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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
Europe Featured Greece Portugal Spain

Winter sun holidays: the AA Roadwatch guide

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The days are getting shorter and the weather is getting cooler… but if you don’t have school-age children, you don’t have to put away the Factor 50 just yet. While peak sun holiday season is drawing to a close, plenty of European destinations hold on to their sunny weather right through the autumn months. In fact, it might be the perfect time for that sun trip: prices are lower, crowds are smaller and you can bask in the knowledge that you’re avoiding cold weather at home!

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”TENERIFE (Canary Islands, Spain)” 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=”22261″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]If you’re dreaming of long days on the beach, there’s no better place than Tenerife, where the sea is at its warmest in the autumn months. As with the other Canary Islands, it boasts year-round warm weather. Daytime temperatures seldom dip below 20 degrees and rain is fairly rare. The island has no shortage of sandy beaches to laze on, with an unusual twist – many of them have black sand, due to the island’s volcanic origins, so you’ll be guaranteed plenty of variety for your holiday snaps.

Tenerife has been welcoming tourists for over half a century and its resorts stay open 365 days a year. In Playa de las Américas, the biggest resort, you’ll find hotel and apartments for all budgets. If it’s nightlife you’re after, look no further than the Veronicas Strip, full of bars that stay busy long into the night. For those travelling with toddlers though, Los Gigantes on the west coast is a slightly quieter option, with plenty of restaurants centred around a marina.

If you want to venture beyond the pool or beach, the island has plenty to offer. It’s home to two UNESCO heritage sites: Spain’s highest volcano in Teide Mountain Park (where you can take a cable car for unrivalled views) and the picturesque old town of San Cristobál de la Laguna. You can also take boat tours to see dolphins, or have a day out in Loro Parque zoo.

ESSENTIAL INFO: Package holidays start from €350 per person for a week, or if you’d prefer to book independently, flights are available from Dublin, Cork and Shannon (year-round) and Knock (until November) costing around €200 per person return.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”THE ALGARVE (Portugal)” 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=”22262″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Portugal’s Algarve region stays sunny well into autumn, with temperatures hovering at the 20 degree mark. Taking up most of the southern coast between the cities of Faro and Lagos, it’s home to over 150 sandy beaches, many of which are framed by spectacular orange cliffs. The Atlantic Ocean gives Portugal a great variety here – there are calm beaches ideal for paddling and catching rays, while others have the perfect conditions for surfers to catch waves, particularly near Lagos.

You’ll still have a large choice of hotels in autumn, with the added bonus of shorter queues for restaurants. Albufeira is the biggest resort town, with a famous strip of bars and clubs to dance until the small hours. Away from the strip, it also has the quieter Old Town, with bars and restaurants to while away the warm autumn nights.

You could easily spend a week relaxing by the pool and exploring the various beaches, but the city of Faro also is well worth a visit, especially its own historic Old Town. History buffs will also like the Castelo de Silves, an impressive Moorish hill-top fortress, while thrill-seekers can enjoy a kayak tour from Lagos. Lagos is also home to a zoo and a national park with playgrounds for those with young children.

ESSENTIAL INFO: Package holidays are available from €200 per person for a week, or flights go from Dublin (year-round) and Cork and Knock (until November), starting from €100 per person return.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”CYPRUS” 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=”22263″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Tucked away in the corner of the Mediterranean, Cyprus boasts sea temperatures of up to 26 degrees, so there’s no risk of dipping a toe in and running away shrieking. Or if you’d rather just soak up the sun, there’s an average of nine hours sunshine a day in October, so don’t forget the suncream.

There are resorts dotted around the island, with plenty of hotels to choose from. For nightlife, it can only be Ayia Napa for all-night parties. If that’s not your scene or you’re travelling with infants, try the quieter town of Coral Bay, just outside the resort area in Paphos.

Away from the beaches, Cyprus has plenty for history and culture fans to enjoy, including Aphrodite’s Rock, the 2000-year-old Tomb of the Kings and the huge archaeological sites at Kourion and Salamis. There’s also a wine festival in Limassol and a 10-day arts and culture festival in the capital, Nicosia. The waterparks stay open until late October, while most tourist attractions and zoos are open year-round.

