Take the 2-minute tour ×
Travel Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for road warriors and seasoned travelers. It's 100% free, no registration required.

There's a Demoscene party (Revision) that occurs every year on the Easter weekend in Saarbrücken (Germany), and I'm thinking of attending this year. I live in England and am looking into methods of transport for getting there.

It looks like plane tickets are going to be extortionate as usual (£350+ return per person) so I'm thinking of driving instead. Since there's two of us (perhaps three, depending) we can split the fuel costs and it should be enough to cut the cost down. I'm planning on taking the channel tunnel to Calais, then driving up into Belgium, just round the edge of Luxembourg (not actually crossing the border), then down into Germany. Google maps says it's 9 hours, so I'm guessing it'll probably end up being around 12 hours total.

I've never driven in another country before and am looking for tips as to how to remain comfortable, safe and save money.

Here's my list so far:

  • Bring spare food, drink, clothes and blankets.
  • Fully stocked first-aid kit, flashlight, spare batteries, plasters, medical insurance cards, etc.
  • Plenty of tools and spares for the car (including spare tyre and a jack)
  • Take maps as well as sat-nav (low battery = lost!)
  • Phrase books.
  • Secondary phone left switched off but fully charged, for emergencies.

I'm also unsure as to the situation with border fees and car insurance / breakdown cover. Will I need to inform the authorities of each country that I'll be driving through, and get appropriate documents? Or is it just a case of being covered automatically in the EU?

share|improve this question
    
yay for that party! I have been driving southwards from Sweden on several occasions and the borders of europe are nearly invisible these days. (Denmark and the UK being exceptional mayhaps.) Your normal car insurance should cover your travel in Europe and you don't need any documents other than normal ones for travelling. –  froderik Nov 23 '11 at 7:47
    
Your UK car insurance may well cover you on the continent, but not all will do. You'll need to ring your insurers to check. Breakdown cover ditto –  Gagravarr Nov 23 '11 at 8:49
    
I'm not saying you should fly if you prefer other means, but if £350+ (return) is the cheapest flights you found, you're doing it wrong. For example, if you flew to Frankfurt-Hahn (about 100km away) with Ryanair, you'd get away with less than £100 (return) for flights, even on the easter weekend (I checked). I bet there's a ton of other cheap options too, which you'll find e.g. with skyscanner.net –  Jonik Nov 23 '11 at 8:57
    
@froderik - How much are the tolls these days? I'm not sure if they're in the order of €5 or €50 really... –  Polynomial Nov 23 '11 at 8:58
1  
there are no tolls in belgium or germany as far as I know. france and italy is another story.... :-) I guess you have to pay for the tunnel though? –  froderik Nov 23 '11 at 10:27
show 8 more comments

6 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I'll try to answer all of your questions. First of all the insurance: there is a good chance that it will be valid in all countries you travel through, but I would ask before at your insurance company to be on the safe side. Then it is a good idea to take your insurance paper with you. I know in most countries (or all EU countries at least) this is not necessary, but not everybody knows that and you might get in trouble if you're driving without proper insurance paper. Two years ago I had a very unpleasant experience in Portugal. I was there with my car, but hadn't valid insurance paper with me. Even though it is not necessary to take them with you (I'm really sure of that), it was quite an effort to convince the police to let me go.

Concerning your list of things to bring with:

  • Bring spare food, drink, clothes and blankets: I'm not sure why you want to do that. Okay it is maybe cheaper to buy food and drink at home in a supermarket instead somewhere at the highway, but in Germany there are also big supermarkets that will have a good selection.

  • Fully stocked first-aid kit, flashlight, spare batteries, plasters, medical insurance cards, etc.: Yes this is a good idea and lot of them is also legally required (for example the first aid kit)

  • Plenty of tools and spares for the car (including spare tyre and a jack): I think a spare tire is also legally required in some parts of Europe, so it is definitively a good idea.

  • Take maps as well as sat-nav (low battery = lost!): I personally wouldn't do that, but it's not a bad idea. The letters are the same in Germany as in UK, so you will be able to read all the signs.

  • Phrase books: A phrase book is always a good idea if traveling to a foreign country.

  • Secondary phone left switched off but fully charged, for emergencies: personally I think it is a little bit of an overkill, but if you feel safe, do it ;)

Now I want to mention some general things one should remember when driving in Germany:

  • First of all, a great part of the German highways have no speed limit. This means you can drive as fast as you want. The recommended speed is 130 km/h. This sounds really cool and it really is if there is low traffic. You can travel much faster than in other countries. But there is also a big but: A lot of people are driving immo like crazy. If you're overtaking be really careful to look in your rear mirror to ensure that no one is trying to overtake you with >250 km/h. You won't see them in the mirror until the last second.

  • Even though there are generally unlimited highways, there are parts of it where the speed is limited. This is signed properly and you should more or less adhere to it. The fines aren't really high (compared to Switzerland, other countries I don't know), but when you're speeding more than +30 km/h you will have bigger problems. Germans may lose their driving license then.

  • You don't have to pay any fee to use the highways.

