How to Travel Around Europe by Car

Open borders, good roads, and the ability to see many interesting places even on a short trip—all this makes a road trip through European countries an attractive pastime.

In this article, we will discuss how to prepare for a road trip through European countries and what nuances to pay attention to in preparing for the trip.

Previously, we wrote about useful applications for life in the European Union.

Eu_blog_0624_01-1-min (1).png

In 2022, EU residents made 202 million tourist trips with at least one overnight stay in a neighboring EU state.

47% of these trips were made by rented or private cars, followed by planes (39%). Trains (6%), buses (5%), and water transport (3%) had much less significance.

In five countries, the share of inbound trips by car was 70% or more:

  • Slovenia (80%)
  • Slovakia (78%)
  • Austria (75%)
  • Luxembourg (74%)
  • Croatia (72%)

European statistics also state that road trips are most popular within countries, while Europeans prefer planes for travelling to the seaside.

Local habits are adopted by temporary relocates and migrants, who often strive to explore their new homeland with more enthusiasm than locals.

Despite the fact that the European territory is well-explored from the perspective of a road traveler, there is always room for amazing discoveries.

However, any trip, even a short one, is worth preparing for.

For Traveling in a Private Car

1. Make sure the vehicle is in good condition and will withstand the trip, especially if it is a long journey.

Pay attention: for a road trip in Europe, it is mandatory that tires are of the same model on each axle.

According to the Vienna Convention, it is sufficient to have only the equipment required in the country of registration, but experienced travelers recommend checking the laws of the countries you plan to enter.

For example, in Germany, you will additionally need a first aid kit, a warning triangle, and a vest or jacket with reflective elements. By law, there is no obligation to own these items, but can you explain to a German policeman why they are missing? In some countries, a spare pair of glasses is required if the driver uses them.

2. Bring spare batteries for the alarm remote, and any extra tools just in case.

3. Purchase headlight deflectors so you don’t blind oncoming traffic when driving on the right side.

When traveling to Europe by car from November to April, snow chains are necessary. In snowy periods in Austria and Germany, winter tires are mandatory.

4. Make sure you have enough spare bulbs. According to eyewitnesses, fines are often imposed for non-working headlights.

Toll Roads in Europe

An additional expense for road travelers is toll roads, autobahns in Europe. They come in two types: state and private. In the first case, tolls are a form of tax for road use, which covers the costs of construction and maintenance of roads without raising taxes for those who do not use toll highways.

In the second case, it is a business of private companies, but the state regulates the maximum amount of fees charged to motorists.

Payment for roads in Europe is made either through special toll booths (for which you need cash or a bank card) or using vignettes—small onboard devices linked to your account in an application. In this case, the cost of the trip is automatically deducted when you pass through toll points or sensors above the road.

Tolls for specific routes are charged in France, Italy, Croatia, Poland, Portugal, Ireland, and Spain, as well as in the UK, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Norway, Serbia, Turkey, and Belarus. The cost calculation is based on the kilometers traveled.

Vignettes are widely used in Bulgaria, Austria, Romania, Switzerland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czechia, and Hungary. Here, the right to use toll roads is purchased for a set period, during which you can use the roads unlimitedly.

Special tolls for certain bridges, tunnels, and passes must be paid in Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France, Denmark, and Sweden.

What Documents Are Needed for Traveling by Car in Europe in 2024

First, check your insurance policy, what mileage and countries it covers, and obtain EU breakdown insurance. Take all accompanying documentation, including the V5C (logbook).

Consider local requirements for the car: many French cities have established environmental zones, and to enter them, you will need a certificate containing information about your car’s emissions.

When planning your car route through Europe, find out about road tolls, passes, certificates, and vignettes that you might need.

For example, in Switzerland, you can only buy an annual pass for toll highways, while in some places, there are no toll roads at all.

Should you rent a car for the entire trip or just part of it? Experienced travelers recommend using public transportation whenever possible, and renting a car in Europe only when public transport does not align with your plans. Car sharing can also be a convenient option.

An interesting tip comes from a user in France: you can lease a new French car. Citroën, Renault, and Peugeot offer non-EU tourists the option to lease a car for a minimum of 21 days, after which the car is sold to a resident at a tax discount.

This option can be cheaper than traditional car rentals. Traveling this way is allowed almost throughout Europe. Companies offer full insurance at no extra cost, and you can pick up the car in one location and return it in another.

Where to Stay During a Car Trip Across Europe

The classic option is to book a hotel or hostel. It’s best to do this in advance, before starting your journey, to avoid spending the night in the car.

You might try CouchSurfing: members offer travelers help and accommodation for a small fee or for free. However, in popular tourist locations, all CouchSurfing hosts might be booked. As with hotels, plan your visit in advance.


Camping is an attractive way to spend time in the open nature, but it is not suitable if you plan to visit large cities, as there is simply no place to set up camp.

To find campsites along your route, use the park4night app. Here, travelers add discovered spots for motorhome parking and camper stops to the map, and other users rate and review these spots. The service covers all of Europe, notably Spain.

Another app, trekarta, works offline and provides additional information on drinking fountains, picnic spots, trails, bodies of water, and points of interest for road travelers.

