Should I Rent a Car in Europe? (Yes)
Every trip to Europe we ask the same question: should we rent a car?
In the past 6 years we’ve traveled to Europe six times and rented a car on five of those trips. I put together a list of pros and cons of renting a car on your European trip.
There are so many pros for renting a car in Europe:
- We’ve found that it is quite affordable compared to American rates when you find weekly deals.
- The freedom of having a car means you’re not dependent on train schedules and availability of train tickets.
- You can make as many (planned and unplanned) stops on the way to your destinations as you’d like.
- Plus, I honestly think you can learn a lot about a country’s people and culture based on how they drive (e.g., super fast but otherwise following the rules ala Germans or completely chaotic and rules be damned ala Italians).
The cons can include:
- Finding (and paying!) for parking overnight in city centers.
- Navigating medieval-designed and sized one way city streets.
- Expensive gas.
- Tolls. Tolls. And more tolls.
- Getting lost and trying to ask directions in a language you don’t speak (that one can be quite funny, actually).
Here are a few things we’d never have seen if we’d traveled by train:
Scottish highlands: Scotland, all of Scotland, was glorious. Because we drove from Edinburgh to Dunnottar Castle then across the highlands up to Lochness on our way to Isle of Skye then through Glasgow on our way back in to England we really felt like we got to see a lot of the country.
Escorial & Segovia: Because we were in a car, our drive from Madrid to Salamanca included stops at Escorial and Segovia. Two places where we didn’t spend the night, but we would not have wanted to miss.
Neuschwanstein castle: That day we were headed from Munich to Salzburg. It could have been a quick and painless train ride, but instead we headed to Bavaria to see sights like this.
One piece of advice: don’t rely on Google Maps for directions. We made this mistake and realized it the hard way – when we kept being told to turn down the wrong way of one-way city streets. Now we always use viamichelin.com, which not only knows the correct direction of streets, but also gives you an exact amount of the cost of tolls so no surprises.