Its Goodbye EU Roadtrip, June 2017
- The Idea
- The Car
- Day 1-4
- Day 5
- Day 6
- Day 7
- Day 8
- Day 9
- Day 10
- Day 11
- Day 12
- Day 13
- Day 14
- Day 15
- Day 16
- Day 17
- Day 18
- Day 19
- Car After the trip
- Summary and thoughts

- General
- Steve Fishers main web site

This site was last updated: August 2017

Below are my thoughts on the trip structured as a series of questions and answers.

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Whats it like doing a solo drive around Europe?

Different, especially if you're not used to solo travelling. I have to admit a bit of previous experience of solo travelling. In the late 1970's / early 1980's I was working shifts with a 6 days on, 4 days off shift pattern. This sometimes resulted in me being off shift during the week, if the sun was shining and looking to stay I would get on my motorbike and head to the coast for a couple of days. But all of my longer holidays of 5 or more days were always with friends / family.

You need to think differently, you are the one that takes the decisions. Just about everything that happens is your responsibility.

If you are only used to group holidays it's a culture shock. But it's not an unpleasant shock. Be positive and go for it, there are many places and people to visit and meet.

There are the good bits, you see what you want, eat what you want, stop when you want. You can change your mind and stay extra days, or just try a different place nearby.

There are the challenges, Where to go, finding accommodation, keeping an eye on the bills, understanding that some days it's only going to be you and a quiet town. But I found that Beach side locations are full of people who want to talk ( their probably on holiday like you and are in a relaxed state of mind, and are willing to talk about anything ). However, towns away from the coast in the early / mid-week can be very subdued. Look what your local town or city is like early / mid-week, unless you know the places to go its unlikely you will stumble over a lively night.

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How do you prepare for the trip

The car I used I had owned for 6 years. Most of its maintenance was done by me, over the years I know the car and it had been reliable. Only two breakdowns in the 6 years, one - a split hose and the second a flat battery caused by leaving the lights on.

The car had a full minor service a couple of weeks before the trip ( Service it early so if you have any problems you have time to fix ). Plugs, oil filter, air filter, change brake fluid ( on one banger rally we boiled the brake fluid going UP the alps )

If you are buying a car especially for the trip, get it early and spend a bit of time checking it over. Take it for a run of a couple of hundred miles to make sure there are no problems. Get used to looking at the temperature gauge, so you understand the cars normal operating temperature. Change a wheel ( better to find out you cannot undo a wheel nut while you're at home, as opposed to standing at the side of a Italian motorway). The idea is to make sure you know the car and are happy with it. Carry some basic tools, spare oil ( extended high speed running and driving in the alps can increase oil consumption, and oil is not cheap in motorway services). Watch the temperature gauge, if it starts to get hot, pull over and let it cool down ( its not a race, give yourself time ).

Remember the traffic laws can be very different in Europe. Take your time driving in cities, traffic signals / signs may not be where you expect, don't speed - some countries have on the spot fines, others lock you up for speeding (google - Switzerland, gumball, locked up ) While the motorways are the fastest ( always use if you have a large distance to cover ), the none motorway routes let you see the real country you're travelling in. However not taking the motorway could double ( or more ) the journey time.

Use a Sat nav, it takes so much hassle out of driving in Europe. Don't just rely on a single Smart phone, they get lost, they sometimes stall, there may not be signal coverage to update maps. Take two phones, each on a different network ( that old phone in the back of the draw with a 10 PAYG top-up in a great backup phone). Many villages don't have speed limit signs, the village name sign usually means a 30kmph applies from there until you pass a another village sign with a cross / line through it.

What clothes to take? - You will probably not be going to an Embassy ball, so keep it simple and don't take too much. If you're going for a couple of weeks expect to wash things. The back shelf of a car makes a great place to dry clothes.

What should personal items should you pack? - If you have to use a certain type of shampoo or shower gel, pack that. But all the rooms I stayed in had toiletries supplied. Otherwise pack the things you take on a normal holiday, but remember its Europe, not the Amazon rainforest. If you need something you will be able to buy in the local supermarket / pharmacist.

You are on a trip that you may never take again. Don't rush, if you see something interesting, stop and have a look around. Be flexible and be prepared to change plans if you need to.

