For many European and American citizens, a road trip in Europe is common. The driving lanes and rules to be followed are similar among them. But as a first-time Indian traveller in Europe on road trips, these are the things you must know.
This is your comprehensive guide on How to plan a road trip between two Schengen countries.
Can I rent a car to drive around Europe?
We hired a car Suzuki Ignis at Amsterdam airport from Europcar. There are many other companies like Kayak for renting cars daily/weekly/monthly. On Kayak, you get to choose from various companies, not just Europcar.
Few policies are common among all the agencies – like documents to submit while taking the car, following traffic rules, who can drive, who cant’ drive. Other things like pricing and eligibility to drive to a different country with the same car, the list of countries allowed to drive in their car may vary. Before you choose the company, compare its policies to match your requirements.
Here is a list of things you should know about renting a car in Europe
A morning scene of Amsterdam
You need an international driving license printed in English, preferably. Each country may suggest an alternative language for their country’s language. Check it before you leave.
From Luxury cars to medium-sized cars, you can rent a car that suits your budget and group size.
You can opt for cars with baby seats. Specify this before you rent; not all cars come with baby seats.
Prior booking is possible online by uploading required documents. Real documents must be submitted while taking the keys.
If more than one person is driving, DLs of all who drive must be presented while collecting the keys.
You need to deposit a specified amount of money depending on the type of car. The mode of payment differs with the type of vehicle you choose. The most accepted model is Credit cards.
Self-driving is a great option outside Amsterdam. But not in the city.
You may think of driving without submitting your DL as a secondary driver. However, that is not the right thing to do, and if caught, you will be sent to jail and later deported in any Schengen countries. Remember, you will end up paying a huge amount of fines in Euros.
If you are driving to another country, you must inform the company prior so that the toll prices are included and updated on your electronic toll tag ( something like Fastag in India) based on your domestic and international travel.
Is it difficult driving in Europe?
Driving a boat in Giethoorn was difficult!
The right-lane driving may bother you if you are used to left-lane driving. But once you drive for 15 minutes or so, you get adjusted to it. But knowing certain rules are mandatory avoids the negative consequences.
The list of foreign countries you can drive to varies with the rental companies. Therefore, check before booking if you can travel to a different country with the car you are renting.
Most companies give you a car with a full tank of fuel. While you return, you need to fill it back to full. You will be charged extra otherwise.
The car picking point and dropping point need not be the same. Each company will have multiple picking and dropping points in various cities. You can hand over the car to their representatives at those particular places in different countries based on its policies.
Don’t we love eating while on a drive? Clean the car before you return. Don’t return it with the pieces of Namkeens, cheese slices, or juice tins in the car.
Traffic Rules that differ from India.
Amsterdam has the highest number of cycles in the world
- Right Lane driving.
- Cycling lanes are a major part of transport systems in the Netherlands especially.
- It is compulsory for all passengers in the car to wear a seatbelt.
- Do not use the horn unless in danger.
- Finding parking spots is difficult in cities like Brussels and Amsterdam; wait patiently for your turn.
- Children under 12 must be seated in an appropriate child restraint. For example, you can’t make them sit on your lap in the front seats.
- Watch out for trams. Trams have the right of way.
- Pedestrians strictly follow Zebra crossing. So you need not worry about random pedestrians crossing the roads out of nowhere.
- Stopping at random places while driving on the highway is against the rule unless your car broke down.
- They are super-specific and particular about speed limits
- You can’t change the lanes now and then. Watch out for direction boards. They appear almost 5 km before the turn. If you miss a turn, you may go 10km further to find a gap in the divider for a U-Turn.
- The traffic signal is followed to the dot. Yellow doesn’t mean green.
Even If streets are this empty, vehicles wait patiently at the traffic signal for the green light in Belgium and Netherlands.
Fuel prices in Schengen countries.
In 2018, the Petrol price was a bit more than 1 Euro in Netherlands and Belgium. It is almost equal to 90 INR. There will be no attendees to fill the car tank. You have to do it by yourself, unlike in India. Pay by Credit Cards. Most filling stations will have a cafe serving coffee and bread. You have to pay 40 to 50 cents Euro to use the washrooms if you aren’t buying anything from the cafes.
Do I Need To Carry My Passport On a Schengen countries road trip?
When we travel in India from state to state, we realize crossing a state. It is evident. There will be a checkpoint, a state road tax collection point, and the language in the display hoard changes. We didn’t realize it when we crossed the borders of Belgium and the Netherlands.
The whole thing about Schengen area countries is that this – Border free movements between two nations
First thing, we neither know Dutch nor French to read the signs. So the transition in the signboard language was invisible to us. But the absence of any kind of checkpoints and fences on the road to divide the two nations caused even more confusion – Where am I, Netherlands or Belgium? Keerthi said we are exiting the Netherlands now somewhere on that eight-lane highway. Since our buddy has travelled on this road many times, he knew. Otherwise, first-timers like us don’t realize it at all. That is all! We were in Belgium even before he finished his sentence.
Should I keep my passport on me at all times in Europe?
Carrying a passport is any day better. If you fail to show your Visa and passport whenever asked, you will be straight sent to jail! Carrying a copy of it works when you are in the city where you stay. So that you can go back to your room and get the original passport to show the Police, you can’t do it when you are crossing two Schengen countries.
Money-saving tips for Amsterdam and Brussels road trip.
Before I tell you how we tried to save money, I l tell you about –
Things you must not do to save money on a Europe road trip
Don’t try to save money by not using washrooms
Urinating behind the bushes and on the hidden wall of a public area is disgusting in any part of the earth. It is a punishable offence in most countries, and so is Belgium. Unfortunately, public and urinal stalls aren’t too common in Belgium, which leaves the tourists with the only option of using restrooms at fuel stations and restaurants by paying 40 to 50 Cents. That is like 35 to 45 INR for one person! If you want to use a toilet 3 or 4 times a day, you will have to spend 180 INR! Don’t try to save money here by peeing in public.
Don’t try to save money on parking.
Parking in a place not meant for it will get you into legal problems. You will end up paying a fine. You will be the reason for everyone’s discomfort.
Then how to save money on a road trip when almost everything in Netherlands and Belgium is expensive?
Food is generally expensive in Netherlands and Belgium cafes. Especially for breakfast. Dutch breakfast is generally with bread and cheese and oatmeals. At the cafes, egg and coffee may be an add-on, but you may end up spending more money than necessary here. So that simple breakfast at cafes is usually not worth the money you pay.
So when you are on a road trip, cook something at home or in your hostel. If not, Buy any or many of the following- bread, yoghurt, strawberries, apples, cheese crackers, cheese slices and flavoured Soya milk from a good baker at a grocery store. This saves almost half of the money you would spend on breakfast at a restaurant.
Most Indians (including us back then) had a notion about bread being stale and not fit for breakfast. But, trust me, the croissants we had from Albert Heijn were super tasty, soft from the inside, and crunchy from the outside. So take that stigma out of your mind, and try different bread from the supermarket if you want to save money.
Driving between Amsterdam & Brussels gives you scenic views of farms always
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