1. Although every country is different, don’t expect to park for free. This is a luxury we oftentimes have in the U.S., excluding most major cities, but even then, you can typically go just a few blocks away to find free parking.
2. In most cases, you may have to pay to park even at shopping centers and grocery stores.
3. I highly recommend learning what the different colored parking spaces mean for each city that you visit. One color is typically for residents while the others are for business and sometimes regular, public parking. Use common sense when parking in a residential area. Nine out of ten places are for residents only, and they will have you TOWED, especially if you have an out-of-town or out-of-country license plate. When in doubt, simply ask someone nearby; however, be mindful that most people don’t drive vehicles in EU, so they may not know what the colored spaces mean either.
4. I suggest reading reviews on all paid parking areas, and if they’re asking you to leave your keys with them, then here are a few pointers you should know:
a. They plan on moving your car around a lot because the space is small, and they want to get as many vehicles as possible into the parking area. Remember to record footage of your vehicle before leaving it unattended so that you can inspect it for any damage upon your return. I tried my best to avoid these places.
b. They would like your keys because the course to park your vehicle requires some level of skill, and they don’t want to be held liable if you were to accidentally hit someone else’s car, especially when leaving. Either way, try to find a place where you don’t leave your keys with a parking attendant. However, I did both without any problems, which was anywhere between 30-50 parking garages.
5. I’d advise checking with your hotel for available parking. Sometimes they have arrangements with nearby parking garages that you can use for a small discount. For example, they may permit you to park for $23 USD per night instead of the full price of $25 USD per night. The discount is never really that much, but every little bit helps. If your location is not in the dead center of the city, sometimes parking is available.
6. Public street parking is free from seven or eight o’ clock in the evening until that same time the next morning (seven or eight o’ clock). Now with that being said, if you think you can park at 6 p.m. and simply leave after 7 p.m. without paying for that one hour then you’re dead wrong! You WILL get a ticket generally for the same amount that you would pay for a full day’s parking pass since there’s no indication of how long you were actually there. The same applies for staying after seven o’ clock in the morning. Oh, and don’t think that they’ll be lenient just because you have multiple parking passes in your window. Trust me, you’re getting a ticket.
7. It’s usually difficult to locate parking garages while driving in traffic so I suggest Google mapping their location beforehand. Don’t doubt Google’s directions because most of them are usually buildings that have been converted into parking garages. Also keep in mind that sometimes the way in and the way out are exactly the same. I know it’s weird but this is typically the case.
8. If you lose your ticket, try calling the number on the exit box. If that doesn’t work, find someone to follow out of the exit gate. Make sure you follow them carefully but also closely in order to exit the parking garage along with them while they have the exit open. I had to do this a couple of times after exhausting my resources of calling the helpline, trying to reprint a ticket, and trying to locate another English-speaking person. Sometimes you just have to make it happen on your own, but don’t make this common practice as these exits do have cameras and they will bill you in the mail. This is only an emergency exit strategy!
9. Paying for parking for a full day is sometimes less than paying by the hour. If you’re unsure, pay more instead of less. You don’t want the anxiety of wondering if your vehicle has been towed.
10. Instead of being in the middle of everything, it’s best to park a little farther away and just Uber or walk the remaining distance. This was the easiest way to avoid the majority of foot traffic and congestion once it was time to leave.
11. Never leave anything of value out in the open and in plain sight in the front of the car. Put everything in the trunk regardless of where you park.
12. Always try to back into parking spaces instead of pulling in. Trust me, you’ll end up in parking garages practically designed for mini cars so the space is extremely tight. If you need to, just do a three-point turn until you’re pointing outwards.
13. Leave departure tickets in the car so you don’t lose them. Yes, if you have it then you can pay on your way down but you still run the risk of losing the ticket.
14. Always try to keep a reasonable amount of cash on you because some places do require exact change. It’s rare but not so rare that I didn’t experience it. There were also a few times when the credit card machine didn’t work.
15. If possible, have both a Visa and a Mastercard. While Visa is widely accepted, Mastercard is the second most widely accepted electronic payment option.
Jonathan Dryer: The Unofficial Traveler.