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Driving in Europe

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1. Posted by pvhb1990 (Budding Member 6 posts) 6y

Do people have any useful tips/suggestions for driving across Europe. I plan to leave the UK (in a R-HD car) and travel down through France and Spain, then head East across the coast all the way to Istanbul. Then I hope to make my way back up from Istanbul, to the Czech Repubic and Germany, before heading back to the UK. I estimate it will take about a weeks worth of driving and I expecting to spend up to 2 months in total, absorbing as much as possible of the places I'm visiting. I'm wondering if people have anyview on things like budget (I hope to have about £3,500), driving conditions, and camping (where in Europe can you wild camp?). If anyone has any experiece of a similar trip, or just any views on the points I've made I'd really appreciate the help.
Cheers, Paddy.

2. Posted by fabyomama (Respected Member 560 posts) 6y

I learnt to stay off motorways as much as possible for a better experience and tried to keep to A and B roads. 'Wild camping' is possible, but I found I was more likely to be sleeping in the car up a track somewhere - but it's not as bad as it sounds once things are organized and I got so used to it that it was my main plan for most nights.

For the record, I found keeping clean and washing clothes the most important part of my daily routine. Clothes can be a pain to dry in or on the car, even in the heat. A cheap plastic bucket or bowl is very handy - and also a decent sized water container.

Are you planning the west coast of France down to Spain? I'm interested as I'd considered it myself. Sounds a great trip whichever way you do it and you're budget sounds plenty in my book. What are you driving? Just curious. ;)

3. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 6y

I estimate it will take about a weeks worth of driving

I think you seriously underestimate distances. If it is only you behind the wheel and you got nobody to change with it will take you roughly this time alone to get from the UK down to the southern tip of Spain and back through France to either Italy or the UK.

Depending on where you start in the UK it will take you 1-2 days to the border with Spain. (Cherbourgh to Irun 8 hours, Calais to Perpignan 11 hours.) From there it will be 1-2 days down to the southernmost tip of Spain (Irun-Cadiz 10 hours, Perpignan-Cadiz 16 hours.). Back up it will take you again 1-2 days to France and then another day to either the Uk or Italy (Perpignan-Genoa 7 hours; all times without any breaks).

If you drive roughly 8 hours everyday you thus need roughly 5 days just to get to Northern Italy. And that is without stopping anywhere or sightseeing or taking backroads for the scenery.

Some more tips:

If google maps says "1 day 4 hours driving time" that actually means 24 hours plus 4 hours, thus equalling 3 days of real driving if you are alone.

If you go down to Istanbul the best route is via Austria/Slovenia and then Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. Note that Google maps does not display the bridge at Giurgiu-Ruse correctly, it recommends going through Serbia. That is not a good idea since the Serbians have some extra bureaucratis rules about passing through. Going the route I mentioned above will be easier since it means that you'll be in the EU right up to the Turkish border.

budget (I hope to have about £3,500)

If you plan to camp wild, buy food from the supermarket and cook on a small stove that budget will be quite comfortable. Check prices for petrol though.

http://www.aaireland.ie/petrolprices/

camping (where in Europe can you wild camp?)

In many non-touristic areas you can camp wild as long as you are gone in the morning. Areas where I would not try this is the North Sea coast in the Netherlands, many popular beaches in Spain and the area between Marseilles and Livorno.

If in doubt I recommend not pitching a tent, but sleeping in the car instead. An estate car is best for such trips as you have planned.

I expecting to spend up to 2 months in total

With all the countries on your list (France, Spain, Italy, Slovenia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany) you are looking at having about 5 days per country. That is crazy! With a pace like that you'll spend most of your time driving and seeing nothing of a country exept its motorways.

My recommendation to you would be to drive down to Morocco and back up again, focusing on Spain, France and Morocco. It is what I would do if I had 2 months and 3500 GBP.

Or if you are set on getting down to Istanbul I recommend skipping Spain and France completely. You'll still be racing through most places though.

