A trip to Europe is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and is on the bucket list of many Canadian tourists.
The continent has more sights to see than can fit into just one trip. However, with short distances between locations (in comparison to Canada) one can still see a lot of Europe’s most popular destinations during a visit.
Europe is very well connected — thanks to the implementation of the Schengen area, the mobility of people and goods within the continent is encouraged by soft borders and several affordable and convenient transport options.
Depending on the time, budget, and personal preferences, foreign visitors have an endless number of options when it comes to European itineraries. This article will give readers a head start in planning the ideal European route for their needs and circumstances. They will learn about:
- European holidays on the road and facts one should know before driving in Europe
- Travelling through Europe with train passes
- Different European itineraries for different types of holiday
What is the best road trip in Europe?
It will be necessary to fly to Europe from Canada. However, once visitors are on European soil, they can easily rent a car and follow their own schedule instead of depending on flights.
European roads are usually well maintained and most villages and towns are within close proximity to each other. This offers plenty of opportunities to stop for gas, get food or rest when need to on a road trip. Europe is also a very varied area — there is no lack of scenic routes whether one prefers a mountain or ocean view outside the car window.
Mountain lovers should not miss out on the scenic Alpine roads in France, Switzerland, and the north of Italy. Some of these routes, like la Route de Grands Alps in France, were designed specifically with tourists in mind. Expect picturesque villages, delicious homemade food, and the beauty of pristine mountain lakes and vast views throughout.
Further south, the coastal roads of the south of Italy, along the Amalfi coast, capture the essence of a Fellini movie, with stunning arts cities, fine cuisine, and the warm Italian sun. Alternatively, Irish roads offer some of the world’s most amazing cliff routes together with an enchanting rural landscape.
Can you drive between countries in Europe?
Those who have successfully applied for and obtained a travel permit for the Schengen area will be able to drive across European nations with no issues. The Schengen area has no hard borders between member countries and unless special security measures need to be put in place temporarily, Canadians will not even be asked for theirdocuments at the border.
Remember that the borders between Schengen and non-Schengen countries are still occasionally subject to security checks and that a Schengen visa or visa waiver may not allow its holder to travel to non-Schengen territories. It is important that visitors check this before they plan their itinerary.
Find below a driving checklist for Europe to help organise the trip:
- A full, valid driving license (most European countries accept licenses in English like a Canadian license but others will require an International Driving Permit)
- Vehicle insurance
- A valid eligible passport
- Car registration documentation (V5 or the ‘logbook’)
- Travel insurance
- European Breakdown Cover policy number and documents
- Reflective jackets for all passengers
- Warning triangle
Remember: some traffic laws depend on the European country you are in. Germany, for example, is famous for its highway (the Autobahn) which has no speed limits outside of urban centres.
Can you travel around Europe by train?
For those who do not enjoy driving for long periods of time or would simply prefer to read a book and enjoy the landscape, trains offer a great alternative. Almost all major cities in Europe have rail connections and at very affordable prices.
Interrail is a special train pass program that was implemented a few decades ago to encourage students and young Europeans to discover the continent on a budget. It has then become so popular that it is been open to all European residents, no matter their age.
Interrail is only available to European residents. However, there is an equivalent for foreign citizens called Eurail. The system is very flexible, allowing tourists to visit almost all European countries with just one pass that can be purchased in advance — you will only need to book your actual seat before you intend to travel.
Eurail’s price depends on the length (from 3 days to 3 months), flexibility, and train class desired for the trip. It can be used for almost all European trains, but you may have to pay a small extra booking fee for certain trains (like overnight or extra luxury carriages).
Foreigners can purchase a pass as early as 11 months in advance. They will then activate it by simply validating the ticket on the first trip. It is possible to book specific seats for each leg of the itinerary directly at the station or online.
Not only do trains offer a reduced environmental impact. Thanks to high-speed technology, passengers will also be able to move between some of the European cities most visited by Canadians in a matter of hours.
How to plan an itinerary for Europe?
Europe is so varied and so full of unique attractions that making decisions on a European itinerary may feel overwhelming. Yet, it can be as simple as knowing what you like and what you do not — there is a European type of holiday for every type of traveller out there.
Relaxed holidays for foodies and families: Southern Europe
If Canadians are heading to Europe during the summer school holidays, they should not miss out on some of the best beaches in the Mediterranean. Italy, Spain, and the south of France are ideal for those who enjoy a slow-paced holiday where they can experience (and taste) every second. They are also very kid-friendly, great for those travelling to Europe with their family.
Culture and winter lovers: Benelux, Germany, and Austria
These countries are some of the most special places to spend a magical Christmas and wintertime in Europe. Activities include Christmas markets, beautifully-decorated old towns, and outdoor activities like skiing and ice skating.
Furthermore, big cities in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands are home to world-renowned museums and cutting-edge art galleries as well as some of the most exciting music festivals around.
Plan a trip here if you enjoy discovering new places and spending time in a creative hub.
The North of Europe: nature and summer festivals
For those after an unforgettable experience, the Northern Lights will not disappoint. Watching this natural wonder is not the only unique winter activity one can find in countries like Sweden, Denmark, and Norway. Riding a reindeer or husky sledge is enjoyable for kids and adults alike, and the local special cuisine will warm visitors up during long cold nights.
If one prefers to travel during the summer, the Northern countries host some of the most amazing summer music festivals in the area. The lineups include both local and world-famous artists. Gotland Island festival in Sweden is a good place to start.