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European Road Trip: Germany, Czech Republic & Austria

European Road Trip: Germany, Czech Republic & Austria

In December 2016 we went on an incredible 17 day road trip through Germany, Czech Republic and Austria. Here is a run down on our itinerary, how to organise your car and what to expect while driving through each country.

This road trip covers some of the highlights from each area. Starting off in one of our favourite cities, Munich, this 17 day trip will take you through some of Germany’s most iconic cities, alongside the Austrian Alps and to the bohemian capital of Prague.

This tour will give you a great taste of each country without being in a massive rush. Enjoy!

Recommended Itinerary

Day One: Munich to Prague via Regensburg

Driving Time: 6 hours inc. stops

After a few days exploring Munich and its famous beer halls, it’s time to hit the road!

Pick your car up first thing in the morning. Make sure to allow some time to pick the car up and get used to your vehicle. Use the GPS in the car (or on your phone) to direct you to the centre of Regensburg. Make your way out of Munich and on to your first autobahn!

Regensburg is almost exactly half way between Munich and Prague. When we found our way to Regensburg’s old town and came across the incredible Regensburg Cathedral we were completely blown way – it’s massive! Grab yourself a park in the centre of town. There are plenty of paid car parks and they are quite cheap. Spend a hour or two exploring the cathedral and the old town before grabbing lunch.

Once you’ve finished exploring, jump back in your car and make your way to Prague.

TRAVELATOR TIP: We have explained the vignette system below. Be sure to grab your vignette sticker before entering the Czech Republic. There are a number of service stations selling them just before the border.

Day Five: Prague to Berlin via Kutna Hora (Bone Cathderal)

Driving Time: 6 hours inc. stops

Prague is one of our favourite cities in Europe and leaving is never easy. Alas, it’s time to jump in your car and make your way to Berlin, another of Europe’s showpiece cities. First up, take a detour to Kutna Hora and it’s infamous Bone Cathedral. This fascinating side trip will add around 90 minutes to your drive from Prague to Berlin.

The drive today is fairly stress free. You will have noticed by now that there are A LOT of roadside rest stops where you can pull in for lunch. These stops offer everything from McDonald’s to freshly made sandwiches.

Sedlec Ossuary a.k.a The Bone Church in Kutna Hora

Day Nine: Berlin to Dresden

Driving Time: 2 hours

This is the easiest drive of the trip! The short drive from Berlin to Dresden will only take 2 hours, giving you some time to see more of Berlin before heading off to the beautiful city of Dresden. Dresden was famously flattened by Allied bombing in WWII, but it’s historic centre has been reconstructed beautifully.

The Dresden Cathedral

Day Eleven: Dresden to Fussen

Driving Time: 6 hours inc. stops

This will be the longest day in the car with no detours planned. The long drive from Dresden to Fussen will see you almost cover the length of Germany. We would recommend getting up and hitting the road early and grabbing lunch on the way.

Day Twelve: Fussen to Innsbruck via Neuschweinstein Castle

Driving Time: 4 hours inc. stops

Get up nice and early to visit the iconic Neuschweinstein Castle, or the Disney Castle as it is commonly referred to. We spent close to three hours at the castle, but you can save some time by pre-booking your tickets online. You can buy tickets on the day at the ticket office, but in peak times it may sell out – you have been warned!

Once you’ve finished at the castle, make your way to Innsbruck. The drive takes you through the Alps with some stunning scenery along the way!

TRAVELATOR TIP: Grab your Austrian vignette sticker from Fussen as there are no places to buy the sticker between Fussen and the border.

The view from Mairenbrucke of Neuschwanstein Castle

Day Fifteen: Innsbruck to Salzburg

Driving Time: 2.5 hours

After seeing the sights in and around Innsbruck it’s time to head to Salburg, the home of The Sound Of Music and Mozart. This drive will take you back through Germany on your way to Austria but don’t worry – your vignette sticker for Austria will still be valid from your earlier border crossing.

Hohensalzburg Castle sitting above Salzburg

Day Seventeen: Salzburg to Munich

Driving Time: 2 hours

The final day of your trip will take you on the short drive from Salzburg to Munich. The traffic in Munich can be awful at peak hours so plan your arrival to avoid it.