Recommended countries for good camping zones: Upper Provence Alps, Switzerland (expensive option), Northern Italy, and Croatia. Sweden offers inexpensive camping.


Fairy Tale Route, Germany by Car

The country’s excellent infrastructure and campsites make it ideal for first-time road travelers. A great option is to drive through Germany on the “Fairy Tale Route,” which starts near Frankfurt and leads north to Bremen. The route follows the path of the Brothers Grimm.

The first stop is Steinau an der Straße, the brothers' childhood home, with Steinau Castle located in the town. Next, visit Marburg and Kassel, where the brothers worked as librarians. The route ends in Göttingen and Hamelin.

French Riviera, France by Car

This classic coastal route takes you through luxurious resorts, hilltop towns, and winding roads. To fully appreciate the French Riviera, allocate at least a week for your trip.

Be sure to visit the most interesting places: Saint-Tropez, Cannes, Nice, and Monte Carlo. If time allows, follow the route:
  • Marseille,
  • Saint-Tropez (Pampelonne Beach),
  • La Croisette, Nice,
  • the Grand Corniche road to Monaco built by Napoleon.

The journey ends in Monaco, where you can drive on the Monaco Grand Prix track.

An alternative route for a road trip in France is the Wine Route.

Lake Region, Italy by Car

Located near Milan, this region is perfect for a road trip. Lake Maggiore is the starting point. The charming town of Stresa offers a view of the lakes, and the mountain trails are popular for active cycling (bikes can be rented).

Next, visit Lake Orta and the town of Orta San Giulio, located on a peninsula. Head east to Lake Como, and then to Lake Garda. Official Sostas campsites for motorhomes and campers will help you travel hundreds of kilometers across Italy by car and see some of the best landscapes in the country in a few days, without the need for a hotel or guest house.

Spain by Car

If you want to see a bit of everything, a good option is the Via de la Plata highway (A66, mostly toll-free). You can visit Cantabria, the inland cities of Oviedo, León, Salamanca, and Seville, mountains passing through Picos de Europa, and from Seville, head to the Malaga beach.

Germany — Switzerland — Italy

This route focuses on locations that make each country unique. Recommended stops include: Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen, Innsbruck, Vipiteno in Ortisei, the Dolomites, Venice, Florence, and Rome. If you have time, visit San Gimignano.

Winter Baltic Route

An excellent route through Germany and Poland to the Baltic States: take a ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki, drive to Santa’s village above the Arctic Circle, turn towards Sweden, cross the border into Norway, and then follow the western coast to Bergen. From there, head to Oslo and take a ferry to Denmark or Sweden.

Summer Mediterranean Route

You can start this sunny route from the coast of Portugal, driving along the Algarve, visiting Gibraltar, following the Spanish coast to Marbella, then heading up the hills to Ronda and along Malaga. After that, head to Valencia, follow the coast to Barcelona, visit Andorra, and continue to Monaco.

Then you can move north to Italy, travel through Slovenia, and along the Croatian coast, visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro.

Spring/Autumn Route

A moderate climate route through Central Europe. You can start from Belgium, the Netherlands, or Germany: visit small medieval towns in the Rhineland, head to the Harz mountains, then to the Czech Republic to see Prague.

Next, take a trip to Slovakia, Hungary, or Romania, south to Austria, make a brief stop in Liechtenstein on your way to Switzerland. Then, travel to France through Chamonix, visit Annecy, Colmar, and Strasbourg. Return to Germany and explore the Black Forest (on the road from Kniebis to Baden-Baden).

Here are some useful recommendations from experienced travelers:

  • In large cities, parking can be challenging, so traveling to smaller towns by car is more practical. If you are not in a hurry, you can avoid toll roads and parking fees.
  • In Switzerland, many scenic spots (Zermatt, Wengen, Mürren) ban private vehicles, which can complicate your trip.
  • Do not try to cover too many places at once. It is better to spend enough time in 3-4 cities than to rush through 10 without truly seeing anything.
  • Plan rest days when you will not be driving.
  • Refuel in time—some regions have few stations, and sometimes they are closed or out of fuel.
  • Take enough food and water for the road. In Germany, bottled water is expensive; people often return bottles for a partial refund.
  • Ensure you have mobile and internet connectivity to avoid roaming charges. Some providers offer packages valid throughout the EU.
  • Do not rely solely on GPS. Download maps in Google Maps or the app. Some regions have poor network coverage.

But the main advice from Internet users is: do not embark on a car trip across Europe :)

Users on social media point out many drawbacks of this mode of travel. They believe that the high cost due to toll roads and parking fees (which can be hard to find in big cities), fuel prices, expenses for preparing the car for the trip, and navigating bureaucratic nuances make car tours very costly and complicated.

They think using a car is impractical when most places can be reached by train and then explored on foot or by public transport. It’s a choice between cost and comfort.

The need to send funds to loved ones may arise while on the road. The chosen transfer method should always be accessible—and the Korona app is just that.


Make instant money transfers to 50+ countries with minimal exchange rate markup and no fee if sending with currency conversion.

The Korona app is available on the App Store and Google Play.

We frequently and extensively describe life, work, and travel in Europe in our blog. If you are interested in this topic, read more via the link.