ESSENTIAL INFO: Package holidays start from €450 per person per week. If you’re booking flights only, you’ll need to connect via London Stansted, with a total cost of around €260 per person return.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”MALTA” 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=”22264″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]Like Cyprus, Malta’s location in the Mediterranean means that summer weather lasts until November, with the mercury lingering in the low twenties. Beach lovers have a choice of gold sand, red sand and flat rocks, while the seas are very warm for swimming and usually clear enough for snorkelling. The catch is that the island gets a little more rain than other destinations in October. However, the majority of days are dry and showers tend to last very short periods of time – so be sure to pack a light raincoat along with your suncream.

Bugibba, on St Paul’s Bay in the north, is the oldest and biggest resort. There’s a vast choice of hotels and apartments to suit all ages, and most of the tourist-aimed bars and restaurants stay open until at least late October. St Julian’s Bay, closer to the capital Valetta, is known for its nightlife and clubs.

Outside the resorts, Malta is full of historic sites worth visiting, especially the old city of Mdina, known as the ‘silent city’. The capital Valetta also has plenty of beautiful old buildings, while the picturesque island of Gozo makes a great day trip, with ferries every 45 minutes from the north of the country. A more unusual attraction is Popeye Village – the set from the 1980 Robin Williams film, which has been turned into a theme park.

ESSENTIAL INFO: Package holidays are available from about €300 per person for a week, while flights run from Dublin year-round, costing around €135 per person return.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”ATHENS (Greece)” 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=”22265″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]If you’d like a sun holiday with a difference, why not combine it with a city break and head to Athens? If you stay in Glyfada – a beach resort filled with hotels, restaurants and shops to the south of the Greek capital– you can have the best of both worlds. Spend a few days relaxing on the pebbled beaches in Glyfada itself or the sandy beach at Varkiza, where the seas are even warmer than the air, and then take the tram into Athens for sun-soaked sightseeing.

No trip to Athens is complete without a visit to the world-famous Acropolis and Parthenon. The city’s ancient history is very much on display and there are plenty of organised tours. You can also take a cable car to the top of Mount Lycabettus or spend an afternoon wandering the tiny streets of the old town in Plaka.

Set in the shadow of the Acropolis, Plaka is famous for its nightlife, as is the nearby Syntagma area.  If you want to dance the night away, the last tram returns to Glyfada at 2:30am at weekends. (For the real night owls, they start up again at 5:30am!)

ESSENTIAL INFO: Package trips to Athens are relatively rare, but are normally around €300 per person per week. You can also book flights year-round from €135 per person.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”FURTHER READING” 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]Looking for more ideas for short breaks? See below!

Best things to do in Porto in just 24 hours

Travelling to Berlin – the AA Roadwatch guide

Travelling to Amsterdam – the AA Roadwatch guide

Travelling to Edinburgh – the AA Roadwatch guide[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_text_separator title=”DON’T FORGET!” 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]

We hope that everything will run smoothly on your trip, but AA Travel Insurance will give you the peace of mind that you need before you jet off.

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All images used under CC0 licence.

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Categories
Africa England Europe France Morocco Netherlands Portugal Spain

City Breaks – the AA Roadwatch guide

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Here in Ireland we may be marooned on an island, but it’s never been easier – nor cheaper – to jet off for a fun-filled city break in one of the dozens of fascinating destinations on our doorstep. And now that winter is approaching, it’s a great time to start poring over the map, feeding the imagination and then firing up the cheap flights websites in search of some last minute sun or even a winter wonderland.

We asked some of the AA Roadwatch team to tell us about their favourite city breaks – and they’re not all in Europe. So read on for some inspiration from our broadcasters and get booking![/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″][image_with_text image=”21891″ title=”Seville”]

Photo by SkareMedia used under CC BY-SA 3.0 ES licence

[/image_with_text][/vc_column][vc_column][vc_column_text]Words by Lauren Beehan

IN A FEW WORDS:

A unique fusion of styles and cultures, Seville is an enthralling city where getting lost is part of the fun. 

HIGHLIGHTS:

Seville is the traditional starting place for journeys in Spanish literature, so a weekend here was a fitting start to my own travels in Spain. The labyrinthine Barrio Santa Cruz is a true navigational challenge, but I thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in its tiny winding streets: who needs a map when there’s a tapas bar or café around every corner?

Map or no map, I couldn’t miss Seville’s proudest historical sites: the colourful Alcázar (palace) and the world’s largest cathedral, whose skyscraping belltower (La Giralda) started life as part of a 12th-century mosque. Indeed, the whole city is a blend of Arabic and European styles, unlike anything I’d seen before.

