomama ]

10. Posted by t_maia (Moderator 3291 posts) 5y

Have you thought about a cheap flight to somewhere like Marseilles and then hiring?

You should really take a closer look at this option. Ryanair flies from London Stansted to Carcassone near Toulouse, to Marseilles, to Treviso (30 km north of Venice) and to Pisa. You can search for cheap flight with www.skyscanner.net

Just note that with a rental car you should plan to return it in the same country or even better in the same city. If you rent the car in France and drop it off in Italy the extra charge for it will be very expensive.

And since you are hiring already, look at hiring a small camper. With it you can stay on camping sites for cheap.