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Hiring and Driving a Car in Europe

[vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1433753900038{padding-top: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;}” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” parallax_content_width=”in_grid” angled_section=”no” angled_section_position=”both” angled_section_direction=”from_left_to_right” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Hiring a car anywhere abroad should be a relatively easy and transparent process, but very often it is not and is something that can cost you dear when you get home.

The array of insurances and confusing conditions can make it virtually impossible to make an informed judgement – there’s a chance that you may either take out unnecessary insurance or face additional and often considerable costs later.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1433754037283{padding-top: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;}” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” parallax_content_width=”in_grid” angled_section=”no” angled_section_position=”both” angled_section_direction=”from_left_to_right” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

Plan Ahead

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator type=”normal” position=”center”][vc_column_text]If you leave it to the last minute and simply pick a car hire desk at random when you arrive at your destination airport you’ll have no idea if you’re getting a good deal or not.

The best advice is to plan ahead and book before you travel. This will give you plenty of time to read and understand the conditions of hire and consider the cost and value of any additional charges.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1433755003295{padding-top: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;}” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” parallax_content_width=”in_grid” angled_section=”no” angled_section_position=”both” angled_section_direction=”from_left_to_right” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

When you’re there

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To help you plan accordingly, we’ve listed advice below for hiring and driving a car in countries such as Spain, Portugal, France and Italy.

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Spain

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Source: “Llançà coastline” by Dennis van Zuijlekom on Flickr used under

Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence

[/image_with_text][vc_column_text]Who can I rent from? Many well-known car-hire brands have offices throughout Spain such as Hertz, Avis, Europcar, and Alamo. If you’re an AA Member you can save up to 10% on global car hire.

What about tolls? Spain has a large number of tolls dotted throughout the country – inconvenient at times, but these roads enable easier access than their alternatives. You can view a list of toll prices in Spain here.

Is there anything else I should know? Hire cars are often targeted in service areas or tricked in to stopping on the hard shoulder by the occupant of a passing vehicle. They will gesture that something is wrong with the vehicle, so lock all doors and keep bags out of sight. The number of thefts by bogus policemen has increased in Madrid and Catalonia. It’s also worth remembering to bring the same credit card to the rental check-in desk that you initially booked with.

Fuel Prices
Unleaded: €1.25 – Diesel: €1.17

Advice from AA spokesman Conor Faughnan: “More Irish people drive abroad in Spain than anywhere else so lots of people have had the experience. The Spanish have spent hugely on their roads and the motorway network is excellent but it can be scary.

We are spoilt in Ireland because our motorways are new and feel comfortable in terms of lane widths and hard shoulders, compared to Spain especially. I saw a truck driver trying to change a wheel near Barcelona a year or so ago on a hard shoulder that was only half the width of his vehicle.

What you do find though, are plentiful good quality service areas (National Roads Authority please take note).

Spanish motorways are a good deal cheaper than France but they too are sprinkled with toll booths. Often the toll itself is set according to by-laws or converted from old peseta or franc denominations. Hence, you get utterly stupid charges like €2.56 that have tourists wrestling for small coins.

The Spanish have got their act together more recently in terms of enforcement. If you haven’t been in a while, you might be tempted to treat their speed-camera signs as just roadside decoration. A mistake – Spanish, French and Italian authorities can and do pursue you, and you will get an unpleasant demand in the post weeks later for anywhere between €45 and €80.

Especially in tourist areas, park carefully. It’s not just bag-snatchers – many parts of Spain are notorious for cars with dents and scratches.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” parallax_content_width=”in_grid” angled_section=”no” angled_section_position=”both” angled_section_direction=”from_left_to_right” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern” padding_top=”20″ padding_bottom=”50″ css_animation=”element_from_fade”][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

Portugal

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Source: “Lisbon, Portugal” by Arden on Flickr used under

Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence

[/image_with_text][vc_column_text]Who can I rent from? Many well-known car-hire brands have offices throughout Portugal such as Hertz, Budget and Thrifty.

What about tolls? Tolls are charged at several motorways throughout Portugal. It is compulsory to either carry a Temporary Electronic Toll Device (DEM) or pre-pay tolls. This is required for many motorways throughout Portugal. The official guide to paying tolls can be viewed here but we understand the toll motorways to be the A4, A17, A22, A23, A24, A25, A28, A29, A41 and A42.

Is there anything else I should know? It’s not unusual to spot police cars at the side of the road with speed guns as speed limits are strictly imposed. In built-up areas, drive at 31 mph (50 km/h), outside built-up areas at 55 mph (90 km/h) or 62 mph (100 km/h) and on motorways at 74 mph (120 km/h).The minimum speed on motorways is 31 mph (50 km/h). Motorists who have held a driving licence for less than one year must not exceed 55 mph (90 km/h). In some town centres the speed is reduced to 12 mph (20 km/h).

Fuel Prices
Unleaded: €1.41 – Diesel: €1.23

Advice from AA spokesman Conor Faughnan:There wasn’t just a Celtic Tiger in Ireland – Portugal had one as well. They invested very heavily in infrastructure so like Ireland, Portugese motorways are good quality modern ones.

In years gone by the Portugese road safety record was appalling, one of the worst in Europe and far worse than Ireland’s even when ours was a disgrace. However times have changed all around Europe and in Portugal standards have improved to the point where you will hardly recognise them if you are remembering a trip from a decade ago.

Even so, these roads are relatively more dangerous than Irish ones. In tourist areas especially you do need to concentrate at all times.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” parallax_content_width=”in_grid” angled_section=”no” angled_section_position=”both” angled_section_direction=”from_left_to_right” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern” padding_top=”20″ padding_bottom=”50″ css_animation=”element_from_fade”][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

Italy

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Source: “Rome” by Moyan Brenn on Flickr used under

Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Licence

[/image_with_text][vc_column_text]Who can I rent from? Car-hire is available from Hertz, Avis and Thrifty alongside plenty of smaller independent car-hire firms.

What about tolls? Tolls are levied on the majority of motorways in Italy. You can calculate tolls here.

Is there anything else I should know? AREA C (A pollution charge, formerly Eco-pass) is levied in the centre of Milan. Charges apply Mon-Fri and generally from 7.30am until 7.30pm. Drivers must purchase an eco-pass before entering the restricted zone. Tariffs vary according to the emissions of the vehicle. Mopeds and motorcycles are exempt.

Traffic is also restricted in many historical centres/major towns known as ‘Zone a Traffico Limitato’ or ZTL’s, where circulation is only permitted for residents.

Fuel Prices
Unleaded: €1.65 – Diesel: €1.52

Advice from AA spokesman Conor Faughnan: “The Italians have a reputation for being warm, friendly, chaotic, stylish and disorganised. It is a wonderful country to visit but in keeping with the clichés their roads can be difficult for visitors. I drove in northern Italy a number of years ago and it is a Mecca for car nuts. At one stage, as we sat in traffic in our diesel Ford Fiesta hire car, I noted that the car in front and the two cars behind me were all Ferraris. We also took a spin up into the Italian Alps. I gather the scenery was lovely; I didn’t get to see it. Along twisted mountain roads that looked like they were straight out of The Italian Job, my abiding memory was of dodging the bikers flinging themselves into hairpin bends. I half-expected to see piles of smashed bikes at the base of the cliffs.

Don’t let it put you off. Italy has a good quality modern network, and while town and city centres probably do require an experienced and calm visiting driver the general driving environment feels safe and secure. Motorways are extensively tolled but are far cheaper than France and more comparable to Spanish rates.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” parallax_content_width=”in_grid” angled_section=”no” angled_section_position=”both” angled_section_direction=”from_left_to_right” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern” padding_top=”20″ padding_bottom=”50″ css_animation=”element_from_fade”][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

France

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Source: “Paris Skyline, France” by Luke Ma on Flickr used under

Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Licence

[/image_with_text][vc_column_text]Who can I rent from? You can rent from companies like Hertz, Sixt and Argus Car Hire. Rental vehicles in France come with unlimited third party liability insurance included in the initial price.

What about tolls? Pay-as-you-go tolls are charged on most motorways in France. You can pay toll fees by credit card or cash.

Is there anything else I should know? “French authorities are quite stringent on all motorists carrying the correct documents and compulsory equipment when driving. These include a warning triangle and a reflective jacket. The jacket must be kept within the passenger compartment of the vehicle and be put on before exiting the vehicle in an emergency/breakdown situation. It is absolutely prohibited to carry, transport or use radar detectors. Failure to comply with this regulation involves a fine of up to €1,500 and the vehicle and/or device may be confiscated.

Fuel Prices
Unleaded: €1.39 – Diesel: €1.39

Advice from AA spokesman Conor Faughnan: “France is a beautiful part of the world and the roads make it easy. On the motorways especially, you quickly forget that you are abroad. The locals are reasonably friendly provided you don’t bring bad Irish motorway habits with you. Our tendencies to hog the outer lane or to switch lanes without indicating do not go down well.