4. Posted by pvhb1990 (Budding Member 6 posts) 6y

Cheers for the advice. Yeah I'll be heading down the west coast into the Basque Country before driving down to Madrid and Cordoba. Then up the east coast to Bacelona before staying east all the way to Istanbul. At the moment my 2 car options are a Hyundai Accent (not to confiedent about that one ) or a Vauxhall Astra. Niether are exactaly grand touring cars I know, but hopefully one of them will get the job done.

5. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 6y

For the record, I found keeping clean and washing clothes the most important part of my daily routine. Clothes can be a pain to dry in or on the car, even in the heat. A cheap plastic bucket or bowl is very handy - and also a decent sized water container.

Fabyomama makes a valid point.

My solutions to washing clothes and yourself when you camp wild are the following:

Take enough clothes so that you got enough to last you 14 days. Every 14 days bite the bullet and stay at a regular camping site or at a hostel. Gives you easy access to washing maschines. Wash your stuff in the evening and hang it up to dry overnight. Your budget is sound enough so that you can afford to do that regularly.

Washing yourself:

- In cities stay near public pools. For a few Euros you can go for a morning swim and get squeaky clean too.

Hungary between Budapest and the border with Austria is a real heaven in that regard - every camping site there has its own thermal spa and entry into the spa is often included in the price for the overnight.

- Get some biodegradable soap and wash yourself in lakes and rivers.

http://en.allexperts.com/q/Hiking-Backpacking-Camping-331/2009/4/biodegradable-stuff-prices.htm

The cheap plastic bowl is a good recommendation, but I personally prefer some foldable rubber bowl. You can get those at camping stores. It is also a good idea to have a waterbag. There are some models that are specifically used not just to store water but to heat it too through solar power. "Sea-to-Summit Pocket Shower" is an example of such a product.

6. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 6y

or a Vauxhall Astra

IIRC this car should be long enough for a make-shift bed if you can take out the front passenger seat and the bench in the rear. If it is only you driving you won't need those seats anyway. Whether taking out those seats is possible depends upon the make. Could be worth looking into.

7. Posted by fabyomama (Respected Member 560 posts) 6y

Quoting t_maia

...if you can take out the front passenger seat and the bench in the rear...

Losing the bench seat might allow front seats to recline further and save a bit of weight, but that passenger seat is just too handy to lose imho.

Good luck with your choices Paddy. I actually knew very little about my car when I bought it, but checked everything I could - especially the cooling system, brakes and general running gear. Still took more spares than I should have though.

I love driving just for its own sake and hope to do something again. Got lost loads, but no agenda meant it didn't matter. If I got really stuck, I just brewed up a coffee and studied the map for a while. No regrets.

[ Edit: Edited on 27-Feb-2010, at 09:44 by fabyomama ]

8. Posted by pvhb1990 (Budding Member 6 posts) 6y

Well, in terms of timing, 2 months is the minimum I want to spend. I've got nothing tying me down at home, so in that respect I can take it slower in an effort to absorb more. As has been mentioned as far as the route is concerned, I have google maped the route (as a whole, and in stages) many times. Over the distances to cover I expect to have to spend around £650 on petrol (thats for the Eurozone). I Do realise its an absolutley massive trip/task, but it's something I've been planning in my mind for years.

9. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 6y

So the only real limit is money?

Well, money for petrol aside I think you'll spend roughly 20 EUR per day. This is for food and other essential stuff. To be on the safe side plan 30 EUR per day, this will allow you to pay for entry to sights too without worrying too much about money.

So how far will 3500 GBP get you?

3500 GBP minus 650GBP for petrol are 2850 GBP. This is 3,195.80 EUR at today's exchange rate. Consequently the money will last for around 106 days (3 1/2 months) if you spend 30 EUR per day. It will last around 160 days (5 1/2 months) if you spend 20 EUR per day.

If you are really skint and manage to get by on less than 20 EUR and are lucky and have no trouble with the car you might be gone for up to 6 months. That is a great timeframe for really seeing Europe.

10. Posted by pvhb1990 (Budding Member 6 posts) 6y

Yeah like I said, time isn't really a factor for me, the longer the better. I'm hoping to get the neccassery equipment and a car service (without using the pre-arranged budget) so that will help in term of costs while i'm on the road.