Less than a kilometre away from those historical treasures, I climbed the baffling Metropol Parasol, a modern wooden structure built over a two-century-old market. Officially, it’s designed to resemble trees; locals call it Las Setas (the Mushrooms). The rooftop panorama is great spot for a drink or, in my case, to take too many photos.

A final noteworthy spot is the majestic Plaza de España in Maria Luísa Park, where I discovered how terrible I am at rowing boats. I should have followed the sevillanos’ lead and stuck to paddling in the enormous fountain…

HOW TO GET THERE:

Ryanair fly to Seville twice weekly from Dublin. Several airlines offer daily flights via London. 

GETTING AROUND:

The Old Town is best experienced on foot, but taxis are inexpensive and quick. There’s also an extensive bus network, a metro line and a tram line.[/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_column][image_with_text image=”21910″ title=”Marrakech”]

Photo by Luc Viatour, used under CC-BY-SA-3.0-migrated licence

[/image_with_text][/vc_column][vc_column][vc_column_text]Words by Arwen Foley

IN A FEW WORDS:

Not your typical city break, but perfect for warming the bones. 

HIGHLIGHTS:

Most people who contemplate a trip to the Moroccan city of Marrakech think of it as somewhere to relax and lie out by the pool and if that’s what you’re looking for, I recommend heading to a hotel in the new city.

However, if you’re looking for a culturally diverse location, completely different from your normal city break, then I thoroughly recommend a stay in a riad – a bit like boutique hotel – within the walls of Marrakech’s old city. We stayed in Riad Dar One, which was lovely and within walking distance of most of the major tourist attractions.

The colours, sights, sounds and the smell of spices and orange blossom make Marrakech a truly wonderful city. You can spend hours meandering down the narrow streets or getting lost amongst the market stalls.

Food can be very mixed in Marrakech so it’s best to do your research before you travel. Trying a Moroccan tagine is a must – perhaps start with chicken cooked in honey, with apricots and almonds. Morocco is a Muslim country so alcohol is not as readily available as it is in Ireland. However, most hotels serve alcohol and we didn’t have any problem finding bars to stop in for a tipple. It is advisable to check that the restaurant you’re going to serves alcohol before you get there though.

HOW TO GET THERE:

The only airline that flies direct from Dublin to Marrakech is Ryanair so really there’s only one option. When we arrived, our riad had arranged for a driver to collect us. You can get also get a taxi but be warned, a lot of the taxi drivers only speak Arabic or French. My Leaving Cert French came in quite handy for the couple of days we were there.

GETTING AROUND:

The best way to get around is on foot but it is possible to get a taxi or you can do the real touristy thing and flag down a horse and cart.[/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_column][image_with_text image=”21890″ title=”Lyon”]

Photo by Patrick Giraud used under CC BY-SA 1.0 licence.

[/image_with_text][/vc_column][vc_column][vc_column_text]Words by Chris Jones

IN A FEW WORDS:

A beguiling riverside city that’s not just for foodies.

HIGHLIGHTS:

France’s third largest city may not have the romance of Paris or the glittering coastline of Nice, but it’s the kind of place that charms you quickly. A lot of people go for the food (it boasts a galaxy of Michelin stars among its many restaurants) and although I can’t vouch for that, it’s a wonderful city to wander around. Be warned though – it’s very hilly. Vieux (old) Lyon is a charming area with lots of nooks and crannies to explore (and the steepest Metro line I’ve ever been on) while the best views are from the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, which dominates the city’s skyline. You can take a funicular railway up to it but wrap up unless it’s summer – the first time I visited in early spring, it was icy cold. Back in the attractive city centre, I recommend a stroll along the banks of the Rhône and Saône rivers, and don’t miss Place Bellecour, one of Europe’s largest public squares.

HOW TO GET THERE:

Aer Lingus flies from Dublin to Lyon-Saint Exupéry five times a week. Easyjet flies from Belfast International once a week, every Saturday. When I went there for Euro 2016 direct flights had sold out, so I flew to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport and took the high-speed TGV train direct to Lyon. It’s fun and covers the 500km distance in just two hours.