The Autoroutes are peppered with tolls and they really add up. As a rule of thumb it is usually between 0.07-0.10 cent per kilometre travelled, add about half that again if you are towing a caravan. I did a 375km trip in the south of France last year and it cost nearly as much in tolls as it did in fuel: €31.00

French traffic police are notorious and their law is tough. Treat them as formally as you would airport security or you may regret it just as much. They are much more laid back off the roads but be warned. Don’t dream of taking an alcohol-risk.

Don’t ignore speed cameras either – they work and you’ll find a charge either applied to your card or sent to you back home in Ireland.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1433771293246{padding-top: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;}” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” parallax_content_width=”in_grid” angled_section=”no” angled_section_position=”both” angled_section_direction=”from_left_to_right” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column][vc_column_text]

For peace of mind

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator type=”normal” position=”center”][vc_column_text]• Damage – check the car for damage with an employee from the car rental company before signing a rental agreement, and again when the vehicle is returned. Have the damage-free condition confirmed in writing, or note any damage. Disputes can sometimes arise after you arrive home so it’s a good idea taking the time to take some phone pictures of the car both when you pick it up and when you return it.

Controls – Check all the switches, indicators and other controls carefully and if any are unfamiliar or don’t work, ask the rental firm for guidance
Refuelling – check the refuelling requirements in advance and keep fuel bills as proof of a full tank when the vehicle is returned. Consider taking a photo of the fuel gauge, particularly if dropping the car off without a hire company employee present.
Insurance cover – third-party insurance is a must but in some countries the minimum statutory cover may be higher and if cover is insufficient, the hirer is personally liable for the excess. There may be a charge to increase cover.
Additional insurance – if you can, choose comprehensive damage cover without an excess, but check what is actually covered as some may exclude damage to tyres, rims, the underbody or stone chips.
Theft insurance – recommended if this is not included in the comprehensive insurance.

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Categories
Denmark Europe Featured France Germany Hungary Italy

Forget Paris: the alternative Valentine’s Day guide

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Forget Paris! Venice? Too predictable. If you’re thinking of heading off with your beloved this Valentine’s Day, we’ve come up with some alternative romantic destinations. You’ll LOVE them!

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”BUDAPEST” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22354″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]The River Danube divides the Hungarian capital into the hilly Buda district to the west and the flatter Pest in the east. The city is connected by the Széchenyi Chain Bridge and boasts plenty of romantic cityscapes, ideal for getting down on one knee and popping the big question: “Will we change our Facebook status to ‘In a relationship’?”

What to do:

Budapest is a very easy city to explore by foot. Start your day buying snacks or trinkets in Great Market Hall at the Pest end of Szabadság Bridge and then hop on a sightseeing bus to help you get your bearings. Some hop-on-hop-off bus tours even include a river cruise. Disembark at Margaret Island, a verdant parkland in the city, hire bikes or golf carts pimped to look like mini Rolls Royces and explore. You can even enjoy a thermal spa experience in the park itself! In the evening, throw on your ballgown or tux and enjoy a night at the Hungarian State Opera, which is housed in an impressive neo-Renaissance building.

Getting there:

There are direct flights from Dublin but you will have stopovers if flying from Cork and Shannon.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”LYON” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22356″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Located in eastern France, Lyon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has plenty to offer lovebirds looking to make memories. More importantly, the city will provide you with stunning backdrops with which to update your social media.

What to do:

Pay a visit to the magnificent Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière and you will be rewarded with stunning views from its vantage point over the city. Whilst there, you can dine at the Restaurant de Fourvière and survey all below from the giant panoramic bay windows. Go for romantic strolls around Place Bellecour, a large pedestrianised square in the Ainay district which has great shopping streets. What’s more romantic than a trip to Zara? Answer: nothing.

Getting there:

Aer Lingus, Ryanair, KLM and Lufthansa fly direct from Dublin. Flights also operate from Cork, Kerry, Shannon, Donegal and Knock but with stopovers.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”HAMBURG” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22357″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Think canals, think Venice – but did you know that Hamburg has more canals than Venice and Amsterdam combined? I bet you did not. Regardless, Hamburg is a beautiful city with plenty of green spaces, diverse architecture and shopping.

What to do:

Pretend to be a giant at Miniatur Wunderland, the world’s largest model train exhibit, with 10 miles of track and over 260,000 figurines. Located in the Speicherstadt area of the city, a few hours will pass easily as you take in tiny replicas of Hamburg, the Alps, America and Scandinavia. If you’re visiting on a weekend, the Flohschanze market in the Sternschanze neighbourhood – Hamburg’s old meatpacking district – is a 30-minute walk away. Running from 8am to 4pm, there are hundreds of stalls for you to browse. Finish off your visit with a river tour of the Elbe leaving from Landungsbrücken, and take in one of the world’s busiest ports.

Getting there:

Fly direct to Hamburg from Dublin and from Cork and Shannon with stopovers.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”BOLOGNA” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22358″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Located in Northern Italy’s Emilia-Romagna Region, Bologna is Europe’s oldest university town. The city famously gave the world Bolognese sauce, traditionally served with tagliatelle and lasagne. There is much to see and do in this beautiful city, which is perfect for lovers and food lovers.

What to do:

If you want to experience the best in Italian food and drink, a visit to food theme park FICO Eately World, has to be on your list. Set over two hectares of fields with over 40 restaurants, farming factories and up to 30 events and 50 classes per day, you’ll feel like an expert the next time you order a meat feast pizza on a Friday night from your local takeaway. A couple of hours exploring the grid of streets known as the Quadrilatero, packed with cafés and delis, is also recommended. Finally, if you’ve got a head for heights, climb to the top of one of the city’s two leaning towers, Torre degli Asinelli.

Getting there:

Direct flights operate from Dublin. Flights leaving from Cork, Knock or Shannon will have one or more stops.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”COPENHAGEN” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_single_image image=”22359″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark and the national concept of hygge, roughly translated as “cosy, charming or special” – perfect for a romantic weekend with your loved one. You won’t be able to cope(nhagen) with all it has to offer.

What to do:

After dark, head to Tivoli, a giant amusement park in the city where a winter theme continues until the end of February. Complete with snow, thousands of twinkling lights, rides, cafés and restaurants, your Valentine’s visit is guaranteed to feel festive. For a more alternative experience, head to Freetown Christiana, a car-free neighbourhood established in 1971 by a group of hippies. Browse galleries, organic restaurants and homemade houses and soak up the atmosphere. Finally, a trip to Copenhagen wouldn’t be complete without visiting the bronze statue of The Little Mermaid by the waterside at Langelinie promenade. Fun fact to casually drop into conversation and impress your lover: the statue was originally gifted to the city by brewer Carl Jacobsen of the Carlsberg breweries and is therefore probably the best bronze statue of a mermaid in the world. You can steal that joke too while you’re at it.

Getting there:

Fly direct from Dublin and with one or more stopovers from Cork and Shannon.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”MORE IDEAS” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]

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All photos: public domain.

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Categories
Europe Featured France Germany Italy Spain Sport and leisure

Top tips for a European cycling holiday

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With routes spanning the continent, a European cycling holiday could be the perfect way to get off the beaten track and see those places that would otherwise pass you by. It’s a great way to get plenty of exercise, too. We asked Mike McKillen of Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, for some advice for anyone considering taking to the saddle.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”GET THE RIGHT MAPS AND APPS” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]“Preparation is needed – you can’t just land there and do it. Get hold of the Eurovelo Cycle Route Network Map. That’s a website that is maintained by our parent organisation in Brussels, the European Cyclists’ Federation. It’s like the AA for cycling. They have an offshoot called Eurovelo, which are European bicycle routes – generally off-road but they can be on less-traffic roads like access-only routes.

“You should also go online to order trail maps from IGN, the French Ordnance Survey. They show cycling routes for the region, and you can get the scale that you are comfortable with – you would need at least 1:50,000, preferably 1:25,000. That’s just for the planning.

“Once you get there, turn on your GPS and use the ViewRanger app. That has cycling maps in it, and it gives you the detail you need to turn right here and know that in 400m you’re going to hit a cycling trail and be off-road.”

Remember too that you can use the AA Routeplanner (available on the AA app) when you are planning car journeys abroad.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”DON’T FALL FOUL OF THE LAW” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]

“If you’re bringing your bikes on the back of your car, don’t forget that you have to have a lighting board on the bikes showing your number plate, indicators and stop lights, with lights to light the number plate. That has to be on the last bike of the stack. A lot of Irish drivers don’t know that French police, for example, will pull them over and won’t let them proceed. In France, you also have to have two high-vis vests and a breathalyser in your car.”

