Having just returned from a roadtrip through France and Spain, I have accumulated a fairly huge amount of advice on traveling through Western Europe, ranging from car parking to accommodation and food. I hope that some of my experiences will be of use to a few of you out there!
Going by Car
- Rule No. 1: Never trust technology! Naturally, we started our roadtrip trusting our GPS but soon encountered difficulties when we had to find out that the source of electricity in the car wasn’t working. Therefore: Always take some maps along. Don’t be afraid of maps. They are actually quite easy to read and with some practice it will even be fun because you can easily see all the alternative routes and might take a detour through the mountains or along the coast, which is often more fun than staying on the motorway. Should you be a member of the ADAC you should give them a call in advance. They will send you an individualized package providing you with easy-to-read map materials and advice on driving internationally.
- Parking: It is fairly easy to spot a foreign car which is why you should always take care of your belongings. On our roadtrip we decided not to take the risk of leaving the car out on the streets in bigger cities. Some online research can provide you with safe parking opportunities at economic prices. We left our car at the Plaza Fórum in Barcelona (5 days for 37,95 €) and at the Parking Gato Azul in Madrid (27 € for 5 days). The latter is actually an airport transfer service for the people in Madrid but you are free to use it as well.
- You need a credit card! In France and Spain you need to pay for using the motorways at toll stations, which is why you should always have your credit card at hand when driving.
- If possible, do not travel during holiday season. We went to France and Spain at the end of September, which is why we did not encounter any difficulties regarding accommodation. If you are going during holiday season, you should book accommodation in advance.
- Pack lightly! Believe us… We know it is hard, but try to pack as lightly as possible. Do not take any superfluous clothes, accessories, shoes etc. You will just have to drag them around through hot cities and stuffy metro stations.
- Take some cash with you! Although I asked my local bank about payment methods and they assured me that my credit card would work, we had some problems at vending machines etc. Most restaurants and bars do accept credit cards but a little cash doesn’t hurt. If you are afraid of pick-pockets, you should carry the money at different places. Special advice for girls: The safest place will always be inside your bra!
Extra: Football Tickets
We wanted to visit a match of Real Madrid and checked for tickets online for months. The prices were really high and varied extremely. Do not fall for these online ticket services! The official tickets will go on sale for public about a week before the match and you can check it on the official page of the football club. Unfortunately, in our case, Real Madrid online did not accept non-Spanish credit cards and we had to call the hotline which worked very well but you need to speak some Spanish for it or call in the afternoon and risk for the good seats to be already taken. But you will certainly find a friendly Spanish person to make the call for you. The employees at our hotels were all very nice and helpful.
I hope that some of you may profit from out experiences and if you have something to add, hit the comments. Bon Voyage!