Hiring Your Car

We did a stupid amount of research for this car. We looked for the best value, most reliable and the easiest company to use. We finally settled on booking through Sixt. The main factors for us was their range and price. In the end it was their service which was the stand out.  They were incredibly helpful and prompt before and after our booking.

There are a few must do’s when hiring a car – to see them all check out our Backpackers’ Guide to Car Hire.

What car did we use?

We were lucky enough to be joined by some family members for this road trip. This meant two things: we would need a bigger car and we had a bit more money to play with.

For this trip we splurged a little and got an Audi A6 wagon. It had more than enough room for the 4 of us along with our luggage. We could also fully enjoy the autobahns!

Did we use GPS?

Our fancy Audi came with in-built satellite navigation which we used for pretty much everything.

In saying that, the roads are incredibly well signed and English is used throughout. If your car doesn’t have a GPS, your phone GPS should suffice.

What To Expect

Road conditions

The roads throughout this entire trip are in excellent condition. While the speed limits may vary from country to country everything is very well signed and leaves no confusion. Driving overseas doesn’t get much easier than this.

Road rules

Driving in Europe is a dream, the drivers are careful, aware and considerate. Mind you, if you are holding people up or taking too long to do something they will let you know about it!

Overtaking – you’ll get the hang of this very quickly. The general rule is if you’re overtaking, do it in the left lane. If not, sit in the right lane and let people pass.

Speed limits – unlike our adventure through Armenia & Georgia, throughout Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic speed limits are clearly signed and easy to follow. You will not go far before seeing a sign indicating the speed and and changes are well signed.

Parking – this is the number one concern for a lot of people thinking of driving around Europe. Throughout our entire time with the car we did not have a single problem with parking. Throughout the cities, paid parking lots are well priced and easy to use. On-street parking signs are everywhere and easy to read which is a huge help. Try to book accommodation that includes a car park.

Tolls – we encountered no toll gates or similar systems during our drive. However, you will need to purchase vignette stickers (see below).

Crossing borders – Vignettes

Never heard this word before? Neither had we.

Vignettes are a small sticker that you place on the inside of your front window when crossing borders. Think of them as paying a border crossing toll. For example, if you hire a car in Germany, you will need to buy a vignette sticker in Germany before crossing into Austria. Each country will have their own vignette sticker and they can be purchased from service stations within 20km of the border. Of course, you need to buy the sticker before you cross the border! Stickers are usually valid for 10 days, and cost around 12 euro.

What do you think about road tripping through the Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic? Tell us in the comments below!

Armenia & Georgia: The Ultimate Road Trip

Armenia & Georgia: The Ultimate Road Trip

Here is our guide to the ultimate two week road trip through Armenia & Georgia. We will explain our itinerary from October 2016 (with a few modifications), how to organise your car and what to expect whilst driving through both countries.

Armenia and Georgia have an incredible amount to see and do. Both countries are spoiled for ancient monasteries, stunning scenery, fascinating history and delicious wine. We didn’t have much time so we decided that we should hire a car. This would allow us to see everything we wanted and would cut out days spent on public transport, plus give us plenty of flexibility.

For our road trip we started off in Yerevan, so for a look at what to do with your time there have a look at our Guide to Backpacking in Armenia.

Recommended Itinerary

Day One: Yerevan to Goris

Driving Time: 6 hours inc. stops

Your first day is a perfect introduction to Armenia and the roads you will encounter over the next 2 weeks. Drive out of Yerevan on the the highway running south to Goris. Along the way, stop in at  the serene Khor Virap and Noravank Monasteries. Grab some supplies from Yerevan for a picnic lunch along the way. There are plenty of good places to stop, but we loved Spandarian Reservoir.

Noravank Monastery
Noravank Monastery

Where to stay: Aregak B&B in Goris – a great introduction to Armenian hospitality. Marieta will welcome you in to her home with a big hug and great cooking. It doesn’t look like much from outside, but inside there is everything you need.

Day Two: Goris to Yeghegnadzor

Driving Time: 5 hours inc. stops

Today you will backtrack towards Yerevan, but detouring to see the incredible hilltop Tatev Monastery in the morning. For lunch, Tatev has a couple of options but we suggest another picnic!