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How did you book accomodation on the trip?

You should pre-book the first couple of nights in Europe, so you know where you are going and you know you have a ( hopefully ) good room / location.

I know people who for a 2 day weekend trip will spend a week looking at accommodation, reading TripAdvisor reviews, checking other reviews, hitting all the online booking apps to find more reviews, create a list of places to stay, then try and compare the different accommodations, then try and get the best price, if the price is to much they try a different accommodation and so on.

For me the main criteria was cost ( I planned on spending around 50 euros per night, the place had to have en-suite, Wi-Fi, ideally air-con and parking )

Once in Europe I used Trivago for hotels, booking the next day's hotel in the evening ( usually via booking.com ). As I had a simple list of requirements, it only took about 10 mins to book the next day's room. I would do a quick selection of accommodation in my price range, check location, check a few reviews and go with what looked OK. As all the booking details were sent to my phone, I took a picture of the hotel details and booking reference display on the phone / tablet with my compact camera in case I lost the phone.

You may have different accommodation requirements, but keep the list simple. Remember this is a adventure, if you're not happy taking the risk of having a less than perfect view for your room or you're fussy about noise, this type of holiday is not for you.

Be flexible, I could not get a room at a reasonable price at Lake Como or Barcelona, so I went nearby ( the village near Lake Como was a most surreal night of the trip, the town up the coast from Barcelona was just different to what I was expecting to do in Barcelona ).

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What do Europens think of Brexit?

I spoke to many people during the trip about Britexit, all didn't think it was a good idea. Many of the people expressed the option that Europe was not perfect and there are problems but it would be better if the UK was part of the discussion. Several had hoped Brexit would have made the European Parliament review its policies and listen to the different nations concerns. But it appears that The European parliament has reacted to Brexit by being even more Federalist and trying to control Europe under a European parliament governance. Many people commented that their concerns were not being heard ( mostly about controls ).

There were many comments about Immigration. Not that immigration is wrong, just concerns about the number and location of them. They were concerned about the impact on the local services, living accommodation and the integration of the immigrants into the local culture.

My discussions with most people seemed to echo most people's concerns in the UK. The only difference is they want to remain in the EU and try and work the issues out.

A few people I spoke to were very concerned about loss of controls, there people felt that their governments were not protecting their countries interests enough and wanted less European parliament interference in their country.

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How expensive is it to do this type of trip?

It depends, I was working on an expected cost of around 100 Euros per day for everything ( accommodation, food, fuel, tolls etc. ). In the end it was just under 110 euros per day.

The first thing to do is decide on a departure date and book the ferry ( boat or train, depending on where you are departing from and going to ). Generally the earlier you book the cheaper the cost. As my trip was always going to be open ended, I know I would take a hit on the return cost of the ferry. However, if you can set a specific departure date and return date you can keep costs down

After Accommodation the biggest cost was fuel / tolls. The best way to save money on fuel is to reduce your speed ( the motorway speed limit varies, but 140kmph is the norm ), I cruised at 110-115 kmph. It reduced fuel consumption by over 5 MPG compared to doing 135 - 140 kmph. Fill up at supermarkets, motorway fuel prices are huge. But never run below a quarter of a tank, you never know if there is a major problem ahead that leaves you running on fumes. If you are getting low use the motorway fuel pumps, but only add 10 - 15 litres.

Going over the Alps will vastly increase your fuel consumption, don't try it with a low fuel level. Seeing how fast you can go on the Autobahn drinks fuel.

As all the places I stayed included breakfast, I filled up on that and had only a small snack for lunch. Each evening I had a decent meal and a couple of drinks.

The main ways to reduce costs are: Accommodation ( hostel?, Airbnb? ), fuel (smaller car/engine, reduce speed ), food ( eat less, eat cheaper ), tolls (avoid motorways - but this could mean higher fuel costs ).

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What Technology should I take?

I took quite a bit, I planned to use the trip to test what camera it best for travelling. I also took a sat Nav, 2 smart phones, tablet and a laptop.

