It’s easy to travel through Europe without a car, but there are times when I enjoy the freedom of having my own wheels. I don’t drive in big cities, but having a car can be the best – and, sometimes, only – way to get off the beaten path. When exploring small towns or the countryside, I connect the dots with a rental car.
On my most recent Iberian travels, for example, a great little car helped me get around the whitewashed hill towns of southern Spain and the beach towns of Portugal’s Algarve region. I rode cheap public transportation out to Sevilla’s airport, picked up my car, and got on my way.
There’s nothing exotic about driving in Europe. Sure, southern Europeans seem to make up their own rules of the road, and you’ll need to adjust to some unfamiliar signage, but it’s all part of the experience.
If you are a regular viewer of BBC’s “Top Gear” or Amazon’s “The Grand Tour,” you may even have a leg up. After all, you’ll have heard of the cars on offer at the rental counter and seen the variety of roads you may encounter, from the Autobahn to the narrowest village street.
Here are some tips for making the most of the open road:
While the British and Irish drive on the left, everyone on the continent drives on the same side that we do in the US. Filling the tank is just like back home, except it’s euros and liters rather than dollars and gallons. Don’t overreact to Europe’s high cost of fuel. Over there, cars get great mileage and distances are short.
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