Thinking Of Renting A Car In Europe? Here’s What You Need To Know

Renting A Car In Europe

Renting a car in Europe lets you explore and discover different countries and cultures. Renting a car gives you freedom to travel on your own schedule and time. You can get off the beaten path and get to smaller towns and sights with relative ease. There are potential challenges like “driving on the wrong side of the road” in the UK, different rules of the road and some country specific laws. But it’s all well worth it for the memories and potential trip of a lifetime. Here’s the short list of things to consider when you’re renting a car and driving in Europe.

Renting A Car In Europe? Book In Advance

Ca rental rates vary widely by destination and season. Generally speaking, rates are higher for any rental car company or location if you wait to book. (Especially if you walk up to a rental counter with no reservation). You will save money by paying for your car rental ahead of time. Auto Europe is one of the best options for car rentals in Europe. They’ve been in business over 60 years with more than 20,000 locations in 180 countries. They work with well known car rental companies and provide unbeatable rates on car rentals. You can book your car rental as soon as you book your trip with the option to modify or cancel your booking if your plans change.

Beyond the large highways in Europe, most roads are tight and winding. And parking is tight and tricky with limited street parking and small parking lots. A smaller car, typical in Europe, is the best way to get around and easier to drive. Many cars in Europe are equipped with a manual transmission. If you don’t drive a standard/manual transmission, you’ll need to book early to make sure that you get a car equipped with an automatic transmission.

Renting A Car In Europe

Renting A Car In Europe? You’ll Need Insurance Coverage

With Auto Europe, if you select a basic rental rate your price will include value added tax (VAT), public liability insurance, fire insurance and unlimited miles. If the inclusive rate is selected, it will include everything in the basic rate plus collision damage waiver (CDW) and theft protection for the rental vehicle. I definitely recommend the inclusive rate specifically to have full CDW and theft protection on your rental car. If you rely on credit card coverage or your own car insurance, you may not have enough coverage and/or you may have to pay in full for a claim and then seek reimbursement.

Renting A Car In Europe? You Might Need an International Driver’s Permit

Many European countries—like the United Kingdom and Ireland—recognize North American driver’s licenses. However, other countries—like Italy, Germany, and Spain—require that you possess and carry an International Driving Permit (IDP). The IDP is proof that you possess a valid driver’s license. It also translates your driving qualifications into ten of the world’s most commonly used languages, and allows travellers to drive in over 150 different countries.

You can get an International Driver’s Permit at AAA (U.S.) and CAA (Canada) for a nominal fee, and you only need proof of your driver’s license to apply.

Renting A Car In Europe? Be Prepared For the Unexpected

The unexpected can of course happen anywhere and at anytime. Be aware of what’s covered by the rental car agency if you have an accident or your car breaks down. Most offer some form of roadside assistance in the event of a break down. Traffic tickets and toll fees will naturally be billed to you if you don’t pay locally.

If your rental car is involved in an accident, it is imperative that you contact local authorities immediately. A valid police report is always required, regardless of how minor the accident is. The second number you should contact is the one listed on your car rental key chain. For further protection, take pictures of all the damage done to your rental car and any other parties involved.

Having your cell phone activated for use in Europe is a must for driving directions, destination information and in the case of emergency. A SIM card saves on roaming and data charges while keeping you connected. TravelSIM is my choice because its prepaid (providing cost control), works in over 170 countries and incoming calls and messages are free. Between driving and blog support, I need coverage while in Europe.

Renting A Car In Europe?

Renting A Car In Europe? Find Out the Rules of the Road

The autobahn actually exists in Austria and Germany where the drivers follow a strict code. The left lane is for passing only (most cars will be travelling at more than 160 km/per hour). The middle lane is for the average driver – 120-160 km/per hour. Anything slower is on the right lane.

In the UK, you drive on the left side of the road , and you pass on the right side. There are also numerous roundabouts where you need to know which exit you are taking ahead of time.

Turning right on a red light is not permitted anywhere in Europe, unless there’s a sign that indicates otherwise.

Renting A Car In Europe? Other Things To Know

  1. It’s not a bad idea to buy a traditional paper map as backup. Maps are readily available at gas stations and highway stops. Google Maps or offline maps work but you may not have service or data in remote areas.
  2. Most tolls can be paid by coins, cash or credit card. Some countries like Austria and Switzerland require the purchase of vignettes (driving stickers) that need to be displayed in your front window. They are readily available at gas stations and road side stores.
  3. Getting gas in Europe typically requires that you pay in advance before pumping.
  4. Parking in Europe varies greatly by town and city. Parking can be free, pay via parking meter or require a parking permit. Pay attention when you park or you will invariably get a ticket.
  5. You’ll get comfortable driving in no time. Enjoy the trip, lookout for great places to stop and enjoy the views!

