Unless you’re friends with a unicorn, hitting the road with your car is one of the best ways to experience any area, and Europe is no different. You have the speed, the freedom to go anywhere at any time – or do you? Technically that might be the case, but if you want to stay safe on your road trip, you need to know what to think about when you’re on the road.
Not all European countries have the same driving rules, you can’t just park anywhere, and what happens if your car breaks down? Things like that can give you a minor – or major – headache, but don’t worry: we’ve been doing the vanlife for so long that we have loads of safety tips for you, whether you’re traveling in a van or not! Have a look!
The following tips have been created by us, after living on the road in our VW Bus for an entire year. Living that #vanlife!
Pro Tip: Learn some basics before you go. Like how to change a tire, check the oil, or how to deal with an overheated engine. Oh, and some self-defense! It can’t hurt making sure that you won’t get hurt.
Literally. Including the kitchen sink. You’ll probably get some use out of it. If not, you should at least bring other road trip essentials such as jumper cables, a flashlight, water, essential tools, warm blankets – basically, think about every horror movie character you’ve gotten frustrated with for not bringing that thing (be it a spare tire or a phone charger), and bring that thing. All of them.
Here it is; the fun part! Even though you’re having the time of your life, swooshing past German bratwurst factories and Italian grape-stompers, you’ll be able to enjoy it even more if you don’t get in trouble for not following these tips!
There are barely any significant differences, but the driving rules in most European countries differ slightly from each other. You can’t use your phone, you might need to have your lights on at all times, and in the winter some countries (Scandinavia, we’re looking at you) require snow tires. Do some research – and always wear your seatbelt!
Google Maps is your friend, but the download option is your best buddy: signal might suck from time to time so being able to tell where the hell you are even when you’re offline can be a real life-saver. Or, at least, a time-saver!
Very few hotels will let you bring a car to your room, and who wants to stay at a hotel anyway?! Whether you plan on waking up with a sore neck from sleeping in the back seat or you’re traveling in a van (yay vanlife!), you’re always gonna need somewhere to park.
This is where your gut might be able to give you some pointers: if you have a funny feeling about a place, then don’t park there. Not worth the risk. Instead, you can read parking reviews (Park4Night is a fave), ask the locals, park close to other vans or road trippers (safety in numbers, right?), or even give up some of your money to stay at a campground. Oh, and don’t park your car on private property!
There are very few things more annoying than getting back to the car after a day full of fun and adventures and find a window smashed in and some of your cherished possessions missing. So, make it harder for any opportunistic thieves by bringing your stuff with you, or by hiding it. Told you a blanket would come in handy!
Know where your keys are and where the quickest exit is, should shit has found a way to hit the fan. It probably won’t, but noisy teenagers and other sounds might be too loud and keep you from getting your beauty sleep.
Hopefully, you’ll never have to worry about what to do if you’re in an accident or encounter some other hardship, but you know what they say: better safe than sorry. And how right they are!
It’s boring and expensive, and it kind of sucks. But if something happens and you don’t have it, you might be looking at hospital and car mechanic bills, and that’s worse. By far. So, do a big sigh, suck it up, and do it.
Wherever you are, whether it’s the Three-Country Cairn where Finland, Sweden, and Norway meet or a beach in Malta, you always call 112 for emergencies. There are some local varieties, but this number will do the trick every time. Try to make sure that you know where the closest hospital is, just in case – and don’t forget about dental emergencies!
We don’t mean to rain on your parade or anything, but it will happen. Cars do that. Vans do that. Hell, there’s a Danish ferry that kept driving into the docks. That’s the bad news. But, there’s stuff you can do to make a breakdown run as smoothly as Tycho Brahe did into the ferry ramp in Helsingör. Don’t worry, though; the ship is fine and runs on electricity now!
In some countries, it’s illegal not to have these in your car at all times, and even if you can get away with not having these important items, you have no reason to. An immobile car on a dark road with no reflective warnings is another accident waiting to happen. Don’t let it. You might also want to invest in a fire extinguisher. Just saying.
Much like insurance, this little fella can save you much time, stress, and money. Having someone that will come and help you wherever you are is invaluable: our favorite is the RAC because they have European-wide coverage!
In the tank, yes, but also in a jerry can safely tucked away in your trunk. You never know when you’ll need it, and even if you plan your trip down to the last tiny detail, you might be unpleasantly surprised by a closed road or a gas station with pumps that are out of order. Ending up with a lifeless car is easily preventable, so make sure it won’t happen to you!
A smile is contagious, and if you’re friendly toward the people in the area, they’ll most likely return the favor by giving you the best tips and suggestions you can get. Learn a bit of their language too – don’t aim for fluency; just learn the basics! Road trips are so much fun, and we hope you’ll feel brave enough to start planning for one now – also, am I the only one with Safe European Home (with home replaced by roads) by The Clash on repeat in my head?!