Here you’ll find some useful European road trip tips designed to make your journey a success, no matter what part of Europe you’re bound for.
The aim is to take all the hassle out of your trip, so you can just relax and have fun.
Later, I’ll go through what you need to have with you in your European car travel kit and cover all the documentation you’ll need.
First, though, let me take you through my top five countries to visit on your travels, and highlight some of their main attractions.
Which European country is best for a road trip?
There is nothing quite like taking a road trip to Europe, especially in summer. But where should you go? Here are my top five recommendations for the best countries to road trip around.
Ah, Bella Italia! The best European road trip of them all.
You can start your journey in Genoa and explore this historic city, not forgetting to take photos of the beautiful harbour. Spend a day or two here before setting off for the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cinque Terre.
This is a rugged part of the Ligurian coast, which is home to five charming, historic fishing villages. You can hike the fantastic trails carved into the steep hills. Be sure to sample the fantastic food and wine in Liguria too.
You’ll want to make a stopover in Rome, of course. Tourists flock to the Eternal City in their thousands, to visit popular attractions like the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums.
Don’t forget to dive into some of the more unusual activities, including such delights as a mystery ghost tour that lets you explore the darker underbelly of the city.
When you’re ready to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, head up to Tuscany to enjoy the verdant hills, visit charming villages, and sample fine wines.
Continue driving north and you will come to the city of Milan. Here, you can indulge your passion for fashion and visit the Armani Silos and admire Maurizio Cattelan’s impressive L.O.V.E. sculpture.
If that’s not enough to slake your thirst for exploring art, visit Hanger Bicocca, a popular contemporary art space found on the northern outskirts of the city.
If you want to plan a longer trip through Europe, you can drive through France, high up into the Pyrenees and through Spain into Portugal.
The Portuguese capital of Lisbon, located on the banks of the Tagus, is not to be missed. Characterised by colourful houses, it has a unique feel to it.
The city of Porto is also well worth a visit, as is Coimbra. Porto boasts a port wine tour which will guarantee you have your fair share of high-spirited fun.
One of the highlights of Portugal is a visit to UNESCO World Heritage Site — the fantastic Sintra-Villa —found around a 30-minute drive away from Lisbon.
Found in the Adriatic, Croatia is an understated treasure of Europe. Visit Dubrovnik and the Old Town, which is protected by UNESCO. Split is another highlight of Croatia.
Fans of Game of Thrones will spot familiar locations from the Seven Kingdoms in both the cities, including Daenerys’ Throne Room and King’s Landing.
Those fascinated by Ancient Rome will want to make a stop at Pula and explore the impressive ruins there, which include a well-preserved Roman amphitheatre.
Croatia is a pleasure to drive through because of its stunning natural beauty. It is also perfectly suited to camping if you fancy pitching a tent for a night or two.
The Plitvice Lakes National Park is especially glorious and has a hiking trail which offers a perfect way to explore this forest reserve.
If southern Europe doesn’t tickle your fancy, Norway is a great alternative.
Famed for its spectacular scenery, mountains, fjords, and glaciers, this country is an exciting prospect for both amateur and professional photographers. The Sarkofagen landscape is particularly majestic.
Of course, you’ll want to visit Oslo, one of the world’s greenest cities. You can also explore the Nobel Peace Centre here.
Be sure to take a trip to two of the country’s most impressive natural wonders, Preikestolen and Trolltunga.
You can reach Iceland by car if you want to take a weekly ferry from Denmark. However, the journey takes 3-4 days, and it might be simpler to hop on a plane and fly to Reykjavik, and then hire a car to take a road trip around the country.
As with Norway, Iceland’s countryside is breathtaking. If you take the Golden Circle route, you will see lava fields, lakes and national parks, with Selfoss and Vatnajökull National Park being two of the highlights.
It’s time to address the question of how you go about planning the best trip possible.
How do I plan a European road trip?
Planning a European road trip requires time and effort. Here are some top European road trip tips you should consider when you plan. That way, you can avoid receiving any unexpected fines and falling foul of any lesser-known driving laws.
Find the perfect car for your road trip
If you are renting a car for your trip, bear in mind that most people in Europe drive manual vehicles, so be prepared to pay a little more if you want an automatic.
It’s wise to let the rental agency know that you intend to drive through other countries and ask if there are any specific driving regulations or rules you need to be aware of for any destination. You should also take a photo of any scratches or dents, so that you can prove you are not responsible for them in the event of any disputes upon your return.
You can usually rent a car in Europe from the age of 21, but it will cost you extra until you’re 25.
Check your travel insurance before you head off
You should never skimp on travel insurance. Car accidents and the like do occur, and it is always better to know you’re covered if the worst should happen. Make sure you have full cover to protect yourself from things like theft, breakdown etc., as well as for accidents.
Find out if you need an International Driving Permit
Several European countries require you to carry an International Driving Permit. If you do get pulled over, you might well be asked for it.
If you want to drive through Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Greece, Italy, Romania, Poland, Spain, or Slovenia, it is worth paying a small fee to get one so you can avoid a large fine down the road.
Check if you need vignette stickers or to pay tolls
A vignette is a pass you need to drive on the highways in some parts of Europe, particularly eastern Europe, instead of paying tolls.
You will need vignette stickers in:
- Czech Republic.
Vignettes can be brought at service stations when you cross the border into a new country where they are required.