TRAVELATOR TIP: The cable car at Tatev (‘the Wings of Tatev’) is 4000 dram return ($8USD) but can often be clouded by fog. If you’re super keen to catch the cable car, visit around lunch and hopefully the fog has lifted.

Spandarian Reservoir
The Spandarian Reservoir

Where to stay: Guesthouse Nataly in Yeghegnadzor – huge rooms, a beautiful sitting room, spotless bathroom and great food. The view from the balcony is fantastic as well.

Day Three: Yeghegnadzor to Lake Sevan

Driving Time: 4 hours inc. stops

A shorter day today as you drive over the stunning Selim Pass towards Lake Sevan. Lake Sevan is the largest body of water in Armenia, and is surrounded by quaint fishing villages. Allow time for a few photo stops along the way. We would recommend a roadside lunch again, as some of the views along the way are sensational.

Note: If travelling in winter, ask your accommodation in Yeghegnadzor whether the pass is open as it can be closed due to heavy snow.

Where to stay: We found the range of accommodation options in Sevan to be a bit thin so stayed in Ch’kalovka instead. Lavash Hotel has a quirky Soviet resort feel to it, but the rooms are great, the restaurant serves up delicious food and it’s great value for money.

Day Four: Sevan to Alaverdi

Driving Time: 5 hours inc. stops

Today you will head north towards the Georgian border and the beautiful village of Alaverdi in the Debed Canyon. In the morning, visit the hilltop monastery of Sevanavank, which is just off the main highway between Sevan and Dilijan. After settling in to your accommodation in Alaverdi, head out to the Sanahin Monastery.

Sevanavank Monastery
Sevanavank Monastery

NOTE: When we completed this trip (October 2016) a section of the main road to Alaverdi was closed so we had to take a detour through Dsegh. We were advised by locals that the road could be closed for another 2 years. Take a right off the M6 onto the H22 (here) and head across the bridge and up to Dsegh. Head through the village and then towards the east, where the road winds back down to the M6. The road is terrible but there is no other way for the moment.

Where to stay: Iris Guesthouse in Alaverdi – this was one of our favourite guesthouses in Armenia. The owners are incredibly welcoming and always up for a chat, the facilities are great and the food is absolutely delicious.

Day Five: Alaverdi to Vardzia Cave City

Driving Time: 7 hours inc. stops & border crossing

A longer day in the car today as you cross the border into Georgia. As you leave Alaverdi in the morning, stop off at the beautiful Haghpat Monastery. From the Monastery, it is a fairly short drive to the border. After the border the roads improve, but they are quite windy. Expect another 4 hours of driving onwards to Vardzia. Near Vardzia stretch your legs with a visit to the Khertvisi Fortress.

Crossing the border: We found the border crossing to be an absolute breeze. You will need your passports, the car passport (the car hire company will provide this) and any relevant visas. The crossing is not well signed but the border guards will point you in the right direction. Passengers need to walk through the border crossing terminals, while the driver completes all formalities in the car. You will clear Armenian border first, then drive through another passport check and over a bridge to the Georgian border.

Where to stay: We (foolishly!) booked online and wouldn’t recommend the hotel we stayed at. There are a few guesthouses in the area, so just try your luck on arrival.

Day Six: Vardzia Cave City to Akhaltsikhe

Driving Time: 3 hours inc. stops

Your first stop this morning is the incredible cave complex of Vardzia. Allow at least one hour for your visit to do the complex justice. There are several cafes at the bottom if you need a snack before heading off.

Vardzia Cave Complex
A small section of the Vardzia Cave Complex

Back on the road, make your way north towards Akhaltsikhe. As you enter Akhaltsikhe, detour south to check out the gorgeous Sapara Monastery. Once you arrive in Akhaltsikhe, settle in to your accommodation and then check out the superbly renovated Rabati Castle.

Where to stay: We didn’t sleep in Akhaltsikhe but in hindsight we definitely should have. Travelling from Vardzia to Kutaisi in one day was just way to long. Akhaltsikhe is the perfect spot to break the journey up and has a lot of accommodation and restaurant options.

Day Seven: Akhaltsikhe to Kutaisi

Driving Time: 4 hours

A pretty uneventful morning as you head to Georgia’s second largest and surprisingly cool city, Kutaisi. No stops along the way today so you will have plenty of time to explore Kutaisi in the afternoon. Check out the town square and grab a glass of Georgian wine or beer.