Auto Europe Car Rental

Discover the Beauty of Fjords in Norway by Road

If you are thinking of going to Norway, you don’t want to miss the Fjords! Norway is a Scandinavian country with many mountains, glaciers and deep coastal fjords. You’ve no doubt heard of the Fjords, but you may not be familiar with Fjords or what they look like. In this article, we will write about discovering Fjords by Road. There is no better way to discover Fjords than by taking a road trip by car. The beautiful roads with stunning views make a road trip through Norway an amazing and memorable experience.

What is a Fjord?

A fjord is a deep waterway that is surrounded by massive cliffs on each side. The creation of a fjord is a very long process and created thanks to glaciers. Without too much theory and detail, glaciers moved through the valleys and glacial melting formed the waterways that are often deeper than nearby seas.

Discover the Fjords by Taking a Road Trip

The perfect chance for discovering the beauty of the fjords in Norway is to take a road trip with by car. If you have a few hours or a few weeks, you can have an amazing road trip. Many tour operators offer trips to see the most famous fjords, but these are usually expensive and full of tourists. You will experience the most of your trip if you take a car and discover it by yourself. Here are a few road trips that can last for a few hours or a few weeks by car.

Short Trips Up to 5 Days

A short trip (no longer than 5 days) is perfect for people who want to relax and clear their mind from an urban area. If you want to discover the fjords by car, we suggest you to take a journey from Bergen to Ålesund. This can take from 2 – 5 days with a route distance of 500 kilometers. You need to take 5 ferries on your trip, but these are short rides and are inexpensive. The road trip starts in the city of Bergen and the final destination is the beautiful city of Ålesund with its amazing architecture. The road is easy to drive with many curves that are offer tremendous views of the fjords along the road. If you’re a real adventurer, take a tent and camp somewhere along the roadside. Another great short trip is to start from the capital city of Oslo and go through national parks and Haukelifjell Mountains with magnificent views of fjords along the way.

Medium Trips Up to One Week

If you have more time available to extend your road trip up to one week, you’ll discover still more of the beauty of the fjords. There are many different medium length trips to consider. The first one is ideal for travelers who want to discover the southern part of Norway. The trip starts in Kristiansand and ends in the same city as you do a round trip. The coastal road is going by the North Sea offering amazing views of mountains, waterfalls, interesting towns on the road and fjords. The trip length is around 1000 kilometers and it can take up to one week to discover everything on the road. A second trip option starts and ends in the northern part of Norway, the city of Ålesund. The trip is around 900 kilometers long and it offers dramatic landscape along with interesting small villages and towns that will show you the Norway culture.

Long Trips Up to One Month

You’ll get the most Norway has to offer if you have time to extend your trip up to 1 month. If you’re staying in Oslo, you have a chance to take a road trip that will show you the best of the country. The trip starts in Oslo and ends in Bergen with the distance no longer than 1300 kilometers. You could take up to two weeks to finish the trip, but you’ll experience amazing view of valleys, mountains, glaciers, fjords, cities, and many villages on the way. If you want to blend Norwegian culture and discover the beauty of fjords, this is the trip you should take.

Now you have an idea of a few trips that uncovers the beauty of fjords and Norway landscape. It’s time to plan and start your road trip. Have you taken a road trip to discover the fjords in Norway? Share your road trip experiences with us!

 

About the Author: This article was written by Dorothy Goodman, savvy travel blogger at asabbatical.com , a personal travel blog of Adrian Sameli. To connect with Dorothy, follow her on Facebook.

5 Places for Spectacular Northern Lights Viewing

The aurora borealis is the colorful phenomenon created when electrically charged particles within the earth’s magnetosphere collide with particles in the solar wind. The Northern Lights, as they’re also known, are best seen in late August through April from countries near the North and South poles. These neon ribbons of light are not always visible, and the colors present depend on altitude and which elements are in the air. The most common color is green, while red is more rare. Glows of yellow, pink, blue, and ultraviolet are also possible.

Weather, lunar cycle, and proximity to the sea make some cities and regions better than others for viewing. But if catching a spectacular display is on your bucket list, here are Hipmunk’s top destinations for seeing these natural wonders!

1. Fairbanks, Alaska

Located within the auroral oval — a ring-shaped region around the North Pole — Fairbanks lends itself to a steady frequency of Northern Light activity and clear climates. But travelers will have to travel a bit outside of the city limits to see nature’s fluorescent curtains. Stay at the Best Western Plus Chena River Lodge or theSpringhill Suites by Marriott Fairbanks, both short drives from the city’s other attractions should the lights not cooperate. (We’re fans of the University of Alaska Museum of the North, the Alaska House Art Gallery, and the Fairbanks Community Museum.) Alaska Tours will pick up stargazers from their stated hotel and transfer them to the outskirts of the city. Dress warmly to experience the rippling auroras outdoors, or sip a complimentary warm beverage to stay cozy inside the vehicle. Make sure to monitor the University of Alaska’s aurora forecast to get a better idea of when there is auroral activity.

