Continental Driving

Continental Driving

Like many of us at this time of year thoughts turn to summer holidays and being no exception I was discussing possible destinations with a pal of mine over a beer last week. The fear of flying means he limits his options to land and sea passages. I have finally chosen Greece for this seasons sojourn in the sun and, having no qualms about air travel, I am taking the direct route that will transport me from my kitchen to a Greek Taverna in 8 hours or so.

Of course it is quite possible to reach Greece and its islands without ever resorting to the skies. Any combination of car, train and boat with get you there eventually. My friend prefers the independence of his  car and was musing that he could maybe make the 2000 mile plus road trip in 4 days or so with two drivers and a couple of 5 gallon cans of petrol in reserve to limit pit stops. The problem here is that driving on the Continent is not that straightforward and many UK drivers regrettably display scant knowledge of UK transport laws never mind those of our European neighbors.

In the UK storage of fuel (unless specifically licensed) is restricted by law to either metal containers with a maximum capacity of 2 x 10 litres or approved plastic containers of a maximum 2 x 5 litres capacity.

In Greece the rules are simpler as carrying spare fuel in a car is forbidden by law. Most Car Ferry operators also frown on spare fuel cans – if they take the trouble to check.

Holiday makers driving through France should also be aware that they are required by law to carry at least one and preferably two hazard warning triangles (highly recommended in Spain) and a hi-vis reflective jacket at all times.  This is also the case in Austria and Croatia if you take the scenic route to Greece. Interestingly in Switzerland the hazard triangle should be kept in the cab not the boot. It is also compulsory throughout Europe to carry your original vehicle registration document, proof of insurance and to decorate your car with a GB sticker unless you already have it on your registration plates.

Equipping your car with a fire extinguisher and first aid kit is not compulsory but is “recommended” in Belgium, Germany and the Scandinavian block.

On the spot fines are common in Europe and vary up to 150 Euro so it’s investing in the right safety gear.

For anyone considering a Greek odyssey by land I would recommend driving (or my preference taking the train) down to Venice and picking up the ferry to Patra and hire a car there. Drive further down Italy’s boot to Bari for a shorter Ferry trip. There is also a ferry that drops you off in Kefalonia but that may be from Brindisi – you will have to check as I always fly these days!!

Tony

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