Remember to keep some change handy, in case you come across any unexpected tolls. If you spot too many tolls on your planned route, you may want to consider alternative routes in your European road trip planner.
Learn the local driving rules
Driving laws differ in every country. Do a quick search to learn the essentials for the countries you plan to drive through.
In Italy, for example, there are many Restricted Traffic Zones — marked by a red circle on a white background — that can be easy to miss if you don’t watch out for them and can land you with fines long after you’ve returned from your road trip.
You would also be wise to check the speed limits of each country and to make sure you’re driving on the correct side of the road!
In addition to all the above preparations, you’ll need to take several things with you in the car during your travels. Soon, we’ll cover what documentation you’ll need. For now, let’s see what you’ll need in your European travel kit.
European car travel kit requirements
Refer to the comprehensive checklist on my Drive France website if you plan to drive in France during your trip. It will make sure you have everything covered.
Here, in brief, are some essentials to keep in your vehicle.
- A warning triangle.
- Reflective jackets (you need one for each person, and they must not be kept in the boot).
- Headlight beam deflectors.
- A first aid kit (a must for France, Austria, and Germany).
- A UK car sticker if you don’t have a GB number plate. You will need one anyway if you’re travelling through Malta, Cyprus, or Spain.
I also recommend that you take:
- A good torch.
- A fire extinguisher.
- A spare can of fuel, and more engine oil and water to use if needed.
- An up-to-date road atlas or Satnav.
- Photocopies of all important documents.
- A European Health Insurance Card.
- An ample supply of any necessary medication in case you can’t obtain it while abroad.
- A plentiful supply of drinking water.
Now let’s turn to the documentation you’ll need to take.
What European travel documents do I need?
All countries require you to carry your insurance documents, MOT certificate, a valid form of ID, (your passport), your NI number, and driving licence (or International Driving Permit). You’ll also need your European breakdown cover documents, your vehicle registration documents, and a V5C certificate.
You may also need a separate UK sticker and Crit’air sticker if driving in France.
How long does a road trip across Europe take?
Driving across Europe in one go would take around 16 days, with no stops and no sleep. Of course, you’ll want to make stops several times a day to explore the fascinating treasures of the continent. To complete an epic European road trip, you’ll need 6 months to a year.
Luckily for most of us though, you can fit in some key highlights in an action-packed two-to-three-week journey.
Read on for my 3-week European road trip itinerary.
3-week European Road Trip Itinerary
Want some ideas on what to include in your European road trip? Look no further. Here are some destinations you’ll want to include.
- Czech Republic.
You can stay 2-3 days in each country under the following itinerary, but if you want a more relaxed experience, limit yourself to 5 countries.
People often forget Poland when planning a road trip around Europe, but it’s well worth a visit. It’s full of vibrant cities, boasts natural landscapes, and is located smack-dab in the middle of Europe.
What better place to start? You can visit the Tatra mountains, Krakow, Warsaw and perhaps even the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum and Memorial.
The Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is a place you are sure to love. As well as feasting on some of the best food to be found on the Continent, you’ll want to stop and explore Prague Castle, the Lennon Wall, and Charles Bridge.
Prague’s Astronomical Clock is a unique sight and is something not to be missed.
Experience Slovakia’s rich mix of interesting, varied cultures, unspoilt views, and unique traditions. You can spend a few memorable days here.
Why not plan stops at Bratislava Old Town, Kosice, and St. Elizabeth’s Cathedral? You can savour the splendid view over Kosice to make sure your trip is truly unforgettable.
The perfect place for culture vultures and foodies, Hungary is one country you won’t want to miss.
Take a trip to Budapest and visit Hungary’s parliament building. Refresh yourself at the Széchenyi Thermal Baths, take a photo of Széchenyi Chain Bridge, and explore Buda Castle.
Austria has some amazing buildings to explore, and some of the best food in Europe to indulge in. You won’t be disappointed if you add Austria to your itinerary.
Sample the delicious fare on offer in Café Central, then go and see the Lipizzaner horses, the dancing white horses of Vienna.
If museums are your thing, you can visit the Sigmund Freud Museum and the museum quarter in Vienna.
It’s well worth a detour to go and experience the delights of Salzburg too.
No European road trip would be complete without a visit to Italy. Known for its fascinating historical sites and delicious food and wine, there will be plenty for you to enjoy here.
Take in the amazing history of Rome, go and see the Last Supper in Milan and pay a visit to Duomo Cathedral.
Why not spend a couple of days relaxing in the City of Canals itself, the famously beautiful Venice?
There is an abundance of things to do in France. No matter what you love to do, you’ll find something to suit you.
Why not visit Mont St. Michel, take in the delights of Paris, and explore the D-day beaches in Normandy?
Make time to enjoy the French Riviera, a favourite destination of Winston Churchill himself.
Germany makes for a wonderful stop on your trip. Top attractions include the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag Building and Neuschwanstein Castle.
If you use this guide to plan your road trip, you will be able to experience some of the absolute best Europe has to offer.
You should now be able to start planning your dream trip around Europe. Use these European road trip tips to take some of the hassle out of it.
You’ll know what to take with you and how to prepare for it so that you don’t get caught unawares. I’ve shared plenty of ideas about where you might want to visit and why, so pick a few destinations you fancy and get planning.
Then all that’s left is for you to soak up the many delights of Europe and enjoy yourself!
Would you rather take a road trip somewhere closer to home? Check out this post on a Scottish road trip, and see if it’s more to your taste.