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”KNOW YOUR BIKE RACKS!” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]“The one on the top of the car is for lightweight sports bikes that you can lift with one hand. Touring bikes are heavier, and I would find mine difficult to lift it up onto the roof, so I have a rack that fits onto the tow hitch at the back of my car. It takes two bikes, but you can get them for up to four.”

Click here for a full AA guide on travelling with a roof rack.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”CONSIDER RENTING BIKES” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]“I lead tours, and we always end up renting bikes if we’re abroad because it’s just so much easier. The nice thing about renting a bike is, if something goes wrong with it, the company generally comes with a van, picks it up and gives you a replacement. Of course, then you’ve got to wait for the van to come to you and it could be two hours away.

“If you’re hiring the bikes there, you would need to make contact with a bike hire company, or engage the services of a bike touring company over there. They book everything for you, they know you’re going to do 80k a day on this leg or 55k on the next one, and they book you into lovely pensions, B&Bs, villas or hotels. Whatever grade you want, you just tell them. This way, you don’t have to carry a tent or sleeping bag. All you need is your camera and water bottle, and they transport your luggage to the next hotel.”[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”GETTING THERE…” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]“When booking your passenger fare on the ferry, there is a drop-down menu for vehicles and an option for ‘bicycle’. You just cycle in the same way as you would drive in, and the crew tell you where to put the bike. Generally they have a ‘strop’ – a strap that fixes it to a rail. If you’re travelling by train, you’ll need to bring as strop to immobilise it and stop it flying around the carriage – otherwise you’ll have to stand with it and hold it. 

“With Aer Lingus and Ryanair, you have to bag the bike. You can order a bike bag online but I don’t like taking bikes on a plane because you have to take them apart and reassemble them when you get to the other side, and then you have to find somewhere to put the bike bag. You don’t want to be carrying that with you, so you need to find somebody to hold it for you at the port or airport until you come back, and then you have to do the whole thing in reverse.”

Don’t forget to buy your AA Travel Insurance before you go![/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”ON YOUR BIKE – AND OFF…” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]

“With a nice, leisurely group that don’t want to do huge kilometrage, you’d be planning on anywhere between 40k and 100k a day. That’s doable by six o’clock in the evening, and it gives you plenty of time to go and change, shower, have an aperitif and then go for your dinner at eight. It also includes a two-hour lunch break – al fresco, on the patio, in the café or restaurant! So, start off at 9:30 in the morning, have a two-hour lunch and you can still be in at 6 o’clock in the evening having done 100k.”

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“There’s a lot of myth about having to take protein supplements and so on, but you don’t. If you want to lose weight, a cycling holiday is the best way to do it. You don’t need to be stuffing your face every half hour. You’re trying to force your body to mobilise the fat reserves that you have built up to get rid of them, so it’s a great way to lose weight. You don’t need to train for these holidays. If you’re talking about a leisurely family or group trip, children are well able to do these as well.”

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”BRING A FIRST-AID KIT” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]“Most cycling injuries are from a fall off the bike, so a broken wrist or collarbone, or gashes and lacerations. Bring pads and enough to do a splint so you can strap up a broken wrist.”

Hopefully you won’t be unlucky enough to suffer something more serious while abroad, but here’s some advice on minimising the stress and expense.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”DON’T FORGET YOUR TOOLS!” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_column_text]“If you are the leader and bringing your own bikes, you would need to bring a set of tools that will deal with every nut. Most bike nuts are Allen ones, so you need an Allen key set. You would need a cone-tightening spanner just in case cones on the bearing races come adrift and get loose.

“You need a spare tube suitable for every wheel, so if you’re bringing children I would make sure they are on adult bikes with 26″ tubes – if you have children on smaller bikes, you have to pack a tube specific to their wheel size. Then you need tyre levers because cyclists do their own repairs. A good multi-tool device will have most things you need for tightening things up.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Categories
England Featured France Germany Italy Northern Ireland Scotland Spain USA Wales

Avoiding a Medical Emergency Abroad

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There are plenty of steps travellers can take in advance of a trip away to minimise financial costs and the inevitable stress that comes with a medical emergency abroad. We’ve listed below some incredibly simple steps to take ensuring everyone has a safe and enjoyable trip.

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See your doctor before you go

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It’s a good idea to get a medical check-up from your doctor before you go. If you’re planning on taking part in strenuous physical activities such as hiking or skiing, pay a visit to your doctor to make sure you’re in good shape for it. (And don’t forget to check with your travel insurance provider that these activities are covered under your policy.) Consider whether you need vaccinations for your destination, too. In an AA study, 23% of males aged 17-24 years old told us they needed medical attention whilst abroad compared to just 15% of women in the same age bracket. So once you pay a visit to the doctor, tell your partner/dad/brother to do the same!

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Medical care at your destination

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Learning about the quality of medical care at your destination means you’ll know what to expect should you need it. For example, in Spain there are two types of health establishments you can visit depending on the severity and type of illness – a hospital and a health centre (Centro de Salud). For serious illnesses or injuries, it’s expected that you would visit a hospital, but for instances not requiring immediate hospitalisation the Centro de Salud is your best bet. Knowing information such as this allows you to make sound judgments about what type of treatment you need.

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Know how to seek medical care

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Do you know how to call for help in a foreign country? It’s not something you even think of amongst the flurry of packing and printing out flight tickets, but it could prove to be the most vital. Click here for a map that shows local emergency telephone numbers from around the world.

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Carry health information

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator type=”normal” position=”center”][vc_column_text]You might know your blood type and that you’re allergic to peanuts, but what about other background information like medications or previous surgeries? These could be crucial to a doctor giving you emergency treatment.

And while it’s wise to carry your EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) with you if you’re travelling to Europe, be aware that it won’t cover for things like an air ambulance home if someone is in serious trouble, which can cost up to €20,000.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

Check your insurance

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People often think medical care isn’t included in their travel insurance policy, but a lot of the time it is and they just don’t know. Check your policy to ensure you’re getting value for money and sufficient coverage. The AA provides unlimited medical cover for Members who have an extra Travel policy, meaning there are no restrictions on the amount you can claim.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]For more information on AA Travel Insurance, please click here.

Image: Flickr[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Categories
Europe Featured France Germany Italy Portugal Spain

AA Roadwatch’s European phrasebook

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]There’s nothing quite like the freedom of a driving holiday. Whether you’re taking your own car on the ferry or hiring one when you get there, driving in Europe is always an adventure. The continent has a huge variety of driving routes, from scenic mountain roads through the French Alps to coastal routes along the Italian shores, to huge Autobahns that get you from A to B in Germany.

But when you’re getting used to driving on the right and desperately trying to work out which destination your sat nav has just dramatically mispronounced, the last thing you need is a language barrier.

While visual road signs are similar right across Europe, written ones still cause confusion, particularly if you’re crossing borders. In Belgium and Switzerland, for example, a sudden change in the language of the road signs is often your only clue that you’ve passed from one region to another.

Our Roadwatch guide decodes some of the most common terms in six major European languages and gives you some phrases to help you out in case you need to ask a local for assistance. So bookmark, print or screen-shot the relevant language(s) before you hit the road, wherever it’s going to take you.

Main photo credit: BarnImages.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Click to jump to each language!

– French
– German
– Spanish
– Dutch
– Portuguese
– Italian[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

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Road signs from France, though French is also used in Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg and Monaco. Photo by Salva Barbera, used under CC licence.

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Motorway
Autoroute – Motorway
No parking
Défense de stationner/ Stationnement Interdit – No Parking
One way
Sens unique – One-way
No entry
Défense d’entrer / Sens interdit – No entry
Toll
Péage – Toll
Diversion
Déviation – Diversion
Give way
Cédez le passage / Cédez la priorité – Give way / Yield
Service station
Station service – Petrol Station

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USEFUL PHRASES

 

My car has broken down. – Ma voiture est tombée en panne.

I have a flat tyre. – J’ai un pneu crevé.

I’ve run out of petrol / diesel. – Je suis tombé(e) en panne sèche.

Is there a petrol station near here? – Y a-t-il une station service près d’ici?

There has been a crash. – Il y a eu un accident de voiture.

I need a tow-truck. – J’ai besoin d’une dépanneuse.

I am an AA Ireland member. – Je suis membre de l’AA en Irlande.

(It’s a breakdown recovery service) – (C’est un service de dépannage.)

It’s a rental car / It’s my own car. – C’est une voiture de location/ C’est ma propre voiture.

Can I park here? How much does it cost? – Est-ce que je peux me garer ici? Ça coûte combien?

