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Car in Europe


Original Post
Helen Johnson · · Jackson, WY · Joined Sep 2014 · Points: 10

Hello!
My friend and I are going to be spending 6+ months traveling and climbing around Europe. We are considering buying a cheap, used car to travel around in. Wondering if buying a car would be nice to have to get to less traveled climbing destinations, or unnecessary?

Also, if it is a good idea, where it would be cheapest/ easiest to buy a used car?

Thanks :)!

Jim Titt · · Germany · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 490

You need to be a resident in an EU country to register a car so you´ll need a residence permit which won´t be easy. As far as I know you´ll also need a visa for stays of over 90 days in the Schengen area.
Various companies offer buy-back (lease) schemes for long-stay tourists, from a quick look about $1,000.00 a month. Normal car hire is usually around $45 a day but it varies considerably from country to country.
Public transport in Europe is considerably better than in the USA and many climbing areas are accesible by local buses so normally one would use that to get from one place to another and hire a car locally if you need one.

will ar · · San Antonio, TX · Joined Jan 2010 · Points: 270

My wife and I spent 2 months in Europe, about half of it climbing. We got a car on the buyback program from Peugeot. It was brand new, cheaper than renting, and also extremely convenient. You may have to pay an extra delivery fee based on where you are picking it up or dropping it off, but it was pretty minimal for us. Look into the specific areas you want to climb at to decide if you need a car as it really depends where you're going. We spent a lot of time in the dolomites and that would have been very difficult without a car. Also, we were quite jealous of everyone who had vans/campers there. You aren't allowed to camp (set up a tent), but parking your vehicles overnight in a picnic area/pull off and sleeping in it seemed to be tolerated.

Do you have a rough itinerary yet? What are you planning on doing for sleeping accommodations (camping vs hostel)?

mark felber · · Wheat Ridge, CO · Joined Jul 2005 · Points: 26
travel.state.gov/content/pa…

AFAIK, the only way to get a visa for a stay longer than 90 days is to be a student or to be working in one of the countries in the Schengen area.
Helen Johnson · · Jackson, WY · Joined Sep 2014 · Points: 10

thanks guys!

mark/ jim - so to get a visa to stay over 90 days i would HAVE to work or be a student? do you know of anyway around this? and also I wondered if after 3 months we stayed somewhere to volunteer if we would be able to renew the visa then?

will- we are planning on camping. (trying to do things as cheap as possible) . also are vague plan is to start in Greece and move around to Croatia then maybe Italy, Spain, France ? We are also very stoked on Norway. Was wondering how accesable the climbing is in Norway with out car...

thanks again for the feed back

Jim Titt · · Germany · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 490

As a US citizen you don´t need a visa to travel to Europe, the USA is a visa-waiver country (unlike us Euros coming to the land of the free where we have to go through a long a complicated beaurocratic load of sh#t and pay to have the pleasure of being fingerprinted at the border like any normal criminal). However this is for a travel period of less than 90 days in 180. The only way to get a visa for a longer stay is to apply for residency in a Schengen country. For this you need a job or enough money or be studying. You should apply for this from the USA.

Most of Greece is reasonable with buses and ferries, certainly to the usual climbing areas. The trains are worthless.
Italy is pretty good generally as is Spain. Croatia is very limited as far as climbing goes but you´ll get to Paklenika no problem. Germany is good and so is the UK. There aren´t many worthwhile climbing areas in Europe which are more than a couple of miles from the next village so there are always buses for the local population to the big towns, often at ungodly hours though since they are for schoolkids and workers. No idea about Norway at all I´m afraid!
Taxis are far more usual in Europe than USA and the way to go for the last miles! A number of the campsites offer some kind of pick-up service as well or you just ring them up and ask beforehand.
If you qualify look into getting a Euro railcard, lot of trains in Europe especially for the longer distances though there is also a good coach network.

Custer · · Bergen, Norway · Joined Apr 2009 · Points: 180

Helen,

You will need a car for Norway. But camping is allowed almost anywhere except on farmland or near houses. The climbing and anything outdoors is absolutely amazing- as long as the weather is good. Note to self- bring real rain gear. If you are planning to maintain a cheap budget in Norway then plan on buying all of your groceries and everything else in another country before you come (if you have a car and are traveling from Germany for example). Otherwords expect to pay AT LEAST 3 times as much as you would in the US for ANYTHING. Expect to pay $250 for climbing shoes, ONE packet of ramen noodles is at least $3, loaf of bread $6, $20 for one pilsner beer and maybe $100 for two small pizzas at a restaurant, $100 per person a night to stay in a cabin (not including sheets more $$ ,and if you want dinner tack on another $100) and so on and so on.

