1. The price of interstate tolls depends on the number of miles actually traveled on the road. Generally, there’s a toll every 50 km; however, some places, such as Croatia, have tolls more frequently than that.
2. Get over to the right on the interstate for faster traffic. It’s common practice for drivers to flash their lights and ride your bumper if you’re driving too slowly in front of them. They aren’t being rude by doing this. This is just normal for them. Unlike the U.S., most people will respectfully get over and allow others to pass.
3. Cameras are everywhere, especially in the UK, so be mindful of how you conduct yourself in the city and while traveling through work zones. Police are predominately located in small villages and towns, so I would recommend not speeding through these areas.
4. In regions where wine drinking is popular for tourists, like Tuscany and France, be aware that there are several checkpoints to safeguard for DUIs. While most of them are in the weirdest places, they’re very common at public festivals.
5. I’d strongly suggest obtaining an international license during your visit overseas. While most policemen simply request your state driver’s license, a strict officer will ask to see everything, so it’s best to be proactive. Some car rental companies also prefer that you have an international license in order to prove that you’re serious about being safe.
6. Try to learn the road signs in advance by studying them online. Generally, they’re pretty easy to pick up.
7. If you’re not paying attention, the road markings will completely throw you off. Most EU countries simply place an X over road signs whenever they’re no longer available for public use. For example, if an exit is closed, an X is simply taped over the exit sign, or if a turning lane is closed, then an X is placed over the painted arrow on the ground. In the U.S., these road signs and markings would typically be removed altogether.
8. Just in case you were wondering, traffic police generally don’t carry firearms.
9. In England and Cyprus, where the left side of the road is used, the transition is very smooth when exiting the ferrying dock areas.
10. In countries where the left side of the road is used, there are abundant signs to keep your instinctual right-side thoughts at bay. I experienced the most difficulty whenever I pulled over for a few seconds to check my course, and just that quickly, I’d forget to return to the left side of the road. I’d also forget whenever I needed to make a right turn from the left lane at a five-point intersection. A good rule of thumb is to take things slowly without being over-confident. It’s also a good idea to allow other vehicles with local tags to get in front of you so you can simply follow them. This was extremely helpful in major cities and became my new art form during my travels as I did this a lot!
11. Tolls are mainly used to access the tunnels that go directly through the mountains instead of zigzagging around them. The majority are also fairly inexpensive ($10 USD or less), depending on the distance traveled and the vehicle size. However, the tolls in Switzerland and Austria were quite pricey. I paid $30 USD for one toll, which did save me an hour of time and eased my comfort level, considering that the roads would often seem a bit too cramped for my liking. It felt as if there wasn’t enough guardrail alongside the winding roads, nor enough room for vehicles to safely pass one another without colliding.
12. Sometimes the mountainous roads are unavoidable. Just drive at the speed that’s comfortable for you and get over whenever you can so others can pass. People are seriously nicer about this practice in Europe than we are in the U.S. If you would like to sight-see along the way, just stop and pull over.
13. UK has more traffic police on the interstate than anywhere else I’ve traveled.
14. There are several emergency call stations and opportunities to pull over along the interstate. Gas stations and restaurants are also available so there’s no need to exit into town or a city to fill up on gas or take a quick rest.
15. Most EU gas stations and restaurants along the interstate have at least one English-speaking tenant.
16. Most people overseas drive diesel-fueled vehicles so gas stations usually have only one gasoline option. For the same reason, diesel fuel is much cheaper than gasoline and standard transmission (manual) vehicles are also cheaper to rent as opposed to automatic transmission vehicles.
17. For the best prices, buy snacks and drinks at a grocery store instead of rest stops.
18. If you need an oil change, rural mechanic shops are the fastest and most convenient. Mechanic shops in the city require scheduled appointments and are normally booked for days at a time. There are very few, and I mean very few, rapid oil-change places. If you know you’re going to be traveling for quite some time, ask the rental company at what mileage should the oil be changed.