Do you speak English? – Parlez-vous anglais?[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

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Road signs from Germany, though German is also used in Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and Tyrol in northern Italy. Photo by ChristianSchd, used under CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

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Motorway
Autobahn – Motorway
No parking
Parkverbot / Parken verboten – No Parking
One way
Einbahnstraβe – One-way
No entry
Einfahrt Verboten – No entry
Toll
Maut / Mautstelle – Toll
Diversion
Umleitung / Umweg – Diversion
Give way
Vorfahrt gewähren / Vorfahrt beachten – Give way / Yield
Petrol station
Tankstelle – Petrol Station

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USEFUL PHRASES

 

My car has broken down. – Ich habe eine Autopanne.

I have a flat tyre. – Ich habe eine platten Reifen.

I’ve run out of petrol / diesel. – Ich habe kein Benzin / Diesel mehr.

Is there a petrol station near here? – Wo finde ich die nächste Tankstelle?

There has been a crash. – Ich hatte einen Unfall.

I need a tow-truck. – Ich brauche einen Abschleppwagen.

I am an AA Ireland member. – Ich bin Mitglied des AA in Irland.

(It’s a breakdown recovery service) – (Das ist eine Pannenhilfe.)

It’s a rental car / It’s my own car. – Es ist eine Mietwagen / Es ist mein eigenes Auto.

Can I park here? How much does it cost? – Kann ich hier parken? Was kostet das?

Do you speak English? – Sprechen Sie Englisch?[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

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Road signs from Spain, though Spanish is also used in Andorra. Photo by Luis Garcia, used under CC-BY-SA-3.0 licence.

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Motorway
Autopista – Motorway
 No parking1
Prohibido aparcar – No Parking
One-way
Dirección única – One-way
No entry1
Prohibido el paso / Prohibida la entrada – No entry
Toll
Peaje – Toll
Diversion
Desvío  – Diversion
Give way
Ceda el paso – Give way / Yield
Petrol station
Estación de servicio – Petrol station

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USEFUL PHRASES

 

My car has broken down. – Mi coche se ha averiado.

I have a flat tyre. – Tengo una rueda pinchada.

I’ve run out of petrol / diesel. – Me quedo sin gasolina (petrol)/ gasóleo (diesel)

Is there a petrol station near here? – ¿Hay una estación de servicio cerca de aquí?

There has been a crash. – Ha habido un choque.

I need a tow-truck. – Necesito una grúa.

I am an AA Ireland member. – Soy miembro/miembra de la AA en Irlanda.

(It’s a breakdown recovery service) – (Es un servicio de asistencia en carretera)

It’s a rental car / It’s my own car. – Es un auto alquilado. / Es mi propio coche.

Can I park here? How much does it cost? – ¿Puedo aparcar aquí? ¿Cuánto cuesta?

Do you speak English? – ¿Habla usted inglés?[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

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Road signs from the Netherlands though Flemish, which is used in the Flanders region of Belgium, is very similar to Dutch. Photo by Johann H. Addicks / addicks@gmx.net, used under GFDL – GNU Free Documentation License.

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 Motorway
Autoweg – Motorway
No parking
Niet parkeren / Parkeren verboden – No Parking
One way
Éénrichtingsverkeer – One-way traffic
No entry
Geen toegang / Geen ingang – No entry
Toll
Tol / Tolweg – Toll
Diversion
Omleiding – Diversion
Give way
Voorrang verlenen / Geef voorang – Give way / Yield
Petrol station
Tankstation – Petrol Station

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USEFUL PHRASES

 

My car has broken down. – Mijn auto is kapot.

I have a flat tyre. – Ik heb een lekke band.

I’ve run out of petrol / diesel. – Ik heb geen benzine / diesel meer.

Is there a petrol station near here? – Is er een tankstation in de buurt?

There has been a crash. – Er is een ongeluk gebeurd.

I need a tow-truck. – Ik heb een takelwagen nodig.

I am an AA Ireland member. – Ik ben lid van de AA in Ierland.

(It’s a breakdown recovery service) – Dat is een pechhulp.

It’s a rental car / It’s my own car. – Dit is een huurwagen. / Dit is mijn wagen.

Can I park here? How much does it cost? – Kan ik hier parkeren? Wat kost dat?

Do you speak English? – Spreekt u Engels?[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

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Road signs from Portugal. Photo by Diego Delso, used under CC BY-SA 3.07 licence.

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Motorway
Autoestrada – Motorway
No parking
Proibido estacionar – No Parking
One-way
Sentido Único – One-way
No entry
Proibido entrar – No entry
Toll
Portagem – Toll
Diversion
Desvío – Diversion
Give way
Dar Prioridade – Give way / Yield
Service station
Posto de gasolina / Bomba de gasolina – Petrol Station

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USEFUL PHRASES

 

My car has broken down. – Meu carro avariou-se.

I have a flat tyre. – Tenho um pneu furado.

I’ve run out of petrol / diesel. – Eu não tenho mais gasolina/ diesel.

Is there a petrol station near here? – Onde fica um posto de gasolina?

There has been a crash. – Houve um acidente.

I need a tow-truck. – Preciso de um guincho.

I am an AA Ireland member. – Eu sou membro da AA na Irlanda.

(It’s a breakdown recovery service) – É um serviço de pronto socorro de carros.

It’s a rental car / It’s my own car. – Esse carro é alugado. / Esse é meu próprio carro.

Can I park here? How much does it cost? – Posso estacionar aqui?  Quanto custa?

Do you speak English? – Você fala inglês?[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

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Road signs from Italy, though Italian is also used in Switzerland and San Marino. Photo by Armando Mancini, used under CC BY-SA 2.0 licence.

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Motorway
Autostrada – Motorway
No parking
Divieto di Parcheggiare / Sosta Vietata – No Parking
One-way
Senso Unico – One-way
No entry
Divieto di Accesso – No entry
Toll
Pedaggio – Toll / Stazione – Toll plaza
Diversion
Deviazione – Diversion
Give way
Dare la Precedenza – Give way / Yield
Petrol station
Stazione di servizio – Petrol Station

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USEFUL PHRASES

 

My car has broken down. – La mia macchina è in panne.

I have a flat tyre. – Ho una gomma a terra.

I’ve run out of petrol / diesel. – Sono senza benzina / diesel.

Is there a petrol station near here? – C’è una stazione di servizio qui vicino?

There has been a crash. – C’è stato un incidente.

I need a tow-truck. – Necessito di un carro attrezzi.

I am an AA Ireland member. – Sono un membro dell’AA in Irlanda.

(It’s a breakdown recovery service) – È un servizio di soccorso stradale.

It’s a rental car / It’s my own car. – È un auto a noleggio. / È la mia auto.

Can I park here? How much does it cost? – Posso parcheggiare qui? Quanto costa?

Do you speak English? – Parla inglese?[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text el_class=”Hiring and Driving a Car in Europe”]More advice from AA Ireland:

Hiring and Driving a Car in Europe

Top Tips if you’re Hiring a Car in Europe

Driving in Germany – top tips and advice[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Categories
Austria Christmas Europe Featured Finland Germany Spain Sweden

European Christmas Markets – AA Roadwatch

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The most wonderful time of year is fast approaching, and with it the traditional Christmas markets that fill entire cities across Europe with the warm scents of mulled wine and hot chocolate. Originating in Germany and Austria, where the biggest markets are still held, the tradition has spread to cities right across the continent. No matter where you go, you’re guaranteed a Christmas experience to remember. Here are some of AA Roadwatch’s favourites for 2017, all a relatively short flight away from Ireland.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][image_with_text image=”21603″ title=”ONE OF THE OLDEST IN EUROPE – VIENNA”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]No-one is entirely sure which Christmas Market is the oldest, but Vienna’s claim certainly holds weight: the city’s residents were first granted permission to hold a December Market (Krippenmarkt) in 1298. The main market is held in the park outside the City Hall on Rathausplatz. You can’t fail to feel the Christmas spirit as you enter the square through a giant candlelit arch, leading to 150 stalls selling tree decorations, handmade crafts and confectionery. This year, you can also skate your way there, with ice rinks forming paths through the park, and the event spills into the City Hall itself, home to gingerbread workshops for children. Elsewhere, there are three Christmas villages in the city – at Maria-Theresien-Platz, at Belvedere Palace and in the Altes AKH – where shoppers are serenaded by carol-singing gospel choirs. And if it’s tradition you’re after, try the Old Viennese Market for classic mangers and ceramics. For late arrivals, the Christmas Market at the Schönbrunn Palace transforms into a New Year’s Market on December 27th: why should the festivities end before the season is out?