2. Whitehorse City, Canada

Canada’s Yukon Territory makes for great viewing of the undulating light curtains. Head to Whitehorse City and stay at the Skky Hotel, only 0.4 miles from the Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport. View the aurora from a custom-built location by the Arctic Range northern lights tour company. Or, drive 18 miles north of downtown Whitehorse and view them from the Takhini Hot Springs for a memorable evening. The pools, which have been in operation for more than 100 years, are between 36 degrees and 42 degrees Celsius, offering a soothing experience. Check out the pool rental rates, which are based on number of guests.

3. Saariselka, Finland

The Northern Lights are best viewed away from city lights, making national reserves like Urho Kekkonen National Park a good option. Stay at the Holiday Club in the town of Saariselka for easy access to the park, as well as downhill and cross-country skiing. For those with a higher budget, have a distinctive experience at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort while hunting for the elusive lights. The resort, located a nine-minute drive south from Saariselka and also near Urho Kekkonen Park, offers its signature glass igloo for two or four people, a log cabin or a hybrid accommodation, which is a log cabin that also has a glass igloo. There are various other options, including staying with in the home of Mr. and Ms. Claus, which Kakslauttanen calls Santa’s Home. For extra fees, Kakslauttanen offers husky and reindeer safaris, sleigh rides and ice fishing, among other activities.

4. Karasjok, Norway

Northern Norway is an ideal location to catch both the Northern Lights and star constellations. The town often has clear skies due to its inland location, and little light pollution. Even if the capricious lights don’t show, visitors will be impressed by the clearly visible star constellations. Stay at the Scandic Karasjok, which has two restaurants and a sauna to get a complete Norwegian experience. The DenHvite Rein Motell offers cross-country and downhill skiing, as well as snowshoeing to stay active.

5. Abisko, Sweden

The typically clear climate of Abisko makes this small town an optimal place to catch the Aurora Borealis. Stay at the Abisko Guest house or the Abisko Mountain Lodge,both offering easy access to the Aurora Sky Station within Abisko National Park.Abisko.net offers three distinct northern light tours to choose from. Snowshoe to the top of a small hill overlooking lake Tornetrask, as well as wild animal trails. Rest near the fire while drinking warm drinks as onlookers stare at the sky. Or, learn how to best photograph nature’s dancing lights. Visitors have to provide their own SD memory cards, but Absiko.net provides the high-quality camera and lens, as well as detailed instructions from a professional.

 

This post was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on January 8, 2016.

Where to Travel For The Best Stargazing In The World

In most urban areas, only around 500 stars are visible on a given night, but in the prized locations highlighted below, up to 15,000 are easily seen. That’s pretty incredible. It you’re planning a trip and want some nighttime eye candy, here are six of the best places in the world to go outside and look up.

Mauna Kea, Hawaii

The Mauna Kea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island has perhaps the most ideal stargazing conditions in the world. At an elevation above 13,000 feet, it is the highest point in Hawaii. Its high elevation and location in the middle of the Pacific create excellent conditions, but the surrounding cloud layer makes it even more perfect for studying the sky. A tropical inversion cloud layer 2,000 feet thick sits below the summit, preventing pollutants and moist air from the ocean from rising up. The view itself is so spectacular that one of the world’s most advanced astronomical observatories is located at the top. The visitor’s center at 9,000 feet offers lectures, question and answer sessions, and telescope viewing.

Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania might seem like an odd place for first-class stargazing, but Cherry Springs State Park is one of the best viewing points in the world. The 82 acre park is set within the 262,000 acre Susquehannock State Forest, protecting it from light pollution. A tremendous number of stars are visible at this Gold-Certified International Dark Sky Park. In fact, the sky is so dark that the Northern Lights were seen here four times in 2014, a very unusual event this far below the Arctic Circle. The park offersNight Sky Tours on Friday and Saturday nights that use lasers to identify and explain constellations and planets. Visitors can also use telescopes on site.

Atacama Desert, Chile

The Atacama Desert in Chile is already a stunning natural wonder with its red dunes, huge rock formations, and even a desert flowering in wet years. It’s also the driest non-polar desert in the world due to its high elevation, which makes it an exceptionally perfect place for stargazing. The newly constructed ALMA Observatorytakes advantage of these conditions and the lack of light pollution in the desert. At times, the Milky Way can shine so brightly here that it casts a shadow on the desert floor.

Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

In 2007, Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah became the first ever International Dark Sky Park, a designation since reserved for the best stargazing locations in the world. The beauty of the stars visible in the desert is supplemented by the striking natural setting. Owachomo bridge, perhaps the oldest bridge in the park, was created when a river changed course and carved a hole into solid rock.

Denali National Park, Alaska

The Northern Lights are caused by a coronal mass ejection, which is a gust of solar wind and magnetic fields that interact with the earth’s atmosphere. The result are stunning dancing waves of green, red, blue, and violet that are occasionally visible in northern climates. Denali National Park in Alaska is one of the best places for viewing the phenomenon. The park encompasses four million acres of federally protected land, and the cold and clear Alaskan nights made conditions ideal. The magnificent park also offers bears, wolves, caribou, and moose as well as some of the most stunning mountain views in the world.

Tromsø, Norway

Brave stargazers might seek to venture inside the Arctic Circle itself for viewing the northern lights. There’s no better place to experience the enchanted north thanTromsø. Not only does it offer fantastic views of the aurora borealis (the sun is invisible from November to January), it’s a lovely city in its own right. In the 19th century it was called the Paris of the North, and visitors can enjoy reindeer spotting, sledding with huskies, and visiting the famous Arctic Cathedral in this Norse and Sami medieval city.

 

This post was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on December 16, 2015.

Skiing in Norway: Back to Basics

Skiing in Norway? Probably not your first choice or for most people. How can it compete with the glitz, glamour and après skis of the Alps? It doesn’t have the verticals or expansive terrain of Canada, so it can’t claim that. The only thing it can do is be different. Instead focus on making sure that everyone knows how different it is. And it is different.

I’ve had the fortune to have done a bit of skiing in my time (this an attempt to modestly say I’m a ski bum). This time I decided to venture away from the usual destinations of the Alps. No longer following the masses like a lemming, I opted to book a skiing holiday to Norway with Crystal Ski. I was sold on the fact that Norway had empty slopes. Skiing within yourself and carving sharply to avoid a gathering of people mid run would be a thing of the past! Any sort of ski rage would be non-existent.

Norway- Hemsedal from the Top

What I wasn’t expecting were the resorts themselves. Once you have visited a few resorts around Europe, you get the sense that they are all the same. Identical shops, identical restaurants. Turn left onto any street and it’s lined with spas and hotels. Why would Norway be any different? Well maybe it is because the destinations popularity dipped as others grew; maybe it is because everyone thinks the winters are harsh (they’re not by the way) or maybe it is that everyone thinks that it is really hard to get to. Whatever the reason is, it hasn’t been hit by the commercial fist of the ski industry. It was a rustic quaint resort that oozed skiing.

The resorts themselves were rural looking log cabins lined with snow. Not a neon light in sight. Nothing big, nothing brash just understated. The closest resorts in style to them are some of the lesser known ones in North American. As pretty as the villages are their primary goal is to be a place to stay while skiing. That is not to say that there are no facilities, but they do not overwhelm the resort. Something that can’t always be said (I’m looking at you Aspen). The facilities enhance the experience. At no point do you walk down the street and lose your sense of place. Always there is overwhelming feeling that you are in Scandinavia.

Norway- Hemsedal lodge

Once you learn the history of Norway you begin to realize why it is like this. There aren’t many cultures that are as entwined with all things ski as Norway is. They claim to have invented it; they definitely invented a couple of turns (Telemark and Stem Christie); and they spend an obscene amount of money on equipment. For them it isn’t a hobby, it is a way of life and a means of transport. This is probably the biggest reason why skiing takes centre stage over everything else in Norway. And why Norway is a back to basics destination.

Norway isn’t perfect though. It can be let down by the slopes. They are not challenging enough. No chutes, no gulleys but plenty of fresh powder. At mid week, the urge for something new becomes overwhelming. Cross country skiing becomes a genuine option. In Norway it is a major sport, not just the coward’s way out. So the courses stretch for miles and miles. The fact that Cross country is so important to Norwegians could be why the downhill runs see less attention and why it doesn’t suffer from overcrowding.

So Norway is a destination for skiers who have had enough of the sideshow around Europe and the Alps. If it had a few more difficult runs and alpine lined slopes, it would probably be heralded as a Mecca for the skiing purist. But it doesn’t. But what it did offer me was a week purely dedicated to the pursuit of powder. A week I enjoyed. A week of fresh air living. I left almost as chilled as my Scandinavian hosts. Pure escapism on the slopes.

Thanks to Martin Nolan, certified ski bum, for this post on the often overlooked ski destination of Norway. Follow Martin on Twitter @martinnolan7