Driving Abroad- Things To Know Before You Go
Ready to hit the open road? Whether you are indulging on a temporary getaway, jumping in the car and heading for the horizon or you are opting for the permanent life of a nomad with your van and chosen travel buddy in tow; it’s worth knowing a few things before you leave.
Driving abroad can be an emotional minefield, a real mix of emotions; from the elevation of seeing some incredible sights all the way to the frustration of dealing with local drivers. It may seem obvious but it’s worth taking the time to prepare so that your drive is blissful and seamlessly becomes part of the adventure- rather than simply a means to an end.
So we have compiled a list of just 5 points to note, ponder and remember when embarking on your expedition behind the wheel.
Cheesy and slightly xenophobic stereotypes aside, drivers in other countries in Europe and further afield, simply have a different style of driving. For many who have driven aboard regularly and then return to the UK, comment of the strange and unusual traits the quintessentially English driver possesses. However, as obvious as it may seem, consider for a moment, that on the more difficult roads around mountainous regions of the Alps and beyond, the drivers are used to the roads. When they come close to your vehicle, then aggressively overtake you and speed off into the darkness of windy, James Bond style roads, it should come as no surprise. Similarly, in the cities, when locals make sudden decisions, move with confidence and make you feel like a little mouse being chased by a group of cats, don’t panic and lose your cool. Just like the theory test here in the UK drilled into us, think back to that when they taught us to stay calm and ignore aggression and anger from other drivers. If you feel like you are losing your cool behind the wheel, take 3 deep breaths, check all your mirrors frequently and continue on your way. As long as you are being careful and considerate of your passengers and drivers around you, simply let other roads users live their lives. If you ever feel too much pressure, just find a safe place to pull over and physically get out of the car, away from the wheel, even for a minute or two breathe and regain composure.
Toll booths come in all shapes and sizes, some are obvious and work seamlessly, others are a bind and some, some roads have pay online systems only- so if unfamiliar with the road, the fine can come as a huge shock! Take Dartmouth Tunnel on the way to the Euro Tunnel , or example, this is a pay online toll and should be done between 48hr prior to use or after to avoid the fine. Then you have the numerous border crossings in Europe, although not strictly a toll, it can come as a bit of a shock when you are randomly selected for a vehicle search. The number one way to put yourself at ease is to not only use a Sat Nav or Online Map, is to research your journey prior to setting off. This way you can make a note of when you can expect toll boothes and border crossings to be aware and ready. For Italy for example, you can head to the motorway website by clicking here– but the same pages can be found for all European countries by simply typing in “ ***** toll booth map” into google. Easy Peasy!
Motorways can be a super scary prospect when thinking about your journey, thoughts like “argh, what happens when I drive off the Eurotunnel and I am like, legit in France” and “I’ve heard about the Autobahn, I am breaking out into cold sweats already”. NEVER FEAR STAR GAZER, it’s not as bad as you think it’s going to be. From the no limit free-for-alls to the speed checked M roads, motorways abroad can be a really pleasant experience. First things first, when you arrive at the start of the motorway, take a few deep breaths, be sure to check your mirrors as frequently as possible, we can get lazy at home but you want to be fully aware of your surroundings from the get go, then relax your shoulders, no doubt when you first get there, you will find your shoulders around your ears. Then gradually, as slowly as you feel comfortable, increase your speed. The average speed limit in Europe, for example, s 130KPH which is around 80MPH which is a little higher than what we are used to in the UK. Remain in the slow lane until you feel ready to overtake, then and only then you can move to a lane that suits your speed. On two lane motorways, don’t be that lane hogging guy, you will make enemies fast, however when the motorways expand, lane hogging and surfing seem to be very much normal. No stress, you can do this!
Not AutoCare- this is more along the lines of self-care. When embarking on a long stint on the road, with a destination in mind, the narrative of “Let’s just get there” can take precedence over, “I feel tired”, “I’m hungry/thirsty”. Take care of yourself, it’s JUST as important as vehicle maintenance. When checking your sat nav or online mapping feature, be sure to factor in regular breaks. Every 2.5 to 3 hours is recommended. By a break, this doesn’t mean just pulling over, this means stopping, getting out of the car and having a little walk around and getting something to eat and drink. Staying hydrated throughout your drive is equally important. Be sure to keep a large bottle of water next to you and drink as much as you can! Staying hydrated helps keep you alert, your reactions quick and your sight as clear as possible. Music helps, get a playlist ready for your departure, fill it with all your absolute favorite songs, total classics, songs that encourage you to sing along and keep you engaged, this way you feel less tired and it makes the journey fun!
Extras- Things To Remember
There are a few little things that you should keep in the back of your mind to ensure to are adhering to the law. Check the rules and regulations of the country you are heading too by searching online; Switzerland, for example, head to their national website by clicking this link as some vehicles require extra insurance and tax papers which can be acquired online. Plus consider things like the law in mountainous regions to carry snow chains or socks at all times. If you are going to be setting up camp in another country for a temporary period, make sure you check to see if there are any laws about parking, sleeping in your vehicle or anything related to parking up for an extended period. If you will be in a country for a little while, it’s also worth searching online about garages, which petrol stations offer the best prices comparatively plus what stations offer basic vehicle maintenance; where can you check your tire pressure, have a once over from a mechanic after a particularly long stint on the open road. Arm yourself with all the knowledge any savvy road user would know.
We realise we may have run the risk of sounding parental in this post BUT sharing knowledge, help, and advice is what the nomadic life is about. After driving, hearing stories and talking to friends, we wanted to pass on some thoughts, hints, and tips for the road to keep YOU, our star gazers and wanderers- safe and happy on the road. After all, the open road is calling and it’s not long before you head out to enjoy every nook and cranny of what this incredible world has to offer.
Let us know what you thought, what experiences have you had of driving abroad, maybe you think we missed something or you have a question for us, leave a comment below!