DATES FOR 2017:

Vienna Christmas Market (Rathausplatz): November 18 – December 30

Maria-Theresien-Platz: November 22 – December 26

Belvedere Palace: November 24 – December 26

Schönbrunn Palace: November 18 – January 1

Photo © Vienna Tourist Board[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][image_with_text image=”21601″ title=”THE BEST CHANCE OF A WHITE CHRISTMAS – helsinki”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]While Christmas spirit certainly won’t be lacking at any of this year’s Christmas Markets, there’s no beating a white Christmas. Flurries can’t be guaranteed but it looks like your best chance of a snow-covered market trip is in Helsinki: early indications forecast around 15 days of snow this December. Finland is the home of Santa Claus and its capital prides itself on Christmas traditions, particularly the St Thomas Market (Tuomaan Markkinat), which fills Senaatintori Square with over 120 stalls selling handmade Finnish decorations, craftwork and food. Smaller markets are also held on Mannerheimintie (Helsingin Joulumaailma) – with traditional wooden cabins – and on the harbour, where all products are made by Finnish women and sold for charity (Naisten Joulumessut Wanhaasa Satamassa). To warm up, try a mug of Glögi, the traditional Christmas drink made of spiced wine, almonds and raisins, sometimes with a dash of vodka for good measure. As well as the market stalls, watch out for the Tiernapojat – a traditional play acted out daily in the streets by boys dressed as the Three Wise Men. When you’ve finished your shopping, head to the train station: the esplanade outside becomes an ice rink each winter, complete with a café serving a perfect winter’s hot chocolate.

DATES FOR 2017:

Tuomann Joulumarkkinat (St Thomas): December 2-22

Helsingin Joulumaailma: December 3 – January 7 (except 24-26)

Naisten Joulumessut: December 6-10

Photo © Jussi Hellsten / Visit Helsinki[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][image_with_text image=”21602″ title=”A DAZZLING ARRAY OF LIGHTS – GOTHENBURG”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Gothenburg may only see six hours of daylight each day in December, but that’s not a problem at Liseberg theme park, where the Christmas market is adorned with over five million fairy lights. For the full experience, you can arrive by either vintage tram or canal boat, with mulled wine served on board. The market is the biggest in Sweden, with 80 stalls offering candles, decorations, roasted almonds and hot chocolate, which you will definitely need with the temperature generally hovering around zero. And if you haven’t crossed everything off your shopping list by the time you’ve finished your chocolate, there’s also a unique designer market within Liseburg tower. Along with the usual theme park rides, you’ll find a medieval village, a Lapland-inspired zone and a children’s area inhabited by giant rabbits. Outside of the park, Gothenburg city centre is also home to a number of smaller markets, including an eight-day Christmas festival at Tjolöholm Castle.

DATES FOR 2017

Liseburg Amusement Park: mid-November – late-December

Tjolöholm Castle: November 17-26 (except 14-15)

Photo © Go:teborg[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][image_with_text image=”21587″ title=”The Biggest Choice OF MARKETS – Berlin”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Christmas markets are synonymous with Germany, where the Christkindlmarkt is a centuries-old tradition. For a true German experience, head to Berlin: with over 60 individual markets scattered across the capital, there’s no escaping the smell of roasted chestnuts and glazed fruit. The largest is held in Spandau, Berlin’s Old Town, boasting over 1000 types of Christmas decorations and a huge range of German delicacies, including glühwein and Lumumba (cocoa with a dash of rum). One of the most atmospheric markets is held in the grounds of Charlottenburg Palace, with stalls selling crafts and seasonal food, as well as a children’s amusement park complete with a petting zoo and carousel. Right in the city centre, a market in Gendarmenmarkt specialises in traditional embroidery and wood-carving, gourmet food and an impressive programme of shows. For a different choice, try the Scandinavian-themed Lucia Weihnachtsmarkt in Prenzlauer Berg, with Swedish fires and Nordic music. Of course, you could also just wander the streets at random: with dozens of markets in the city, you’re guaranteed to stumble across some gems.

If this has piqued your interest in the German capital, click here for our Berlin travel guide.

DATES FOR 2017:

Spandau: November 27 – December 23

Charlottenburg: November 27 – December 26 (except 24)

Gendarmenmarkt: November 27 – December 31

Lucia Weihnachtsmarkt: November 27 – December 23[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][image_with_text image=”21582″ title=”SOMETHING OUT OF THE ORDINARY – BARCELONA”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Barcelona is one of the few cities where Christmas Markets don’t follow the German template: you’re more likely to find horchata and chorizo than glühwein and bratwurst. Following Catalan traditions, the Fira de Santa Llucía is held outside the cathedral and divided into sections, each offering different products. It’s something of a local tradition to buy a few handmade figurines a year until you have a complete crib scene. On other stalls, you’ll find mistletoe, trees and handicrafts, as well as the (in)famous Caganer. The Caganer is a typical Catalan Christmas decoration: a man in typical Catalan dress, squatting, with his trousers down. Bizarre as it seems, this figurine has been a staple of otherwise religious Catalan nativity scenes since the 1700s, and he is said to bring good harvests for the following year. You’ll also be able to buy a handmade Caga Tío: a log with a face that Catalan children look after until Christmas Eve, when it fills its litter tray with presents. Not too far away, the Fira de Reis stretches along the Gran Vía, specialising in toys, jewellery and churros con chocolate. And if you stay until after Christmas, you can join the fanfare and see the Three Wise Men arrive by boat on the night of January 5th. The trio then parade through the city, handing out gifts and sweets to the waiting children.

DATES FOR 2017:

Fira de Santa Llúcia: November 24 – December 23 (approx.)

Fira de Reis de la Gran Via: December 21 – January 6[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

If you’ve been inspired to plan a Christmas trip away, be sure to purchase Travel Insurance first!

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Click here to check out Lauren’s guide to a Scottish getaway in Edinburgh.

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Categories
Europe Featured Germany

Travelling to Berlin – the AA Roadwatch guide

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Germany’s capital is one of the absolute must-visit cities of Europe. It may not be the easiest on the eye and it certainly doesn’t wrap itself up in a neat little package for tourists, but once you scratch the graffiti-daubed surface, you may never want to leave. Berlin has some of the world’s best nightclubs, food from all corners of the world and a fascinating, turbulent history with buckets of political intrigue – after all, it spent decades of the 20th century divided between the Americans, British, French and Russians.

AA Roadwatch’s Chris Jones is on hand with a few tips…[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”GETTING THERE AND GETTING AROUND” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]This bit shouldn’t give you too much trouble – Ryanair and Aer Lingus each operate two flights per day from Dublin, while Ryanair also flies three times a week from Belfast and twice a week from Shannon. Whichever route you use, flight time is well under three hours, so you should be fresh and raring to go when you arrive.

Berlin is a huge city by area, and walking from A to B isn’t always practical – not least because its divided history has left it with multiple focal points. East Berlin’s main square Alexanderplatz, for example, is nearly three kilometres from the iconic Brandenburg Gate and neighbouring Reichstag (the German parliament building) – and both are relatively central.

Fortunately, you can rely on that famous German efficiency when it comes to the city’s comprehensive public transport network, with plentiful trains (the mostly underground U-Bahn or the suburban S-Bahn), buses, trams and even ferries. Tickets are transferable across all the modes of transport, and there are multi-day and group discounts available – perfect for a family or group of friends on holiday.

If you plan to take the car, you can find lots of advice on driving in Germany at our blog.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][image_with_text_over icon_size=”fa-lg” image=”21512″ title=”Sightseeing” title_size=”65″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Due to Berlin’s sprawling size it can be hard to get your bearings, so I recommend starting your visit with a walking tour. Over two to three hours, your guide will take you all over the city on both sides of the Berlin Wall (some of which is still standing) and give you a potted history of this fascinating place. Remember to take notes of the places you want to come back to!

For many people, Berlin’s Cold War history is the main reason to visit, and you could easily spend your entire trip soaking it all up. Squeezed into a Tardis-like riverside location is the excellent DDR Museum, which tells the often chilling story of communist East Germany in the decades after the Second World War. Look out for the lovingly recreated and brilliantly kitsch East German living room, or the little Trabant car that came to symbolise the oppressive system.

No less sombre, the Holocaust Memorial beside the Brandenburg Gate is an essential reminder of Germany’s part in the Second World War. Don’t leave without wandering through its abstract, maze-like columns.

Get a sense of Berlin’s sheer sense of scale by taking in the view from the restaurant at the top of the Fernsehturm, or TV Tower. Built by the East German state as a way of flexing its Cold War muscles, it stands at a whopping 368 metres tall. Nearly 50 years after completion, it remains the tallest structure in Germany, and in a city with few skyscrapers, it looks cool from the ground too.

Finally, if you are planning a trip in late November or December, don’t miss the wide array of Christmas markets, or Weihnachtsmärkte, in the city. Check out our guide to these and the best Christmas markets around Europe here.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”NIGHTCLUBBING” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]There are no two ways about it – Berlin is the clubbing capital of Europe. Lovers of dance music, especially that particularly Teutonic brand of dark, pounding techno, will be in hog heaven – and you could easily spend an entire weekend wandering from club to club. Think you’ll get kicked out at 3am, Irish-style? Think again – most people are only turning up at that time, and the best clubs stay open until lunchtime the next day, at least.