NOTE: There is a road that connects Akhaltsikhe to Kutaisi travelling through the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park: avoid it! The road is in terrible condition and is often closed due to snow. Take the longer route via the highway through Khashuri.

Where to stay: Hostel Lviv in Kutaisi – located within walking distance of some great restaurants and the centre of town, Hostel Lviv is a great option. The host does not speak much English but will help you with anything you need, the shower is piping hot and the beds are comfy. Oh, it’s also incredibly cheap.

Day Eight: Exploring Kutaisi

Driving Time: Minimal

Kutaisi has plenty to see within a short drive from the city. Make sure you check out the Gelati Monastery, Prometheus Cave (closed on Mondays) and the Bagrati Cathedral.

Bagrati Cathedral
Bagrati Cathedral (and some cows)

TRAVELATOR TIP: For some cheap food, great music and even cheaper drinks, head to Enso Restaurant in Kutaisi. Great for anyone who loves rock music.

Day Nine: Kutaisi to Gori

Driving Time: 3 hours

Back in the car this morning as you head west to Gori, the birthplace of Josef Stalin. After you arrive in Gori, spend the afternoon visiting the strange yet incredibly interesting Stalin Museum. You will get a guided tour of the museum, plus a chance to see Stalin’s train carriage and childhood home. There is no mention of the atrocities Stalin was responsible for, so keep your expectations low on this front. However, it is fascinating to learn more about Stalin, his family and his relationship with them. The Uplistsikhe cave city just outside of Gori is well worth a look as well.

Statue of Stalin
A Statue of Stalin inside the Stalin Museum

Where to stay: Guesthouse Levani in Gori – the hosts here are the highlight. Incredibly friendly, knowledgeable and helpful, they will make your time here memorable.

Day Ten: Gori to Sighnaghi

Driving Time: 4 hours inc. stops

Today you make your way further west to Georgian wine country. We recommend a night in the picturesque village of Sighnaghi. Along the way, be sure to stop at Mtskheta and check out the beautiful Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and the perfectly located Jvari Church. In Sighnaghi, visit St Nino’s final resting place at the Bodbe Monsatery and walk the old city walls. If you’re in the mood for wine, head to Pheasant’s Tears where you can taste 4 wines for 15 GER.

Sighnaghi, Georgia
Scenic Sighnaghi

TRAVELATOR TIP: While in Sighnaghi don’t miss the chance to visit Georgia’s only Mexican restaurant, Pancho Villa. The delicious meals here are a great change from Georgian cuisine and the host is incredibly friendly.

Where to stay: Maya Guesthouse in Sighnaghi – the host, Maya, is the highlight of this small guesthouse. Maya and her family are very friendly and welcoming and she prepares a great breakfast. The guesthouse itself is in a great location in the heart of town, is spotlessly clean and incredible value for money.

Day Eleven: Sighnaghi to Telavi

Driving Time: 1 hour

From one wine village to another, a short day in the car today as you make your way to Telavi. In Telavi, you can visit the city fortress and relax with a few glasses of Georgian wine at Bravo cafe.

Where to stay: If you have a little cash to play with we would highly recommend staying at the Schuchmann Wines Chateau. The grounds are beautiful, the rooms and perfect and the service is fantastic. Guests get a free tour and wine tasting, plus a discount at the onsite spa. The restaurant also serves up delicious Georgian fare at reasonable prices.

Schuchmann Wines Georgia Kakheti
The gorgeous Schuchmann Wine Chateau near Telavi

Day Twelve: Exploring Telavi

Driving Time: Minimal

Telavi is a charming town to stroll around in with some great architecture and excellent restaurants. Jump in your car and head to the Chavchavadze Estate for the English tour of this famous aristocrat’s manor. The history of the manor, Chavchavadze and his family is really interesting. After the tour, head down to the cellar for a glass of wine (entrance and wine 7 GEL). Afterwards, head next door to Shumi Winery for their free tour and 4-wine tasting. Schuchmann Wines Chateau is a great spot for some more wine and a spot of lunch. Afterwards, take the short drive out to Alaverdi Cathedral.