  • Inside closed villages the speed limit is 50 km/h, outside it is 100 km/h.

  • On the highways there are a lot of stop areas where you can refuel your petrol, eat something or go on a walk.

  • On the Easter weekend there is a lot of North to South traffic on Thursday and Friday and a lot of South to North traffic on Sunday. Be prepared for some traffic jams. But I think you will only be affected slightly because you can enter from West.

I think these are the most important facts. Every detail you might be interested can be found on this great website.

share|improve this answer
    
Going to Saarbrücken from the UK, the main concern would be how things are in Belgium or France, not Germany. –  Annoyed May 21 '13 at 18:27
add comment

This does not directly answer the precise question you have in mind, but provides a compromise between driving and flying. Especially if you think that flying (into Saarbrücken) is too expensive and if you do not wand to land in the middle of nowhere.

London - Saarbrücken can conveniently be done by train. Take a Eurostar to Paris Nord, walk to Paris Est and take a direct ICE or TGV train to Saarbrücken.

As an alternative, you can also travel by Eurostar from London to Brussels, then by train from Brussels to Luxembourg and finally by bus from Luxembourg to Saarbrücken. It is much slower slower, but might be a bit cheaper. Brussels-Luxembourg is 41 EUR return (and possibly less if you are under 26 years old). Luxembourg-Saarbrücken is 8 EUR one way.

Have a look at the DB website for the schedules. The Man in Seat61 has some advice on buying tickets.

share|improve this answer
    
+1, I like this option. Probably a lot more interesting travel experience than flying (assuming one has flown before) and not as bad for the earth. –  Jonik Nov 23 '11 at 20:28
add comment

One of the things you need to take with you is a safety vest, it's required in Germany. For the kick of it would try to run without sat-nav, if you can afford to lose some time now and then. I wouldn't make the 9 hours of Google maps 12, it's normally quite accurate if you don't stop. So it's a full days drive, stop every 2 hours for 15 minutes (change the driver), eat and drink well.
Cheapo tip, go into Luxembourg, the fuel is cheaper than in Belgium, Germany

share|improve this answer
add comment

I'm a bit suprised that nobody has mentioned it before: if you have never driven in another country before, it means you are only used to left-hand traffic and as your introduction to in right-hand traffic, you're planning a 9 or 12 hour trip.

That's seriously risky. I've switched from right to left hand, and while it's not a huge thing as such, it requires concentration. Which is going to be in short supply on such a long trip. Possible mitigation strategies (not necessarily mutually compatible):

  • If one of the others is experienced in right-hand traffic, let them drive as much as possible
  • Switch drivers so you don't get too tired
  • Make several pauses
  • Consider spending a night somewhere on the way
  • Have everyone be alert for possible mistakes by the driver, especially at crossings and when making turns
  • Get a good long night's sleep before you start the return trip, especially if you drink any alcohol at the party.
share|improve this answer
2  
+1 good point! I also made once a shift from right to left in Cyprus and immo the most dangerous thing is when you start driving again after a stop on a resting place are something similar. Not necessarily on highways, but on other streets be very careful to drive on on the correct side of the road. –  RoflcoptrException Nov 28 '11 at 20:11
    
@Roflcoptr: Agreed; the one time I slipped and drove on the wrong side with another car present was when leaving a camping site in the morning. It might be a good idea to have a little ritual where you or your friends remind you to "drive on the wrong side" whenever you start the car. –  Michael Borgwardt Nov 29 '11 at 0:39
    
It may be an even bigger problem if the OP is taking their own (right hand drive) car so their setup will be "wrong" when driving on the continent. –  auujay Nov 29 '11 at 21:05
add comment

Under EU law all driving insurance covers you for up to 90 legal minimum insurance driving in any eu country.

So your UK driving insurance will cover you for 3rd party driving insurance by default. That's included in your premium. If you want to increase that (eg if you have fully comprehensive insurance in the UK and you want that on your trip) , you'll have to contact your insurance company and pay a little bit and tell them what countries you're going to. I think it cost me €50 in Ireland to get my regular insurance to cover me in loads of EU countries.

So there should be no border/insurance problems. Yay for EU.

Many cars in the UK do not have to EU flag licence plate. If your vehicle does, then you're fine to legally drive all over EU. If not you legally need to to put one of those GB round stickers on your vehicle. To be honest, this is highly unlikely to be a problem for you.

share|improve this answer
add comment

The link to google maps suggests another itinerary than described in the question. In any case, for this particular trip (UK to Saarbrücken), you should really consider the route through Belgium and Luxembourg (i.e. driving along the coast to Dunkirk/Dunkerque then heading towards Brussels and Luxembourg on the E411). You would be saving on tolls and have the opportunity to gas up in Luxembourg, saving perhaps 50 to 80 € on the whole trip. The distance is about the same and there is absolutely no point in avoiding Luxembourg (in fact people from the region actually make detours to go through the country and buy cheap petrol and cigarettes).

Beside the train and the car, flying to Luxembourg might also be an option (no idea about the price but it is really close to Saarbrücken).

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.