GETTING AROUND:

Lyon has a comprehensive transport network, with a six-line tram system and a four-line metro, as well as an extensive bus network, taxis and Uber. Public transport runs from around 5am to midnight, and a single ticket on any form costs €1.90. The Lyon City Card includes unlimited use of public transport for as long as the card is valid.[/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_column][image_with_text image=”21889″ title=”Lisbon”]

Photo used under CC0 License

[/image_with_text][/vc_column][vc_column][vc_column_text]Words by Adrian Harmon

IN A FEW WORDS:

A charming medieval city whose trams zig-zag across its seven hills.

HIGHLIGHTS:

The city is awash with tours, and I highly recommend them as a way of getting acquainted with your surroundings. The city centre is easily navigated on foot – don’t miss Bairro Alto, the centre of the city’s nightlife, the opulent Baixa district and the quaint and maze-like neighbourhood of Alfama, which surrounds the city’s Arabic/medieval St George Castle.

I stayed near Rua Dom Pedro V and Rua Sao Pedro de Alcantara – a central area which is home to some great restaurants. Rooms with a view include Insólito (great food and cocktails) and Lost In (quirky and there are no bad seats). The restaurant-cum-hostel Decadente was also a very nice lunch option.

Outside the city, there are some great places to visit. The walks and coastline around Cascais are worth the short train ride and boast breathtaking scenery. Boca de Inferno (Devil’s Mouth) is a great spot for some snaps.

The magical UNESCO World Heritage site of Sintra is also a must-see with the Castle of the Moors and Pena Palace among the attractions. The area is steeped in history, with spectacular views, and I found a half-day tour from the city plenty to take it in.

HOW TO GET THERE:

Direct flights from Dublin are operated by Aer Lingus and Ryanair. A frequent bus service will take you directly from the airport to city centre. A taxi will take approximately 20 minutes.

GETTING AROUND:

Lisbon’s tram network has declined since its heyday in the 1960s but trams remain a common sight on the city’s streets and the vintage ones are an attraction in themselves. There are also funiculars, a four-line metro and an extensive bus network. A 24-hour pass for bus, tram and metro costs €6.50 for the first day and €6 for each additional day.[/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_column][image_with_text image=”21899″ title=”London”]

Photo by DeFacto used under CC-BY-SA-4.0 licence

[/image_with_text][/vc_column][vc_column][vc_column_text]Words by Ruth Jephson

IN A FEW WORDS:

One of the most iconic cities in the world, and on Ireland’s doorstep.

HIGHLIGHTS:

The Museum of London is the perfect place to visit early on in your trip as it provides an overview of the city and its history. As you walk through the museum, you’ll learn about London chronologically and what has shaped it over the years – I found the features on The Great Fire and the 7/7 Bombings particularly interesting. St Paul’s, Moorgate and Barbican Underground stops are all 5/10 mins walk away and admission is free.

There are about a dozen exhibitions in the Imperial War Museum on Lambeth Rd, but make sure you visit the Holocaust Exhibition, which is a permanent fixture. Allow plenty of time – I’ve spent six hours there over two visits and I’m planning a third! There are incredibly moving video interviews with Holocaust survivors, as well as other potentially upsetting material so it’s not recommended for under 14s. Other exhibitions include The War on Terror and the First World War. Entry is free.

You could also check out the Tower of London, Madame Tussauds, Buckingham Palace and the two Tate Galleries – or see a West End show!

HOW TO GET THERE:

There are dozens of flights from Irish airports every day. If you fly to Gatwick, you can then take the non-stop Gatwick Express to the city, which goes every 15 mins. Last time, I flew to Luton and took the Thameslink in.

GETTING AROUND:

Get an Oyster card and you can use all London transport by tapping on and off. Download the Citymapper app. This is a godsend, you input your destination and, combining all the public transport options, it gives you the best way to get there. It even says what section of the train or tube to get on for ‘Exit Planning Optimisation’. (I love this app so much I nearly put it in the ‘Highlights’ section).[/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_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][/vc_column][vc_column][image_with_text image=”21892″ title=”Amsterdam”]

Photo by Patrick Clenet used under CC BY-SA 3.0 licence

[/image_with_text][/vc_column][vc_column][vc_column_text]Words by Róisín Nestor

IN A FEW WORDS:

Beautiful architecture, museums and plenty of interesting experiences!

HIGHLIGHTS:

One of the best things I did in Amsterdam was the Sandeman’s free walking tour. Our guide brought us around for two-and-a-half hours, covering everything from the city’s beginnings as a fishing village to the Red Light District. It was a local perspective and helped us plan how we wanted to spend the rest of our trip. Hopping onto a canal cruise is another great way to see the sights.