I am not saying that it is impossible to get around in Norway without a car, but if you have made it here and actually want to see the country it is the best way. Maybe try to make friends with some cool Germans in Frankenjura that have a car and talk them into taking a climbing trip to Norway! Germans love Norway and they get 6 weeks paid vacation I believe.

Also staying over 3 months in the Schengen is going to be EXTREMELY difficult unless you have the $$ (which then traveling around Norway should not be a problem), a specialized job, are in school or are a citizen of a Schengen country. This is something that you wont be able to do on a whim so plan that out way in advance.

If you have questions on where to climb in Norway i can point you in some directions from where i have been and what I know.

Steve Jones · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2011 · Points: 105

You don't need a car, depending on where you climb. The train service is so good in Switzerland and most of France that a car is more trouble than it's worth. Chamonix and that entire valley into Switzerland is just one example.

My experience (10 trips to Europe) is that there is a lot of freedom in not having a car. It's a welcome change from the US. If this interests you, do some research and you'll figure it out.

MDimitri . · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 0

I'll second the euro buy back program.
I used this one- renaultusa.com/ often.
Only caveat is they do not come equipped w/ winter tires or chains.

I've spent a few months a year there for 20+ years.
You don't "need" to have a car perhaps but it sure is a lot easier to be flexible even in places like Chx (I base out of there).

Try getting to Annecy for an afternoons sunny climbing on a rainy day w/out a car efficiently. Not going to happen.

Depends on what you want or can afford obviously.

daniel arthur · · Auburn,Al · Joined Mar 2007 · Points: 35

You can only stay inside the Schengen zone for 90 days during a 180 day period. However, there are more than a few countries in central and eastern Europe not in the Schengen zone. Therefore if you split your time wisely you can probably swing 6 months in Europe. Becareful though, because a friend of ours calculated her days wrong and got stopped at the Bulgarian border. Although you might be planning on hitting up the more popular areas in Western Europe, I would recomend spending time in BG. I lived there for 2 years, and it has everything from hard sport to alpine ice. Not to mention much cheaper than any place in the Eurozone.

Ashort · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 35

Hate to burst your bubble, but you should really do some research before jumping into a trip like this. The fact that you didn't even know that you cannot stay more than 90 days tells me that you did absolutely zero searching on your own. Not to mention the fact that buying and owning a car in many countries in Europe is difficult and cost prohibitive. Also, do you drive a manual? Can you drive using an american license in "Europe"? For how long?

If you really want to make this trip happen for more than 90 days then you need money, enough to sustain you for a year. Then you can apply for a long stay visa for a year, but you need to show that you have money so that you will not become a burden. That means producing bank accounts, this ain't no thing for a dirtbag. That is just the way it is. You are unlikely to get a work visa as an American, sucks but again, that’s just how it is. If you actually have skills that are in need and can get a work visa guess what, that means you will be working and not climbing.

I've lived in Hungary and France. Got a student visa in Hungary and a family based visa in France. Shits hard but there are ways to do it. Do you have any family ancestry in any Schengen country?

If you do buy a car do not do it in France, what a headache.

Hope i don't come off too negative, but you need a reality check.

Grant Kleeves · · Ridgway, CO · Joined Jan 2011 · Points: 45

Not helpful anywhere else, but if you wind up in Spain renting a car is unbelievably cheap, 3-6 euros a day, hard to justify buying a beater there.

Ashort · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 35

Which brings up a nice point. Europe is not a country, and you need to look up what it is like in the particular countries you want to visit. Car rentals are expensive in france, cheap in spain. Food is expensive in france but camping is dirt cheap. I've heard that is the opposite in spain.

Steve0 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2010 · Points: 5

In the Netherlands, with a residence permit, your American driver's license is valid for 6 months after which point you will need to have an EU license. That being said, I wouldn't be surprised if it's like that across all of Europe as most driver's license laws are standardized.

Not that there's much climbing to do in the Netherlands.

abc · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 210
Grant Kleeves wrote:Not helpful anywhere else, but if you wind up in Spain renting a car is unbelievably cheap, 3-6 euros a day, hard to justify buying a beater there.
I have travelled to Spain for climbing 6 times now, and I have never been able to find such great rates.

What am I missing? Do you have a website that you use?

Thanks
mark felber · · Wheat Ridge, CO · Joined Jul 2005 · Points: 26
Steve0 wrote:In the Netherlands, with a residence permit, your American driver's license is valid for 6 months after which point you will need to have an EU license. That being said, I wouldn't be surprised if it's like that across all of Europe as most driver's license laws are standardized. Not that there's much climbing to do in the Netherlands.
I was able to drive as part of my job in France, Switzerland, Germany $ Austria with a U.S. driver's license in 2001, so this would appear to be the rule for a good part of Europe.
Ashort · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 35
mark felber wrote: I was able to drive as part of my job in France, Switzerland, Germany $ Austria with a U.S. driver's license in 2001, so this would appear to be the rule for a good part of Europe.
What is that rule that you speak of? That you can drive? It i true, but each country has it's own rules.