The infamous Berghain is top of many people’s list, with good reason. Set in an imposing former power plant, the door policy is strict – very strict – but if you manage to make it inside you’ll find a club unlike any other, all hard stone and metal surfaces, punishingly loud music and a permissive but respectful vibe. If you have an open mind, give it a go.

It’s not all tough electronic beats in Berlin, though. Having once been home to David Bowie and Iggy Pop, the city retains some of its rock and roll glamour and you won’t be short of options that’s your thing. Indie clubs and venues like The Astra, Lido and Bang Bang Club should be top of your list – once you’ve made the pilgrimage to Bowie’s former home.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”HANGING OUT” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Like many large cities, the coolest parts of Berlin keep changing along with the demographics – a shabby area becomes hip, makes a name for itself and then gets smartened up as the chain cafés and stores move in, so the artists and hippies move on. These days, the southern districts of Kreuzberg and Neukölln are the places to be – you’ll be spoilt for choice with cool bars, shops restaurants and cafés.

On my last visit I loved Zum Böhmischen Dorf, a buzzing, Czech-themed bar serving authentic, unpasteurised beer. Or for something a little edgier, try Barbie Deinhoff’s a little further north – an amazing dive bar with great cocktails and fantastic music. It’s the kind of place you’d want as your local.

As for food, where to start? Like any cosmopolitan city worth its salt, Berlin is big on street food, and with a large Turkish and Middle Eastern population that means excellent kebabs and falafel. If you fancy a sit-down meal, I can recommend a fantastic – and incredibly cheap – Vietnamese restaurant called Hamy Café near the Hermannplatz U-Bahn stop. Quick, fresh and very tasty! Or at the other end of the scale, you can literally dine in the dark at one of the city’s two ‘dunkelrestaurants’ (dark restaurants) – with only your nose and taste buds to guide you, it’s a sensory experience unlike any other.

Berlin isn’t the kind of city where all the good stuff is restricted to one small location, however. Wander around these areas and many others, and there’s a good chance you’ll stumble into your new favourite hangout by sheer fluke. And although it’s not the prettiest city in the world – Paris it ain’t – the German capital is hard to top for atmosphere, nightlife and things to do. It’s the kind of place you will want to keep returning to – if you let it get under your skin.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”FURTHER READING” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#ffcc00″ title_color=”#000000″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

If you’re planning your next city break, why not consider a trip to Edinburgh? Check out our guide and learn more about what to expect when visiting the city. Before going on holiday, we advise all travellers to take out AA Travel Insurance. It offers a wide range of travel insurance benefits like flight cancellations, lost or stolen luggage and medical expenses.

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Hopefully your trip to Berlin will be hassle-free, but if you are unfortunate enough to have your passport lost or stolen, then we have some great advice on what to do

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Categories
Europe Germany

Driving in Germany – Top Tips and Advice

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Make sure your German driving experience is amazing, by checking out all the rules and regulations before you go.

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No matter what country you plan to take a motoring holiday in,  each country enforces many motoring rules and regulations to follow.  These range from speed limits, fines, traffic signs, motoring behaviours and expectations, passenger safety. compulsory equipment and many more.  So to make sure you’re prepared when driving in Germany, find out all you need to know below.

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You must be at least 18 years old to drive a temporarily imported car or motorcycle when driving in Germany.

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  • Your car insurance must have at least third-party cover.  So check your insurance policy before you travel. If you need to arrange your car insurance click here to get a quote and save more when you buy online.

 

  • It’s recommended to cover your car in the event of a breakdown when taking your car abroad.  With AA Europoean Breakdown Cover local garages across our European road network will be on standby should you experience any bumps on the road when driving anywhere in Europe.

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Plan your journey before you go with  AA Routeplanner to ensure you stay on the right track when driving in Germany.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”4. Fuel” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#f2c02b” title_color=”#000000″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_single_image image=”21229″ alignment=”center” border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

  • Unleaded petrol (95 and 98 octane) and diesel are widely available.
  • LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas, also referred to as simply propane or butane) is also available from over 5,000 stations.
  • Leaded petrol is not available, as it’s being phased out through the EU and indeed globally. But you can buy a lead substitute additive.
  • You are permitted to carry up to 10 litres of petrol in a can in your vehicle. However this is not permitted on board ferries.
  • Credit cards are accepted at most service stations but you should check with your credit card company for usage in Germany before travel.
  • E10 (petrol containing 10% Ethanol) is widely available in Germany. Although the fuel pumps are clearly marked it is not suitable for all vehicles.  Check with your car manufacturer before use or refer to European Car Manufacturers’ Association list here.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”5. Speed Limits” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#f2c02b” title_color=”#000000″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text](Standard legal limits, which may be varied by signs, for private vehicles without trailers).  German speed limits operate in Kilometres per hour km/h.

  • Built-up areas 50 km/h (31 mph)
  • Outside built-up areas 100 km/h (62 mph)
  • Dual carriageways 130 km/h (80 mph) (recommended maximum)
  • Motorways/ Autobahn 130 km/h (80 mph) (recommended maximum)
  • You may only drive on German motorways if your vehicle has a design speed of more than 60 km/h (37mph).
  • In bad weather (visibility below 50m) the maximum speed limit is 50km/h (31 mph).
  • If you’ve got snow chains fitted the maximum speed limit is 50 km/h (31mph).

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  • Front and rear seat occupants must wear seat belts, if fitted.
  • All children aged under 12yrs and with a height less than 1.5m must be seated in a suitable child seat/restraint.
  • All children aged 3 years and over they must ride in the rear of the vehicle.
  • No rearward facing infant seats are allowed in the front of a vehicle which has an airbag. Check out our video on how to fit a child car seat correctly here.
  • Any child restraints/seats you use must conform to ECE 44/03 or ECE 44/04.
  • The driver is responsible for making sure that all children are safely restrained.
  • These laws also apply when riding in a taxi.

 

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”7. Lights” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#f2c02b” title_color=”#000000″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

  • We recommended that you use dipped headlights during the day. However you must use dipped headlights during the day if fog, snow or rain restricts your visibility and when in tunnels.
  • Driving with parking lights alone is prohibited
  • If you see a blinking yellow light at an intersection it means stop, then proceed if the intersection is clear. If you run a red light you’ll more than likely be caught. Many German intersections have radar-controlled cameras that are hooked up to traffic lights.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”8. Tyres” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#f2c02b” title_color=”#000000″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_single_image image=”21235″ alignment=”center” border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

  • During the winter you cannot and must not use summer tyres. Standard tyres fitted in Ireland are generally considered summer tyres and are not suitable for adverse winter weather conditions such as snow and ice.
  • Winter, or all season tyres will normally be marked with ‘M+S’, a snow flake or snowy mountains symbol. As some ‘M+S’ tyres sold in the Ireland are summer tyres, and thus would not meet German requirements, we would recommend that you check with your tyre supplier or manufacturer before you purchase/travel.

Tyres M&S

  • Using summer tyres in winter could result in a €60 fine and if your vehicle obstructs traffic as a result of incorrect tyres you will receive a further increased fine of €80. And you will not be allowed continue your journey unless you purchase the correct tyres in line with German regulations.
  • You must never use spiked tyres. These are completely forbidden.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”9. Drinking & Driving” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#f2c02b” title_color=”#000000″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_single_image image=”21248″ alignment=”center” border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

  • The legal alcohol limit is 0.5 milligrams of alcohol per millilitre of whole blood. Just how many drinks it takes to give a person a 0.5 blood alcohol count depends on size and other factors, but two small beers, a quarter of a litre of wine or a jigger of hard liquor will probably get one close.
  • Persons exceeding this limit will be fined and face a license suspension of up to three months for the first offense.
  • If you’re under 21 or have held your licence for less than 2 years there is a zero tolerance limit and you could be fined €250 if even a small amount of alcohol is detected.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”10. Fines” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#f2c02b” title_color=”#000000″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_single_image image=”21244″ alignment=”center” border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

  • Fines can be on-the-spot fine or in the form of a deposit.
  • If you refuse to pay your vehicle can be confiscated.
  • You could be fined for many offences including speeding, using abusive language and making derogatory signs.
  • Wheel clamps are not used in Germany but vehicles causing obstruction can be towed away.
  • Click here for a detailed list of traffic fines and violations that apply in Germany.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”11. Parking & Emission Zones” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#f2c02b” title_color=”#000000″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]It is generally difficult to find a place to park during working hours, though in many cases you may be able to park in the evening at places where it’s barred during the day. Round signs with red borders and a blue interior and an “X” mean no parking or stopping whatsoever. Similar signs with a single diagonal line mean restricted parking, or parking for a limit of three minutes only. Signs with only a red border and white middle mean no vehicles of any type are permitted.