Shumi Winery Telavi Georgia
Enjoy a great value wine tasting at Shumi Winery near Telavi.

Day Thirteen: Telavi to Tbilisi

Driving Time:

Your final day of driving today as you finish off your time in Georgia in the vibrant capital of Tbilisi.

Visit Tbilisi Georgia
The view over Tbilisi from the top of the funicular

Hiring Your Car

We started our road trip in Yerevan and looked at various car hire companies. We eventually chose Travel Car. They gave us the cheapest daily rate, beating the closest competitor by almost $5USD per day, and had a competitive one way hire fee. The service in their Yerevan office was fantastic, they spoke perfect English and answered any questions we had. Travel Car also offers roadside assistance in Georgia and Armenia, and provided insurance with a US$300 excess.

There are a few must do’s when hiring a car – to see them all check out our Backpackers’ Guide to Car Hire.

What car did we use?

Say hello to our trusty steed Marcel the Micra:

Marcel the Micra
Our trusty steed, Marcel the Micra.

Marcel may not look like much but he took us everywhere we needed in comfort. Plus, he was great on petrol as well!

Did we use GPS?

Somewhat. We used the MAPS.ME free mobile app and it worked with varying success. For the most part it was fine but it did lead us astray a few times. We would recommend cross checking your routes with Google Maps and (God forbid) a roap map. Alas, we figured this out the hard way.

What To Expect

Road conditions

Armenia – We drove on everything from newly paved 4 lane highways to dirt tracks that were allegedly main roads. Be careful with your planning and stick to major roads where possible – the route may be a further distance but will take less time due to road conditions. We have highlighted the best routes in our itinerary where possible.

Georgia – if coming from Armenia, you will find Georgia’s roads to be a gift from God. Throughout our itinerary we encountered very few dirt roads at all and most major tourist destinations were serviced by paved roads in great condition.

Road rules

Armenians and Georgians aren’t the worst drivers we have seen, but they are certainly not the best. Expect a lot of speeding, crazy overtaking and stopping in totally random locations.

Overtaking – you will see locals overtaking wherever and whenever they want. You will see signs indicating that overtaking is not permitted but they are not followed. Our guide would be to use common sense and overtake only when you feel safe to do so. However, expect to veer towards the right to allow crazy drivers to overtake you, and be prepared for cars from the other direction to be in your lane occasionally.

Speed limits – We were at a complete loss on speed limits in both countries. Some are well signed, other are not. Following the locals will most likely result in a speeding ticket, as you don’t know where the speed cameras are hiding. We ended up with two speeding tickets in Armenia! Our general rule of thumb after this was 50km/h through towns and cities and 80km/h on country roads, unless otherwise signed. Along your journey you will see signs indicating limits for speed humps, pedestrian crossings etc – these are for the obstacle only and then the limit returns to normal.

Parking – you can park pretty much wherever you like. If there are people parked there, go for it! If not, as long as there is not a cross marked on the ground you are fine. In Yerevan, you often need a parking permit (these are city-wide) so check with the car hire company whether this is included for your car.

What do you think about road tripping through the Caucases? Tell us in the comments below!

Yay for transparency! This page contains some affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation through a link on this page, we get paid a small commission. Don’t worry – you don’t pay anything extra! And we promise that we only recommend places that we have truly enjoyed staying at.

Two Week Road Trip in Scotland

Two Week Road Trip in Scotland

Rolling green hills, thick forests, sparkling lakes, picturesque hikes, Nessie hunting and whiskey tasting – what isn’t there to love about Scotland? Without a doubt, the best way to see this beautiful country is by car. Back in 2013, we hired a Peugeot (who we lovingly named Myrtle) for our jaunt around Scotland, and it was one of the highlights of our time in Europe.

Here is our guide to the perfect two-week road trip around Scotland.

Hiring a car in Scotland

We emailed a number of local companies to compare quotes, but eventually settled on Celtic Legend. We were very happy with our car (we even received a free upgrade) and their prices. We had a 500GBP excess for comprehensive insurance, so they placed a hold on our credit card for this amount while we rented the car. The excess amount was is covered by our own travel insurance. You will need your driving licences, passports and debit card for payment when you collect the car. For more tips on hiring cars, check out our handy guide.