Example:

Spain
U.S. citizens visiting Spain who want to drive in Spain must obtain an international driving permit prior to their arrival in Spain. An international driving permit (IDP) translates your state-issued driver’s license into 10 languages so you can show it to officials in foreign countries to help them interpret your driver’s license. The IDP is not valid by itself and must be carried with your driver’s license. Click the following link for more information on driving overseas.

France
If you are staying in France for longer than 90 days, you can drive with your US license for one year.

Austria
A U.S. driver's license alone is not sufficient to drive in Austria. The U.S. driver's license must be accompanied by an international driver's permit (obtainable in the U.S. from AAA) or by an official translation of the U.S. driver's license, which can be obtained at one of the Austrian automobile clubs (ÖAMTC or ARBÖ). This arrangement is only acceptable for the first six months of driving in Austria, after which all drivers must obtain an Austrian license.

Germany
As of January 1, 1999, U.S. driver's license holders must be in possession of a German license six months after entering the country, if they wish to continue driving.

U.S. citizens planning to stay less than a year, however, may legally drive in Germany for up to 364 days in Germany on their U.S. driver's licenses. However, they must go to their local driver's registration office (Führerscheinstelle) prior to expiration of the six-month period after arrival and notify that office that they want to continue to drive on their U.S. license until their departure (up to 364 days, as stated above). Note that an official translation of the U.S. driver's license must be brought to the Führerscheinstelle, as well as proof that you are leaving Germany before a year has passed. Proof could be in the form of a return ticket to the U.S., a work contract with an expiration date before a year, etc.

The information is out there for you to find.

Europe is NOT a COUNTRY, and the rules, laws, ways of doing things, etc vary from country to country!
Grant Kleeves · · Ridgway, CO · Joined Jan 2011 · Points: 45

I used doyouspain.com I just checked to refresh my memory, as long as you reserve a couple weeks out there is a couple options starting at €4.50 a day, it seemed like when I was there that you could walk in to almost any rental agency at the airport and get a similar rate, especially if you were staying for a while.

Helen Johnson · · Jackson, WY · Joined Sep 2014 · Points: 10
Ashort wrote:Hate to burst your bubble, but you should really do some research before jumping into a trip like this. The fact that you didn't even know that you cannot stay more than 90 days tells me that you did absolutely zero searching on your own.
thats why i'm doing research now.... more than eight months in advance....:)

thanks everyone for the information it has been very helpful!!
Ian G. · · PDX, OR · Joined Apr 2009 · Points: 280

I was able to drive and did the car buy/back thing through Citroen. I even got pulled over by French military police in les Calanques, they didn't care about my California license.

If you don't mind crowds, it's hard to beat France!

Oh, and hitch hiking is still possible in Europe! At least more so than here in 'Merica where we're all scared of each other.

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 13,629
Ian G. wrote:If you don't mind crowds, it's hard to beat France!
? crowds ?
France is great for sure. And one of the great things about France is that there is so much accessable great climbing rock (and so much accessable great backcountry and lift-served skiing terrain) - that
hanging with crowds is a result of one of ...
  • choice
  • ignorance
  • lack of personal automobile transport

In the last couple of weeks or so here in France, I have not waited in line for any climb, or had any problem finding parking at a climbing area. Of all the (great!) longer routes I've been doing, I encountered a total of one other party.

"choice" in the sense of ...
insisting on going to France in August at the same time 600 million people within easy driving range all have off from school and work.

listening only to recommendations of other Americans (like on this forum) who are still repeating the places they learned were great 30 years ago -- instead of trying to learn from local French people (or Europeans from nearby countries) about the new great places (which are sometimes less crowded -- and often have less-polished rock).
. (which ties with the "ignorance" problem)

Another cause of the ignorance is just not owning guidebooks for less crowded places -- which goes along with how heavy they are to carry in airline luggage on trans-Atlantic flights. More E-books and more detailed web info will help here.

car :
lack of convenient automobile is understandable, because having and driving a car is much more expensive in Europe than in USA. Therefore visitors (not only Americans) flock to climbing areas which offer access to lots of climbing with zero or minimal use of car. These areas get even more popular because most modern smart traveling climbers speak English. So these places are also good for meeting English-speaking climbing partners. And they are obvious targets for writing + publishing English-language climbing guidebooks.

All of which is great.
Unless you want to avoid crowds.

--> "Car in Europe" matters.

Ken
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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