I’d definitely recommended booking in advance to avoid the queues at the Anne Frank House. The Heineken Experience was a bit of fun and I enjoyed the Van Gogh Museum. At €4 entry, the Sex Museum is also worth a look for a bit of a giggle. And if you’re not getting high enough on life, Bulldog Café is one of the best-known of Amsterdam’s infamous ‘coffeeshops’.

HOW TO GET THERE:

You can fly to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport from Dublin, Cork, Belfast City or Belfast International. When we arrived, we took the train from the airport to Centraal station.

GETTING AROUND:

Many of the attractions in Amsterdam are quite central so we mainly walked everywhere. Otherwise you can make use of the great network of buses and trains by buying a three day travel ticket for €26. Or why not do as the locals do and rent a bike?[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

Main image used under CC0 licence.

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No-one wants to think about bad things happening on holiday, but it’s always best to be prepared. AA Travel Insurance can give you the peace of mind you need to enjoy your time away.

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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.

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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]

[/vc_column_text][vc_text_separator title=”GERMAN” 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=”21931″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]

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]

[/vc_column_text][vc_text_separator title=”ITALIAN” 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=”21935″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]

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

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px” image_repeat=”no-repeat”][vc_column_text]

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
England France Ireland Italy Scotland Spain Wales

Top 10 Dos and Don’ts When Travelling With A Roof Rack

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]The folks over at Mick’s Garage know their stuff when it comes to travelling with a roof rack.

They have been selling and fitting roof racks to customers’ cars for over a decade. During that time they’ve built up a wealth of experience and knowledge with regards to the common issues that you might face. Here’s their list of the top 10 things to look out for:[/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=”READ THE INSTRUCTIONS” 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]

“As a rule, us chaps don’t read instructions and to be fair, most of us get away with it 95% of the time! If you’re fitting a roof rack to your car it’s extremely important to read all the instructions fully before you take a single bolt out of the box. They will help you get the job done more quickly, easily and safely in the long run. While not essential, a second pair of hands is certainly a big help. Remember your car is worth a lot more than the set of roof racks you’ve just bought, so don’t damage it by not reading the instructions!”

[/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=”WHAT ARE YOU TORQUING ABOUT?” 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]

“Pay particular attention to the torque settings (if mentioned). A properly fitted and used roof rack will give years of trouble free service and will not damage your car. An over-torqued, under-torqued, badly fitted or overloaded roof rack can damage your car. If you’re unsure about how to fit a roof rack correctly, check out this MicksGarage video for some top tips.”

[/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=”LUBE UP” 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 left on your car, your roof rack will be exposed to the elements, and as a result the fittings can corrode over time. To counteract this, a bit of copper grease on the mounting bolt threads will help protect against corrosion and make removing them in the future so much easier.”

[/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=”DON’T OVERLOAD” 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]

“The owner’s manual for your car will have a section on the maximum weight that can be carried on the roof. We often find the car will have a lower weight limit than the roof bars so it’s important to check and never exceed whichever is the lower of the two.”

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“Loading a roof rack with big, bulky items can be quite difficult. It’s when you’re struggling and straining that things tend to get damaged, so rather than scratching your lovely paintwork with that 12-foot canoe you’re trying to manhandle on your own, get someone to give you a hand.”

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“You’d be surprised at the number of calls we get from customers telling us they’ve just driven their car into a multi-storey car park (or their own garage), forgotten they had the roof rack and roof box or bike racks fitted and ripped the whole lot off! It’s more of an issue on taller MPVs and 4×4s but still possible in family saloons, so try to remember the extra height you’re carrying!”

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“At MicksGarage, we only sell roof racks with security locks – be sure to use them at all times, especially if you’re carrying bikes or kayaks that can be worth thousands. It can also be a good idea to keep your roof rack keys on your car key ring. We get hundreds of calls every year looking for replacement keys!”

[/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=”TIE IT DOWN” 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]

“Canoes, kayaks and surf boards must be tied down to the car front and back, not just to the roof rack. You can use the car’s towing eyes or tow bar if it has one. These kind of products can generate absolutely colossal amounts of aerodynamic lift when travelling at speed and could rip any brand of roof rack clean off your car if it’s not tied down properly. Even if you’re not travelling quickly, strong winds (and it often is very windy when surfers/wind surfers are heading out) could exert forces higher than the roof rack is rated for and cause damage so this is a really important point.”