GermanyBe forewarned: German towing fees are very high!

Some German cities operate environmental zones in which access to some vehicles is restricted. These restricted areas are indicated by signs “Umweltzone” showing coloured vignettes (“Plakette”) – green, yellow and red.

If you intend driving in one of these restricted areas you will have to display a ‘Plakette’ (sticker) in your windscreen.  If you don’t you will be fined €80.

hu-plakette-botYou can get a ‘Plakette’ from technical inspection centres or approved garages in Germany and the colour of the ‘Plakette’ issued will depend on the type of engine and the Euro classification of the vehicle. You will have to present the vehicle registration certificate and pay a fee of 5 to 10 Euros.

The fee is a one-off charge and the ‘Plakette’ remains valid in any German City as long as it remains fixed in the vehicle. You cannot transfer it to another vehicle.

You can obtain a vignette before you travel but we recommend that allow plenty of time.  Click here to find out how to purchase one before you go.

Check out maps and detailed information of the environmental zone areas here.

If you haven’t got enough time to get the ‘Plakette’ before you travel, there are lots of testing stations throughout Germany where you can get one. You can visit the Dekra website and enter a postcode or street name to find the nearest testing station that they operate (this section of the DEKRA website is only available in German.)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”12. Motorcycles” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#f2c02b” title_color=”#000000″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_single_image image=”21251″ alignment=”center” border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

  • Motorcyclists must wear helmets and drive with the headlight on at all times
  • You must also wear a crash helmet when riding a trike or quadbike capable of more than 20km/h unless seat belts are fitted and worn.
  • The Germans also have a complicated right of way rule. Unless otherwise posted, the driver coming from the right at an intersection has the right of way. Just because you are on what looks to be a major road, you may not be on the “priority” road. A diamond-shaped sign (yellow in the centre surrounded by a white border) tells you if you are on a priority road.)

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”13. Recommended equipment to carry” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#f2c02b” title_color=”#000000″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]

  • Warning triangle

Not actually compulsory for visiting motorists but we strongly recommend that you do carry one, as all drivers must signal their vehicle in case of breakdown, and it is a compulsory requirement for German residents.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”21241″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”medium”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]

  • Reflective jacket

Not actually compulsory but recommended as drivers of German-registered vehicles must carry one.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”21370″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]

  • First aid kit

Not actually compulsory, but recommended, as they are compulsory in German registered vehicles.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”21240″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”medium”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”14. Other rules/requirements to be aware of” title_align=”separator_align_center” border=”no” background_color=”#f2c02b” title_color=”#000000″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

  • We recommend that you carry a spare bulb kit.
  • If you are driving a slow-moving vehicle you must stop at suitable places and let others pass.
  • Motorists may not pass a bus that signals with its blinker that it is approaching one of its stops. Once the bus has stopped it’s OK to pass it, but at what the Germans call Schrittempo. This means moving so slowly that the needle on your speedometer doesn’t register.
  • You must not use radar detectors. If you have a gps or sat nav system that can show the location of speed cameras then this function must be disabled or the system must not be carried.
  • Traffic calming zones (Verkehrsberuhigungenzone), indicated by a sign showing a pedestrian and a child kicking a ball, are often found in residential areas. In them playing children may use the entire street and traffic must stop for pedestrians and move at no more than 7km/h.

Germany

  • If you’re involved in an accident, do not leave the scene. As the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident you must remain at the scene for at least 30 minutes before leaving, if alone. If you are involved in an accident with others, you must exchange personal and insurance information. Leaving the scene of an accident can lead to severe financial penalties and, depending on whether personal injury to others or extensive property damage is involved, you could be incarcerated or lose your license.
  • You must adapt your vehicle to winter weather conditions. This includes but is not limited to use of a suitable additive in windscreen washer fluid and winter tyres (as mentioned above). In extreme weather snow chains may be required too.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Image of hi-vis jacket used under Creative Commons BY SA License. Image Credit Diamond Rubber Products

Here’s some quick links to some other interesting articles about Germany you might also be interested in:

 

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_single_image image=”21260″ alignment=”center” border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_blank” img_size=”full” link=”http://www.theaa.ie/aa/insurance/european-breakdown-cover.aspx”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Categories
Germany

Best Places To Visit in Bavaria

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[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

Beautiful Bavaria and Beyond

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Bavaria is the perfect place to visit thanks to its natural beauty and rich heritage. From the vibrant hub of Munich to the charming setting of the Bavarian Forest, this iconic region offers an atmosphere much different to that seen across other parts of Germany.

This independent spirit emerges in all kinds of ways, from the local delicacies – the famous white sausage and wheat beer – to the three distinct dialects that are spoken in the state. Such a large and varied area also has a great deal for the traveller to enjoy, so we’ve got together with Hertz to bring you some of Bavaria’s highlights.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

Fairytale Castles

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_single_image image=”19955″ alignment=”center” border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]If you’ve ever wondered where Walt Disney found the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle, then head down the A7 motorway from Nuremberg to Füssen, then take the B16 to Neuschwanstein Castle. This medieval-style palace stands high above the surrounding countryside with high towers and turrets. It was built in the 19th century by the reclusive King Ludwig II as a retreat where he wouldn’t be disturbed, however he passed away shortly before its completion, so the palace was opened to the public in 1886.

You’ll find another of his grand palaces at Herrenchiemsee, near to the Bernau exit of the A8. Set on an island in Bavaria’s largest lake, Ludwig took inspiration from Versailles as he set about transforming this old monastery into a palace fit for a king.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

Fantastic Lakes and Forests

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_single_image image=”19956″ alignment=”center” border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]There are a multitude of beautiful lakes to explore in Bavaria, and you’ll find the most scenic of them at the Starnberger Fünf-Seen-Land (the land of five lakes) – 30 minutes from Munich along the A95 motorway.

The largest two are the Starnberger See and the Ammersee, with three smaller and more secluded lakes nearby. They all offer the opportunity for a refreshing dip in the cool waters, as well as water sports like sailing and windsurfing. If you prefer to stay on dry land, there’s a huge choice of walking and cycling trails to follow through the lakeside woodlands.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

Magnificent Mountains

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_single_image image=”19960″ alignment=”center” border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Bavaria’s also home to the highest mountain in Germany, the Zugspitze, whose peak is nearly 3,000 metres above sea level.

Drive for just under two hours down the A95 from Munich to reach base camp, then you can reach the summit by cable car or by catching a cogwheel railway from the traditional alpine town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Once there, you’ll be able to look out over the near-to 400 other spectacular peaks across Germany, Italy, Austria and Switzerland, something that’s truly breath-taking.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

Vibrant Cities

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_single_image image=”19961″ alignment=”center” border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

Munich and Nuremberg are Bavaria’s two largest cities and are linked by the A9 motorway. The former is a combination of the traditional and the modern, featuring great art galleries and museums, while Nuremberg has grand architecture and for many centuries was a favoured destination for German kings.

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Wherever you’re planning to visit, Bavaria offers the freedom to explore. And with excellent roads and scenic surroundings, the travelling will all be part of the adventure.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]With thanks to Hertz,  for providing us with all the wonderful places you should not miss if visiting Bavaria.

Don’t forget, if you’re an AA customer and planning to hire a car when abroad, you’re entitled to up to 10% off and add an additional driver for free with Enterprise, Alamo and National Car Rental, our AA Rewards partner. To Get a quote or book here.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1433517982393{padding-top: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;}” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” parallax_content_width=”in_grid” angled_section=”no” angled_section_position=”both” angled_section_direction=”from_left_to_right” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column width=”1/1″][action full_width=”yes” content_in_grid=”no” type=”normal” show_button=”yes” button_text=”Get a European Breakdown Cover quote” button_link=”http://www.theaa.ie/AA/Insurance/European-Breakdown-Cover.aspx” background_image=”20100″ button_text_color=”#000000″ background_color=”#0a0a0a” button_hover_text_color=”#e5e5e5″ button_background_color=”#ffcc00″ button_hover_background_color=”#ffcc00″ button_border_color=”rgba(0,0,0,0.01)” button_hover_border_color=”rgba(0,0,0,0.01)”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Categories
Croatia Czech Republic Europe Germany Netherlands Slovenia

My Interrailling Journey – From Amsterdam to Zadar

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Planning your interrailling journey? AA Roadwatch’s Sharron Lynskey tells us all about her experience travelling through Europe by train.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][image_with_text_over icon_size=”fa-lg” image=”20927″ title=”Amsterdam, The Netherlands” title_size=”80″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Our first stop was a quick flight to the Dutch capital and it was the ideal start to our interrailing experience. The vast majority of Irish travellers opt for this city as their first step in their journey. It’s a short hop on a plane from Dublin and the city is brimming with quirks. Although this was the most expensive city on our route, it was worth every penny to experience the magic of the canals, the cobbled streets and the extraordinary sights of the red light district.