TRAVELATOR TIP: Car hire and accommodation rates in Scotland are significantly lower in shoulder and off-seasons. We road-tripped around Scotland in January. No crowds, plenty of accommodation and cheap car hire. It was cold but for us this made the trip more ‘Scottish’!

2 Week Road Trip Itinerary

Day 1-3: Glasgow

Glasgow is Edinburgh’s grittier, edgier cousin with a fanatical football culture and thick Glaswegian accents (good luck understanding your taxi driver talking about the next Celtics game!). But underneath this tough exterior is a beautiful city. Spend a day visiting the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and MuseumUniversity of Glasgow grounds, Glasgow Cathedral. Football lovers should head to Celtic Park, while beer drinkers can tour the Tennents Wellpark Brewery. If you need a few winter woolies for your stay, souvenirs, a pint or a coffee head to Glasgow’s main shopping area, Buchanan Street.

Day 4: Fort William

Driving from Glasgow to Fort William takes you through the beautiful mountains of Glencoe and past Loch Lomond. The scenery is breathtaking, and there are a number of short hikes you can do in the area. During our road trip, we did our fair share of hiking and wildlife spotting with the help of the Walk Highlands website. We note that Scottish wildlife consists mainly of hairy cows, hairy goats, hairy sheep and squirrels.

Hiking in Scotland
Enjoying a short hike in the Scottish countryside

Day 5-6: Kyle of Lochalsh

We made Kyle of Lochalsh our base for exploring the stunning Isle of Skye. Spend a day driving and hiking around the island. Put aside a half day to visit the Tallisker Distillery at Carbost on the Isle of Skye, which is a real highlight for whiskey lovers.

Day 7: Ullapool

Ullapool is a quaint fishing village and a gateway to the Northern Highlands. As we visited Scotland in winter, we avoided venturing much farther into the Northern Highlands but Ullapool provided a great introduction. Nearby are the Corrieshalloch Gorge and the Falls of Measach, as well as plenty of beautiful walks through the forested nature reserves.

Day 8-9: Inverness

Make Inverness your base to explore the stunning Loch Ness. Hopping on a boat cruise of Loch Ness is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon, and offers great Loch Ness Monster spotting opportunities. No Nessie sightings for us though unfortunately. Your day at Loch Ness should also include a visit to the ruined medieval Urquhart Castle. History buffs can also visit the bloody Culloden Battlefield.

On route from Ullapool to Inverness there are also more world class whiskey distilleries. We recommend a stop at the Dalmore and Glenmorangie distilleries. Some distilleries offer paired chocolate tastings, which is great for the designated sober driver.

Day 10-11: St Andrews

On the drive from Inverness to St Andrews pop into the Dalwhinnie whiskey distillery (if you haven’t guessed yet, Tom likes whiskey). A trip on the ski lift up CairnGorm Mountain is also fun, even if there isn’t much snow.

Once you arrive in St Andrews, check out the St Andrews University (where Prince William attended), St Andrews Castle, St Andrews Cathedral, and the golf course (home of the British Open). The University has some interesting quirks, including the pavement stones you can’t step on until you finish your uni degree (otherwise you are destined to fail) and Hamish McHamish the local stray cat that has been adopted by the town.

St Andrews Golf Course
The golf course at St Andrews

Day 12-14: Edinburgh

On the way to Edinburgh, swing past Stirling to visit the spectacular Stirling Castle and the national William Wallace Monument. The castle and William Wallace (Braveheart) are hugely important part of Scottish history, so it is worth the visit.

Once you arrive in Edinburgh, make sure you try some haggis (if you haven’t already). Paired with some neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes) and some local beers, it goes down an absolute treat.

Budget travellers will be thankful for the free walking tour of Edinburgh, which will help you get your bearings. No trip to Edinburgh is complete without visiting Edinburgh Castle to see the ‘Stone of Destiny’. After nearly choking on the entry price, we had a lovely time wandering around the castle in the snow while the bagpipes played in the background – so Scottish! Other top attractions include a walk to Arthur’s Seat, Holyrood Palace, St Giles Cathedral and the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Depending on how outrageous your one way car hire fees were, your next stop may be a return to Glasgow. This is only a short 90 minute drive from Edinburgh.