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“Some roof rack accessories such as roof boxes come with a maximum speed warning which shouldn’t be exceeded. Aerodynamic drag increases with speed, and exceeding the speed rating could effectively exert too much force onto the accessory or the roof rack.”

[/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=”TAKE IT OFF” 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]”Despite the use of lightweight materials and aerodynamic profiles, a roof rack still adds a degree of weight and aerodynamic drag to your car. Although a small amount, it will negatively affect your fuel economy. So if you’re not using it, take it off!

“Finally, if you’re planning on taking a trip to the safari park with a roof box attached to your rack, stay away from the baboons! Or just make sure you lock it.”[/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]

For more information on roof racks and travel accessories, whether for business or leisure, head to MicksGarage. They have a team of experts on hand seven days a week.

[/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″][action full_width=”yes” content_in_grid=”no” type=”normal” show_button=”yes” background_color=”#0a0a0a” background_image=”20100″ button_text=”Get a European Breakdown Cover Quote” button_link=”http://www.theaa.ie/aa/insurance/european-breakdown-cover.aspx” button_hover_text_color=”#e5e5e5″ button_background_color=”#ffcc00″ button_hover_background_color=”#ffcc00″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Categories
England Europe France Ireland Italy Northern Ireland Portugal Scotland Spain Wales

Win a €300 Car Hire Voucher From Hertz

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Win one of two Hertz car hire vouchers 

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Hertz are giving two lucky people the chance to win a 3 day weekend car hire voucher for anywhere in Europe, each worth €300.

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The prize is: Two Hertz vouchers to give away to two lucky winners, where each voucher gives free 3 day weekend Hertz car hire anywhere in Europe.  Each voucher is valid until 31st December 2017 and is valued at €300.

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COMPETITION NOW CLOSED

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Congratulations to our 2 Winners:

 

  1. Neil Jackman from Tipperary
  2. Caroline Ryan

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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 Hertz car hire with AA Rewards.  To find out more click here.

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Categories
Spain

Top Day Trips To Take From Madrid

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Staying in Madrid? We’ve teamed up with Hertz to give you five of the best day trips to take from Madrid. 

[/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]The crowning capital of Spain is a vibrant metropolis bursting at the seams with history and culture. But it’s more than a destination in its own right as Madrid, located at the heart of the country, is also the perfect gateway to explore further afield.

Whether you want to discover the Orange Blossom Coast of Valencia or the Gothic architecture of Seville this summer, here we explore five of the best day trips from Madrid, thanks to Hertz.[/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]

Zaragoza

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A three hour drive north-east of Madrid will take you to the capital of Aragon, Zaragoza. Located on the banks of the River Ebro, Spain’s fifth-largest city offers long views out over the valley. Discover Roman ruins, a turreted castle, freshwater aquarium and thriving café culture.

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Sierra Morena

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Located 300km south of Madrid in Andalusia, is the dramatic Sierra Morena mountain range and natural park where you’ll want to get out of your car and take in the vast views. If you like to hike, there’s a useful visitor centre with details on trails to follow. There’s also an animal sanctuary that is home to wild boars and deer, while wild lynx and wolves have been spotted in the area.

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Cuenca

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A 165km drive south-east of Madrid will take you to the historic walled city of Cuenca, an important UNESCO World Heritage site with Moorish history, a Gothic cathedral and an ‘overhanging house’ situated precariously on the cliff tops.

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Serranía de Cuenca

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Keeping with the theme of Spain’s mountain ranges, Cuenca is also the gateway to one of the country’s finest national parks. Perfect for those with a sense of adventure as you can explore the rivers and waterfalls, or head into the mountains for a bird’s eye view of the city.

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Salamanca

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Drive 215km north-west of Madrid and you’ll come to Salamanca, a charming city renowned for its cultural heritage and home to Spain’s oldest university. The place comes into its own on a summer’s evening when the last rays of sunshine light up its sandstone buildings, and cast a golden glow onto the streets.

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From picture postcard views of the mountains to exploring the streets of Medieval Spain, there’s plenty for you to see and do this summer with a holiday to Madrid.

[/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, our AA Rewards Hertz Car Hirepartner, for providing us with five worth while day trips from Madrid.

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 Hertz car hire.  Get a quote or book your car hire 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]