19. When using the ferry to transport your car to different islands and other parts of the continent, don’t be intimidated. Just follow the signs and slow down when reading. Ask for directions when purchasing tickets. Once you board your car, please make note of where you parked. I was always nervous that I’d be the only person trying to locate my vehicle upon arrival since I couldn’t stay with it during transport.
20. When traveling by ferry, always get a cabin if you don’t want to sleep outside on the deck or end up in a small, uncomfortable chair for several hours.
21. Don’t be offended by the personnel telling you exactly where and how to park when boarding the ferry. These guys are just trying to prevent any delay to their strict time schedules. Just remember to park as close as possible to the car in front of you. You’ll also want to put your personal belongings in the trunk, excluding your personal ID and passport because when it’s time to go, it’s time to go!
22. Ferry food is not good!
23. Always keep cash for the ferries because some of them don’t accept credit cards. Generally speaking, the currency should also be of the country the ferry is operating from.
24. I only had one experience where I transported my car via train. It was from England to France and surprisingly only took 20-25 minutes on the high-speed train. It seemed very confusing at first because there were so many trains, but as I mentioned earlier, just slow down, remember what ferry company you’ll be using, find the appropriate lane, and rest assured that once you’re in line you’re all good. On the trains that carry cars, you must stay in the vehicle the entire trip. Simply apply the emergency brake and enjoy the ride.
25. Booking my travels by way of ferry always seemed confusing. It wasn’t easy to keep track of the departing cities and numerous companies, routes, and times. While I used Google to determine the general departure time, I actually waited until I arrived at the dock to book my tickets and receive any additional information. Waiting to purchase my tickets at the dock never failed me, although sometimes it was difficult to pinpoint the exact location of where to purchase them. My GPS wouldn’t account for the fact that I still needed to actually purchase tickets. It would only navigate to the docking area in general. I had to figure out the rest. I learned to purchase my tickets at either the ferry companies themselves or at a travel agency, typically located near the dock area.
26. Riding the ferry through the Greek Archipelago is fun! The most popular islands can be reached by speed ferries. Trust me, it’s worth the cost! Just be sure to ask in advance when the next ferry is scheduled so you don’t get stranded on the island for the next 2-3 days. Plane tickets in the archipelago of Greece may cost less or roughly the same as ferry tickets, even when purchased at the last minute.
27. Speed ferries only haul people, not cars.
28. A general rule of thumb to remember is that if your destination is visible from the shore of the mainland, then the ferry will most likely run every hour and a half to two hours until about 9 p.m. In England and France, the ferry will run until midnight. However, things change with these companies so this was just my personal experience.
29. Country hopping by airplane can be more exhausting then traveling by ferry and car. Let’s be honest, who wants to repeatedly go through customs and security checkpoints only to wait for hours before boarding a flight that eventually gets delayed? Unlike flying, delays are very rare when traveling by ferry and car.
30. To find the best tickets, I used Skyscanner. Depending on the distance, one-way tickets purchased at the last minute were somewhere between $200 USD and $250 USD. For me, last minute was showing up at the airport and buying tickets for the next day. Shorter distances were $125 USD to $150 USD. I would hear stories of tickets purchased in advance, not last minute, that were less than $100 USD.
31. If you do decide to island hop by flight, only travel with a large backpack as your carry-on. There are excellent packing tips and luggage options available in order to maximize your limited space.
32. Try to wear clothes that are relaxing. Leave the belt and extra accessories in your carry-on. Also wear slip-on shoes if possible.
33. When crossing borders in vehicles, always keep your passport up front with you, ideally in the same place.
34. Tolls generally print out a ticket that will be used to pay your fee at the next toll. If you lose this ticket, call the assistance number displayed on the toll booth and they’ll be able to take the payment over the phone. It’s a good idea to always keep this ticket in the same place. I kept mine in the dash.
35. On average, I spent $35-$40 USD each day on tolls, which was more of the high-end price. However, you can set your navigation to avoid toll roads altogether if you’d like to take the more scenic route. I did both.
35. Most importantly, have fun! And remember to always practice safe driving. Don’t text and drive.
Jonathan Dryer: The Unofficial Traveler.