Cameras - I took a Canon DSLR, a Canon SX280 compact and planned to use the cameras in the phones. The DSLR was the most versatile ( so long as you changed lenses, used the PC to process the photos ), but was a pain to lug around. When the Laptop failed ( I think it got cooked in the boot by the heat ), I reverted to the Compact camera and phones. I soon found I was using the Compact almost exclusively, it gave me many choices ( good zoom, Good low light, good flash ) and it could link and transfer photos via wifi to the phones / tablet.

While the Phones could take photos I found them to limiting especially the really cheap smart phone ( only 5mp camera, ok in daylight but rubbish indoors )

To check the different quality of images, compare the DSLR images (713Axxxx ) to the compact SX280 images ( IMG_xxxx.jpg ) to the Phones images ( IMG_xxxxxxxx_xxxxxx ).

Personally I would always have a separate Sat Nav, you are not dependent on mobile coverage. It means the phones free to use, If you are travelling alone it could get messy trying to use the phone for everything.

I had different network Sims in the Two phones, just in case of problems. The second Sim was a 30 day bundle.

Personally I liked to use the Tablet for Bookings, Facebook etc. Mainly as I found it easier for typing and could use the phone to call-up and check / confirm something I was doing on the tablet.

On future trips I would take a Sat Nav, Compact Camera, Phone and Tablet. The Sat Nav, phone and Tablet are all charged via a USB plug ( so can be charged in the car ). Only the Camera requires a mains charger.

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What happens if the car breaksdown?

Cars rarely breakdown without warning. If you hear a noise or feel a vibration, stop at the next services and check it out. It's better to decide the cars in trouble at the services, where there are people, drinks, food and possibly a breakdown support. Don't try and force your way onward and end up breaking down in the middle of nowhere or by the side of a motorway. Either of the last two options means lots of time waiting and lots of cash spent to recover you.

If it's an old car, it may be best to scrap it and fly home. Anywhere in Europe is only about a couple of hundred pounds and 24 hours from your home. I was prepared to ditch my Mondeo if the worse happened.

The best way to avoid breakdowns is make sure the car is fit for the journey, don't stress the car ( very high speed, high revs, hard braking, erratic driving ), do a quick Air, Oil, Water check each day.

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What should I avoid?

One basic rule is if a place ( bar, accommodation, restaurant ) looks dodgy, smells dodgy and feels dodgy - its probably dodgy.

Try not to arrive and book in at your accommodation late in the evening, if there are any problems you might not be able to get them sorted out.

Be careful with the local delicacies, there nothing worse than have to take a long car trip with a bad stomach. Drink bottled water, not tap water (buy it at the supermarket - it was often cheaper to buy a 1 litre or 2 litre bottle than a smaller bottle)

Don't drink too much Alcohol, many European counties have very strict drink / driving laws. . On the banger rallies, where there were several drivers in the car, each night a different driver was the nominated non-drinker. This allowed the other drivers to drink and gave time for them to recover the next morning, while the nominated driver did the first leg of the journey that day.

Keep to speed limits, especilly in towns, villages and cities.

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Would'nt it be better just to take a cheap flight and hire a car?

Possibly, but most 'cheap' flights are not that cheap once luggage and other things are taken into account. Also if you hire a car, the prices can be quite high for anything larger than a ford Fiesta size. Hire car companies may also not allow or penalise you returning the hire car to a different airport / location.

While you may be able to find a good price for flights, beware of hire car companies at airports. I have hired a few times, all pre-booked, at airports. They push hard for additional cover, if not taken some demand a hefty deposit to cover any possible accidents. Even having your own hire car insurance policy, they hire company usually demand a hefty deposit. Recently the hiring of cars at airports seems to be more and more of a hassle. The Hire companies offer great online deals for booking early, but once you get to the counter at the airport the battle to get more of your money commerce's.

Just flying and hiring may well suit you, but I think part of the adventure is the whole journey. You never know what you will find on the way or if what you see may make you change your plans

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Still don't understand why you would do it?

If you don't get it, that's fine. You just probably prefer a specific type of holiday ( Beach, walking etc ), and prefer to be in a group.

But I believe everyone ( as a solo traveller or in a small group ) should try a short European road trip, in under 4 hours driving from Calais you could be in Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam or Cologne. Try and stop a distance outside these major cities and see what you find.

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I can be contacted at smf@smfpics.com