We stayed two nights in a dingy hostel with a small Stuart Little for company. It was definitely the worst accommodation and yet, we paid almost double the price for this place in comparison to other hostels.

In terms of local cuisine, make sure you don’t leave the city without sampling the Dutch pancakes. There are small stalls and pop-up restaurants dotted all around the city that serve this delicacy – I’d recommend eating it with lashings of Nutella. You’re only on holidays once, eh?

Boredom simply does not exist in Amsterdam. The city is bursting with fun things to do so whether you want to re-visit the realities of World War II in the Anne Frank House or sip a cold pint at the Heineken Experience, this city has it all. I would definitely recommend taking a spin on one of the many canal cruises that are on offer. I didn’t expect much from this at first but the cruise really was one of the best ways to see this fascinating city. You can go for an evening or dinner cruise, but we spent a sunny afternoon on one of the day cruises, which was a really relaxing way to pass the time.

Amsterdam Bucket List:

  • Anne Frank Museum
  • Red Light District
  • Canal Cruises
  • Ice Bar
  • Heineken Experience

For a more comprehensive guide to Amsterdam, check out Nicole Gernon’s trip to the Dutch Capital.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][image_with_text_over icon_size=”fa-lg” image=”20937″ title=”Berlin, Germany” title_size=”80″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]After a (relatively!) short 6hr journey via Munich, we eventually landed late at night to the prinicpal station in the majestic German capital. Luckily for us, the hostel we booked was centrally located in the Alexanerplatz district and was less than a 10 minute commuter train from there. If you’re unsure where to book you accommodation, then I would highly recommend staying around Alexanderplatz. It’s a very central and safe part of the city and there’s an energetic vibe around the square with a number of high street shops dotted around it. There’s also a big train station just off the square that connects you to all the major tourist sites around the city.

We stayed in the One80 Hostel in Alexanderplatz and it was probably the best standard of accommodation we stayed in over the sixteen days. It’s a modern hostel full of young tourists and inter-railers from across the globe. It also has a nightclub, a beer garden and a decent restaurant included in the building so you’ve everything at your disposal. The rooms were clean and tidy and bathrooms and shower facilities were second to none – a rarity in most European hostels!

We stayed a mere three nights in Berlin and I can say, it really wasn’t enough time to truly take in all its historical significance. Saying that, we didn’t waste a single minute and packed in a plethora of activities. Truly, the best way to see the city is to avail of a free walking tour. A lot of the tours actually pick up people from the hostels and take the crowds directly to the tour’s start point – saves a lot of hassle! They’re mostly free of charge but they do accept donations at the end of the tour. Our walking tour took us through the Houses of Parliament, the Berlin Wall and other historical and sometimes quirky points from World War II, including the site of Hitler’s bunker.

Another must-do is the Alternative Pub Crawl. Berlin is well-known for its stellar nightlife but this particular pub crawl is second to none. We stumbled across this pub crawl by accident but it was probably one of the best nights out I had over my holiday. This crawl only travels in small groups and takes you through the more interesting bars around the city including a hippie bar, a ping-pong bar, a Goth rock bar and even a toilet bar (don’t ask!). You will definitely experience a night out like none other! We were also fortunate to stop off in Berlin during one of Germany’s group games with the USA in the World Cup 2014. We caught an open-air screening of the game in the park behind the Brandenburg Gate and the atmosphere was nothing short of electric!

Berlin Bucket List:

  • The Alternative Pub Crawl
  • Walking Tour of Berlin
  • The Berlin Wall
  • Holocaust Memorial
  • Fernsehturm – The Television Tower in Alexanderplatz

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][image_with_text_over icon_size=”fa-lg” image=”20954″ title=”Prague, Czech Republic” title_size=”80″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Prague is only a 4 and a half hour train trip away from Berlin but the difference between these two cities is phenomenal. On the train journey, you’ll travel from the bustling contemporary life of Berlin through some of the beautiful, green German countryside and the quaint Czech villages before arriving at the old-fashioned and charming Prague. Although it’s well known amongst young travellers for its crazy pub crawls, this city is definitely more suited to those looking for a relaxing European break.

We stayed in a hostel just off the Old Town Square and although it wasn’t the liveliest area of Prague, it served as a nice place to have some ‘down-time’ mid-trip. Our hostel was called Hostel Franz Kafka and it had all the basics; a clean room, shower facilities and a small kitchen – everything a budget traveller needs!

Prague is such a beautiful city and you could honestly spend hours wandering through the streets and marvelling in the intricate details of the architecture around you. Take in Prague Castle, the Old Town Square and the Astronomical Clock at your leisure. When the sun sets, the Czech nightlife comes into its own.  You can’t leave the city without heading on the Drunken Monkey pub crawl. Every backpacker does it and we met a ton of people from varying nationalities. It’s the best way to meet like-minded travellers and exchange anecdotes of your recent trips.

Prague Bucket List:

  • Prague Castle
  • Petrin Hill & Observation Tower
  • Old Town Square
  • Prague Astronomical Clock
  • Drunken Monkey Pub Crawl

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][image_with_text_over icon_size=”fa-lg” image=”20956″ title=”Lake Bled, Slovenia” title_size=”80″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]After our stop in the Czech capital, we departed Praha Hlavni Nadrazi (Prague’s Main Train Station) on an overnight train towards Slovenia. Yes, they’re uncomfortable, rocky and a little stinky but we’d a great laugh on the overnight train.

After the rocky ride, we landed in the most remote train station on our trip – it was like rocking up to a ghost village! Lesce-Bled train station is a good distance away from Bled itself and in the early hours of the morning it’s near impossible to find any signs of life, never mind a form of transport! Lucky for us, we managed to flag down a random passer-by who gave us details of a local taxi company but if you’re planning on arriving in the wee hours of the morning, maybe make sure you’ve some form of transport sorted beforehand.

Despite a pretty hectic start, Bled was undoubtedly my favourite place on the trip. It’s breathtakingly gorgeous, with crystal clear waters, blue skies and luscious greenery to boot and is undoubtedly a hidden gem nestled in Central Europe.

Because it’s not as well known as a holiday destination, the village still retains some of its quaint and old-fashioned charm. The houses have colourful picket fences and there isn’t a major shopping district or brand name in sight – a nice break from the bustling squares of Amsterdam, Berlin and Prague. We stayed in a central hostel which was brimming with backpackers from all corners of the globe and had a small bar out the back which was really cosy and was a great spot to catch the World Cup games.

During the day, this little town is brimming with outdoors-y activities to enjoy. Climb to the top of Bled Castle or rent a bike and cycle around the lake. I’d definitely recommend taking a day out to walk to Vintgar Gorge – an astoundingly beautiful gorge nestled between the Hom and Bort hills about an hour walk from the town. The walk to the gorge is nearly as impressive as the attraction itself. You’ll wind your way through picturesque old-fashioned Slovenian villages and farms before arriving at the beautiful rapids, waterfalls and pools. Best to bring your runners for this one as it’s a bit of a trek!

Lake Bled Bucket List:

  • Take a boat out to the Bled Island
  • Rent a Bike and Cycle around the lake
  • Bled Castle
  • Vintgar Gorge
  • Tobogganing on the Straza

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][image_with_text_over icon_size=”fa-lg” image=”20959″ title=”Zadar, Croatia” title_size=”80″][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Our next and final stop on our inter-rail adventure was the spectacular Croatian coastal city of Zadar. Another spot that isn’t totally bustling with tourists, it still boasts most of its Roman architecture. If you’re travelling from Bled, bear in mind that it’s not a straightforward journey. We had to get a train and two buses and for some reason, one bus company would not accept our Inter-rail passes so make sure you’ve a bit of cash to fork out on a bus journey if you’re taking this route.

We stayed a full five nights in Zadar and because of this, we decided to rent an apartment rather than rough it in another hostel. We found a lovely AirBnB and although the décor was slightly out-dated, it looked out on the beautiful Roman Forum and was within a five minute walking distance of all the major shopping streets, pubs and clubs.

Zadar has all the blue skies and sandy beaches of a regular sun holiday but with added quirks. The ‘Sea Organ’ is a really interesting piece of architecture located at the sea front which plays music by way of sea waves. The best time to hear it is when a large cruise ship or ferry passes by as the extra waves really make the difference! Just a short walk from there is the Greeting to the Sun. When the sun sets behind the Croatian islands, these solar underfloor lights come alive and create an impressive light show, to the tune of the nearby sea organ – a must see!

Zadar Bucket List:

  • Listen to the ‘Sea Organ’
  • Watch the ‘Greeting to the Sun’
  • Take a stroll along Paseo Maritimo
  • Visit the Roman Forum
  • Sit back, relax and enjoy a cocktail in the sun!

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